Wanted: Historian to study development of Twin Cities suburbia

Todd Mahon, Executive director of the Anoka County  Historical Society, writes that he is looking for a historian to do a study of suburbanization in Anoka and Hennepin Counties in Minnesota. The work is to be funded by a a grant from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, through the Minnesota Historical Society. Here’s how the grant application explained the topic of study and below that is the job announcement:

The phenomenon of suburbanization has had a huge impact on the lives of Minnesotans.  The populations shifts away from the urban centers of Minneapolis and St. Paul and from rural areas to suburban communities of the Twin Cities metro area has changed the state’s political makeup, its natural environment, its infrastructure, its education system, and much more.  Anoka and Hennepin Counties share a unique history that lends itself to telling the local and national story of nineteenth and twentieth century suburbanization in the United States.  Columbia Heights was among Minneapolis’s first streetcar suburbs when Thomas Lowery brought his streetcar line up Central Avenue into Columbia Heights, where he owned and developed real estate.  The two counties share one of the largest school districts in the state, and the transportation corridor of the Mississippi River—a transportation corridor that has been reemphasized with the opening of the Northstar Commuter Railroad in 2009.

"Interior view of the living room in one of the new homes in the Thompson Park housing development near Northdale Boulevard and Foley Road in Coon Rapids"5/23/1955; Minnesota Historical Society Photo, Photographer: Norton & Peel Photograph Collection, Location no. Norton & Peel 230772 Negative no. NP230772

The 21st century finds both counties at a crossroads in their suburban development.  Each has only one township remaining (Linwood and Hassan), and Anoka County has seen two other townships incorporate in just the last four years.  Hassan has recently started its own historical society over the threat of annexation by Rogers.  Hennepin County is seeing its first ring suburbs, like Richfield, Bloomington, and St. Louis Park, face redevelopment issues, while up in Anoka County, Ramsey and Nowthen (Anoka County’s newest incorporated city), are facing land use decisions and other pains of suburban growth like the extension of city municipal services and law enforcement.  Policy makers across the two counties are in need of resources to inform their decisions that will impact the planned growth of these communities.

In addition to their shared histories, the impact of suburbanization has been felt, and continues to be felt, but it has only recently been the focus of a serious academic study.  The suburbanization has occurred and it is now time to examine it through an historians lens.  Both counties have nationally recognized historical societies, but neither have tackled this subject in depth.  A report on their shared history will be a benefit for policy makers, academics, and more.  The final product will also include tangible programming ideas with realistic road maps to produce these programs and bring the history of suburbanization to the greater public and encourage them to think about and discuss their community, what it is, how it became that, and what they want it to be in the future.

Contract Historian Position

The Anoka County Historical Society (ACHS) and Hennepin History Museum (HHM) seek applicants for a part-time, independent contract position to complete a history of the suburban development of Anoka and Hennepin Counties.  This position exists through a grant from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.  The Contract Historian will compile an extensive, written history using primary and secondary sources, administer an oral history program, and create a resource guide for others interested in researching the suburban development of the two counties.  Other duties will include working with ACHS and HHM staff to hire two interns that will assist with the project, and work with high school students from the Breck School on a phase to be determined by the contract historian and the students’ advisors (possibilities include researching community incorporation dates and changing municipal boundaries, etc.).  The final draft must be completed by May 15, 2011.  Funding for the grant provides for 973 hours for the contract historian at an hourly rate of $20.00.  The successful candidate must have a Bachelors Degree in History or a related field and demonstrate skills commensurate with this type of project.

The project is contingent upon a request from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Applicant Instructions

Candidates for this position are required to deliver:

1)      Letter of Application

2)      Resume

3)      Two Letters of Reference

4)      Two writing samples (excerpts from larger works will be accepted.)

Please provide copies as materials will not be returned.

Suburban Development Contract Historian Position
Anoka County Historical Society
2135 Third Avenue North
Anoka, MN 55303

Call Todd Mahon, ACHS Executive Director, for more information.
Phone # (763) 421-0600 x104, or via e-mail at [email protected].

The application deadline is July 23, 2010.

The selection of applicants for interviews will be based on the above materials.

Anoka Shopping Center, Anoka. Photograph Collection ca. 1955; Minnesota Historical Society photo, Location no. MA6.9 AN3.1 r5 Negative no. 6046-A

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