First meeting of the task force is April 19, exactly one year from the commemoration
By Laci Gagliano
Sun Post Newspapers
Nearly a century and a quarter ago, a well-connected visionary from St. Paul arrived in the right place at the right time, and from a single chance visit, the city of Robbinsdale was born. Birdtown bears the name of its founder, Andrew Robbins, who developed his vision of a “suburb of ideal homes” and declared it the town it is today in 1893.
Robbinsdale will celebrate the 125-year anniversary of its incorporation as a city on April 19, 2018, which commemorates the date when 2.9 square miles of the village of Robbinsdale were organized, with Robbins serving as its first council president.
To help plan festivities for the occasion, the city seeks participants for a quasquicentennial celebration planning committee, which will have its first meeting 7 p.m. April 19 at City Hall, 4100 Lakeview Ave. N.
Assistant City Manager John Tingley, who is organizing the committee, said it will likely consist of both community members and business owners. He said the current plan is for the committee to meet four times during the next year.
Tingley said he specifically arranged for the first meeting to fall exactly a year prior to the city’s quasquicentennial anniversary.
“I did it as a tool to remind people it’s a year away, and if we are going to plan an event or celebration, I thought it was a good starting point,” he explained.
There are currently no set goals for the celebration, according to Tingley.
“We don’t have any specific plans yet; that’ll be up to the committee,” he said, adding that various parts of the city’s history might also be incorporated into the celebration, including its founder and namesake. “I have a feeling Andrew Robbins will be partially mentioned if not part of the celebration.”.
Robbins, an old-time real estate mogul from St. Paul, visited the area for another business venture in 1887, but fell in love with the sprawling land he saw. At the time, the area was known as Parker’s Station, named after the farmer who donated several acres of land to construct a train depot around which the community was established.
Robbins is quoted in the Minneapolis Tribune as saying, “Looking out across the lake and away to the east, the view was so beautiful that I determined to build a home upon that spot. … Robbinsdale, a suburb where the natural conditions are so attractive and every feature of the place contributes to make it a suburb of ideal homes.”
According to historian Peter James Ward Richie, who compiled a detailed history of the people and events that shaped the town, Robbins was well-connected from his days serving as a Minnesota senator and was related to a local lumber baron. Those connections enabled him to quickly purchase 90 acres of land, much of which was platted for the Robbinsdale Park subdivision, while Robbins kept 20 acres for his own estate at the shore of Lower Twin Lake.
In the next few years, Robbins would begin drawing boundaries and established a streetcar line of his own when the Minneapolis Street Railway Company refused to extend its service northwest to West Broadway Avenue. His streetcars were pulled by horses until 1897, when they became electric.
Robbins named himself the first council president and worked hard to shape the village to flourish. Although the village ultimately prospered, several hardships created initial challenges. A fire destroyed the Northern Car Company and Hubbard Manufacturing Building within just a couple months of becoming Robbinsdale, and a depression in 1983 inhibited growth. Nonetheless, the town persevered. Thomas Girling served as mayor beginning in 1895, after Robbins was elected to the House of Representatives, a seat in which Girling would later become Robbins’ successor.
Robbins only lived to enjoy his official township for less than two decades, as he died in 1910. His daughters were instrumental in carrying on his work and developing the town; without them, Robbinsdale may very well have fallen by the wayside or become incorporated into another township.
People interested in joining the celebration’s planning committee can contact John Tingley at [email protected] for more information.
Contact Laci Gagliano at [email protected]