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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.

University of Minnesota

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The University of Minnesota was incorporated by the first territorial legislature in 1851. A building was constructed on property in St. Anthony donated by Franklin Steele, a regent for the new University. Five years later, another property was purchased downstream on the east side of the Mississippi and a new building was constructed. In 1857, the first building opened and admitted 26 pupils. The University became co-educational in 1858. However, the lack of students and the onset of the Civil War led to the closure of the school in 1861. Then in 1869, the school permanently re-opened with a class of 15 students. Dr. William Watts Folwell was the president. The first graduating class in 1873 had two students.

University of Minnesota on the east bank of the Mississippi River (ca. 1904). By this time in addition to the regular University courses, there were colleges of Law, Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Agriculture, Engineering, Mining and Pedagogy.
Minneapolis Collection, Postcard Collection. Schools: University of Minnesota.

In 1875, a building program commenced, enlarging the original 1857 building; thereafter known as "Old Main." Also in 1875, a two-story, brick building was erected for the agriculture department. In 1880, Dr. Folwell proposed plans to build an additional farm house, gymnasium, drill hall, museum, a building for engineering and physics, an observatory, and a library. By 1894, twelve new buildings were added to the campus. Some of the early departments included Agriculture (1870), College of Engineering and Architecture (1874), Medicine (1884), Law (1888), School of Mines (1888), Pharmacy (1892), Dental (1893), and Chemistry (1904).

Minneapolis Collection, Postcard Collection. Schools: University of Minnesota.

In 1908 architect Cass Gilbert envisioned a Beaux Arts design for the Northrop Mall. The Mall became a great outdoor room for the University. Starting in the 1960s, the University began a significant building program that included the Health Sciences Center, Blegen Hall, Anderson Hall, Kolthoff Hall, Bierman Field, and the Performing Arts Center. As the century came to a close an extensive study, The University of Minnesota Perservation Plan, was completed and plans were in place to help define and preserve "the rich mosaic of campus architecture and landscapes from many periods."

University of Minnesota, Assembly Hall.
Minneapolis Collection, Postcard Collection. Schools: University of Minnesota.

University of Minnesota, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Buildings.
Minneapolis Collection, Postcard Collection. Schools: University of Minnesota.

Students at the University of Minnesota, early 1970s.
Municipal Information Library, Slide Collection, MIL1266.

Carlson School of Management building at the University of Minnesota, constructed 1997. Wilson Library is on the right. (Photo taken September 1999.)
Photo courtesy of Chris Gregerson

In February 2001, the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus, celebrated its sesquicentennial. According to a recent report by the University of Florida, the U of M Twin Cities campus ranks in the top three of American Research Universities (per Star Tribune, August 23, 2001). It offers twenty different colleges to its 45,300 students. Areas of excellence include bone-marrow transplants and health engineering, and the business school. It has been the teaching and research facility for many highly regarded staff including B. F. Skinner and Christian Barnard. The University works to balance access with excellence. Hidden treasures of the University Libraries include the manuscripts, illustrations, and books of children's authors (Kerlan Collection); Jane Goodall's original research notes; Sherlock Holmes Collection; the Givens Collection of African American Literature; the Basil Laourdas Modern Greek Collection; the Performing Arts Archives; the Northwest Architectural Archives; and the Literary Manuscripts Collections. These are a few of the collections that support research for various University departments as well as serving local, national and international researchers.

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Next: Transportation: River Transport