The story of how a small St. Louis Park boulevard became Interstate 394.

How an 1850s wood-plank boulevard became a major Twin Cities thoroughfare.
The intersection of Wayzata Blvd. and Park Place Blvd. in 1967.

We found this photo in the archives of the historical society, labeled “Highway 12 and Park Place Blvd.” Really? As we do with all mystery photos, we posted it on Facebook, on our Flashbacks of St. Louis Park page. The fine folks of social media confirmed that this is, indeed, a photo of what is now a very busy and much-changed intersection.

The road that acts as an approximate northern border of St. Louis Park started out as a path of wooden planks in the 1850s, and became Superior Boulevard in the 1890s. It was an important route from Minneapolis to Lake Minnetonka, where people escaped the muggy city during hot summers. In 1931, Wayzata mayor Rufus Rand received approval from the villages along the route to rename the road after his town, and it became Wayzata Boulevard.

The route was transformed into the multi-lane Highway 12 in the early 1950s, and this photo was probably taken in 1967, when the Julius Held family most likely still owned most of the property. The cross street in the photo was called Vernon Avenue (later Park Place Boulevard) on the St. Louis Park side.

A further transformation, to Interstate 394, was proposed as far back as 1959 and was extremely contentious. The city of Golden Valley was especially opposed to further development, and there were strong arguments for adding better mass transit solutions instead of building bigger highways. But the highways won. Hundreds of parcels of land were purchased over several years, and I-394 was completed in 1993: $450 million for 9.75 miles.

&

To learn more about the history of Wayzata Boulevard and other local byways, visit slphistory.org.

Writer Jeanne Andersen is a trustee on the board of the St. Louis Park Historical Society.