Augsburg University

Finding A Home in Cedar-Riverside

Augsburg University has grown and changed along with the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood from the 1870s to today.

In 1871, Norwegian immigrant Reverend August Weenaas and a small group of his students moved to Cedar-Riverside from Marshall, Wisconsin. They were in search of a permanent home for Augsburg Seminary, which included both high school and college programs. Norwegian immigrants and city leaders saw Augsburg as a potential anchor for Minneapolis' growing Norwegian community and welcomed them to the neighborhood by providing land and financial support.

When they arrived, Augsburg faculty and students found themselves in what was still a mostly rural area. Lands west of the Mississippi River had been opened up for American settlement in 1854. The City of Minneapolis was organized in 1867 and joined with St. Anthony in 1872. By then, there were about 13,000 residents in the city. Much of the landscape was still prairie grass and swampland. A few dirt roads connected Cedar-Riverside to downtown Minneapolis to the west and to Fort Snelling Military Reservation to the south. As one early Augsburg student recalled, "On the south side there was not a single house so far as the eye could see, except a decrepit, uninhabited hut." On campus, students relied on a horse for transportation, a cow for dairy products, and a pig as a garbage disposal.

Augsburg faculty and students welcomed this rural atmosphere-in fact many had come from farms, either in Norway or other Midwestern states. While they saw themselves as part of an emerging Minneapolis, city life was not always to their liking. By 1910, Cedar-Riverside's population had grown to 20,000 and the area now included numerous small businesses, factories, breweries, hospitals, churches, synagogues, and single and multi-family dwellings. Norwegians were one of the largest immigrant groups in Cedar-Riverside, giving Augsburg the sense of having found its permanent home. However, the neighborhood also had become a popular entertainment district, drawing thousands of revelers to the bars, dance halls, and theaters along Cedar, Riverside and Washington Avenues. Many Scandinavians frequented these bars; some owned them. As one Norwegian-American recalled, '"a ga pa Cedar," (go down on Cedar) meant "to tank up."

But a significant proportion of Scandinavians also participated in temperance campaigns throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries--none more enthusiastically than Augsburg faculty and students who embraced a pious lifestyle. Choral music, intercollegiate debate and street speeches were some of the ways Augsburg joined in the crusade against liquor. Augsburg's anti-liquor stance made it unpopular with some of its Norwegian neighbors. Temperance campaigning was one way the Augsburg community made an impact in its immediate vicinity, but also subjected the Augsburg community to a degree of cultural isolation.

By the 1920s, Augsburg's leaders considered relocating the campus to Richfield, an emerging suburb of Minneapolis. A variety of reasons were offered for this move to "Augsburg Park." Long-held concerns over the number of bars and dance halls in the area, along with the recent departure from the city center of many Scandinavians to South Minneapolis in search of better economic and residential opportunities, were part of the argument. Deploring urban "blight" and "undesirable" new arrivals in the neighborhood were important reasons as well. A desire to return to a more "rural" environment and an emerging need to accommodate an expanding student population (including female students after 1922) also figured in, as did pending decisions on what to do about building improvements on the existing campus.

Augsburg bought parcels of land in Richfield and over the next two decades there was intensive debate on whether to leave Cedar-Riverside. However, in 1946, the Board of Trustees voted to remain in Cedar-Riverside, partly because of campus improvements already underway and a lack of funds for building a new campus in the suburbs. When Cedar-Riverside became part of a large urban renewal plan, Augsburg took advantage of the opportunity to acquire "slum" property adjacent to its campus. This later led to campus expansions that were controversial because old housing was replaced with new, private campus buildings.

In 1949, the City of Richfield bought Augsburg Park, leaving Augsburg to develop a vision of itself as an urban college where students would have a unique opportunity to learn beyond the classroom by engaging in a dynamic neighborhood. In the 1960s and 1970s, President Oscar Anderson encouraged students and faculty to get more involved so they could help address challenges facing cities, some of which were in its own neighborhood. Augsburg's liberal arts curriculum became increasingly dedicated to community service, which helped it overcome its earlier reputation as an isolated seminary. A Social Science Research Center was created. Programs like the Metro Urban Studies Internship Program encouraged students to gain experience outside of the classroom, and the Professors of the City program attracted professionals in business, education and government. Augsburg began to distinguish itself as the only private liberal arts college in Minneapolis.

In 1963, Augsburg Seminary left to become part of Luther Seminary, and Augsburg's main focus became its liberal arts curriculum. While drinking and dancing were still discouraged, attitudes had changed by then, and, so too did students interaction with local bars. Students began to leave campus to enjoy some of the old liquor establishments that remained in the neighborhood, like the Triangle Bar, Viking Bar, and Cesar's. There they could hang out with friends enjoy an emerging folk music scene (including performances by Bonnie Raitt and Bob Dylan).

Augsburg continues to value its urban location and community engagement in Cedar-Riverside. Since 1990, the Service Learning Program has connected thousands of Auggies with their neighbors through educational, social, health and political activities. The Campus Kitchen program at the Brian Coyle Community Center serves meals daily to hundreds of neighborhood residents. Augsburg students help Korean elders at the Community Peace Gardens. Recently, Augsburg College and the Cedar Cultural Center partnered up for a grant funded project called "Midnimo: Music for Unity, Campus and Community," to showcase Somali music and to bring together Somali musicians who have been displaced by the civil war in their homeland.

Today, Auggies come from all over Minnesota, the United States, and around the world. Some of their Cedar-Riverside neighbors from East Africa, Southeast Asia and Central America have become Auggies as well.

Images

View of South Minneapolis, 1879

View of South Minneapolis, 1879

South Minneapolis was still a rural area when Augsburg's founders moved to Cedar-Riverside. Most of Augsburg's campus was part of Edward Murphy's farm, one of the first European Americans to settle in the area. Augsburg's Old Main and Murphy Square are center-left . Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Bringing Augsburg to Cedar-Riverside

Bringing Augsburg to Cedar-Riverside

Reverend Ole Paulson, a Norwegian immigrant and pastor of Norwegian-Danish Trinity Lutheran Church, was a passionate advocate for the relocation of Augsburg from Marshall, Wisconsin, to Cedar-Riverside. The need to move started in 1870 when Augsburg's leader, August Weenaas, and his students were kicked out of the schoolhouse they had been using and were holding classes in the attic of a barn. Paulson came to their rescue and secured the support of Minneapolis' growing Norwegian community and city leaders who donated land and money to establish Augsburg in the neighborhood. Image courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Congregation View File Details Page

Singing for Sobriety: Augsburg Choir and Anti-Liquor Activism

Singing for Sobriety: Augsburg Choir and Anti-Liquor Activism

From the 1870s through the early 1900s, students in the Augsburg choir performed around the region and earned high-praise for their musical talents. A major part of their repertoire included anti-liquor songs, an important issue for many Augsburg students and faculty during this time. Scandinavian bars and dance halls were abundant in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, which gave it a scandalous reputation in direct opposition to the quiet, pious lifestyle found on the Augsburg campus, leading to some difficulties with local residents. Image courtesy of Augsburg College Archives View File Details Page

First Coeds at Augsburg College, 1922

First Coeds at Augsburg College, 1922

For its first fifty years, Augsburg only allowed male students. It wasn't until 1922 when the first female students were officially admitted to Augsburg College. Image courtesy of Augsburg College Archives View File Details Page

Augsburg Park

Augsburg Park

This advertisement shows the proposed site for a new Augsburg campus in Richfield, a suburb of Minneapolis. A plan to move Augsburg to Richfield was developed in the 1920s, in part to accommodate increasing enrollment, escape urbanization and return to a more rural landscape. In the 1940s, Augsburg decided to fund substantial campus renovation and expand building programs in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood rather than move to Richfield. Image courtesy of Augsburg College Archives View File Details Page

From Slum to "Swinging"

From Slum to "Swinging"

By the 1960s, attitudes on Augsburg campus about alcohol, dancing and the neighborhood had changed. The student newspaper, the Augsburg Echo, referred to bars as the "heart, lungs and soul," of the neighborhood, and the "faithful" who patronized these bars were "eclectic families" of students, residents, musicians and artists, engaging in discussions that helped fuel a sense of Cedar-Riverside as the center of a new counterculture community. Image courtesy of Augsburg College Archives | Source: Augsburg Echo, April 4, 1966 View File Details Page

Augsburg as a "City College"

Augsburg as a "City College"

From 1963 to 1980, President Oscar Anderson helped to define a new identity for Augsburg as a "city college," which embraced its urban location and relationship with Cedar-Riverside and Minneapolis. This approach was a break from previous generations who struggled with cultural isolation and a contentious relationship with their neighborhood. Instead of isolation, Anderson encouraged students and faculty to leave the "ivory tower," and to become more involved in and learn from the urban environment. Image courtesy of Augsburg College Archives | Source: Augsburg Echo, February 16, 1973 View File Details Page

“Metro-Morphosis"

“Metro-Morphosis"

In the 1960s, institutional expansion and urban renewal efforts dramatically changed the physical landscape of Cedar-Riverside. This area had been deemed a “slum” by city planners and was selected for several urban renewal projects. Old structures were torn down. New freeways—I-94 and 35-W—were constructed and created boundaries of cement around the neighborhood. The University of Minnesota's West Bank campus was established. Augsburg expanded its campus, buying up old homes and building new student housing, parking lots and campus buildings. This time of change was called "Metro-Morphosis” in the Augsburg Echo. The process was described as both "exciting and frightening," and Augsburg students had a unique opportunity to be right in the middle of the "chaos, blight and progress." Image courtesy of Augsburg College Archives | Source: Augsburg Echo, April 4, 1966 View File Details Page

Serving the neighborhood, 2008

Serving the neighborhood, 2008

Augsburg students help prepare the soil for Augsburg's first community garden in Cedar-Riverside. The garden is open to Augsburg faculty, students, staff and Cedar-Riverside residents and organizations like the Confederation of the Somali Community and the Brian Coyle Community Center. This is one of many activities sponsored by the Service Learning Program to get students involved in the neighborhood. Image courtesy of Augsburg College View File Details Page

Midnimo: Music for Unity, Campus and Community, 2014-2015

Midnimo: Music for Unity, Campus and Community, 2014-2015

Famous Somali singer, Maryan Mursal, performs at the Cedar Cultural Center in fall 2015. Midnimo, which means "unity" in Somali, was a two-year partnership between Augsburg College and the Cedar Cultural Center to "build cross-cultural awareness, knowledge, and understanding of Somali culture through music." The partnership brought several Somali musicians to the Twin Cities, some of whom had been separated from their band mates for years due to the civil war in Somalia. Image courtesy of Cedar Cultural Center View File Details Page

Street Address:

2211 Riverside Avenue South , Minneapolis, MN 55454 [map]

Official Website:

Augsburg University

Cite this Page:

Anduin (Andy) Wilhide, “Augsburg University,” Augsburg Digi-Tours, accessed September 20, 2017, http://digitours.augsburg.edu/items/show/1.
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