Pioneer street now part of medical center
Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 13, 2001
There’s a real challenge for a former resident, or a descendant of a pioneer family who once lived on Albert Lea’s Grove Avenue to even locate this street or the locations of any of the residences which were once a part of this neighborhood.
Saturday, October 13, 2001
There’s a real challenge for a former resident, or a descendant of a pioneer family who once lived on Albert Lea’s Grove Avenue to even locate this street or the locations of any of the residences which were once a part of this neighborhood. That’s because the nine homes, a small city park, and a church which were once located on Grove are now part of the Albert Lea Medical Center building complex and parking lot.
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The addresses for these homes and the church was once shown on city maps as Grove Street. It was later designated as an avenue.
Grove ran from an intersection on Fountain Street between West and St. Mary Avenues in a diagonal northwesterly direction to an intersection with Park Avenue and just south of the Grace Street corner. Within the triangle formed by this street, plus Fountain and Park, was the city’s first Episcopalian church building, a small city park, and the original site of Naeve Hospital.
Grove Avenue may have been named in honor of the small cluster of tall oak trees that inspired the pioneer settlers to start a community on the south shore of Fountain Lake.
By the 1870s and 1880s the short street became the address for several of the city’s most outstanding homes. These large residences faced the street and several had horse stables to the side or back, and long sloping back yards extending down to the lakeshore.
Based on a trend which is still somewhat a part of American life, several of these distinctive homes were labeled with the names of their occupants or original owners. One place was known as the Cargill home where William W. Cargill and his family lived from about 1871 to 1875. (Cargill started the famous firm name bearing his name in Albert Lea.) Another residence with a turret on the roof was known as the Dr. Watland home. Still another place was called the Wallace house. Two of the homes were later known as the Nolander (John) and Speltz (Theodore) places.
From 1885 to 1956, a small structure at the corner of Grove and Park Avenues served as the place of worship for the parishioners of Christ Episcopal Church. One of the homes on Grove Avenue became a rectory for this church about 1900.
For more than a century Grove Avenue was used as a logical shortcut between the Park Avenue neighborhood and the city’s central business district. As part of its gradual expansion, the Naeve Hospital Association purchased several of the homes on Grove Avenue. By 1970, two of the former family residences were known as Grove house and Shoreline Manor. They were being used as housing for student nurses and hospital personnel.
The end of Grove Avenue as a city street and unofficial shortcut started on Nov. 23, 1973, with the ground-breaking ceremony for the new Naeve Hospital building. The remaining homes were either razed or moved.
The diagonal street that once ran behind the original hospital building became a part of the parking lot and front entry to the newer and larger Naeve Hospital structure which was dedicated on Nov. 23, 1975.
Then, in 1997, the Mayo Health System started construction on the Albert Lea Medical Center complex. Thus, all traces of the Grove Avenue neighbotrhood were eliminated, except for one reminder of the past.
Part 2 will include more information about the church and city park which were once located on Grove Avenue.