Snoose Boulevard

Hot Times in the Old Town

On Saturday nights in the early 1900s, thousands of Scandinavians, Czechs, Slovaks, Irish, Germans and other Minneapolitans would come to Seven Corners looking for a good time. They came to dance, drink and socialize in the bars, halls and theaters that lined Cedar and Washington Avenues. Swedish vaudeville at Dania Hall and the Southern Theater were major attractions. Scandinavians were the largest groups of revelers and many enjoyed "snus" (Swedish for tobacco), which was often left on the streets after they went home. Cedar Avenue earned the epithet "snus gatan" (Snoose Boulevard).

Cedar-Riverside became an entertainment district in part because it was within the liquor patrol limits: almost a third of licensed bars in Minneapolis were located there. "A ga pa" was Swedish for "to tank up" on Cedar Avenue. However, some Scandinavians were strongly against liquor, and advocated for temperance. The Swedish-founded I.O.G.T. Hall provided social and cultural activities without alcohol, and the Salvation Army's Swedish corps band sounded the call at temperance rallies.

Dry laws came into effect in Minnesota as early as 1918 and after Prohibition was passed about a third of Cedar Avenue storefronts closed. Some bars survived by serving soft drinks to the area's working-class residents. But Prohibition did not stop the partying completely; Cedar-Riverside became known for speakeasies and moonshine.

When Prohibition ended in 1933, many bars reopened and working-class Scandinavians continued to frequent these establishments, even as many of their neighbors were moving out of the neighborhood. In the 1960s, young people flocked to some of the older establishments like the 400 Bar, 5 Corners Saloon, and the Triangle Bar. They gained new life as music venues and community gathering spots for artists and musicians. Cedar-Riverside became a popular entertainment district again. New theaters emerged, including Dudley Rigg's Experimental Theater Company, the Guild for Performing Arts and Theater in the Round, adding to the already lively performance spaces in the old halls and theaters.

A new appreciation for Scandinavian music and culture emerged through the Snoose Boulevard Festival, an annual event that started in 1972. The festival was the brainchild of Maury Bernstein, a musician and folklorist who thought it could be a way for newer residents to welcome back older ones, and to learn about how the neighborhood used to be. The festival ran for seven years, attracting crowds of thousands, though not all in the Scandinavian community were happy about celebrating this part of their history.

Today there is little evidence of the old Snoose Boulevard, but the drinking culture in the neighborhood has persisted. Today's popular bars include the Nomad, Acadia Café and Palmer's and are all in buildings that were bars during the heyday of Snoose Boulevard. Many former bars have been re-purposed: the 400 Bar closed in 2013, it's bar was dismantled and sold on Ebay, and it is now a mosque.

Since the 1990s, as Somalis and other Muslim immigrants have settled here, there has been conflict between those who consume alcohol and those who don't. Various neighborhood groups, business owners and residents from diverse backgrounds continue to negotiate how to work, play and worship in the same place.

Images

Cedar Avenue, ca. 1890

Cedar Avenue, ca. 1890

Scandinavian saloons, dance halls and theaters lined Cedar Avenue and made Cedar-Riverside a popular entertainment district. Chester Anderson, a former resident recalled, “We had everything right here. There was dance halls galore; there was pool rooms galore and of course, you had the beer joints galore. It was a nice place to live.” Cedar Avenue became known as “Snoose Boulevard,” an epithet referring to the Swedish tobacco (“snus”) that was often left on the streets after revelers went home. Many of the theaters operated as cultural centers, like Dania Hall on the right, which was one of five theaters in the neighborhood and regularly hosted dances, plays, musical performances, lectures and community events. Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society | Source: “Looking north on Cedar Avenue across the intersection of Fifth Street South, Minneapolis; Dania Hall is at right,” ca. 1890 View File Details Page

Seven Corners, ca. 1910

Seven Corners, ca. 1910

Seven Corners, where Cedar Avenue and Washington Avenue merge, was at the northern end of Snoose Boulevard and was the heart of the neighborhood's entertainment district. Residents as well as other Minneapolitans would gather here to listen to music and drink with friends. Violet Olson, a former resident recalled, “There were a lot of people from all over the city who would come down here to the Avenue. Oh, it was quite well known: ‘Let's go to Cedar and have some fun. 'Cedar Avenue was jumping!” The Southern Theater (right) was built in 1910 and featured Scandinavian vaudeville shows, movies, and plays. It is the only theater from the heyday of Snoose Boulevard that continues to operate. Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society | Source: “Seven Corners looking down Washington Avenue,” ca. 1910 View File Details Page

Olle i Skratthult's Hobo Orchestra, 1926

Olle i Skratthult's Hobo Orchestra, 1926

One of the most popular performers on Snoose Boulevard was Hjalmar Peterson (center), a Swedish American singer and vaudeville performer. His stage name was Olle I Skratthult (“Olle from Laughtersville”) and he and his band performed in theaters and bars along the avenue. Olle gained national fame in 1915 for his rendition of "Nikolina," a Swedish language song about two young lovers, which sold more than 100,000 records in the U.S. Olle and his band went on tour often, entertaining Scandinavians across the country. Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society | Source: “Olle i Skratthult's Luffarkapellet (Olle i Skratthult's Hobo Orchestra); standing, left to right: Bertil Danielson, Arthur Martinson, Olle (Hjalmar Peterson), Werner Noreen, Ted Johnson; seated: Olga Lindgren-Peterson, Hazel Johnson,” 1926 | Creator: David Peterson View File Details Page

329 Cedar Avenue, ca. 1919

329 Cedar Avenue, ca. 1919

At the corner of Cedar and Riverside avenues is one of the oldest drinking and dining establishments in the neighborhood. 329 Cedar Avenue, once home to the New Riverside Cafe and now home to Acadia Cafe, has long hosted bars, saloons and cafes. This was once a “tied house” (a saloon that could serve only one company's beer) owned by Grain Belt, which was formed by breweries that had once operated on the Bohemian Flats. In 1918, dry laws were passed in Minnesota ahead of Prohibition. In 1919, this place was listed under the new category “Soft Drinks” in the city directory. The curved front pillar still marks the entrance today. Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society | Source: “Saloon advertising Golden Grain Belt Beers, intersection of Cedar and Riverside, Minneapolis; A. Jeppersen confectionary, 327 Cedar Avenue, at left,” ca. 1919 View File Details Page

Sauset Saloon, 501 Cedar Avenue, ca. 1919

Sauset Saloon, 501 Cedar Avenue, ca. 1919

This saloon, (now the Nomad Bar), passed through the hands of several Scandinavian owners. During Prohibition this bar served soft drinks and other non-alcoholic drinks. But local legend has it that this bar was a speakeasy and there was an underground tunnel connecting it to another speakeasy across Cedar Avenue, Palmer's Bar. After Prohibition, it reopened as Five Corners Saloon and Scandinavians continued to be regulars. The bar hosted Scandinavian American musicians during the Snoose Boulevard Festival in the 1970s and Scandinavian songs remained on the jukebox for decades. Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Independent Order of Good Templars Hall, 1416 2nd St. South

Independent Order of Good Templars Hall, 1416 2nd St. South

While many Scandinavian and European immigrants came to party in Seven Corners, some of their compatriots were anti-liquor advocates. Swedish immigrants established the I.O.G. T. Hall in 1886 as a place to promote temperance and provide social and cultural activities without alcohol. It became a popular spot for Scandinavians, Czech and Slovaks who attended plays, music, and dances in the large auditorium. It was demolished in the 1980s. Image courtesy of Hennepin County Library | Source: “I.O.G.T. Hall,” Snoose News, October 1977 View File Details Page

Salvation Army Corps Band No. 4 (Swedish)

Salvation Army Corps Band No. 4 (Swedish)

The Scandinavian Department of the Salvation Army, or Fralsningsarmen as it was known in Swedish, played an important role in the temperance movement on Snoose Boulevard. Many Scandinavians had joined the Salvation Army movement before they moved to the U.S. and their mission to advance the Christian religion and temperance continued when they arrived in Cedar-Riverside. One participant, Edward Nelson, recalled that it was not unusual for 3,000 people to gather for their services in Seven Corners. Swedish immigrant, Otto Pearson (center of the back row), carried the bass drum for the Salvation Army Crops No.4 band for 52 years. Image from Mavis Teska in Swedes in Minnesota (Minnesota Historical Society Press) | Source: Anne Gillespie Lewis, Swedes in Minnesota (2004) View File Details Page

400 Cedar Avenue, 2013

400 Cedar Avenue, 2013

The two-story black and white building on 400 Cedar Avenue has a long history on Snoose Boulevard. In the 1880s it was a drug store. In the 1890s the first level became a saloon which passed through several Scandinavian owners. In 1905 it made local news when the owner Fred Peterson, along with dozens of other Cedar Avenue saloonkeepers, were arrested for opening their saloons on a Sunday. During Prohibition, from 1920 to 1935, this location was a hardware store. Sometime between 1940 and 1961 it got the name the 400 Bar and in the 1960s and 1970s it became a popular hang out and music venue, attracting folk and blues musicians. Counterculture youth, hippies, students and activists would flock to the old bars on Cedar, often joining older Scandinavian residents who continued to visit their favorite pubs. The 400 Bar closed in 2013 and is now the Masjid Shaafici Cultural Center, a Somali mosque. Image courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio | Source: Andrea Swensson, "The 400 Bar may be gone but its stories live on," Local Current Blog, Minnesota Public Radio, January 10, 2013 | Creator: Nate Ryan View File Details Page

Triangle Bar, 1972

Triangle Bar, 1972

The Triangle Bar, once a popular drinking establishment for Scandinavians and neighborhood residents, attracted a new clientele in the 1960s and 1970s. Among them was Maury Bernstein, a folk musician and scholar who used to play the accordion in the corner of the bar. He helped rekindle an interest in ethnic folk music among Cedar-Riverside's new residents. An advertisement in 1963 listed his repertoire: German drinking songs, Russian gypsy songs, Italian, Irish, Scottish,Israeli, Greek, Romanian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish folk songs. Many bar patrons joined in on circle dances as they listened to the music. Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society | Source: "Triangle Bar, near intersection of Cedar and Riverside, Minneapolis.University West Bank buildings in background," 1972 | Creator: Eugene Debs Becker View File Details Page

Anne-Charlotte Harvey, 1972

Anne-Charlotte Harvey, 1972

Swedish singer, Anne-Charlotte Harvey, was the featured performer of Snoose Boulevard Festivals from 1972 to 1977. She made two recordings that helped bring international attention to the festival. Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society | Source: "Anne-Charlotte Harvey, Swedish born singer and actress. Released album of Scandinavian emigrant songs "Memories of Snoose Boulevard" recorded in Minneapolis in 1972." View File Details Page

Scandinavian music on the streets

Scandinavian music on the streets

During the Snoose Boulevard Festival, musicians strolled along Cedar Avenue, playing Scandinavian tunes on guitar, fiddle and accordion. Image courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Congregation View File Details Page

Scandinavian Folk Dancing, 1975

Scandinavian Folk Dancing, 1975

Scandinavian folk dances were performed throughout the Snoose Boulevard festival in theaters, at the old firehouse (now Mixed Blood Theater) and in the plaza of Cedar Square West (now Riverside Plaza). Interested festival attendees could join in the fun at “old-time dancing” workshops. Image courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Congregation View File Details Page

5 Corners Saloon, 1975

5 Corners Saloon, 1975

By 1975, this long-time Scandinavian hangout welcomed Snoose Boulevard festival-goers. Saloons like this one used to line Cedar Avenue, contributing to its reputation as an entertainment district. Former resident, Violet Olson, recalled Cedar Avenue in its heyday, “Every block had three, four bars and every place had live music. There was no juke box in those days. They had accordions and guitars and drums and what have you…they really had crowds in those days.” By 1975, this building was still operating as a bar, having survived Prohibition and dramatic physical changes in the neighborhood (to the left you can spot a walking bridge that once crossed Cedar Avenue as part of a major redevelopment plan). Image courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Congregation View File Details Page

Ted and Leona Carlson, 1973

Ted and Leona Carlson, 1973

This famous Swedish-American duo performed regularly in theaters and bars along Cedar Avenue, and were popular performers at the Five Corners Saloon during the Snoose Boulevard Festivals. Leona was known locally as the “Swedish Songbird.” Image courtesy of Hennepin County Library | Source: “Svenskarnas vilda Snusfestival hit i TV i host,” Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm, April 30, 1973 View File Details Page

Cedar Avenue during Snoose Boulevard Festival, 1975

Cedar Avenue during Snoose Boulevard Festival, 1975

One of the goals for the Snoose Boulevard Festival was for new Cedar-Riverside residents to learn about the history of the neighborhood. Former residents mixed with new ones as they roamed Cedar Avenue, reminiscing about their favorite places while checking out new businesses, like the Artery and Depth of Field. Elasky's grocery enticed festival-goers with Scandinavian foods including lefse, flatbrod, lingonberries, Norwegian sardines and anchovies. Image courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Congregation View File Details Page

Street Address:

Cedar Avenue and Seven Corners in Cedar-Riverside [map]

Cite this Page:

Anduin (Andy) Wilhide, “Snoose Boulevard,” Augsburg Digi-Tours, accessed July 23, 2017, http://digitours.augsburg.edu/items/show/11.

Share this Story