By Jim Hovland
After a contentious discussion lasting several weeks regarding its name, on Dec. 12, 1888, over 50 residents of western Richfield Township overwhelmingly voted to create the new village of Edina.
The year of our city’s founding, 1888, started with the Children’s Blizzard. A calm, beautiful January day turned into a deadly winter storm with raging winds and temperatures plummeting to between minus 40 and minus 50 degrees. Over 200 people died in that storm that ravaged several states, including Minnesota, and many of those killed on that deceptively benign winter afternoon were kids on the way home from school.
That same year, George Eastman patented the Kodak box camera and in London, Jack the Ripper’s last victim (No. 5) was found sprawled across her London bed. That fall, Benjamin Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland for president and 11 days after the birth of Edina and two days before Christmas, on Dec. 23, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh cut off one of his ears while residing in the south of France. While extremely interesting, of course, that event apparently had nothing to do with the establishment of the new village of Edina, so say the historians!
The point of this brief view of the past is that 1888 was a year filled with interesting events, one of which was unquestionably the beginning of a new community in Minnesota that has become one of the finest in the country over the past 125 years.
There were no anguished acts of great artists like Van Gogh memorializing the 125th birthday of the village but there were a host of events commemorating what is called a Quasquicentennial, in city birthday parlance. Edina’s Quasquicentennial was a temporal event worthy of both recognition and celebration. See www.edinahistorialsociety.org.
Our Founders’ Day on Dec. 12, 2013, served as the culminating event following almost a year of celebrating our community’s past with events such as the City of Lakes Figure Skating Club saluting Edina at their annual ice show in April, the Fourth of July Parade, a historic home tour, a writing contest, a juried art show, an open house at Cahill School and the Grange Hall, a concert by the Edina Chorale, a celebrating program in Council chambers and, of course, a party with cake. Over 80 descendants of our founders were in attendance for the celebration.
There were many dedicated volunteers who made the 2013 Edina Quasquicentennial a true success led by the chair of the year’s events, Ruth Valgamae, who worked with great enthusiasm throughout the year. The Quasquicentennial and the Founders’ Day owed their success to people like Marci Matson of the historical society and Joni Bennett from the city council, our city patriarch, Frank Cardarelle and others on the committee including Kay Bach, Betty Hemstad, Bob Kojetin, Dianne Plunkett Latham, Michael Frey, Jean Pastor, Elizabeth McGarry, Marshall Schwartz, Arlene Forrest, the late former Mayor Jim Van Valkenburg and the late former City Manager Ken Rosland. Other residents too numerous to mention also contributed time and talent to the year-long celebration and organizations like the Edina League of Women Voters, Friends of the Edina Library, the City of Lakes Figure Skating Club and the Edina Community Foundation also deserve great appreciation for their involvement.
Thanks to everyone who helped create a memorable 125th year for Edina and a special thanks to all those that have gone before us for more than a century who helped make Edina such a special place to live, work and raise a family.
Jim Hovland is mayor of Edina.