Thomas Barlow (T.B.) Walker was born in
Xenia, Ohio in 1840. His parents had traveled west from New
York, and soon afterwards his father died of cholera while
preparing to join a wagon train west. Thomas finished
college at age 19, and after hearing a glowing description
of Minneapolis, he proceeded there in 1862. Within an hour
of arriving he was hired as a deputy surveyor of pine lands
in the north. As a result he knew the location of good
timber close to water transportation, and in 1868 he went
into the lumber business. He formed the Red River Lumber
Company and made a vast fortune logging the timber.
Back in 1863, in Ohio, he had married his college classmate
and boss's daughter, Harriet Granger Hulet (b. 1841), and
despite the time he spent up north while she made their home
in Minneapolis, the couple had eight children. He returned
to Minneapolis around 1881, determined to build up his
Walker's first strategy was to build up the industrial base
in St. Paul. Said Walker, "St. Paul had the wholesale trade,
the retail trade, the railroads and the banks. We tried five
years to arrange an amicable interest in building up the
industries of both cities." They had a false start when the
Minneapolis men tried to work with their counterparts in St.
Paul to lure a factory from the east to merge with a
Minneapolis plant, but were double crossed when St. Paul
ended up with both the eastern and the Minneapolis
factories. Another story is that the Minneapolis contingent
put considerable funds into the Midway area, only to have it
annexed by arch rival St. Paul.
It was at that point that the Businessman's Union was
formed, on March 31, 1883. Walker was its President for all
15 years of its existence. The group chose the area west of
Minneapolis for their industrial site, in order to prevent
any possibility of annexation by St. Paul. The area's
borders were Minnetonka Road on the north and Excelsior Road
on the south. Walker said that "some of the men in the union
who liked changes made a social club of it, in the Guaranty
Loan Building. This practically closed out the Business
THE MINNEAPOLIS LAND AND INVESTMENT CO.
In 1886 a smaller group formed the Minneapolis Land and
Investment Company: "gentlemen whose energy and influence have been
felt in the growth of Minneapolis." TB Walker was again President.
Henry F. Brown
Louis Menage (local promoter and developer - eventually
went broke and fled to Guatemala)
In 1890 the company bought up 1,700 acres of land between
Minnetonka and Excelsior Boulevards in St. Louis Park from farmers, an
area so large that it took two years to replat the land.
(Several plats had been filed right after incorporation in
1886, and the replat was called "Rearrangement of St. Louis
Park," a name it holds today.)
In 1892 the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company filed a
plat of 12,000 lots on their 1,700 acres. An advertising map
from the time shows a completely zoned and platted town: the
Industrial Circle was "in the marsh," the commercial
street was called Broadway (now Walker), and the rest was
residential or undeveloped
The Industrial Circle was a tilted oblong between the
and Walker Street, Monitor and Taft Avenues. The Industrial
Circle remains today; the top of the circle is the curve in
Walker Street. The intersection of Highway 7 and Louisiana
is at the center of the site, with South Oak Pond a reminder
that it was indeed "in the marsh."
Worker housing was built in an area that is now
known as South Oak Hill, southwest of the Industrial Circle.
Residential lots were as small as 22 feet; supposedly
builders would build houses on every other lot and leave
room for gardens. Walker built about 60 so-called
Walker Houses from 1890 to 1898.
These two-story, narrow houses were notable for having no
front doors. Many of them burned or were moved over
the years, but there are still quite a few in their original
Downtown was a one-block commercial district on
Broadway (renamed Walker Street in 1933). Walker and
Joseph Hamilton built large buildings (only Walker's
remains) and in the storefronts one could find stores, a
barber shop, and other commercial concerns.
Walker's activities during this time were prodigious, with
factories that occupied the Industrial Circle, the streetcar
line that he built from the center of the Village to
Minneapolis, the Walker/Syndicate Building/Brick
Block commercial building, his
Methodist Church, and the
hotels he built for workers and
builders of the factories. Village Roadmaster Daniel J. Falvey
graded the roads.
But before Walker's plan could come to full fruition, came
the economic Depression of 1893. Businesses failed, lots
owned by the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company went
unbought, and the partners bailed out by assigning their
interests to Walker. Walker could be seen giving out food
during the Depression, but people shied away from him and
even despised him. By 1913 he still owned about 600-700 of his
1,700 acres, which put him in a spot: the land was worth
less than what he had paid for it, not to mention the money
he had put out to build the factories, and he was obligated
to pay taxes on it as well. He moved on to the Pacific coast
to continue his lumbering business, and he was forced to use
proceeds of that endeavor to pay off the costs of his unsold
land. Real estate man Erling Shurson, officed in the Brick
Block, handled the last of the sales. By 1948 practically
all of the St. Louis Park lots owned by the Walkers had been
sold or forfeited for taxes.
Thus, in the space of about 12 years, Walker's dreams of an
industrial town evaporated, and it would be another 50 years
until the Park would approximate the industrial and
residential magnet he had envisioned so many years ago.
RED RIVER LUMBER COMPANY
Walker moved on to other things, namely the Red River Lumber
Company. This was a so-called railroad logging company in
California. He began acquiring land during the mid 1890s.
In 1909 he purchased property at Mountain Meadows. On
January 29, 1912, Red River and the Southern Pacific
Railroad entered into an agreement whereby the railroad
would build a line and Red River would give the railroad
exclusive rights for hauling the lumber. Red River then
proceeded to build a mill and the town of Westwood. In
Westwood, Walker may have got what he couldn’t get in St.
Louis Park: a company town. Westwood included houses,
apartments, dormitories, hotels, a community center,
churches, and a theater. All utilities were company-owned. A
big department store was provided for the ladies, and men
had their “Westwood Club” all to themselves. But for the
first 20 years, no liquor could be had in Westwood.
Walker’s son Archie Dean Walker (b.1882, d.1971) served as
secretary (1908-1933) and president (1933-ca. 1956) of the
Red River Lumber Company, but remained based in Minneapolis.
During his tenure he saw a major shake-up of company
management; labor strife and organization at the town of
Westwood, and the November 30, 1944 sale of the Westwood
mill and townsite to the Fruit Growers Supply Company, the
buying arm of today’s Sunkist. Archie Walker’s papers can be
found at the Minnesota Historical Society.
An interesting site on Red River is
THE WALKER ART CENTER
T.B. Walker was a great collector of art, and in 1879 he
built a gallery adjoining his home to display it. This
home was downtown at 8th and Hennepin where the State
Theater is now (803 Hennepin). As his collection grew he
built more and more galleries onto the house.
In 1917 he purchased the Thomas Lowry Estate on Lowry
Hill in Minneapolis. He lived in the Lowry Mansion from 1917
until his death in 1928. On May 21, 1927, he opened the
Walker Art Galleries which were built on a lot near the
Above, the original Walker Art Galleries, built in 1927,
architects Long and Thorshov, Minneapolis.
In 1944 the front of the building was redone in a moderne
Current Walker Art Center building which was built in 1971,
designed by architect Edward Larrabee Barnes. At right is
the Guthrie Theater, which opened in 1963 and has since been
Information on this section is courtesy of Jill
Vuchetich, Archivist at the Walker Art Center. Photos
are from the Minnesota Historical Society.
Harriet Walker died in 1917 while accompanying her husband
on a business trip to New York. T.B. Walker died in 1928 at
the age of 88.
Archie Dean Walker, Jr., born in 1920,
was the youngest child
of T.B. Walker’s youngest child. He died in 2008.
For a more complete biography of TB Walker and his family,
the Minnesota Historical Society site at