Exhibit Opening for Farms to Flamingos: Building a Mid-Century Modern County
Peer into the life of a suburban home—complete with orange carpet, Tupperware, and turquoise rotary phone—while learning about the tract housing that expanded much of Anoka County. Play in the tractor tire sandbox and give a treat to Buster the dog in his little house, then imagine the neighborhood children running off to the school down the road. Here memories will float back to days spent listening to the beep of a filmstrip machine or having to rip fringes from notebook paper.
The suburban house and school displays are the tip of this multi-year project. It’s not just about teal phones and pink bathroom fixtures, though. “Farms to Flamingos” will investigate many facets of Anoka County lifestyles during the 1950s through 1970s, including safety and health concerns, the civil rights and feminism movements, and the changing face of agriculture.
In planning this exhibit, the Anoka County Historical Society (ACHS) happened upon an interesting idea: In 2016, society is as far away from 1950 as the people of 1950 were to 1884. There are 66 years between each date. It was during the building boom of the 1950s and 1960s that Americans became aware of the risk to their previous architectural heritage and created the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings preserved today throughout the nation as historic treasures only survive because citizens made the intentional decision to set them aside for future generations.
Today, some of the Orrin Thompson and Vern Donnay structures have their original owners living in them. Some have begun a second life with a new young family or two calling them home. Either way, these neighborhoods now qualify as historic districts and the homes as National Register properties since they’re over 50 years old. The question we need to ask ourselves is, in another 66 years, will Americans find value in this modern equivalent of an 1884 house?
“Farms to Flamingos: Building a Mid-Century Modern County” may help you discover some answers to that very question.
The Anoka County Historical Society, a 501(c)3 organization founded in 1934, is headquartered in the Anoka County History Center and Library at 2135 Third Ave North in Anoka. For more information on available programs and activities, please visit AnokaCountyHistory.org or call 763-421-0600.