St. Louis Park’s bygone buildings

Mystery man Billy Otts strikes a pose in The Park.
St. Louis Park, circa the 1890s, serves as the backdrop for Billy Otts and his dogs.

This comical photo actually tells a couple of different stories. From left to right are T.B. Walker’s Methodist Church, “Papa’s Dogs” (as labeled in the original photo), Billy Otts, and two hotels, both complete with saloons. All three buildings appear on an 1893 map of the Park, and were probably built just a couple of years before. The church was located at approximately the same location as what is now 3384 Brownlow.T.B. Walker built this church for the employees of the factories he was constructing in the Park. Walker’s master plan was to own the real estate, means of employment, homes, streetcar, and utilities. He managed to achieve a few of these goals until a financial panic in 1893 caused many of his projects to fail. The little church endured despite a fire where, legend has it, the firemen worked harder to save the saloons across the street than to save the church. Then in 1925 the church was badly damaged in a tornado and the congregation merged with the Brookside Community Church, which became Aldersgate. The hotels were two of several around town, also serving men who worked in Walker’s factories. One of the most successful businesses was the Monitor Works; so many men had come to the village to work that in 1910, there were boarders in almost every house. Hotel keeper Lizzie Summerville had a whopping 56 boarders, probably at the Great Northern Hotel, which was located behind the church.As for the man in the middle, Billy Otts, age 27, lived in the Duff House (the hotel in the foreground) in 1900. We don’t know when this photo was taken or anything more about Billy, but it is certainly fortunate that someone took this picture to preserve this moment in St. Louis Park history. Jeanne Andersen is a trustee on the board of the St. Louis Park Historical Society.@ To learn more about these and other historical buildings in St. Louis Park, visit the St. Louis Park Historical Society website.