Morten Arneson was a nurseryman on Excelsior Boulevard, but
much more than that. He was instrumental in the creation of
the St. Louis Park Medical Center (now Park Nicollet) and he
was an extremely active participant in civic matters in the
Park. This image is a photo of a portrait displayed at
the Edina Historical Society.
Morten Arneson was born in Norway in 1893 and kept his
Norwegian accent for life. He came to Minneapolis in
1912 and worked as a landscape architect for the Minneapolis
Park Board, where he was the head of the flower department
for 17 years.
In May 1929 he bought three acres on Excelsior
Blvd. and Quentin Avenue and established his nursery
business at 4951 Excelsior Blvd. He probably bought the property from Warren C.
Fletcher, who at one time had over 9 acres. Arneson and his wife Katharine lived in a
little white house on Quentin, and the business operated out
of a 4-5 car garage.
In his memoir, Arneson described the lawless atmosphere on
Excelsior Blvd. once beer was legalized. There were a
reported 14 honky-tonks on the strip. He told of one
particularly hot night when the racket was worse than ever;
the band in the joint across the street (probably
Canteen, across Quentin) played three pieces on the banjo,
one after another, and when they were through they started
all over again. Finally, the family departed to a friend's
house way out of town to get some sleep. He suspected the
Kid Cann gang and the police (and possibly
the Park Mayor) of being in cahoots. Regardless, although the law
that required establishments to close at midnight, it was
not enforced, and those who complained were told to go back
to Minneapolis if they didn't like it. For more on this sort
of thing, see Liquor in the Park.
Arneson and others worked to elect Village officials who
would crack down on the bars, and formed the
Better Government League.
In 1951, Arneson leased part of his land to the founding
doctors of the St. Louis Park Medical Center on terms they
could afford, thus allowing them to start the clinic. For
more information about this very important aspect of the Arnesons’ lives,
see Park Nicollet.
On his remaining St. Louis Park land, Arneson built a
grocery store at 4951 Excelsior Blvd., on the corner of
Excelsior and Quentin, in 1953. That building was later
purchased by the burgeoning SLP Medical Center and is now the
Park Nicollet MRI Imaging Center.
Photo courtesy Edina Historical Society
Nephew Al Arneson was born on July 22, 1918, three months
after the death of his father, Albert A. Arneson, who was
Morton’s brother. Al’s mother was Mrs. Elizabeth Arneson
of Lindley Hall, Minneapolis. Al
was raised by Morten and Katherine, and many held the
mistaken believe that Al was their son. Al attended Brookside School and was captain of the football team at
Park High, graduating in 1935. He studied architecture at
the U of M, graduating in 1940. In 1941 he earned a Masters
at Harvard. He died during WWII while working for Honeywell
on Avionics. The Spectator reported that he was
an operational analyst with the 13th AAF, analyzing targets
and determining their vulnerability. This work didn't
require him to take part in battle, but he requested
permission to take part in order to analyze the effects of
air attacks. He died on May 5, 1945 of a head wound in Tarakan,
Borneo. He was survived by his mother and a sister,
Mrs. Astrid McCleave of New York City.
In 1953, Morten and Katherine built a house at 4709 West
70th Street in Edina, on 20 acres they had been using to
grow nursery stock. Against pressure to subdivide, he
donated his property to the City of Edina for use as a City park.
Katherine passed away in 1972, and Morten passed away in
October 1982. Their house is now being used for the
Historical Society. The tree farm is preserved as Arneson
Acres. We're told Morten's ashes are located in an unknown
location on the property.
Also see the article in the
Photo courtesy of Park Nicollet