No. 1 Hard

Square in the middle of North Dakota is a town called Heaton. At this point, though, it may be an exaggeration to call it a town. It’s more of a boneyard with town-like aspects. The main street has an abandoned bank and gift shop, both with broken-out windows. A piece of a “B” rests on […]

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Brave New World

If there is a single structure in Northeast Minneapolis that captures the neighborhood’s long history and rotating cast of immigrants, it’s the flesh-colored ARCANA building at the corner of Lowry and Central. Home to several chapters of the mysterious Masonic Lodge, including the “Order of DeMolay,” the “Order of Eastern Star,” and the “Cryptic Masons,” […]

That Old-Time Religion

The century-old Enstrom photo studio is located on an out-of-the-way street in the tiny Iron Range town of Bovey. An otherwise modest wooden building with a flat front and a new addition jutting out from one side, the studio’s most distinguishing feature stretches across its second story: an enormous hand-painted black and white mural of […]

A Wolf in Wolf's Clothing

Sometime this winter, once the tourist season winds down, the owners of Morell’s Chippewa Trading Post in Bemidji will remove a giant taxidermied wolf from the glass case out front, say a few solemn words, and send it off to be destroyed. It’s likely the end will come by fire, though the store’s assistant manager, […]

All the Pretty Houses

Back in the 1920s, William T. Middlebrook, then a vice president at the University of Minnesota, had a bright idea. In order to attract and retain the most talented professors, the U would build them a truly unique neighborhood. Thus was born University Grove: eight blocks on which more than one hundred homes, each custom […]

Boring Curves Ahead

There aren’t many stretches of road in Minnesota like Highway 1. Though it’s not officially designated a scenic byway, it should be. Narrow, with pine and birch trees crowding right up against the tarmac, Highway 1 winds through the Superior National Forest, connecting Lake Superior to Ely. The sun bursts in patches through the trees, […]

Old-Fashioned Cutting-Edge Radio

Over several nights about a year ago, a small miracle of human interaction took place on KSTP late-night radio. Host Tommy Mischke was embarking on a self-styled pitch for the Spectacle Shop, one of his show’s handful of loyal sponsors, when a call came over the transom. It had been a slow night and Mischke, […]

Like it Used to Be

A picture of Broadway Street in Gilbert from 1910 looks surprisingly similar to one taken yesterday. Sure, there are now streetlights and pavement and tall trees, but the strip is still lined with old-fashioned, flat-roofed buildings, none more than a couple of stories high. While nearby Ely, in catering to canoeists and nostalgia seekers, has […]

The Worthlessness of Things

In the photo, he’s twenty-five or so. Quite obviously, the picture was taken in the early 1970s. He is wearing loud plaid pants, a shiny pink shirt with ruffles down the front and at the cuffs, and a huge bowtie and vest. His afro is cropped, but not too close, and he’s smiling, one of […]

Fort Donovan

The entire apartment, which can’t be more than fifteen feet by fifteen, is visible from the front door: the makeshift sofa, the kitchen, the workshop, the “bedroom.” In fact, Dick Donovan’s apartment, where he’s lived since August, more closely resembles a fort. “On the second morning I lived here,” he recalls, “I fried eggs from […]