Bring Back 6th! Mobile History Museum

In collaboration with the University of Minnesota Heritage Studies & Public History program and Harrison Neighborhood Association, Our Streets Minneapolis created a Mobile History Museum of Old 6th Avenue North. The Mobile History Museum tells the important history of a culturally vibrant community of Black and Jewish people before they were displaced from their homes and businesses for the "highway to nowhere."

The research was compiled into a Mobile History Museum, a series of panels highlighting the stories of the past and confronting the present. The Mobile History Museum is a traveling exhibition that debuted in the Harrison neighborhood with a walking tour. The Mobile History Museum was shown at the Open Streets Minneapolis event series and has traveled to various other places for exhibition, including Sumner Libraryone of the only remaining neighborhood buildings from before the construction of the highway. 

Bringing Back 6th

Look east along Olson Memorial Highway toward downtown Minneapolis. Ninety years ago this would have been 6th Avenue North, a vibrant, walkable commercial district with thirteen restaurants, eleven synagogues, grocery stores, a laundromat, ice cream shops, five churches, a streetcar line, and a half dozen nightclubs and live music venues.

Once called the “Beale Street of Minneapolis,” the old Near-Northside was an integrated Black and Jewish community that was destroyed for the construction of Olson Memorial Highway. What was once 6th Avenue, a thriving community and place of commerce, is now a trench of traffic polluting the neighborhood. Imagine the aliveness of 6th Avenue in the mid-1900s and discover how anti-Black and anti-Jewish decisions and policies expedited its destruction.

“The avenue was teeming from seven o’clock in the morning ‘til way past midnight! People were so friendly. Everybody knew their own neighbors, not their immediate neighbors but for blocks and blocks around. And every corner had a group discussing topics of the day.”
—Ben Brochin, son of Brochin’s deli founder, remembering

“Drivers see only dull pavement when they cruise past the Olson Memorial Highway and Interstate Highway 94 junction in north Minneapolis today. In my mind’s eye, I see much more.”
—W. Harry Davis, Sr., Overcoming, 2002

712 and 710 6th Avenue North Intersection with Lyndale Place

Sam Allen's Cafe & BBQ (712) and The People's Store (710) in 1922, courtesy of University of Minnesota Libraries

Landy's Meats (712) The People's Store (710) in 1936, courtesy of Hennepin County Library

800 6th Avenue North Looking West from Aldrich

Eismann's Meats in 1922, courtesy of University of Minnesota Libraries

Adlin's Grocery in 1936, courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

The Near-North Namesake

Floyd B. Olson Statue on Olson Memorial Highway at dedication.
Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Olson Memorial Highway was built in two phases in 1939-1945 and 1957-1959. It is named in honor of Floyd B. Olson, Minnesota’s governor from 1930 until 1936. Olson was born and raised on Minneapolis’ Near-Northside. During his tenure as governor, he supported and funded projects for increased unemployment benefits and the building of highways.

The Beale Street of Minneapolis

The Prince Rogers Trio band included Prince’s father, John Lewis Nelson (on the left), whose favorite stage name was “Prince Rogers.” Courtesy Hennepin County Library and the children of John Glanton

Like Beale Street was to blues music in Memphis, 6th Avenue was to jazz (and later funk) in Minneapolis. Not only was 6th at the heart of a boundary-pushing music movement, it also attracted entrepreneurs and served people from many backgrounds to come and make their mark. During the first half of the 1900s, 6th Avenue North and its surrounding neighborhood was a Black and Jewish cultural hub, where residents worked, shopped, played, and learned together.
When Jewish immigrants arrived toward the end of the 19th century, the Near-Northside was a collection of aging stately homes and brick storefronts. By the 1920s, the area experienced an influx of Black entrepreneurs and families looking to put down roots in the lively neighborhood.

The Avenue was narrow, its sides packed from Lyndale to Penn, with everything a community member could need within walking distance.

It was also a place of city disinvestment and limited resources, where buildings and employment could be unstable.

Nearby blocks housed influential Jewish and Black youth and community centers that would help shape music and culture, labor rights and housing laws, and activist thinking to this day.

Segregation and Housing Covenants

D3 and C4 encompass 6th Avenue North. By the 1930s, D3 was a predominantly Black neighborhood while Jewish residents moved farther west and north. Public domain, Courtesy Mapping Inequality

Black and Jewish residents were congregated around 6th Avenue because of segregation and the systematic devaluation of their communities. Legal tools allowed bankers and the government to limit Black and Jewish residents from living anywhere but “less desirable” neighborhoods.

Racially restrictive deeds, or covenants, prevented the sale of housing to non-white people, including Jews, concentrating minorities in specific neighborhoods.

In 1933, the federal Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) “redlined” neighborhoods like the Near-Northside for mixing “incompatible” racial and social groups, deemed to create “instability” and a decline in property values. Redlining limited residents’ ability to obtain funds to own or improve homes and businesses

The HOLC manual advised that “a high-speed traffic artery may prevent the expansion of inharmonious uses.”

Government officials targeted 6th Avenue North for its “inharmonious uses”: a mix of Black and Jewish residents living with aging infrastructure and a lack of generational wealth. In 1931, the City of Minneapolis labeled the neighborhood “blighted” for its dilapidated buildings, which residents could not get loans to repair.

“The North Side was a complete neighborhood: it had all the institutions and commercial establishments that Jewish communities need. It also had its great men and women, and it had its rogues.”

—North Side Memories: Upper Midwest Jewish
History, 2000

Sounds on 6th

The musical influence of 6th Avenue is hard to overstate. Touring and local jazz musicians played here after downtown gigs and for events. Up-and-coming artists flocked to Corner clubs, or small bar-venues, to jam and learn from the greats. Black musical icons and dynasties emerged from this neighborhood over the decades, including the Youngs, Pettifords, and Nelsons. Like many other Black families, Prince’s maternal grandparents—the Shaws—came to Minnesota as part of the Great Migration of African Americans moving north to escape the Jim Crow South.

For African Americans in the late 1920s, Clarence Miller remembered, “The Avenue was their only outlet for enjoyment after six days of hard labor on their jobs in those years. It was said that a Sunday was not a Sunday if you didn’t get to 6th Avenue.”
—The Clarence Miller Memory Map, around 1950s

The Youngs | At 17 years old Lester Young moved to a grand house at 573 7th Avenue North. Lester would play with local star band leader Rook Ganz in the neighborhood and go on to be the most influential tenor sax player of the 1930s-50s. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

The Pettifords | After making a name for himself at Clef Club jam sessions on 6th Avenue, Oscar Pettiford went on to play bass with Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie. Ira Pettiford lived in Minneapolis playing & teaching trumpet. | Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

The Corner

Weddings, bars and bat mitzvahs, a deli owner buying steamboat tickets for Jewish refugees, bootlegging, the city’s first Black-owned grocery store, the hottest jazz and dances, and Foster’s Sweet Shop hosting the conversations of labor organizers and other Black activists all existed on “The Corner.”

From the early 1900s until the construction of Olson Memorial Highway in the late 1930s, the Corner of 6th and Lyndale was the focal point for all of the social and political activities of the neighborhood.

“It was a place unlike any other in Minneapolis–more diverse, more dangerous, more disadvantageous, but also somehow, more alive.”
—W. Harry Davis, Sr., Overcoming, 2002

Kenesseth Israel & Brochin’s on The Corner

Several community gathering places converged at the Corner. Kenesseth Israel synagogue was just south of the Kistler Building and across from Brochin’s Delicatessen.
The deli was where leaders would meet “to iron out any problem that confronted the Jewish community,” Ben Brochin remembered. Then they would head over to the synagogue for larger meetings. Kenesseth Israel was

“the biggest meeting place of all…It seemed like there were mass meetings going on all the time during World War I and right after... when the…pogroms were taking place.”
—Ben Brochin, son of Solomon Brochin of Brochin’s delicatessen, North Side Memories, 2000. The pogroms were state-sanctioned Russian campaigns that persecuted Eastern European Jews from 1881 through World War I, resulting in immigration to the US.

Ben Brochin in his family’s delicatessen, 1950. Courtesy University of Minnesota Libraries

Kenesseth Israel synagogue, around 1900. Courtesy University of Minnesota Libraries

Elks Club on the Corner

Historically denied membership to many white fraternity groups, Black community members organized a Minneapolis branch of the Elks Club in 1906. The Ames Lodge 106 became a place where Black Elks could gather for social, political, and economic support and advancement. This image shows Ruben Warren (seated in the backseat on the passenger side), three-time president of the Elks Club and owner of the Royal Barber Shop on the Lyndale side of the Kistler, riding in the Elks Car during the Aquatennial Parade in the 1940s.

Courtesy Hennepin County Library and the children of John Glanton

“I had been invited to attend a meeting at the old Elks talk about whether we should have a union. From there on, [I] kept right on talking union and before we knew it, we had enough people to call together” — Civil rights leader Nellie Stone Johnson, on formation of the Local 665, Hotel and Restaurant Workers union, in 1935. Interview, 1981.

Kistler on The Corner

When the family of Dr. James Kistler constructed the building in 1889, they envisioned it serving as both a business and a resource hub to other businesses. For the next 68 years, the building was home to Jewish and Black-owned businesses of the Near-Northside, experiencing particular abundance.

The Kistler building in the last year of its existence, 1957. Courtesy Hennepin County Library

3rd floor of the Kistler: (mostly music & dance clubs)

• 1890-1920 Kistler offices, Oddfellows, community hall, athletic clubs
• 1921-22 Elks Club
(moved to 148 Highland)
• 1920s-30 Kit Kat Club
• 1930s Apex Club
• 1936 Clef Club
• 1950s Ebony Club
• 1958 Harry Kaplan sells the two lots to the Minneapolis Housing and Redevelopment Agency (HRA)Sounds on 6th: The Nelsons

The Cotton Club, 718 6th Avenue North. Courtesy St. Louis Park Historical Society

Club Kongo hosted dances & jazz musicians. They served real beer once legal, but the police put them out of business for staying open after 2 am. | Courtesy Twin Cities Music Highlights & Minneapolis Star, 1933

From social dances to late night jams, the Corner was the focal point of music culture on the Avenue. Many clubs came and went: The Cotton Club, Kit Kat, Howard’s Steak House, Harlem Breakfast, Konga, Rhombogie, and more. Dance halls here were one of few integrated spaces. In 1995 Nelson Peery recalled, “it was in the Clef Club that the beautiful and democratic singer Peggy Lee convinced Benny Goodman to hire Lionel Hampton as the first black musician in a major white big band.”

Prince’s parents—John Lewis “Prince Rogers” Nelson & Mattie Shaw—were also shaped by the music scene on the Corner. Nelson played jazz piano and formed the Prince Rogers Trio.

Northeast on the Corner: The 600 Block

Foster’s Sweet Shop was located in a building on the north side of 6th Avenue, across from the Kistler Building in the 1920s and 30s. “The Minnesota Club,” a group of Black civic leaders and activists, would gather to strategize for civil rights organization at Foster’s.

“We met once a month in Fosters Sweet Shop on Sixth and Lyndale. We met in the back and all they wanted us to do if we met there was to buy a dish of ice cream.” —Anthony B. Cassius, 20th Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project interview, 1981

The Keystone Bar, a Jewish-owned speakeasy serving mostly Black clientele, was located at 644 6th Avenue North. In 1938, the city bought them out for the construction of Olson Memorial Highway, and the bar moved across the street to the first floor of the Kistler.

The storied Keystone Bar in the 1930s. Foster’s was just a few doors down to the right. Courtesy Hennepin County Library

Courtesy Walter Scott, Minneapolis Negro Profile, 1968

Courtesy African American Registry

Courtesy Minnesota Spokesman Recorder

The civil rights group the Minnesota Club that met at Foster’s Sweet Shop included Herbert Howell (reporter for the Black newspaper The Spokesman), Lena Olive Smith (first Black female attorney in Minnesota, first female president of the Minneapolis National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Dr. William D. Brown (civil rights activist and compassionate physician for the North and South Side Black communities in Minneapolis), A.B. Cassius (labor organizer and owner of the first Black bar in downtown Minneapolis) and others.

The Avenue Formerly Known as 6th: Community Spaces and Places




1. Charley's Place
1900 6th Ave. N., around 1938

The construction of Olson Memorial Highway eliminated both Charley's Place and the streetcar line that used to bring customers its way.

1. Labor Lyceum Hall
1426 6th Ave N. in 1922

In 1938, city authorities tried to avoid responsibility for relocating the Labor Lyceum. It found a new home at 1800 Olson Memorial Highway in the building that is now La Creche Early Childhood Center.

3. Wolf's Bakery
1306 6th Ave. N. in 1922

In 1936, business owners like Joseph Wolf received dozens of eviction notices. Yet Wolf refused to abandon his home and bakery of seven years until after he finished fulfilling orders for Jewish holidays later in the month. 

4. Shank's Garage
1300 6th Ave. N. in 1938

In 1935, mayoral candidate Thomas E. Latimer spoke at a Farmer-Labor Party meeting at Shank’s Garage. Community meeting places like this one became the casualties of Olson Memorial Highway.

5. Schuster Meats
2128 6th Ave N., around 1930s

Although Black and Jewish
families both experienced housing discrimination, the areas where African Americans could live were much more limited. Like many other Jewish community members, meat cutter Max Schuster eventually moved to nearby St. Louis Park.

6. Sumner Library
1100 6th Ave. N. in 1928

Minneapolis architect Cecil Bayless Chapman designed the library in the Tudor Revival style. In 1938, “a crew of six men each turning a large jack” moved the building “one hundred feet directly north…one-eighth of an inch at a time” to its current location to make way for Olson Memorial Highway.
–Adelaide Rood, Librarian, 1938.

7. Cotton Club
718 6th Ave. N., around 1930s

In just over a decade, this building housed four different jazz joints, including the popular Cotton Club, a night spot known as a “chicken shack,” serving food and entertainment. In 1928, a fatal shootout between city police and bootlegger Isadore “Kid Cann” Blumenfeld shut the club down. In 1938, Olson Memorial Highway silenced the music for good.

8. Landy Provision
712 6th Ave N., around 1930s

Before buying and demolishing properties along 6th Avenue, the city assigned them a number. This storefront, one of three Landy’s Meat Market locations, became number 17 (see the person holding the number in front here).

9. People's Grocery
708-710 6th Ave. N. in 1936

People’s Grocery was one of hundreds of properties condemned, seized, and razed for the construction of the Sumner Field Homes and Olson Memorial Highway.

10. Barney's Lunch & Kee Laundry
700 and 702 6th Ave. N. in 1936

Barney’s Lunch and Roy Kee Laundry were just two of many businesses on the popular corner of 6th and Lyndale. Clarence Miller recalled the location as the former home of Volkert’s Candy Shop. 

11. Northside Inn
1011 Olson Memorial Highway, around 1956

A case study in the difficulties of tavern ownership on the Avenue, the Northside Inn switched names and locations many times between 1935 and 1972, facing licensing battles and policing issues. They were primarily an after hours music venue.

12. Harry Marcus Dry Goods
1027 6th Ave. N. in 1940

Construction delays on Olson Memorial Highway made the roadway in front of Marcus Dry Goods and hundreds of other businesses “impassable” for over one year.

13. Liberty Theatre
1015 6th Ave. N. in 1914

First a vaudeville venue, the Liberty Theatre primarily served the Jewish community on 6th Avenue. The proprietor, Sol Lebedoff, “used to have a large Chanukah party for all the kids from all the shuls, and they would fill up the six hundred seats, and they’d give them gifts and it was a wonderful occasion.” – Sol’s son, Martin Lebedoff (1911-1992).

14. Minneapolis Shade Cloth Co.
905 6th Ave. N., around 1936

en though businesses on the south side remained intact, they were still impacted by the construction of Olson Memorial Highway. Located at the corner of Bryant and 6th, the Minneapolis Shade Cloth Company was surrounded by wreckage of other homes and businesses.

5. Adlin's Grocery & Meats
901 6th Ave N., around 1930s

When the north side of 6th Avenue was slated for demolition, Falk Adlin moved his business across the street. Formerly La Salle Drug Company, this building became the new home of Adlin’s Grocery and Meats in 1936.

16. Aldrich Pharmacy
733 6th Ave. N. in 1938

Aldrich Pharmacy and other businesses along 6th Ave. N. were popular among Near-Northside youth. Pictured here with three friends, W. Harry Davis, Sr. (third from left) became the first African American to run for mayor in Minneapolis.

17. Brochin's Delicatessen
701 6th Ave. N. in 1922

Brochin’s was a central fixture of the Corner and the Near Northside Jewish community. In addition to selling kosher foods, the establishment included a bookstore and served as a meeting place where neighbors could socialize and troubleshoot issues. Brochin’s moved to Plymouth Avenue in 1934, as the second generation Jewish neighborhood moved north and west of the Corner.

18. Katz Tailoring
535 Lyndale Ave. N. in 1938

Abraham Katz ran a tailor shop on the north side of the block and “a wonderful shoe store” on the south side. When construction took over the north side, Katz Tailoring relocated around the left of this building, to Lyndale Avenue, south of the new Olson Memorial Highway.

19. Kistler Building
532 Lyndale Ave. N. in 1957

With entrances on both 6th and Lyndale, the Kistler Building was host to a variety of businesses, including Ruben Warren’s Royal Barber Shop.

20. Ames Lodge, Number 106
148 Highland Ave. in 1937

Originally located on the third floor of the Kistler Building, the community cornerstone of the Elks Lodge moved to Highland Avenue, into the former home of Dr. James Kistler. Harlem Breakfast Club was across the street at 141 Highland.


Under Pressure, Under Fire

As early as 1922, Black and Jewish Near-North residents called out white newspapers and the Minneapolis police department for abusive treatment. Black and Jewish employment in Minneapolis was severely restricted by racism. During Prohibition and the Great Depression, liquor and late-night entertainment venues were some of the few employment opportunities available along 6th Avenue. Motivated by racial bias, policymakers and police enforced laws and morality standards (such as alcohol use and racial integration) more harshly on the Near-Northside than in other parts of the city, oppressing residents and businesses in the 1920s and 30s. Under scrutiny and under fire, businesses traded hands, moved locations, and were forced to close, creating a distorted sense of instability and financial insecurity along the Avenue.

Even after beer was legalized in 1933, police, bankers, and city licensing councils continued to wage a multi-front battle against business owners, workers, and patrons.

These actions created a public perception, fueled by reporting in white newspapers, that 6th Avenue was lawless and “blighted.”

“One of these days we are going to have to find out whether we are developing a police state in this town. The cops have harassed and arrested Ritchie every time he turns around, and on the vast majority of the charges he has been found innocent in court…what is happening here is that the police are making up their own laws as they go along.”
—Walter Crammond, President of the Central Labor Union, 1956

1942 Clef Club

The Minnesota Messenger, 1922


Throughout the 1940s and 50s, plainclothes and uniformed police officers continued to target musicians, business owners, and the integrated venues they frequented. The Minneapolis morals squad’s “most impressive raid” resulted in the arrest of an integrated group of 89 men and women at the Clef Club. Although the white press referred to the incident as an “accidental raid,” statements by law enforcement suggest otherwise. According to Patrolman Elmer Hart: “We had checked the place several times recently without results...Early this morning we were driving up Sixth avenue N., en route to another place where we had complaints of illegal liquor sales and prostitution. As we passed the Clef Club we saw 40 OR 50 AUTOMOBILES PARKED on Sixth avenue N. and concluded something must be going on.” Courtesy Minneapolis Star-Journal, 1942

Black and Tan Clubs

Taverns and music venues serving primarily Black and mixed race clientele, known as “Black and Tan clubs,” flourished in the Prohibition period. In addition to a more racially progressive outlook, they generally welcomed other marginalized identities such as religious minorities and integrated groups. Because of their clientele and location in lower-income neighborhoods like Near-North, police and politicians considered them amoral and problematic. They were hassled, raided, and shut down over the decades. Redevelopment was often the final raid.

“In Minneapolis’ largest Negro district on the ‘near’ North Side, Negroes and whites intermingle sufficiently to result in immorality.”
—“A Study of Minneapolis…a presentation of the geographic, community, and sociological factors characterizing each area,” by the Family Welfare Association, 1944.

This report covered everything from churches to industry, parks and the distribution of toilets, people of “mixed parentage” and the “desirability” of neighborhoods and distribution of “unusable” structures.

Owners of the Northside Inn plead their case before the city council license committee. Minneapolis Morning Tribune, July 7, 1960

Alan Slactor (far right), Northside Inn, 1940s Courtesy of the Hennepin County Library and the children of John Glanton

Redevelopment, the Final Raid

John Ritchie came to Minneapolis in the late 1940s hoping to make his name in business. He found success transforming a small shoe shining stand at a bus depot into a chain of stands around Minneapolis and St. Paul. In 1954, he remodeled the third floor of the Kistler building, opening the Ebony Social Club where patrons came to hear musicians, like Prince Rogers playing in the Lewis Buggs band.

Throughout 1956, Minneapolis police repeatedly raided the club, arresting Ritchie. Each time, nearly all charges were dismissed in court. As a final blow, the Housing Redevelopment Authority bought the building in 1957, along with all others on the south side, for the expansion of Olson Memorial Highway and the Glenwood Redevelopment plan.

Friends at a Club, 1940s. Courtesy of the Hennepin County Library and the children of John Glanton

Musician Ira Pettiford (center) with his wife Jeane (left) and friends at Howard’s Breakfast Club on the Corner. Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

Sounds on 6th

Oftentimes, Black musicians and bands were not allowed to play at clubs in Minneapolis except for 6th Avenue venues. Police raided clubs and venues because of racial mixing and illegal alcohol sales, which made it difficult for Black musicians to work. Repeated raids and shutdowns pushed musicians.

“The police chief [after a Cotton Club brawl in 1928] ordered all night clubs and cafes to ‘cease singing and dancing and the like’ at midnight. As a result, Young left Minneapolis with the family band to work. He alone returned, only to depart again after similar crackdowns in 1932 and 1936.” —Douglas Henry Daniels, Northside Jazz, 2004

Decades later, the same pattern continued. As the construction of Olson Memorial Highway eliminated many 6th Avenue jazz venues, Black musicians tried to find jobs downtown. King Solomon’s Mines was the first downtown venue to welcome Black musicians and clientele. The venue was raided and closed down, confirming that the “liberal” and “progressive” city was not ready to truly embrace Black musicians such as Lester Young or his future contemporary Maurice McKinnies. 

"Government Experiment"

Sixth Avenue North was the section of Minneapolis where government planners tried out new concepts to eliminate the “problem of urban blight.” “Blight” was a term used to mean “eye-sore,” pointing to the condition of buildings, but it effectively cloaked prejudice toward non-white neighborhoods and legitimized disinvestment and, frequently, demolition. It began in the 1930s with the construction of the Sumner Field Homes, Minnesota’s first federally-funded housing project. Designed to house the working poor in long brick row houses, they were unlike anything seen before in Minneapolis. A Minneapolis newspaper called it a “government experiment.”

The same was true of Olson Memorial Highway. When it opened in the summer of 1940, newspapers called it the city’s first “super-highway.” In the eight decades that followed, a cycle repeated itself again and again on the Near-Northside: government-funded demolition done in the name of “improvement” pushed people out of their homes and businesses. Most of them were people of color. They had no say in the matter and were rarely consulted on the plans that forced them to leave.

Businesses on the north side of 6th Avenue were demolished between 1936 and 1938. Courtesy Hennepin County Library

A family in front of their home slated for demolition in 1936, near the Corner. Courtesy Hennepin Public Library

“What is this, Russia or something? Here I’ve slaved my head off for the last 36 years to buy and keep up this house, and the government men come around and say I’ll have to leave.”
—Mrs. Mary A. Miller, Minneapolis Star, 1936


Footprint of demolished homes and Sharei Zedeck Temple, 1936. Demolition of homes and Sharei Zedeck to make way for Sumner Field Homes, 1936.
Courtesy Hennepin County Library

Residents pick through the debris of residences cleared for the Sumner Field Homes, the first federally funded low-income housing project in Minnesota, in 1936. Courtesy Hennepin County Library

Living in the Sumner Field Homes helped low-income residents to become more economically mobile, but the implementation of income caps in the 1940s forced many Black and Jewish residents to be evicted from the housing project. During the 1990s, the Sumner Field Homes became the subject of Hollman v. Cisneros, a lawsuit accusing the city of concentrating poverty in public housing. The resulting Hollman Decree required the city to redistribute public housing, so the city demolished Sumner Field Homes in 1998. Ultimately, the majority of displaced families relocated to other Northside neighborhoods within three miles of Sumner Field.

Resonance & Resilience

Each iteration of construction disrupted the Near-North community. Despite this cycle, residents and new arrivals, including Southeast Asian and African refugees, still found ways to thrive. Together, neighbors established youth and cultural centers and found places to make and share music, art, food, and history.

In 2012, towards the end of Heritage Park’s development, longtime civic leader T. Williams spoke to the desire of the community to take the reins: “We want to rebuild the North Side. Actually, what they’re saying is, ‘We want to build for the first time’...What we want to do is to connect, we want to stop hiding the place and creating space for you to dump your trash. We want to shed some light on it.”
—Theatrice “T” Williams, former director of Phyllis Wheatley, 1965-72.

Summit Academy: Building Futures

Courtesy Hennepin Public Library
Summit Academy OIC Graduates. Courtesy Summit Academy OIC

Glenwood Shopping Center, now Summit Academy OIC, as seen in the 1960s. One resident remembers seeing Ike and Tina Turner play for a grand opening in the early 1960s. Now a vocational training center, Summit Academy OIC occupies the former site of Glenwood Shopping Center.

Sumner Library: Community Continuity

On September 25, 1981, in a packed room at Sumner Library, Maya Angelou gave a talk about how poetry could be used as a strategy for survival. Her visit was part of “Minneapolis: Portrait of a Lifestyle,” a National Endowment for the Humanities Learning Library program.

The library is home to the Gary N. Sudduth African American History and Culture Collection, which Branch librarian Grace Belton helped to build in the 1970s.

Courtesy Hennepin County Library

An addition was built on Sumner Library in 2004 and the library was renovated by architects Mohammed Lawal and Peter Sussman, who grew up going to the library. Cornbread Harris at the 100th anniversary of the library. The 2004 addition with vaulted ceiling can be seen in the background.

Courtesy Spokesman Recorder, October 14, 2015

The Way: Champions for Art & Change

Spike Moss, around the 1970s. Courtesy Hennepin County Library

Moss was one of the local Black youth who helped found The Way in the 1960s and went on to become a civic leader in
Near-North, championing community concerns about I-94 when it further divided the neighborhood.

He explained how he perceived the Black Power movement at the time:

“With civil rights, you get the right to eat at the restaurant, but with Black Power you get the right to own the restaurant.”
—Sarah Jayne Paulson, Black Power And Neighborhood Organizing In Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2018


Prince performs with his band, Grand Central. Courtesy Hennepin County Library

The Way was a Black-led community arts organization created after the Plymouth Avenue Rebellion of 1967. In 1988, the building became the Fourth Precinct, where youth protested after the murder of Jamar Clark by the Minneapolis Police Department. As The Way volunteer and longtime KMOJ contributor Mahmoud El-Kati once said, “That’s more than symbolic, that’s erasure.”


New Neighbors

Starting in the early 1970s, many Southeast Asian immigrants and refugees moved into Sumner and Glenwood housing. When a court case threatened to take the developments down, the Southeast Asian community feared that displacement would also mean the loss of their new home.

Gatherings at Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota near Harrison Park on Irving Ave, 2021-22 Courtesy LACM  

“The opposition to demolition and dispersal from the Southeast Asian community on the North Side was based on three complaints: that the dispersal of families destroyed their community networks, that they had not been full partners in the negotiations process, and that the relocation process had not been sensitive to their needs.”
–Hollman v. Cisneros, 2002


If the maps and overlapping storylines seem dizzying, it is not by accident. Disrupted history results in disrupted portraits, geographies, and timelines.

The story of 6th Avenue North is a poignant picture of the devaluation and ultimate demolition of a community’s assets through state-led harm. Government leaders and city planners sacrificed 6th Avenue for the needs of people who didn’t live on the Near-Northside. It became a place to funnel traffic, a place to experiment on solutions to exploitative housing systems. And yet, the rich legacy of culture, business success, and racial integration shine a light on the necessity to bring back 6th Avenue North. The present form of Olson Memorial Highway is not a foregone conclusion. It has been remade, many times over. This time, let’s remake it for the people who live here.

From this layered collage of time and place emerges a vision of a walkable, livable, and persistently vibrant avenue that can be reimagined and rebuilt today. The voices from the past and present can speak together for a new, more
community-centered version of The Avenue.


Bringing Back 6th is presented by the University of Minnesota Heritage Studies and Public History program in collaboration with Our Streets Minneapolis, the Harrison Neighborhood Association, and The Musicant Group. Although this exhibit is not a complete history of 6th Avenue North, it provides a glimpse at life before the Highway. This collaboration would not be possible without support from our partners, community members, and historians of the Near-Northside.

The Heritage Studies and Public History program gratefully acknowledges Sheila Brommel, Marilyn Chiat, Michael Corey, Kirsten Delegard, Kate Dietrich, Ted Hathaway, Jeanne Kilde, Ryan Mattke, Penny Petersen, Thomas Redd, and the other community members who provided guidance, encouragement, and feedback on the development of this exhibit.

Walking Tour

Take a self-guided tour to imagine what used to be on Old 6th Avenue.

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