First known as Territorial Road #3, this road was variously known as County Road #3, Excelsior Road, Excelsior Street, Excelsior Avenue, and finally Excelsior Blvd. Between Minnetonka Blvd. and the Edina line, Excelsior Blvd. serves as the center of commerce, entertainment, and transportation. (It was also the gas station capital of the Midwest - see Gasoline Alley.) An important artery into Minneapolis, it connects with the equally important Lake Street. The history of the road may not be pretty, but has some interesting twists.
Lake Street in Minneapolis began as a path used by soldiers from Fort Snelling to get from hunting grounds to drinking grounds at Lake Calhoun (then called Lake of the Loons). Earlier in the century, a missionary named Lawrence Tolliver established the experimental village of Eatonville on the eastern shore of Lake Calhoun with local Dakota Chief Cloud Man. There, the Indians settled down and learned to farm, read and write. At its peak it had a population of 300 people, white and Indian, but the troubles of the 1850's made it impossible to continue, and Cloud Man moved on to the Minnesota River.
March 1: The Minnesota Territorial Legislature passed an act declaring all roads already constructed, being constructed, or to be constructed in the future by the government to be territorial roads. It also provided for compensation to landowners and a penalty for obstructing passage over road lines.
Governor Ramsey declared the establishment of three main "wagon roads" for the territory. One of these was the Minneapolis and Glencoe Territorial Road No. 3, aka the "Glenco Road." An 1860 map shows the road marked "to Glencoe." Pioneers traveled via oxcart on Territorial Road No. 3 to settle Carver and McLeod Counties.
The following comes from the history of Mizpah Church in Hopkins:
The St. Louis Park Village Council instructed Minneapolis to open Excelsior Blvd. from Lake Calhoun to the City limits. That connection was Lake Street. At this time Excelsior Blvd. was no doubt a dirt road used by truck farmers.
In a page of an undated memoir, an unattributed author
remembers "Excelsior Ave. was graded across a swamp and bog
full of springs. A cow couldn't go thru - it would
sink - all quick sand. These springs helped to keep up
the water level of Lake Calhoun. Joseph Hamilton was
road boss - called path master at that time and he and his
crew built Excelsior Ave. They filled in and thought
at night they had the road built up and the next morning it
had settled out of sight. Filled not less than 10 feet
of dirt before road held above water." Joseph Hamilton
died in 1901, so this would have had to be before the road
was graded (see 1903 below). The description of the
springs is consistent with the report that Bass Lake was fed
by nine springs and was quite large until it was drained by
a ditch to Lake Calhoun.
The Council voted to ask the County for $500 so they could improve Excelsior Ave.
The Council spent $1,000 for the gravelling and surfacing of Excelsior Ave.
In April the Village Council allocated up to $2,000 to have Excelsior Blvd. surveyed for grade and specifications, beginning at the Minneapolis city limits and as far west as they can go. And in fact, the St. Louis Park Historical Society has in its possession a long roll of paper representing the length of Excelsior Blvd. with a line for the current grade and another line for the proposed grade. The document is called “Profile of Excelsior Road from City Limits to Glencoe Road, April 1903, J.E. Egan, C.E.” Perhaps this is our clue to when the road was first graded and made passable. Very quickly after the survey was done, William Falvey got the contract to grade Excelsior Blvd. at 22 cents per cubic yard.
Dr. John Watson petitioned the Village Council to furnish
60 ft. of tiling to lay in front of his property on
The railroad was abandoned when streetcars were used to bring travelers to Lake Minnetonka. On Lake Street, the streetcars ran on rails laid on the dirt road.
Apparently the grading done on Excelsior Ave. in 1903 was
not a permanent solution; in March 1909, a motion was made
to the Village Council to make the road passable.
Lake Street in Minneapolis was tarred for the first time. Businesses on the street were faced with a heavy assessment, and that expense helped to put the Wonderland Amusement Park out of business.
Henry Woerner and a Mr. Wade requested that the Village
install a cement sidewalk on Excelsior Blvd. between
Brookside and Brunswick.
The stretch from Highway 100 to France Avenue was
designated as 169/212; west of 100 it was still County Road
3. It is still also designated as County Road #3. A 1931
map shows it as Excelsior Ave.
Before Highway 7 captured its own identity, it was referred to as the "new" Excelsior Road, and the county road was relegated to the "old" Excelsior Blvd. Sections of Old Excelsior Blvd. still exist today as you travel west to Excelsior.
The speed limit between Highway 100 and France was 40 mph.
Bus service began from Minneapolis. Excelsior Blvd. never had a streetcar line, perhaps because it was between the Minnetonka Blvd. and 44th Street lines.
On December 30, Ordinance 160 was passed, establishing house numbers on Excelsior Blvd.
Excelsior Blvd. went from a State road to a county road.
The Village Council proposed joining with Hopkins to petition Hennepin County to widen Excelsior Blvd. from Highway 100 to the Hopkins line.
In July 1947 it was reported that the Village was studying the need for a stoplight at Excelsior Blvd. and Brookside Avenue, but it was determined that it was up to the county. One was finally installed in 1949 (July 1952). The contractor was Sterling Electric. This was said to be the first stoplight in the Park – the fourth from Lake Street to Hopkins.
Evergreen Avenue between France and Excelsior (by the Pure Oil station) was vacated, since it had not been used in 40 years.
Residents of the Brooklawns neighborhood (north of Excelsior, west of 100) complained to the Village Council that excessive speeding on Excelsior was making it very difficult to get out of their driveways and streets.
In June, the Village Engineer was instructed to check with the State Highway Department regarding relief from the perennial traffic jam at Highway 100 and Excelsior Blvd.
The Village unsuccessfully tried to get the State to take over responsibility for maintenance of the Blvd. The Village's resolution stated that the road carried 12,000 vehicles per day, half of which were heavy trucks. In December, the Village ordered the widening of Excelsior between France and Highway 100, with the State paying 75 percent.
Herbert E. Rawson of 4235 Yosemite petitioned the Village
Council for a traffic signal on Excelsior and Brookside. The
matter was referred to Village Engineer Phillip W. Smith.
In August 1953 the Dispatch reported with alarm that the Highway Department wanted to turn Excelsior Blvd. into a six-lane "speedway" that would ruin commercial business along the boulevard. As with many such proposals, it never got very far.
The Village Council requested that the State install a traffic light at the intersection of Wooddale and Excelsior. These were still the days in which Wooddale went through the at-grade intersection. The State shot back that “something should be done about the promiscuous use of the south side of Excelsior in front of Miracle Mile before they would consider signals at Wooddale and Excelsior.” Whatever that means.
Excelsior Blvd. was paved from Highway 100 to Hopkins,
with four 60 ft. lanes and two parking lanes. Work included
concrete paving, curbs, gutters, sidewalk, and storm sewers.
Heretofore it had only been oiled. It was most likely
included in the formerly county roads that were turned back
to the communities for maintenance on January 1.
At that time, Excelsior Blvd. was designated as Highway 212.
Mn/DOT had held a hearing on Excelsior Blvd. improvements at the American
Hardware Mutual Building, 3300 Excelsior Blvd on April 7.
Another hearing was held by Mn/DOT in December.
On May 12, the Dispatch described the $300,000 "Excelsior Boulevard improvement program:" "The improvement project, which will cover an area on Excelsior Boulevard from Wooddale Avenue to France Avenue, will include widening and paving of the boulevard, curb and gutter, street lighting, a sidewalk installation and utility changes." The plan was based on a 1961 study called "Anatomy of a Boulevard."
The Highway 100 underpass at Excelsior Blvd. was opened in early October. The interchange cost $2.27 million and took two years to complete. The bridge was rebuilt in 2005.
Realizing that Lilac Way was not the best use of the key
intersection on the northwest corner of Excelsior and
Highway 100, plans for the revitalization of the area began
as early as 1977. Lilac Way itself was demolished in 1988
and the water tower demolished in November 1994. It would
take many years and plans before the revitalization effort
was completed. See Park Village.
This information comes from a variety of sources: newspapers, books, yearbooks, phone directories, interviews, etc. Given the varied sources, we cannot guarantee that all of this information is correct, and welcome any additions and corrections. Please contact us with your contributions and comments.