Historical Society News

Historical Artifact Donations

Boxes of artifacts on shelvesNotice: There is a moratorium on Artifact Donations for the months of January and February, 2018. Exceptions include any artifacts being donated as part of our Recent Veterans History Project. Please contact the ACHS Archivist if you have any questions. Thank you for your patience!

The Anoka County Historical Society accepts many different kinds of artifacts; everything from paper, to clothing, to furniture. However, our resources to accept, process, and preserve artifacts are limited; we only have so much space, money, and time. For this reason, our Collection Policy lays out some strict criteria than must be considered for any artifact offered to the Collections at ACHS:

Relation to Anoka County History

The artifact(s) must be related to Anoka County in some meaningful way. If it doesn’t have an Anoka County connection, we are not able to accept it here – no matter how interesting an artifact it is.

Historical Context

The artifact(s) should have a story. Stories provide the historical context that makes artifacts interesting and helpful in the future. Who created this item? Who bought or owned it? How old is it? What was it used for? How did it come to you the current owner? If we cannot answer at least some of these questions about an artifact, then it may not be able to tell us much about the story of Anoka County.

A historical artifact collectionCondition

If an artifact is truly falling apart, or is too weathered or fragile to be handled, then we may not be able to accept it.

Size or Volume

If an item is very large, or very voluminous (many boxes of paper records, for example), then those will require a great deal of space to properly house. We must take the availability of storage space into consideration when deciding whether or not to accept offered donations falling into this category.

Similarity to Artifacts Already in Our Collections

Depending on the artifact(s), we may already have the same or similar items that have been donated in the past, and may not need anymore.

Some things ACHS is VERY interested in adding to our collections:

  • Identified photographs, stories, or artifacts from the following communities: St. Francis, Bethel, East Bethel, Nowthen, Oak Grove, Andover, Ham Lake, Columbus, and Linwood.
  • Early community records from any of Anoka County’s 21 communities.
  • Photographs of the inside of the Carnegie Library. We have several pictures of the exterior of the Carnegie Library that used to stand in the city of Anoka, but have never seen any pictures of the interior. We would love to add some to our Collections!
  • Photographs, stories, and artifacts from Anoka County veterans involved in the Desert Storm military operation.
  • Histories of businesses in Anoka County.

Some things ACHS is POSSIBLY interested in:

  • Yearbooks. We have many Anoka High School yearbooks, but are still missing some years. We have less complete collections from other schools. Please contact us with the school and year of the book you are interested in donating.
  • 1939 Anoka tornado pictures. We have a large number of these in the Collections already, but may be interested in unique or underrepresented images.
  • Editions of small, local newspapers. For example, the Blaine Banner. Please check with us about these.

Some things ACHS Does NOT need:

  • Old newspapers. We have the Anoka County Union and the Anoka Herald newspapers preserved on microfilm, and several copies of the Centennial Edition of the Anoka County Union already in the collection. Newspapers from outside the county focusing on major national events (such as the JFK assassination) are very cool, but not right for the collections at ACHS.
  • Wedding dresses from the 1940s-1950s. We have many wedding dresses from this era, covering many parts of the county. We are also generally well covered on wedding dresses from the city of Anoka.
  • Sewing machines. We have several in the collection already.
  • Pump organs. We have one already, and do not have space for more.
  • WWI or WWII military uniforms. We have a very thorough collection of these. Photographs and stories of Anoka County veterans, however, or other types of artifacts would be of interest to us.
  • Photographs with no identification. Unless we know who is in the picture, it does not tell us much about the story of Anoka County.
  • Cookbooks/recipe books. We have many of these in the collection already.

We encourage you to contact us before you send or bring an artifact in! The Archivist is always happy to discuss a potential artifact donation and answer any questions you may have. You can contact us by phone, or use the Artifact Donation Interest Form found below.

Artifact Donation Interest Form

Use this form to describe any artifact(s) that you are interested in donating to the Anoka County Historical Society.
  • About You

  • About the Artifact(s)

  • Upload images or PDF files that help describe the artifact(s).

    You can use this form to upload a maximum of four (4) jpg, gif, png, and pdf files, with a total file size of 4MB or less.

    Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: jpg, gif, png, pdf.
    • Thank You for your support

    • We appreciate your interest in donating to the Anoka County Historical Society's artifact collection. We will review your artifact information and respond to you as soon as possible. Our archivist may contact you with additional questions regarding your artifact(s).

      Thank you for your support of the Anoka County Historical Society.

    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

    Vickie Wendel: 30 Years of Service and Stories


    vickiewordcloudJoin ACHS for a special celebration of Vickie Wendel’s 30-year relationship with ACHS and her new beginning as a volunteer.

    Tuesday, December 20
    Social Hour at 5 p.m.
    Program at 6 p.m.
    Shenanigans to follow until 8 p.m.

    It’s not often – oh, who are we kidding? NEVER do you find a personality like Vickie Wendel! She practically hatched the modern Anoka County Historical Society as a volunteer, then began a 27-year career creating programs and exhibits for the public to enjoy. Methodically gathering stories and memories as she went, Vickie engaged a variety of groups across the county, fostering those relationships through time. Her personal style of public history convinced many a nay-sayer that an identity rooted in local heritage was critical to their understanding of the present.

    While the staff of ACHS grieve the loss of an iconic employee and source of institutional memory, we rejoice in Vickie’s decision to remain with us as a volunteer and consultant. In her new role as retiree, however, she will also have to balance the duties of multi-generational family caretaker, lunch go-getter, and ever-present cook on the Civil War battlefields.

    As friends of both Vickie and ACHS, we invite you to join us in celebrating her new chapter of life – one sure to be filled with laughter, love, and loyalty. Please take the time to look through your memories and submit stories and photos to ACHS (or bring them on the 20th!) of how Vickie has impacted your life, your organization, or your community.

    We look forward to seeing you!

    Getting It Done: Anoka County’s Answer to WWII–An Exhibit Opening

    World War II Exhibit PosterJoin ACHS Tuesday, December 6 at 6 p.m. to hang the last ornament on the “Around the County” Christmas tree, then stay to enjoy refreshments and stories in a gallery open house until 8 p.m.

    The Anoka County Historical Society is set to open a new exhibit at the History Center to remember those of the greatest generation who served both overseas and on the homefront as part of a day-long series of events December 6.

    The exhibit, Getting It Done: Anoka County’s Answer to WWII, begins with a vignette of a 1941 living room, complete with newspaper and radio announcing the news of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Visitors can then follow the escalating involvement of the USA into the war, experience rationing and salvaging efforts, the Red Cross, and the popular Victory Gardens. The influx of women into the workforce, the conversion of local businesses like Federal Cartridge and Northern Pump to produce large quantities of munitions for the war, and other personal stories will round out the visitor experience.

    In a gallery space reserved for nearly 15 years to honor those who served in the United States military, the opening of Getting It Done: Anoka County’s Answer to WWII will highlight the experiences of family and friends who served overseas during this, the 75th anniversary season of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Artifacts on display include knitted red socks and the book of approved patterns, a radio that delivered the news, a banner awarded for the determined war bond effort, and the massive story of munitions development.

    Those left at home to harvest milkweed for kapok and naval life jackets, save rubber by not driving, and do without nylons rarely stopped thinking about their loved ones overseas. With three Medal of Honor recipients demonstrating ties to Anoka County, a pair of aviator goggles that witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and several military uniforms also on display, their sacrifices are certainly not forgotten in this exhibit.

    It is from this vantage point that patrons can move into the Farms to Flamingos exhibit, which opened last summer to discuss the impact Suburbanization had on Anoka County. With the increase in housing, workforce, babies, and modern conveniences, the post-war era created an atmosphere of peaceable abundance for many. Come add your story to those already held at the History Center!

    The History Center will be open its normal hours from 10-8 p.m. on Dec. 6 for visitors, although a special reception will occur from 6-8 p.m., during which time the last “Around the County” Christmas ornament will be hung on the tree to represent Columbus and additional “bonus artifacts” will be available to view of the WWII era.

    Earlier in the day, a commemorative event celebrating the 100th anniversary of the construction of the historic post office will occur from 10-2 p.m. at the old post office in Anoka. This is one last chance to collect an exclusive cachet envelope with the special design created by ACHS for the construction anniversary of this National Register building. Bearing the now-familiar jack-o-lantern stamp, unveiled in Anoka this fall, the envelope will also have a one-of-a-kind cancellation postmark.

    Farms to Flamingos Exhibit Opening July 9, 2016

    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.

    2015 Anoka County Historical Society Annual Report

    2015 Annual Report

    ACHS Annual Report (PDF)

    The 2015 Anoka County Historical Society Annual Report is available to view and download.

    Executive Director’s  Letter

    My first unofficial, official appearance for the ACHS as Executive Director occurred at the Annual Meeting last year. Not quite on the payroll, yet hired for the position, I attended not knowing what to expect. I found a room full of curious, enthusiastic people happy to welcome me to an organization I have come to treasure dearly this past year.

    To say the job has met my expectations is a lie–it has surpassed them entirely! From the staff who strive daily to present the best information and public face of local history to the Board members tasked with long-term vision and the donors who loyally provide ACHS with their time, talents, and financial support, I am proud to call this museum my work home. In this report you’ll find a synopsis of 2015 that of course can’t say it all, but sure tries hard to represent the highlights of the year. As we leave the “getting-your-feet-wet” year behind and launch into the “what-are-the-possibilities” year of 2016, I thank you for continuing to journey with us through the past, the present, and into the future!

    Rebecca Ebnet-Mavencamp, ACHS Executive Director

    Read the 2015 Annual Report here.

    Natalie Haas Steffen Recognized at ACHS Event

    Natalie Haas Steffen

    Natalie Haas Steffen has worked in the health and human services arena for more than 50 years. Becoming one of Anoka County’s first two female County Commissioners in 1983, she has since served at the local and state level in numerous capacities. Appointed by both Governor Ventura and Governor Pawlenty, she served for 12 years on the Met Council, and she has been on the Achieve Board since 2003. In addition to being a former Anoka County Commissioner, she is also a former Ramsey City Council member, as well as a former Commissioner of the Department of Human Services. Natalie loves traveling the world, cooking, and spending time with her family. She currently resides in Ramsey.

    To celebrate this pioneer in local and state politics, the Anoka County Historical Society hosted a Recognition Dinner for Ms. Haas Steffen on September 17, 2015 at the Courtyards of Andover. Guest speakers included Ted Mondale, Chief Executive Officer of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.

    Read more about Natalie Haas Steffen and the recognition event in an article that appeared in the Anoka County Shopper.

    Fridley Historical Society Celebrates the Holidays – 1960s Style!

    Our friends with the Fridley Historical Society have opened a new exhibition focusing on Christmas in the 1960s.


    The Fridley Historical Society exhibit includes historic vignettes, operating train set, activities for children and adults, trivia contest and Christmas treats for all! The 1960s was a time of Beatles, Twiggy, Go Go boots, Beads, Peace signs, Bell Bottoms, Flower Power, Hippies & Tie Dye.

    The exhibit is FREE, and the hours we’re open for guests at the Fridley History Center (located at 611 Mississippi St., Fridley)  are Saturdays from 11-3 now through December 20, and Tuesdays 2-4 through December 16.

    Historical Society Celebrates 90 Years of WCCO Radio

    Andover, MN – 2 October 2014 – Over 300 guests were treated to an evening of laughter and memories as the Anoka County Historical Society helped WCCO News Radio celebrate 90 years of broadcasting. The event, held at the Courtyards of Andover on the evening of October 1, also served a fundraising event for the Historical Society.

    After WCCO was presented with a proclamation from the Anoka County Board of Commissioners, and a gift of congratulations by the Historical Society, Vice President/Market Manager for CBS Radio Minneapolis Mick Anselmo thanked the crowd and the Historical Society and introduced John Hines, host of the station’s mid-morning show.

    For the next hour, Hines led a parade of WCCO’s past and present staff and on-air personalities to the stage where they shared stories and recollections. Memories of the 1965 tornado that devastated parts of the Twin Cities and Anoka County were among the stories shared.

    Historical Society Executive Director Todd Mahon said, “This evening was such a special treat for me. Working with the WCCO staff to put this event together was a real pleasure and to see this large group come out shows what a connection the station has with its audience.”

    The event raised thousands of dollars through ticket sales, donations at the event, and sponsorships from Federal Premium Ammunition, Community Pride Bank, Erhart and Elfelt Law Office, Mercy & Unity Hospitals, Northeast Bank, the Pierce Motel, and WCCO News Radio.

    The Anoka County Historical Society, organized in 1934, is headquartered in the Anoka County History Center and Library at 2135 Third Avenue North in Anoka. For more information on its programs and activities please visit AnokaCountyHistory.org.

    IMG_7531 IMG_7565 IMG_7549

    Award Winning Book on Sheriff’s Office History Sold at Discount at County Fair

    Keepers of the County - CoverThe Anoka County Historical Society will partner with the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office to offer Keepers of the County: Crime and the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office at a discounted price during the Anoka County Fair, July 22-27. The Sheriff’s Office will be offering coupons to purchase the book for $25.00 (sales tax included). The book ordinarily sells for $29.95 + sales tax.

    Coupons will be offered at Sheriff’s booth, located near the west entrance, and the book will be sold at the house at the Old Farm Place, centrally located on the grounds, to the west of the Grandstand. The book is also available at the Anoka County History Center and the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office. The coupons will be honored until July 31, 2014.

    Published in 2013, Keepers of the County tells the story of the evolution of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office and its humble beginnings in 1857, to its time chasing down bootleggers and rum runners, to its transformation into a modern law enforcement agency. There are stories about election recounts, violent crimes and missing alligators.

    The book is the recent recipient of a Minnesota History Award in the publications category. Wendel was invited to the Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museum’s annual meeting in Mankato on June 19 to receive the award along with seven other organizations. The awards are presented given for projects and programs that demonstrate excellence in the field of Minnesota history. This is the second Minnesota History Award the Historical Society has received.


    What are Your WCCO Memories?

    When I was a kid, in the 1980s, my mother would listen to WCCO radio in the mornings as I was getting ready for school. Each jingle and sounder for news stories was a signifier to me about how much time I had left before I had to go out the door. Some of it I didn’t make a lot of sense to me, even though I heard it every day. To this suburban kid, the regular agriculture reports may as well have been about activity on Mars. I could tell it was important. They sure seemed to talk about it enough, but I never could understand why we needed to hear how much sorghum was selling for each day.

    When winter storms hit, WCCO had the power to make or break my day. It was this station that all school kids and parents tuned in to find out if the school closed because of the weather. I imagine that most of the state tuned into hear the venerable Boone and Erickson announce if their school had closed. Their words would make kids jump for joy or hang their heads.

    On October 1, ACHS will hold a recognition dinner for WCCO as they celebrate the 90th year of broadcasting. For the entirety of those 90 years, their radio tower in in Coon Rapids has sent out the signal heard across the state, and, with the right weather conditions, across the world. This should be a terrific celebration as WCCO personalities from the past and present will be on hand to mark the occasion. Be on the lookout for information about the event and buying tickets.

    In the meantime, we want to hear what your WCCO memories are. Add your comments below, or drop us a note at 2135 Third Avenue North, Anoka, MN 55303. Tell us about commercials and advertisers you remember, who your favorite hosts were, or other ways WCCO radio played a part in your lives.

    Farewell to Vi Smith

    Vi Smith 1

    Violet Smith, center, on the day of her senior prom, on the front steps of George Green’s home on Fremont Street in Anoka, 1940.

    We just heard the sad news that longtime ACHS volunteer Violet Smith passed away. Our thoughts are with her friends and family.

    Vi regularly volunteered with ACHS at the Anoka County Fair, and with our children’s tea programs. She was always fun to talk to and loved to tell stories.

    One of my favorite memories of Vi was when she was touring a house on the 2009 Anoka Heritage Home and Garden Tour. One of the houses, on Fremont Avenue, was a home that at one time was owned by George Green, the Anoka businessman credited with organizing the first Anoka Halloween celebrations. Vi was so excited to tell the homeowners that she always

    loved the home. She loved it so much that she and her friends took their pictures in front of it on the day of their prom in 1940.

    She even went home to get the pictures so the current homeowners could see them.