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A History of Minneapolis: an Overview by Staff at the Hennepin County Library

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Featuring historical photos and items from the collections of the Hennepin County Library, with contemporary photos from the Phototour of Minneapolis by Chris Gregerson.

Conventions and Organizations

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In 1886, the Exposition Building opened at Main Street Southeast and Central Avenue, on the site formerly occupied by the Winslow House. In 1892, the Republican National Convention was held here.

Exposition Building at Main Street and Central Avenue (1886-1940).
Minneapolis Collection, M5139

The Minneapolis Auditorium, opened in 1905.
Minneapolis Collection, Postcards: Buildings

The first Minneapolis Auditorium, financed primarily by the Northwestern National Life Insurance Company, opened in 1905 at the corner of 11th Street and Nicollet Avenue. It held offices for the insurance company and housed a new civic music hall. The hall's tubular pneumatic action Kimball organ was said to be the fourth largest in the world, and dubbed "the voice of Minneapolis." The building became the Lyceum Theater, home of the Minneapolis Symphony, after the second Minneapolis Auditorium (Grant Street and Stevens Avenue) was built in 1927, at a cost of $3,150,000. In addition to hosting conventions, this new auditorium was home to the Minneapolis Lakers basketball team, the first major league team to play in Minneapolis, from 1947 to 1960. The need for expanded convention facilities led to the construction of the Convention Hall in 1965, but in time the space still proved to be inadequate in competing with other cities for convention dollars. In 1990 the new Convention Center was completed on a 25 acre parcel on Grant Street between First and Third Avenues. Now another expansion is underway; with its completion in December of 2001, the Minneapolis Convention Center will be one of the 20 largest such facilities in the United States.

Minneapolis Auditorium and Convention Center (circa 1975).
Municipal Information Library, Slide Collection, MIL0939.

Minneapolis Convention Center, July 2000. Future expansion is visible to the left.
Photo courtesy of Chris Gregerson

The organizations charged with bringing visitors to the city have employed a variety of tactics. At one point in time, there were Guest Guides, young men employed by the Minneapolis Civic and Commerce Association, founded in 1911, who wore snappy orange shirts and slacks with caps to match, and white sports shoes. When spotting a stopped car bearing an out-of-state license the Guest Guide would step up, cap in hand, introduce himself, and offer free service of information. The Guides made about 500 contacts per day. Today, the Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Associations' Web site reaches far and wide, receiving some 350,998 hits in the year 2000.

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