Sondergard is the man who created a neighborhood

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 3, 2002

There seems to be some slight confusion regarding the proper spelling for the names of a park and a residential area on Albert Lea’s southeast side. This part of the city is legally known as Sondergard’s Addition. Yet, the city park in this area near the corner of Gene Avenue and 17th Street is listed with the name of Sondergaard.

The man who’s responsible for the creation of the addition and the donation of the park was Carl Sondergard.

He was born on Nov. 12, 1899, in Gerslev, Denmark, the son of Peder Sondergaard. Carl came to the U.S. at the age of nine with his parents and three brothers. And sometime during this transition between nations, Peder became Peter and one of the a’s in the last name was deleted. This is confirmed with listings in the city directories and several newspaper obituaries.

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The Sondergard family lived near Des Moines, Iowa, from 1908 to 1917, then moved to a farm southwest of Albert Lea.

Carl went to work for Midway Motors, located at the corner of South Newton Avenue and East William Street, in 1920. After six years at Midway, he went to work for Hans Rasmussen who had a service station at the corner of East Clark Street and Elizabeth Avenue. Carl purchased this business in 1929, renamed it the Albert Lea Oil Co., and moved to a new service station site at 901 S. Broadway Ave.

For a few years in the late 1930s he also owned and operated another service station at 422 S. Broadway Ave., across from the Freeborn County Courthouse. This particular place was known as the Broadway Service Station.

Prior to World War II,. Sondergard lived on West William Street, then moved to a home on East Fifth Street in the early 1940s where he lived until 1970. This refutes the idea he was a farmer living southeast of the city. However, Carl did own 247 acres in that part of Albert Lea Township by 1943, according to the county’s plat book.

Sondergard was lucky to be the owner of the right parcel of property at the right time in just the right part of the township.

After World War II, Jobs Inc. developed the nation’s first industrial park to the north of Sondergard’s property. Carl thought some of the workers in the new factories and nearby firms in the Jobs Inc. area would like to live closer to their places of employment. Thus, in the early 1950s, he started to develop what’s still known as Sondergard’s Addition.

In reality, this part of the city is legally known as Sondergard First Subdivision, which became a part of the city in 1957, and Sondergard Second Subdivision which was annexed in 1958. This entire area is based on 16th Street south to 19th Street (County Road 84) and east of Margaretha Avenue east to Gene and Ethel Avenues. (Ethel Avenue is named for Carl’s wife.) There are seven full blocks and seven partial city blocks in this specific part of the city.

One local Realtor said Sondergard promoted the development of this addition &uot;on his own.&uot; This resulted in a busy schedule for Carl during several decades. He combined the operations of the Albert Lea Oil Co. with the selling of parcels of land and even having several homes built in the addition for later sale.

In 1954 Sondergard was elected to the Albert Lea City Council to represent the Sixth Ward. He served in this office for two years.

The donation of 5.1 acres of land for Sondergaard Park came about because of city regulations. Any developer who creates a new addition has to either set aside land for a public park or pay the city for the purchase of a recreational area.

A check of plat books from 1943 to 1973 show that Sondergard owned land southeast of Albert Lea and near the present I-35 and U.S. Highway 65 interchange. This land varied from 247 acres in 1943 to 391 acres in 1955 to 66 acres in 1973. These figures indicate he was both selling and buying land during this time period.

Sondergard retired in 1968, moved to St. John’s Lutheran Home in 1970, and died in August 1972. He’s buried in Hillcrest Cemetery, not far from the part of Albert Lea that continues to perpetuate both the Sondergard and Sondergaard names.