NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Thursday June 22nd 2017

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CALL TO RAVE and (maybe) SAVE Burma-Shave

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By Steve Sandberg

Thanks to The Alley Newspaper for its willingness to highlight a rare opportunity; the opportunity to save the Burma Shave building, a building loaded with history that has been on the corner of 21st Avenue and East Lake Street since the year 1900. Many if not most of you have passed that building, now covered with white vinyl siding, unaware of its history. (See excellent accompanying article by historian Shari Albers)

It was early October when friend and Corcoran resident Tom Manley noted that asbestos had been removed, utilities cut off, and that the building was slated for demolition.

Since then, a handful of heritage-preservation minded local historians and myself have been working hard to demonstrate that this would be a waste of a unique historic opportunity and resource.

Forestalling demolition does not in any way impede the planning for the site.

The new owner of the building is the Minneapolis Public Schools who will eventually develop the site to replace the Adult Education Building being torn down (they have up to 10 years to continue using the building at Hiawatha and Lake St.), and also for an expanded South High campus. They seem intent on clearing the land now, and planning their usage later. By then it will be too late to save what, contrary to being a liability, is truly a historic resource, and an opportunity to partner education and historical preservation with:

Steve Sandberg and David West began making Burma-Shave sign facsimiles to highlight the interest in the many historical facets of the Burma-Shave factory on East Lake Street where signs and their products were manufactured from 1925 to `935. Watch for the 2015 version of the famous signs that added humoring and advertisement to highways throughout the U.S.

  • history of immigration: as in the early 1900’s, immigration is once again a dominant theme for our community 
  • history of working men and women: this a remaining factory building, the only one remaining of the many that once dominated the area
  • history of advertising: Burma Shave as a truly revolutionary advertising vehicle.
  • Educational schools and museums: conversations have been started to partner with: local colleges; Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Augsburg, U of M; local museums Eastside Freedom Library, Minnesota History Museum, and Mill City History Museum
  • Poetry and song: when Tom Waits appears on Prairie Home Companion, we hope for a tie in check out his song, “ Burma Shave “) 
  • Poetry and spoken word: Burma Shave jingles are a fun inroad to other forms of poetry and spoken word
  • Reuse Recycle: Here’s a chance to demonstrate that principle!
  • Move the Building: If MPS decides that this building can’t be part of its plans, it can be moved to another of many nearby sites. I live in a home that I had moved from Richfield to Phillips neighborhood.

What can you do? Watch Alley Newspaper and let Minneapolis Public Schools, Corcoran Neighborhood Organization, and Alondra Cano know that you favor forestalling demolition until all historic preservation opportunities can be fully considered. Thank you!

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