The extraordinary photograph above is the work of St. Louis Park resident Steve Brown, who has recently begun to re-explore a series of photographs he took in the early 1960s. Brown’s Park roots are bona fide: His dad was Ben Brown, a great friend of the historical society and our go-to guy for information about the city’s early days. Ben’s father was Lewis “Doc” Brown, who ran a barber shop and pool hall downtown.
This photo was taken in 1962, at the last summer carnival put on by St. Louis Park’s volunteer fire department, after a 43-year run. Minutes from the department’s meetings give us some information about the summer carnivals, including the companies that provided the rides and how much money was made. This last carnival was held on land that would soon be purchased by Minnesota Rubber, and is now the site of the townhouses of Village in the Park. You can even see the construction of the Topps building, which would eventually become Shoppers City, Kmart, and now Burlington Coat Factory, with Micro Center at the south end.
The carnivals were a highlight of the year in the Park. But with the loss of the land, the dwindling number of volunteer firefighters, and the huge growth of the city’s population, they became more difficult to produce. Other celebrations would follow, including Robin Hood Days (1967 to 1971), Party in the Park (1980 to 1995) and our current Parktacular. But we still look back on the original party with fondness—St. Louis Park neighbors who were around back then remember the Firemen’s Carnival and the good times it heralded every summer.
Jeanne Andersen is a trustee on the board of the St. Louis Park Historical Society.
Learn more about the history of St. Louis Park at slphistory.org.