The Fox Farm is an intriguing part
of St. Louis Park History, but there are many unanswered
questions, so we hope you will
contact us if you have
any clarifications, corrections, or additions.
Be sure to see the fascinating
memoir written by the Caretaker's daughter, Shirley
St. Louis Park was the site of the United States Silver
Fox Farm, " breeders of the Roosevelt Strain of Mormon
Fox." The company, headquartered in Spokane, Washington,
also had farms in Seattle and San Francisco.
We are not sure exactly where the fox farm was. There
are two different but adjoining
parcels, both facing Wayzata Blvd., on either side of
Texas Ave. Perhaps the farm occupied both parcels for
a time. The following is a collection of clues to this
A 1926 map shows that the Silver
Fox Producer Assn. owned 80 acres, directly north of the
Westwood Hills Golf Course, south of Wayzata Blvd.
Part of that area may actually be in Golden Valley,
according to county records. Most of this site is now
Westwood Lake and the northern end of Westwood Hills
Environmental Education Center, however, so we scratch
our heads at that. Actually, it is more like a swamp, as
it was drained with a ditch to Bassett Creek.
In 1926 the 40 acres on Wayzata just west of
Texas belonged to an M. Jerapek, but there's no listing
for him in the 1933 directory (the first one issued).
A May 1931 Village planning map reiterated that
the Fox Farm was located between Flag and Texas, and Wayzata
Blvd. and 15th Street, which would be in the same general
area. (There is no 15th Street today.)
The area that is Westwood Hills
Nature Center was platted in 1937.
Northside expert John Yngve swears
that there was no fox farm west of Texas.
WAYZATA AND LOUISIANA
We definitely know that there was a
Fox Farm at the southwest corner of the
intersection of what is now Louisiana and Highway 394,
bordering on Pennsylvania and 14th Street.
The 1914 map shows that the
southwest corner of Louisiana and Wayzata was owned by
Frank A. Turner.
The surviving area that is south
and east of this area was platted in 1916 and 1917.
The 1926 map shows that the 19
acres between Wayzata Blvd. and 14th Street, between
Pennsylvania and Louisiana belonged to a George L.
Madden, who is not in the 1933 directory.
In August 1927, Dr. George Young
moved his radio antenna for station WDGY to the Silver
Fox Farm, described as Superior Boulevard and Falvey
Crossroad: now Wayzata Blvd. and Louisiana. The address
in 1955 was 7401 Wayzata Blvd. It was a combination
two-bedroom house and a separate radio control room with
many dials and lights. Al Lennon was an on-site
caretaker of the equipment. In late In
1949, the station moved its transmitter to Bloomington.
The picture below (courtesy of the Pavek Museum of
Broadcasting) was taken in about 1948-49. We don't
know whether this is the old sign at the SLP location, a
new sign at the new location, or a combination of the
two. We do not have a picture of the building
In June 1950, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Dobie of
Robbinsdale asked to use the old WDGY building on
Wayzata Blvd. as a dog kennel and residence. The
property may have been removed in the mid 1980s with the
coming of 394.
A 1928 business directory lists the
United States Silver Fox Farm on Superior Blvd.
There was also the Minnesota Silver Fox and Fur Co.,
with a Midway address.
The 1933 directory (the first one
issued) lists United
Fur Ranches located at Louisiana and Wayzata Blvd. The
farm could be seen from Louisiana, at the top of a hill
that sloped up to the south.
the 1934-35 and 1935-36 directories, United Fur Ranches is listed at 14th
Street and Louisiana.
The 1937 book lists United Fur
Wayzata and Louisiana, and names Dr. F.S. Swale as the
proprietor. He does not appear separately in the
The last listing for United Fur
Ranches is in 1938. In 1939 the foxes were moved to a
mink ranch off of Hopkins Crossroad, about a mile south
of Wayzata Blvd. The Fox Hills neighborhood off of
CR 73 is where the mink ranch was.
The foxes were moved again, north
to Peqot Lakes in 1940.
An aerial photo taken in 1945 hangs
in the Westwood Hills Nature Center. On it, at the
Louisiana location, is a set of concentric circles that
look very much like the fox pens pictured below.
The foxes had been moved by that time, but perhaps it
took longer to move or dispose of the infrastruture.
Houses on the block were primarily
built in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Blocks have been removed at the
intersection of Wayzata Blvd. and Louisiana and it is
now the site of a transit center.
From at least 1933 until 1938, O.C.
Ward's Stables were listed at Wayzata Blvd. and Texas,
probably on the east side of Texas. This had been
built by M.P. Johnson, who bought the land from "Peanut
John." On the east side of Texas today is
a block of buildings built as early as 1928.
There is also the story of an eerie
light reflecting off of Lamplighter Pond, with the
explanation that the light comes from the lamp of the
caretaker of the fox farm as he checks on the foxes at
night. Uneasy about what he did in life, he was destined to walk
the area with his lamp for all eternity. Lamplighter Pond is
just south of the Louisiana location described above.
We also don't have a handle on when this farm was established.
We do know that the area surrounding Wayzata Blvd. and
Louisiana was platted in 1916 and 1917. We have a
document that appears to be an advertisement to sell
franchises, which pictures President and Manager E.M. Robinson in
1920. The Minnesota Historical Society has a picture of
company touring car dated 1923. In 1930, the American
National Fox and Fur Breeders Association issued the fifth
edition of its Manual of the Silver Fox Fur Farming
Industries. Association Headquarters is listed as 424
McKnight Building, Minneapolis.
An undated photo captioned "A Birdseye View of U.S. Silver Fox Farm
of Minneapolis" shows a large circle of pens (with foxes
drawn into them) surrounding a three story tower-like
building. The tower was a barn where horses were
slaughtered. The meat was mixed with grain, and one
horse could feed the foxes for 10 days to two weeks. Village Council minutes show that neighbors on the North Side complained about the fox farm, particularly about the
noise from gunshots - not gunshots to kill the foxes, but to
kill horses used to feed the foxes. [This is unlikely, says
our reliable source - there were very few people living up
there, and those who were there did a lot of hunting, so
gunshots would have been prevalent.] The Village Council
found that the company was committing a nuisance by their
slaughtering of animals, and the recorder wrote a letter
saying as much. (The foxes were killed by electrocution.) The subsequent ordinance, passed in 1931,
provides other hints at the goings-on, by requiring that the
animals be property fed and otherwise cared for. More
complaints ensued in 1933, and farm owner Mr. Harvey was
brought before the Council and promised to move the farm as
soon as he could afford to, it being the Depression and all.
It was gone by 1939.
Caught in the crossfire was Harald N. Johnson, who
ran a mink ranch on his property. He lived at 4344
Brook Lane, which is a one-block offshoot of Brookside Ave. He came before the
Council and was given a waiver of the ordinance for 1931.
Johnson was a colorful fellow who told stories of driving a
stagecoach out west and in British Columbia. He was a mink
farmer, sausage maker at Witt's Market House, and, in 1935,
got a permit to make meat loaf... Johnson's property went
all the way back to Alabama Avenue, which explains why the
houses at the end of Alabama are newer than the rest. The
mink farm was surrounded by a high sheet metal fence.
There was a mink farm on Hopkins Cross Road, a mile south of
Wayzata Blvd., where foxes from the fox farm were moved
temporarily in 1939. The foxes moved north in 1940.
A curious footnote is that in 1928, a
Minneapolis business directory listed the National Muskrat
Breeders and the Muskrat Conservation Co.
LeRoy deBoom remembers that there was
an alley with the perimeters 39th Street, Cambridge,
Yosemite, and Wooddale, where caged animals - perhaps foxes
- were kept. That would have been in the 1940s.