Then you have to be at least 61 years of age — right? If you’re under 40 or 50, let me take you back in time to see Downtown as I used to see it.
In 1970 Richard Nixon was in the White House; the Academy Awards named “Patton” Best Picture starring George C. Scott; Super Bowl IV was in New Orleans — the Kansas City Chiefs whipped the Vikings 23–7 in their first of three loses in the 70s.
In the music world, the sounds of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” B.B. King telling us “The Thrill is Gone” and the Beatles moaning “Let it Be” were all big on Billboard charts.
Meanwhile, in March 1970, the Skyway News published its very first issue of what was to become a Downtown neighborhood paper.
A little history: I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time to become part of the first year’s team of writers for what was to become a 40-year Downtown legend. I was asked by the editor Jan Werner to submit a weekly column (later to become twice weekly).
She explained it could cover any and all aspects of the new Downtown skyways & byways activities —from food to movies, to arts and fashion events (plus any night life action as well).
I selected my own column title (even handprinted the words myself) and called it — “Pat’s Potpourri.” That was a fancy new French word I had seen defined as a category covering a “mixture of subjects” on the new TV game show, “Jeopardy.”
We were ready and au courant! Now remember, this was pre-monthly magazines or any downtown weeklies — no City Pages, Twin Cities Reader or Onion. I continued as a freelance columnist throughout the 70s and into the 80s ,working for founder and publisher Sam Kaufman followed by Clint Andrus who ran the paper for Sam in the 70s and bought it in the 1980s.
Looking back, there is no question the biggest (or should I say tallest) change to the skyline the past four decades is the 50-plus floors of the IDS Center. In 1970 it was an 80 feet deep hole in the ground at the corner of 7th & Nicollet where Woolworth’s used to be.
By 1973 this landmark tower and city anchor would open with four major skyways extending in each direction to every facing block and totally linking the city above the streets— more than 10 years after the first historic skyway from NW Bank to Cargill/Northstar Bldg. opened in 1962.
Soon, Cherry Cokes at Woolworth’s counter in the past were transformed into cherry cocktails over the years at IDS dining spots. Windows on Minnesota is of course the best window view of the city to be found anywhere.
Mid-block on 7th Street also brought us many changes, as buildings were built, razed and rebuilt. I watched spots come and go like the Nankin and the Forum, with a lower level cozy spot called the Lodge-complete with a tunnel under 7th to the Radisson.
The old Nankin was moved to the corner of 7th & Hennepin with the unveiling of City Center growth, but did not survive the transition. That corner turned into Copeland’s and now is Fogo De Chao. The historic old Forum Cafeteria went from Scottie’s niteclub for a short flicker into storage, while City Center was built. Then it returned as Goodfellow’s for another 20 years when a marching band of fans along with bakers and chefs paraded down Nicollet Mall one block from their old Conservatory site to this new space when their home was to be razed on 8th and Nicollet. Now this year, the Forum has re-opened after sitting empty with a renewed spirit and a salute to its past.
Speaking of 6th Street, the famous Murray’s is not the new kid on the block since they have been anchored there since 1946. I was lucky to meet the grande dame herself, Marie Murray who had her son Pat join the team in the 60s.
In the 70s, we used to go in after work for their melt in your mouth free garlic toast and on Friday nights, ladies could get a glass of champagne for just 30 cents. Of course you would save up to make an evening of it and try their Blue Ribbon Butter Knife steaks, too.
Down the block toward Government Center and the Courthouse at the corner of 4th Avenue and 7th Street, you’d find the renown Charlie’s Cafe Exceptionale, another award winning steakhouse, known for years as the best in town and a local hangout for local celebs, politicals, judges and lawyers from across the street. Owner Louise Saunders took over after her infamous husband Charlie Saunders passed away and she hosted dinner guests until the mid 1980s when she decided to close the doors. Lucky for us, you can still dine on the Charlie’s plates and order the classic Kitchen sandwich with their potato salad, too, over at the Monte Carlo thanks to owner John Rimarcik.
Back crossing over Marquette at 7th Street (that first skyway ever built from Northwest Bank to the Cargill Building) you would discover the Northstar Inn — home of the famous Rosewood Room and Copper Hearth nestled in high up on the 7th floor (they even had a rooftop garden that was often used for special events). It was another hot spot for celebs and special dinners, too. It was a great hangout spot after work with a very popular piano bar.
Yes, piano bars were big at lots of spots around town, from the Poodle Club to the Blue Ox to the Black Angus (all gone now) and especially popular over at the Normandy Village — home of the hot popovers with dinner. The Normandy is back in biz but I haven’t heard if they offer any music yet. But then, there's always music at Nye’s on East Hennepin. They remain tops for piano bar fans around town — still going strong for more than 50 years. It would make Al Nye smile.
Well, this was just the tip of the iceberg, so many memories so little space. Give a moment of silence and cheers to other old favorites that are here no more — The Rusty Nail, the Waikiki Room, Freddie’s, Estebans, Yvette’s, Marsh’s, Harry’s, Cafe Di Napoli, Duff’s, La Tortue and so many, many, many more. Now start listing all the new hot spots of Downtown in 2010, if you can — but that’s another story.