The Lunchtime Tourist

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August 11, 2003 // UPDATED 11:02 am - April 30, 2007
By: Ard Godfrey House
Ard Godfrey House

50 University Ave. NE

Take that high-speed elevator out of your glass tower at lunch today and transport yourself back to a time when Minnesota was just a territory and Minneapolis wasn't even on the map. The Ard Godfrey house is the oldest frame residence in Minneapolis and is just a quick walk across the 3rd Avenue Bridge.

Franklin Steele, an early settler and storekeeper at Fort Snelling, staked a claim on the east side of St. Anthony Falls. In 1847, he hired Ard Godfrey, a resident of Maine, to build the first lumber mill at the falls.

Godfrey's first task was to make a dam above the falls to divert water onto the wheels that would run the mill. Steele's sawmill began operation September 1, 1848, and within a year, four more mills sprung up. Steele paid Godfrey $3,000 for two years' work, gave him $2,000 interest in the mill and provided a house for his family.

The Ard Godfrey house was built in 1849 -- the same year Minnesota became a territory. It was originally located just behind Pracna on Main (it's been moved five times!) and was built of lumber from Steele's mill. During the Godfrey's residence at the house, they raised five children and also boarded travelers who had few options at the time.

Godfrey was appointed the first postmaster of St. Anthony and in the house's parlor, Minnesota's first Masonic lodge was formed -- the Cataract Lodge -- with Godfrey serving as its treasurer. The Greek Revival-style house has several spacious rooms filled with period furnishings and items that belonged to the Godfrey family. The house was bought by the Territorial Pioneer Association in 1909 and operated as a museum through the 1940s.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board now owns the house and property. Docents from the Woman's Club of Minneapolis lead tours Fridays and Saturdays, between noon and 3:30 p.m. for just $2. Visit this historical bargain before it closes for the season mid-September.

LUNCH TIP: Stop in for a "world's greatest hamburger" across the street at McNamara's Sports Bar, 301 Central Ave SE.

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