It's hard to travel anywhere in the metro area these days without finding barriers and DETOUR signs as roads are closed for construction. Highway 100 is one of the biggest highway projects right now.
Highway 100 was also the largest Minnesota WPA project in the 1930s, employing a crew of up to 4,000 as they put people back to work after the Great Depression. It was said that 1,000 men did the work of one bulldozer.
It is amazing to think that this stretch of highway that is now being widened with new overpasses was originally started in 1933. Seeing the cars in the photo in the lower right above helps put it into perspective… those cars are now considered antique collectibles!
People thought they were nuts to be building such a big highway out in the middle of nowhere, and the concept of a 4-lane highway around the metro was a novel one at the time. Its creator, Carl Graeser, was to become known as the father of the 'beltway'. His design also included the first cloverleaf in Minnesota, at the intersection of Highway 100 and Highway 7.
The 12.5 mile stretch of highway from Excelsior Boulevard in St. Louis Park to Highway 81 in Robbinsdale was built as a recreational highway, with almost 30,000 trees, shrubs and plants and several roadside parks. Highway 100 was not just a roadway, it was also a picnic destination.
Most of the parks no longer exist, but the park outlined in red on the photo below next to Nordic Ware and the Cedar Lake Regional Trail (America's first bicycle freeway) was restored and renamed 'Lilac Park' in 2009.
One of the distinctive 10-foot tall 'beehive' barbeques that dotted these parks was restored and moved to this location. It was visible for years in the park at the corner of Minnetonka Boulevard and Highway 100.
Want to know more? Check out a fascinating documentary from TPT called Highway 100: Lilac Drive, which first aired in 2001.
Want to live in this area? Check out St. Louis Park homes for sale… then contact us to help you buy your St. Louis Park home.