Downtown Lakeville History

History of Downtown Lakeville Minnesota

Lakeville had its origins back in 1853 when Captain William B. Dodd designed and directed the construction of a road that would serve as a practical land route connecting the military forts in St. Paul and Faribault.

Shortly after the road was built, J.J. Brackett, who transported mail, supplies, and travelers along this route, chose Lakeville as an ideal site for a town because it was roughly halfway between St. Paul and St. Peter. Griffin Phelps, who worked for Brackett, is believed to have been the first real settler. In 1855, Brackett platted 250 acres and named it Lakeville because it was near Prairie Lake, now known as Lake Marion. By 1858, the tiny town of Lakeville, located near the intersection of today’s Co. Rd. 50 and Dodd Blvd., contained a general store, two hotels, a boarding house, a blacksmith shop, a saloon, and a shoe shop.

When the Hastings and Dakota Railroad line was built in 1869, railroad officials tried to buy land in Lakeville to build a depot. The owner refused to sell, so the railroad bought 20 acres a half a mile east, put up a platform and named the area Fairfield. It wasn’t long before existing businesses moved from the original town site to Fairfield, and new businesses were also established at the new town site. It took nine years for business owners and residents to get Fairfield’s name changed to Lakeville. In 1878, they decided they wanted a government separate from Lakeville Township, which encompassed the rural area, and sought incorporation as the Village of Lakeville. Agriculture was the major industry, with several grain mills that handled crops grown by area farmers and a creamery that made cream into butter. The population at the turn of the 20th century was 373.

Lakeville Area Arts Center/All Saints Church

The first All Saints Catholic Church was built at this site in 1877. This wooden church, which had a capacity of 200, burned to the ground in 1931 and was replaced by a new brick church that has a capacity of 200, burned to the ground in 1931 and was replaced by a new brick church that seated more than twice as many people. At a cost of about $50,000, it was considered to have been quite extravagant. The bell from the original church fell during the fire but was not damaged. While the new church was being built, the bell hung on timbers nearby so it could be rung at the usual times – 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. The bell also pealed for masses, weddings, and funerals. Two ropes had to be pulled, with one moving the bell back and forth and the other moving the clangor to strike the bell. After the congregation moved to its new building on the hill north of City Hall, the former church was purchased by the City and renovated into the Lakeville Area Arts Center. The Historical Society is housed in the former rectory.

Carl Krause’s Horse Pasture (All Saints parking lot)

In the 1920s, Army troops occasionally camped overnight in this pasture owned by Carl Krause. Krause, whole house still stands across the street and is occupied by his son, also operated the local ice business from a large barn. In the wintertime, 2-foot by 4-foot blocks of ice were cut from Lake Marion with a crosscut saw and hauled on wagons or a sleigh to the ice house, a two-story barn-like building. The ice stacks began 8 to 10 feet below ground level and were built upward, with sawdust used to insulate and separate the blocks. In the spring and summer, the large ice blocks were cut into smaller ones that were delivers to homes and businesses to chill food kept in iceboxes. Delivery ceased in the 1940s, when most people have acquired refrigerators.

Christiansen Blacksmith Shop (across from bowling alley)

Krause also owned a blacksmith shop at the northeast corner of the pasture. Chris Christiansen, an immigrant from Denmark, began operating the ship in about 1915. At the rear of the shop, Krause did woodwork on wagons and sleighs. Until Chris Christiansen moved to Lakeville, he commuted from Northfield each day via the Dan Patch Railroad. His sons, Russell and Bob, also became blacksmiths. It was said that the Christiansens could fix anything. They still do, because Bob and his son, Mark, now run a blacksmith shop east on Co. Rd. 50, where the ship was moved in 1953.

McClintock Drug Store (now Goodyear Tire)

The McClintock Drug Store, which once had a dance hall upstairs, that was turned into apartments, was built on this site in 1881. The store was heated with a stove so large that it held a four-foot log. Children were often promised a sweet treat at the drug store if they behaved well on a visit to the doctor or dentist. Mr. McClintock and his friend, Mr. McGrail, were talented musicians who often played at dances in the dance hall. They also frequently walked to Rosemount to perform. In later years, several of Mr. McGrail’s sons had an orchestra that performed throughout the area. The Tullock hatchery, which supplied the entire area with baby chicks, later occupied the building.

J.W. Wheeler Harness Shop

A harness store operated by J.W. Wheeler was once located in this area. Because horses were the primary mode of transportation, he was more than busy making harnesses and other leather goods. Later, Hubert Mahowald operated a shoe and harness repair shop in the building.

Tabaka Hardware/Grocery Store (located north of Dairy Delight)

Frank Tabaka operated a small hardware store that also sold cattle and horse feed. Later, the store was operated for many years by George and Frank Pepera. Just to the south, Mr. Tabaka’s wife and their daughter, Marie, operated a small Jack Spratt grocery store. The store was a popular place after church on Sundays because it was the only grocery store open. Marie was known as being rather eccentric. After marrying a fiddler later in life, she often wore her husband’s pants under her dress, topped the dress with a couple of aprons, and placed his hat on her head. Tying it down with a babushka.

Hastings & Dakota (H & D) Railroad Depot (east of VFW near Holyoke Ave.)

Freight was shipped in and out from the Hastings & Dakota Railroad Depot, a division of the Milwaukee Railroad. The depot also handled cream shipped to the Lakeville Creamery from other parts of Minnesota and the Midwest, and butter shipped out by the creamery. A depot agent and telegraph operator directed the flow of freight, passengers and messages. Longtime residents recall that the train’s single passenger car transported people to St. Paul for business purposes and occasionally transported those who were ill to Sanford Hospital in Farmington for medical treatment. Located near the depot were a grain elevator and a mill, along with stock pens for holding cattle that were shipped in or out by rail. The depot closed in 1969, 100 years after it was built. It is now located at Dakota City.

Village Water Tower Site (parking lot across from Winsor Senior Apartments)

The water tower was constructed in 1920s. Not only did it increase water pressure to homes, it also provided a good supply of water for fire fighting. It was a challenge for children to climb the water tower, although they always did so with the hope that their parents wouldn’t find out. An amusing story has been told about how the well site was selected. A committee of men sampled the water from various wells in the village an declared that the best tasting water came from the well at the site of the Jack Murphy livery stable. So that’s where the new well was drilled and where the water tower was placed.

Claro Milling Company (Winsor Senior Apartments site)

Through the years, a mill operated under several names at the Winsor Senior Apartments site. The Claro Milling Company was established in 1892 and continued until at least 1924. In its peak, the mill operated day and night, grinding flour from grain grown in the area. Some townspeople were bothered, though, when the daytime mill workers stopped at 4 p.m. to take a coffee break. Many children in Lakeville wore britches made from flour sacks. When they bent over, you could see “CLARO” written across their fannies. The mill burned to the ground in 1924, although it was rebuilt a few years later. In 1954, Grain States Construction Company constructed eight silos on the site with storage capacity of ½ million bushels of grain. The silos were demolished in the early 1990s to make way for the Winsor Senior Apartments. The name for the apartments originated from the Winsor Grain Company, which owned the property at the time.

Dan Patch Depot (west of Winsor at railroad tracks)

The Dan Patch Depot, once located about a quarter mile west of here, served the Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester and Dubuque Electric Company. The tracks and depot were constructed in about 1910. Built as an excursion and passenger railroad, the railroad’s original purpose was to bring passengers to the new Antlers Amusement Park. One of the investors in both the amusement park and the railroad was Marion Savage, the owner of the famous racehorse Dan Patch, hence the nickname for the railroad. The luxury cars featured leather seats, stained glass upper windows and richly carved and inlaid wood interiors. In the summer of 1912, these trains are believed to have made 19 scheduled runs each day on weekends. Not only did the railroad bring visitors to Lakeville, it also carried Lakeville residents into Minneapolis for business or shopping and transported students to the high schools in Lakeville and Northfield. On weekdays, only two cars usually ran, with a mix of passengers, cream cans, mail and freight. The passenger business declined after automobiles became popular, with the freight portion of the business becoming increasingly important. The depot is believed to have been torn down in the 1940s or 1950s. The tracks between Lakeville and Northfield now are used as a short-line railroad by Progressive Rail, which offers services to businesses in the Airlake Industrial Park.

Lenihan Building (Lesch Dentistry)

When M.J. Lenihan built a new two-story Grocery and Mercantile in the late 1800s, it was the first brick building in town. His son, Frank, ran the general store on the first floor. A ladder on wheels extended from the floor to the ceiling, with a rail extending the entire length of the store. When filling a customer’s order, Frank would jump on the ladder and slide to wherever a needed item was located. M.J.’s son, John, operated a creamery in the basement. Milk cans were moved downstairs via an elevator. A large meeting room occupied the second floor, with a telephone office occupying the lower level southwest corner in later years. If an emergency occurred at night, the telephone operator notified the constable, who was patrolling on foot, by turning on a red light bulb mounted on a pole outside. The constable would then hurry to the telephone office to find out what was wrong.

At various times, the building housed a drugstore/confectionary and a variety store. The post office was also located here for a time, one of many different locations throughout the years. Postmaster William Ackerman, who served as postmaster in the 1930s, enjoyed answering letters to Santa written by the community’s children. Although tradition says Santa enjoyed milk and cookies, Postmaster Ackerman actually preferred cigars. He was the postmaster when the first air mail to the area arrived in 1936 via a single engine Taylor Cub airplane. It landed in the field where Aronson Park is now located.

Fire Hall & Lockup ( 2 Cell Jail)

With the combination of frame buildings, wood stoves, candles and kerosene lamps, fire was a frequent and dreaded event. The village of Lakeville purchased a lot from M.J. Lenihan in 1889 with the intent of building an engine house. At the same time, the village purchased two 14-foot ladders, two 18-foot ladders and three dozen pails to be used in fire fighting. In the late 1890s, and ordinance was passed that required all buildings on Main St. to be built of brick or stone and impervious to fire. Another ordinance required that any male citizen over the age of 16 and under 60 could be called on to fight fires. The combination village hall/fire hall/lockup was constructed in 1901, after voters passed a bond issue for $3,500. The second floor of the building held a meeting room. The horses had to harness the horses and drive them to the front of the fire hall to be hitched to the fire wagon. The wagon carried a large drum of water, horses, ladders and pails. It was the constable’s duty to ring the bell to summon fire fighters. The original bell now hangs in the tower at Fire Station 1 just north of downtown. The building was used as the village hall/fire hall until 1964, when a combination village hall/fire hall was built at the present Dispatch Industries site on 207th St.

Sullivan’s Saloon/Rock Garden Inn (Ben Franklin site)

Sullivan’s Saloon is believed to have been one of five saloons that operated in Lakeville in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Women and children were not allowed inside the dirt floor saloon, but the swinging doors allowed children to peak under and see the spittoons. Weary workers from the Claro Mill often stopped by on their way home to have their tin buckets filled with draft beer to take home. Sullivan’s was likely followed by the Rock Garden Inn, the local municipal liquor store and bar. Real trees grew inside the Inn, which also had a waterfall, goldfish pond and a bridge that one had to cross to reach the restrooms. The basement held a barbershop run by John Simmons. The steps to the barbershop are still in place inside the current bridal shop.

Henry Shen Butcher Shop, Movie Theater

This area once held the Shen Butcher Shop, which was operated by a man named Butch Daconi in the early 1900s. Butch is remembered as a short, little man who maintained a slaughterhouse in the area where Airlake Industrial Park is now located. In 1920, Bob Shen relocated the movie theater to the site from the family’s building across the street. Bob and his brother lived in a house at the rear of the theater. The theater was decorated in the Art Deco style of the 1920s and 1930s. Saturday matinees cost 10 cents, with popcorn selling for a nickel. Parents allowed their children to attend movies only if the Catholic Bulletin showed that the movie carried an OK rating. On special promotion nights, the theatre gave away depression glass dishes. Another promotion was called Bank Night, where lucky customers actually won cash. After All Saints Church burned in 1931, worship services were held in the theater until the new church was ready. In the 1950s, the Enggrens converted the building into men’s and women’s clothing stores.

Kay Samel’s Millinery/Telephone Office (Erickson Drugstore site)

Two houses were located at this site, which one uses as a telephone office and the other as Kay Samel’s Hat Shop. Kate was a tiny lady who graciously helped each customer choose a flattering hat and then decorated it with ribbon, lace, feathers or flowers. Later the building housed the local newspaper and a café.

The Enggren Home (site of Holly’s Dance building)

When the Enggren family came to town in 1908, Bert Enggren bought the first farm adjacent to the business district. The property included a large house with a wraparound veranda and four stairways, a barn, pigpen, chicken coop, machine shed and two-story icehouse. The farmland extended all the way west to Dodd Blvd.

The Tabaka home (bank parking lot)

The Tabaka house, owned by the family that ran the hardware store and grocery store, once stood where the Wells Fargo Bank parking lot is now located. The house was removed when the new bank was built in 1980 and is now located at Murphy’s Landing in Shakopee.

The Lenihan Home (Babe’s parking lot)

The Lenihan family once owned a lovely brick home that stood here. When the City purchased the property in 1961 to build an on-and off-sale liquor store, the home was moved to Iberia Ave. a few blocks to the west. Babe’s has been operating from this site for about 15 years.

If you were to continue north and then turn right onto 205th street and follow it to the end, you would come tot Lakeville Grove Cemetery, one of the earliest cemeteries in the area. Lakeville’s first settlers, J.J. Brackett and Griffin Phelps, are buried there.

Lyndale Garage

After automobiles came into use, more than half a dozen garages and “filling stations” were located in downtown Lakeville. The Lyndale Garage, operated by Vic Lorenson, once stood in this block. The building was later occupied by the White & Zimmer Mortuary. Martha Zimmer also operated a gift shop here.

Blacksmith Shop

In Lakeville’s early years, the Joachim (pronounced “joke-um”) Blacksmith Shop was located in this area. The shop is believed to have been run by Joe Joachim, a very large, mighty man. Occasionally, a runaway hors made for lively entertainment on Main Street. Joe lived in the rear of his shop, shoeing horses and making repairs for farmers and business people six days a week. On Sundays, he closed the shop and went to church.

Gephart Furniture Store and Mortuary (Lakeville Mall)

Daniel Gephart, who had moved from Pennsylvania to Lakeville as a small child, first farmed south of the town, worked as a brakeman on the railroad and then began clerking in a general store in town. Later, he bought a hardware store in the Shen Building and added furniture. It wasn’t long before he also went into the funeral business. In those years, bodies were embalmed at home, where they lay in state until the funeral service and burial. The cost for Daniel’s services, including the casket, was usually between $100 and $200. Later he constructed a new building just north of the Shen Block; the new building included an embalming room in the rear, sold everything from furniture to pots and pans, ladies’ corsets and Christmas toys. To select the toys so they would arrive just before the holidays, each fall Mr. Gephart traveled by train to the St. Paul manufacturer.

Dentist Office, Barber Shop, Tailor, Shoe Shop, Café, Post Office & Drug Store

At various times, buildings in this area were occupied by a dentist office, a barbershop, a tailor shop, a shoe shop, a café and a post office. For years, Ed Suess operated a drug store with a soda fountain here. It is recalled that Ed made the best malted milks in four states, and that his homemade chocolate syrup for ice cream sundaes couldn’t be beat.

Shen Building (parking lot between Lakeville Mall and Enggren Mall)

The Shen Building, located in the middle of the Shen Block, was large and distinctive, boasting brick peaks and columns on the front exterior. For quite some time, the lower floor was occupied by the Charles Berres Mercantile and the George Strong Hardware Store. The upper floor, known as Shen Hall, was used for dances, plays, basket socials and basketball games. When silent movies first arrived on the scene, they were shown on weekends in Shen Hall. The building was torn down in about 1978. Lakeville’s first creamery, which burned in 1907, was located at the rear of the Shen Block.

Enggren’s Grocery (current site of ice hockey training facility)

At various times, this area housed the Coughlin and Hofforth saloons and the O’Leary Hotel. These small buildings were torn down in the late 1970s. Early maps of this site show a grocery store owned by Donovan and Lenihan. In the early 1900s, Bert Enggren purchased the grocery store from the Gephart family, which bought it from the Betz Brothers. Bert enlarged the store and added a meat market and luxury items such as fresh vegetables and fruit, bakery breads and cookies, he suited the merchandise to the area’s residents, especially during the depression when many of the customers had very little money. Until the store closed in 2006, the Enggren family continuously operated it for over 100 years.

Bank (current site of Mainstreet Coffee Café)

F.A. Samels and W.H. Samels established Lakeville’s first bank here in 1899 as a private venture. Ownership changed over the years, and so did the name. Now known as Wells Fargo Bank and located in a new building a block to the north, the bank celebrated its 100th anniversary in September 1999. Since the new bank was built, the building has seen a variety of tenants. City Hall was located here from 1981 through 1989.

Implement Shop

Mattias Berres operated an implement shop on this street, which was also the location of a mill and elevator. Both businesses sent and received shipments via the H&D Railroad, which ran along the north edge of the parking lot. Berres also operated a sorghum mill in the village, although the exact site is not known. Hammer and Sauser took over the implement shop in later years.

Grain Mill & Elevator

Over the years, several grain mills and elevators operated in the Lakeville area and surrounding townships. Grains were a chief crop for area farmers, who used the mills to market their cash crops and grind grain for livestock feed. Near the turn of the century, an elevator was located in this area, with coal sheds nearby.

Coffin Shop (parking lot)

George Kehrer sold coffins from a small, dark shed-like building at this site until Daniel Gephart purchased his stock. Longtime residents recall the empty building still standing in the 1920s, when its windows held old photos of sad-looking people. Death was not discussed, so children could only speculate about the building’s former use.

Confectionary Shop (parking lot)

For a time, Gladys Shen and her mother operated a tiny Confectionary Store or Sweet Shop here. In the 1930s the entire block was almost empty, so it was flooded and used as a skating rink in the wintertime.

Ackerman Hotel & Livery Stable (Main Street Manor Site)

The Ackerman Hotel was built at this site in 1869 to house travelers. They could stable their horses at the livery stable in back, which was operated by Maurice Trager. The Schultz family later operated the hotel, along with a restaurant. In later years the former hotel was known as the Wren Building for many years, Vincent Wren operated Lakeville Motor Express trucking company and moved buildings.

Blacksmith/Filling Station

J. Ernster operated a blacksmith shop next to the carriage and wagon shop. It was a handy arrangement for both businesses when they needed each other’s services. In later years, the area housed a 24-hour filling station and garage owned by Al Moes, who called his place the “Moesy Inn.” In winter, milk haulers rented space for their trucks in the building, and residents who had no garages rented space for their cars.

St. John’s Lutheran Church (current site of Cross of Christ Community Church)

In 1914 St. John’s was the first Lutheran congregation organized in Lakeville. Services were held in the Shen Hall and later in the former Methodist Church, where the VFW Club is now located. This church, built in 1964, replaced the original St. John’s built in 1924. The northeast corner, which is now a parking lot, once housed a filling station and garage, and the southwest corner held a garage. The building is now a residence, although you can still see the garage bay doors on the east side. St. John’s has relocated to 202nd Street and Highview Avenue, across from Aronson Park.

Brick School Site (currently parking for district 194 administrative offices)

East of the Church (#37) the community built a brick school in 1906 on the site that now holds the District 194 Administrative offices. In the earliest years, elementary through high school aged youth attended the old brick school together. In the earliest years, each grade included only 8 to 10 children, so teachers often taught more than one grade level. Total enrollment of 150 was recorded in 1925. The building was razed in the late 1980s.