Picturing old Minneapolis

Jesse Jamison is the curator of the social hub for Minneapolis history

by Thomas Q. Johnson

Photo source: Old Minneapolis via Hennepin County Library

Jesse Jamison  remembers the day he first came face-to-face with the electric buzz of old Minneapolis. When he was 13, Jamison and a friend boarded a big red public bus one afternoon just to see where it would go. The bus took the boys from his sleepy neighborhood to the electric heart of downtown.

“There wasn’t a place we were going, we’d just walk around all day,” he said. “We didn’t even hardly talk. We loved the people and how different it was.”

Years later, Jamison created the “Old Minneapolis” Facebook page as a way to share his hobby of collecting the city’s history. He scans and posts old family photos, newspaper clippings and even matchbooks and lighters from long-gone restaurants.

Jamison never imagined he’d have much of a following, but now the tattooed man from Brooklyn Park with a day job at an auction house is the curator of a bustling page with over 42,000 likes.

These days, most of the photos Jamison posts belong to members of his Facebook community.

 “I’m not telling people how it was — I’m asking them to show me how it was,” Jamison said.

Jamison also tries to mix it up. He consciously avoids posting too much of one thing after someone complained about all of the building photos.

“I want to hear their stories, what it was like for them on their block, in their part of town,” he said. 

“Old Minneapolis” defines “old” as anything before Oct. 18, 1988, the day demolition of the original Block E building began.

“I had to choose a line — what’s old and what’s new,” Jamison said. “Not everyone’s happy with it, but to me it hasn’t been the same since that’s been gone.”

Minneapolis is still changing quickly, especially around the University — the high-rises of Stadium Village or the crater that was once the House of Hanson shows this.

The page gives people a heightened sense of lost history, Jamison said.

“It’s like an aching you have when you see an old photo, thinking I can never go back again to that block,” Jamison said.  “It was done for a good reason — reducing crime, cleaning up the town — but we’ve become a lot smarter now. We razed the Metropolitan [the city’s first skyscraper, demolished in 1961], but these days we wouldn’t touch the Foshay.”