This page traces the history of the
highway itself - also see
Highway 7 Buildings.
GRAESER AND THE WPA
We don't know exactly when the segment of Highway 7 that
runs through St. Louis Park was built.
The first village directory was published in 1933, and the map
enclosed called the road "New State Highway 12." By the 1934
edition, it was labeled "New Highway 7."
Childhood buddies Bill Roberts and Earl Ames lived just
north of what is now Knollwood Mall, and had a kids' eye
view of the area. Bill remembers that before the
highway was built "it was unimproved grassland. There were
two roads leading west from the end of the streetcar line,
Lake Street and Walker Street. Texas Ave. was the last
north south road in Oak Hill. And we could hunt pheasants
etc. west of it."
The western leg of Highway 7 was completed and opened on
November 4, 1934 (see Minneapolis Journal article below).
Like Highway 100,
Highway 7 was
constructed with WPA-funded labor, with as much work done by
hand as possible. Engineer C.F. Graeser, who would
orchestrate the upcoming work on
Highway 100, was the
supervisor of Highway 7. As a works project, there was a
movement to use horses as much as possible on rural jobs.
Construction equipment included three mule teams and “belly
dump wagons” to move the dirt. Wood from downed trees
(formerly the Williams Homestead) was provided to poor
families for fuel.
Builders encountered black peat in the swamp. Engineer Gene
Neville described it: “I remember we loaded the black peat
swamps with about a 15 foot lift of good dirt and then
drilled down and set dynamite charges. We loaded and blasted
the peat swamp – as much as five times. The black peat which
had originally been as much as 12 feet in depth was now
about the consistency of anthracite coal, possible three and
a half feet in depth and as hard as a black rock.”
The route went through an area in front of the high
school that served as an ice rink and football field.
These were moved west of the school
statistics showed that the new road carried 3,547 vehicles
daily; Wayzata Blvd. carried 6,653. The picture at
right is of Marie Hartmann next to a Highway 7 sign
dated March 21, 1937.
THE (IN)FAMOUS TUNNEL
As parents learned more about the new Highway 7, they became concerned for the
safety of their children. Junior and Senior High school
students in the
1930s often had classes in both Lincoln School and the
Jr./Sr. High School, which required them to cross the new
On October 19, 1932, the PTA appealed to the Village Council
to build a tunnel that would go under the highway. The
picture at left is of Marie Hartmann at the tunnel, dated
June 1937. But kids will be kids, and the tunnel
quickly became a dirty, disgusting pigsty, where more kids
went to relieve themselves than to relieve their parents.
Although Bob Jorvig remembers it being fun to go through the
tunnel as a boy, others (especially the girls) refused to
use it and it was declared unfit for human perambulation. For those reasons it got blocked off with railroad ties and
the ends were filled in (we know not when; someone posited
the date March 8, 1950, Keith Meland guesses 1967 when the
road was realigned and rebuilt), and
we thought it was gone forever.
But it turns out that
when Mn/DOT built the Wooddale Ave. overpass over Highway 7
in 2010-11, they encountered the tunnel! We thank Jay
Koski for taking the pictures below in 2010 and sending them
to us. He said they had heard about it, but didn't know
where it was until they dug it up. Those Creosote boys
did a good job - the railroad ties were in perfect
The intersection of Highway 100 and Highway 7 was one of
the country's first
examples of what was termed a cloverleaf.
We don't know exactly when the cloverleaf was opened,
although it can be seen under construction in aerial photos
taken in the summer of 1937. The daughter of plumber
Clifford J. Browne, President of the St. Louis Park
Businessmen’s Association, remembers that her father cut the
ribbon for the opening of the Highway 7 cloverleaf. She also
remembers riding her bike around the four circles of the
cloverleaf that day. The cloverleaf required 30 acres and
cost $65,000. The photo below is from the 1941 directory.
The Oak Hill School PTA secured a "Caution" sign for the
highway during the 1935-36 school year.
On September 1, 1939, 3M's Scotchlite product was used on
traffic control signage and installed at the cloverleaf. The first
automatic traffic signal was installed at Highway 7 at
Quebec. The third such signal was at Highway 7 and Wooddale,
installed in October 1950. In May 1965, a signal was
installed at Lake Street.
In 1958, City Councilman Torval Jorvig requested that a
committee be formed to give Highway 7 a name, presumably
like Wayzata Blvd. or the Beltline. The committee came up
with Alaska Boulevard, St. Louis Park Boulevard, and
Radisson Road. No action was taken.
A plan for upgrading Highway 7 was presented to the City
Council in April 1960.
The City Council approved a light at Highway 7 and France in
A proposed interchange of Highways 7 and 18 was presented by
Hennepin County Highway Engineer L.P. Pederson on August 22,
1963. The City Council approved the plan in November..
In 1963, residents requested a traffic light at Highway 7
and Lake Street. Apparently it was still being
discussed in 1965, and finally put in in 1967.
An overpass was built at Wooddale Ave. in 2010.
Another overpass is being considered at Louisiana Ave.
See articles from the Patch:
June 12, 2012.
NEWSPAPER ARTICLE, MPLS. JOURNAL, NOVEMBER 4, 1934
City's Newest Highway Opened to 'Tonka
Portion of Road Landscaped, With
Service Roads Giving Easy Access on Both Sides
highway, connecting the city with the popular Lake
Minnetonka section, has just been opened - a section of
state Highway No. 7.
The final oiling of the east end of the highway was being completed
last week, it having been delayed somewhat by cold weather.
Leaving Minneapolis on the new highway the driver goes on Lake
street west to the city limits at France avenue and then
turns to the southwest. A section through St. Louis
Park has a landscaped boulevard and is paralleled on each
side by service roads, which are 22 feet in width and
designed to give easy access to and from the highway by
residents living along or near it.
sections of the new highway where there are small centers of
population these service roads have been provided. At
important corners driveways have been provided for buses, so
that passengers may be handled without inconvenience to
themselves or to passing traffic.
The highway swings through the northern part of Hopkins and between
Vine Hill and Excelsior is built on the old right-of-way of
the Minneapolis-Excelsior streetcar tracks which were
abandoned three years ago.
The road embodies the latest in highway construction and is
designed for high speed traffic. The highway provides
six lanes of traffic, it being 60 feet in width, exclusive
of the service roads. There are no grade crossings.
In order to provide this, it was necessary to construct five
underpasses or bridges over railway tracks.
Area Made Into Park
At one point
near Vine Hill, seven acres of land was acquired to obtain
sand and gravel. This area is now being made into a
park. All along the highway the cuts and fills have
been beautified, extra funds having been acquired from the
government in order to landscape the stretch along the
highway. There are no ditches at the side, the
drainage being taken care of through concrete pipes.
At the side of the road there is a slight elevation, which
will provide a path for pedestrians.
Greater speed is obtainable on the new highway because the maximum
grade is five per cent and the maximum curve four per cent.
The sweeping curves give a driver a vision of the highway
many feet ahead.
Tests have shown that at least 20 minutes driving time can be saved
between Minneapolis and Excelsior, the old highway having a
number of grade crossings, sharp curves and narrow stretches
which slowed down traffic.
Road Mile Shorter
The new road
is one mile shorter. Traffic counts of the old highway
show at least 3,000,000 cars a year will use the new
highway, which, with the mile saving, means that 3,000,000
car miles annually will be saved by the motorist. At
an operation costs of five cents a mile, this will mean a
dollar and cents saving of $150,000.
"Completion of this new highway and of a proposed belt line which
will connect all of the roads entering Minneapolis from the
west will do much to facilitate the ease with which drivers
may bet into the Minneapolis loop districts," Joseph
Chapman, president of the Hennepin County Good Roads
Association, which is affiliated with the Minneapolis
Industrial Committee, said last night. "It will do
much to relieve congestion on Hennepin avenue, particularly
at the bottle-neck."
N.W. Elsberg, state highway commissioner, said that opening of the
new stretch of Trunk Highway No. 7 between Minneapolis and
Excelsior is an "occasion of gratification for the state
Road Embodies Latest
"The new road will serve a large population," he said. "It
will provide improved transportation facilities for the Lake
Minnetonka district and the territory to the west. The
highway embodies advanced ideas in engineering practice and
should be of great public benefit."
C.F. Graeser, resident engineer at Hopkins of the highway
department, who had supervision of the work on the new road,
said that with the completion of Highway No. 7 to the west a
short, through highway from South Dakota and western
Minnesota into Minneapolis will be provided.