Lunchtime Tourist

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January 19, 2004 // UPDATED 2:33 pm - April 24, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

An underground exhibit

Hennepin County Government Center, lower level, 701 Park Ave. S.

Tucked underneath the frozen plaza of the Hennepin County Government Center lies a 110-foot-long exhibit case filled with artifacts, photos and artwork. This hidden treasure changes exhibits month-to-month and makes for an enlightening lunch hour escape.

Organized by the Public Affairs Department of Hennepin County, the exhibit case displays relics from county and city government entities, as well as from regional nonprofit organizations.

The current exhibit, "First 100 Years of Public Service," includes items from the collections of the Minneapolis Public Libraries, Hennepin County History Museum (2303 3rd Ave. S.), and The Bill and Bonnie Daniels Firefighters Hall and Museum in Northeast. The exhibit consists of eight sections: precityhood Minneapolis, the mayor and City Council, elections, library, fire, hospital, planning and public works.

There's old election booth equipment, a wood bindery cart (that the public library used way back when), firemen's and nurse's attire and a mint-condition "snow emergency route" sign.

Sprinkled throughout the display are the five mystery paintings uncovered a couple years ago in Minneapolis City Hall, 350 S. 5th St. The dusty, neglected paintings were in pretty bad shape, but some restorative triage has them looking pretty good. (Experts thought one was of a former mayor -- or maybe T.B. Walker [as in the Walker Art Center, 725 Vineland Pl., and the Walker Public Library in Uptown] but they're not sure. Maybe you can help!)

Don't miss the public works-themed section. There's an 1897 map from the City Engineers Office, old and new surveyors equipment. A diagram shows the evolution of how our surface water flows to the river, another lists what the Public Works currently oversees: 1,016 miles of roads, 455 miles of alleys, 334 bridges, 28,000 street lights, 8,000 hydrants, 100,000 signs, and five miles of skyways.

This exhibit runs through Jan. 31. Look for new ones this year; "Project Diversity" will run during Black History Month and a light-rail transit and trolley exhibit will open in March.

LUNCH TIP: Grab a sandwich from the Park & Java food stand on the second floor.

Send your tips to thelunchtimetourist@hotmail.com.