H.E. Skinner and the Academy Addition

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2006

By Ed Shannon, staff writer

Second of two parts.

Partial proof for what happened to an obscure local landmark once called Clover hill might have been indicated in an old newspaper article.

This Tribune article dated May 23, 1914, said, &8220;About a year ago what is now the South Broadway addition was only an unsightly hole which had been made by the Rushfeldt brick yard years ago. This place was the dumping ground for rubbish and at times was filled with stagnant rubbish and weeds of every description. In fact people who visited this section of town viewed the scene first and the impression it made to them was a hard one to overcome.

&8220;Now the menacing place has been filled and laid out into fine building lots. The hills to the north of the addition have been leveled and the dirt used along South Broadway and in raising low lots. This improvement gives every lot in the new addition a nice view from all directions.&8221;

One of those small hills may have had the name of Clover.

After the successful sales of property in what was called the Clover Hill Addition, a real estate promoter named Herbert Eliot Skinner shifted his attention to another large plot of land in the southeast part of the city. This was an area he and his financial backers called the Academy Addition To do this, they set up two new firms: Albert Lea Reel Estate Co. and Albert Lea Realty Co. Both firms also had their offices in the First National Bank building.

H.E. Skinner preferred to use his initials for the first and middle names for one good reason. This was to avoid confusion with his first cousin, Herb Skinner, co-owner of a local department store. Another cousin by marriage, William G. Chamberlain, was also a co-owner of the city&8217;s leading store. Adding to the family connection for H.E. was a brother-in-law, Alfred Christopherson, a prominent area banker. These four men were involved in the sales of residential lots in what they called Clover Hill and the newly created Academy Addition.

The Academy Addition

was clearly defined with an illustrated graphic in a newspaper ad. It was situated between East Eighth and Tenth Streets and from what&8217;s now

Margaretha Avenue east to Albert Lea Lake.

Within this addition were East Ninth Street, plus Academy, Lee, Todd and Ridge Avenues. (Lee Circle and Lee Place are located in Shoreland Heights. Ridge Avenue was later combined with Park Street to the north to create the present Frank Hall Drive.)

The name for this addition was based on Luther Academy, then located to the north on East Fourth Street.

An ad in the Tribune said a dollar &8220;secures a home site and 50 cents to a dollar a week pays for it. You pay no interest – we pay all taxes until your lot is paid for in full – no payments required when sick, injured or out of employment.&8221; This ad clearly stated that the lots were priced from $94 to $398 each.

For a week prior to an auction sale for the lots in the Academy and South Broadway Additions, the promoters of the properties offered free afternoon automobile rides from the First National Bank corner to the southeast part of the city for prospective buyers.

The scheduled auction was held on May 23, 1914, during an unscheduled rainstorm. Despite this, 175 of the lots were sold to future residents and property speculators and investors.

Sales of land in parts of the city known as Clover Hill and South Broadway and Academy Additions may have been very successful. However, the Skinner firm encountered a different result in a nearby place called Wealthy Acres.

The name of Wealthy Acres may convey the concept that this area to the east of what&8217;s now Frank Hall Drive

and north of South Shore Drive was created to be an exclusive enclave with an obvious snob appeal name. That assumption would be wrong. The name for the subdivision created by local department store owners Bert Skinner and W.G. Chamberlain in late 1914 was actually based on the main variety of apple trees to be found in an large orchard planted by the Wedge family about a decade or two earlier.

The new subdivision situated on what was then the South Glenville Road in Albert Lea Township was platted into 20 one-acre plots. The concept, was to create “20 little farms” for gardening and/or chicken raising, as investment property, or for use as summer homes.

A Tribune ad even listed what an acre in Wealthy Acres would produce. For example, 600 hundred bushels onions selling for 75 cents a bushel would yield $450. Other crop possibilities suggested for the little farms in Wealthy Acres included cabbages, celery, potatoes, tomatoes, blackberries, dewberries, gooseberries, strawberries, currants, raspberries and even asparagus. As a bonus, the apples trees were already in place and listed as being worth eight to 10 dollars each per year.

The one-acre plots were selling for $500 each and available on easy terms.

Promoters of the new addition at the city’s southeast edge said in their ad, “Albert Lea will continue to grow and many conservative men are expecting a population of 20,000 … within a few years.”

This prediction, plus the development of Wealthy Acres into small farms and homes, never quite worked out as planned. Thus, the area and its four new streets were just lines on the city maps for many years. Those lines had names. They were Wealthy Street, Orchard Avenue, Echo Place and Spruce Street (also shown on at least one city map as Service Road).

Only Wealthy Street is designated at present with a sign. Several homes were eventually located in this area. And within the last few years more new homes have been added to this part of the city, especially

along Wealthy Street.

H.E. Skinner became involved in working with closed banks from 1924 to 1938. He was one of the organizers of the local YMCA, a member of the city council for several years, and a director of Albert Lea&8217;s First National Bank.

The man who used the initials of

H.E. and was a proven strong promoter of the city&8217;s southeast section died on March 13, 1950.