Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Archive for the ‘Intervale’ Category

Intervale Windmill

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IMG_iP1625eBFCyndie’s brother, Ben Friswold, recently sent me some photos he took of the old windmill from Intervale Ranch which is still standing on the Braemar Golf Course in Edina. The course is undergoing some renovations that had us questioning the fate of the precious relic.

Both Cyndie and Ben separately contacted the course manager to inquire on their plans and let him know of our interest in preserving it. If they weren’t going to keep the old beast, we wanted to have it. Alas, the response was that they love the history of it and thus included the windmill as part of their new design.

I think this is the better place for it, but if they weren’t going to preserve the implement, we would much rather have it than see the metal tossed to a scrap pile.

I’m curious about the markings on the tail that say, “Hays Farm USA.” I rather doubt the naming would have been something my father or grandfather would have done.IMG_iP1624eBF

More likely, the city of Edina added that. In most of the historical documents I have reviewed about the property, the city identified it as the Hays Farm, as opposed to Intervale.

It has occurred to me that I don’t know if the windmill ever appears in any photos of the Intervale Slideshow I posted a couple of days ago. Wouldn’t that be something if it did.

This morning I searched for old posts on Relative Something where I wrote about the farm and discovered I did that back in July of 2009. If you are interested in reading more about the property, check them out.

You can find them under the category, “Intervale,” or navigate the “Previous Somethings” back to July 2009.

Or, I could provide a link to one of them. More About the Farm seems like a reasonable start. From there you can travel to the ‘previous’ or ‘next’ post on the subject by clicking the links just above the comment box at the bottom of the page.

Many thanks to my golfing brother-in-law, Ben, for keeping an eye on our treasured landmark, and providing the pictures used here!

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Written by johnwhays

August 27, 2016 at 8:02 am

Going Public

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After trying to get permission to use copyrighted music prior to publicly posting my slideshow of the old farm property that my grandfather owned, Intervale Ranch, I have decided to accept the default automated claim that kicked in after I uploaded the video to YouTube over 10-months ago. I’m not allowed to monetize the video, which I never intended to do, and YouTube or the music license holder or both —I don’t know which— will be able to place ads on the video.

I hope I am correct that those will be the ones that viewers can click to remove as the video plays.

So, last evening, I changed the video from private to public. Feel free to kick off the rush that will send this gem viral. Might as well give the license holders their money’s worth.

Without further delay, I present, The Intervale Ranch Slideshow.

Question and answer session to follow. I invite those with inquisitive minds to post any questions the slideshow engenders by posting a comment to this post. I may use them to write a follow-up post that will fill out the detail glossed over by the sometimes cryptic collection of images.

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Written by johnwhays

August 24, 2016 at 6:00 am

Farm as History

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Many years later, I became curious about whether or not the city had any interest in the history of the land where the farm was located. I paid a visit to the Edina Historical Society. A woman greeted me warmly, listened with interest to my description of having lived on the property, and disappeared to see if she had any related records on the subject. She returned, wearing white cotton gloves and holding a single manila folder. In it was one simple sheet of paper. I don’t even remember what it was regarding, other than it wasn’t the least bit interesting. Entirely underwhelming experience.

However, she held out hope for me, suggesting I visit the Parks and Recreation Department at the city offices. Since the majority of our property went on to become a substantial city park and golf course, her suggestion made sense. Upon my arrival there, a clerk produced a box that was over-stuffed with documents relating to the old Hays farm property! She even invited me to take it home to review and return at my convenience. It was a Jackpot!

One of the documents I most appreciated was the handwritten original copy of a letter the city manager had written to the Mayor and city council detailing his meeting with my grandfather in negotiation over the sale of the land. He referred to Mr. Hays as being a shrewd businessman.

Back during that time period, the local newspaper published a brief article detailing the city’s proposed “Hays Park”. I know the city was trying to appeal to him to donate the land at one point. In the city manager’s letter is a detail of the offer indicating how much the land would likely be worth to developers and the price my grandfather was willing to accept from the city. The manager recommended the city meet the price.

There were vivid descriptions of the property’s rolling forested hills, meandering creek, and abundant wildlife. Initially it was made available to Girl Scout troops for camping excursions. Eventually there were some primitive facilities added. In the long run it was developed primarily as a golf course but it also included an indoor sheet of ice for hockey and figure skating (later, expanded to multiple rinks) and beside that a soccer field and a circle of three full size baseball fields with a building in the center hub. Dad used to point out that the fields were down near where the pigpens and chicken coop were at one time located. That was so far before my arrival, I marvel at the significance of the change.

In front of the fireplace and mantel

In front of the fireplace and mantel

Fireplace of that Italian stone

Fireplace of that Italian stone

Our grandparents, Forrest and Helen Hays in the dining room

Our grandparents, Forrest and Helen Hays in the dining room

Christmas in the living room. You can see a hand-hewn beam in the ceiling

Christmas in the living room. You can see a hand-hewn beam in the ceiling

Written by johnwhays

July 31, 2009 at 7:00 am

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Burning Barns

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We received advance notice about the scheduled destruction of our barns and Mom drove us there to see it and take some pictures. For some reason, Dad wasn’t available and so Mom had to do the picture taking. Photography was his domain and she felt a lot of pressure about it, I could tell. Most of the pictures she took did come out a bit over-exposed and she mentions her regret every time she sees the images.
barnburn1
It was really strange to be stopped on the shoulder of this freeway, where no stopping was allowed. We couldn’t get out of the car, but we sat on the opened windows of the passenger side and looked over the top. I saw a man go in one of the bottom doors with a can. Then he appeared at the big opening of the upper floor. He threw the can out and he jumped. Soon there were billows of flame and clouds of dark smoke. Ours wasn’t the only car on the shoulder any more as others stopped to take in the spectacle.

I wish I had been old enough to fully realize the emotion of the moment. I knew it was something dramatic, but the full depth of it was beyond me. It was the biggest fire I had ever witnessed, so that was sure something, yet I knew it was more than that and it was beyond my capacity to comprehend the full extent.

barnburn2They burned the two large barns, one right after the other. That left just the house. For some reason, they didn’t burn that down. Whatever was salvageable was removed. Windows were taken out. The huge hand-hewn beams in the living room ceiling were saved and claimed by a neighbor who had asked for them. My older brother has some of the ornate hardware from light fixtures and door handles and has incorporated it into his current home. I think he has the chandelier too.

They cleared out almost every last tree. That may have been the most monumental task of all. There were plenty, and the majority, mature. We stopped by to capture some shots of that phase. With the house nothing but a shell, they collapsed it and buried it. The land was graded so that the rolling hill terrain became a flat plain, ideal for an industrial park – a series of one or two-story brick and concrete, flat-roofed buildings. One of them has the address number 7601 on it, the same as our old farmhouse: 7601 Washington Avenue.

Washington Avenue is where the Minnesota Vikings NFL football team home office and workout facility is now located, just down the road from our old spot. For 18 years I worked for a company located just around the corner from where our old farmhouse stood. And across the freeway from the old place, next to the golf course and park, Cyndie’s childhood home, that her family had built and lived in for 35 years. I always found it interesting to have my work and my in-laws so near to the place where I lived as a kid. It has changed immensely on the surface, but it still remains at the same geographic coordinates.

I don’t have strong regrets about the loss of that farm, but I do miss it.

The back porch, before and after

The back porch, before and after

The industrial park that replaced the house and barns

The industrial park that replaced the house and barns

Written by johnwhays

July 30, 2009 at 7:00 am

Posted in Intervale

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Back to Farm Stories

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I uncovered some additional writing I did years ago, describing my memories of the years I was on the farm, Intervale Ranch, or ‘the Hays farm’ as it was referred to at the time. In reality, my years there are better described as ‘after the farm’, 1959 to 1968. Since these were written at different times, there may be some overlap of detail that I hope you will find acceptable.

During the time I was on the farm, most of the tractors and machinery were already gone. My dad had built a milking parlor. Gone. There were no more animals, except for the one, or briefly two, horses that we boarded for a neighbor. The chicken coop had been turned into a clubhouse, complete with curtains on the windows. There was a rope swing in the barn hayloft, and plenty of left over hay as I recall. Other barn space seemed to be filled with junk. More of my time was spent in the house than in the outbuildings; there, and the grounds around the house and barns, …climbing trees, playing ball, swinging, running, exploring.backyard

Far beyond the innocence of my young perspective, there were deals being made. Before I was even born, the majority of acreage had been sold to the city of Edina and earmarked for parkland, an eventual golf course. A freeway had been built right behind two of the main barns, which cut off the house and closely associated buildings from the rest of the property that had been sold. The property I grew up on was a fraction of what was once Intervale Ranch.

It seemed like we just woke up one day and there was a line of earthmovers facing the house, parked side by side on a huge square of freshly leveled ground. It was kind of scary. They looked so menacing. My little brother and I went down to get a closer look. I’d never been so close I could touch a piece of machinery this size. We climbed on ‘em, because we could. It was a way to act defiant, even though it so wasn’t. We were as harmless as ants on these monsters, the coming task a foregone conclusion.

backydtractorsI don’t remember the duration of days we were still there while those machines waited. It felt like they were rushing us. I have no recollection of the move, except for the first night in the new house with just my younger brother and two oldest sisters and no furniture. There was a storm that night, fiercer than I had ever experienced. This house was much more prominently exposed than the farmhouse, which was protected by surrounding hills and many trees. That night one of the crank-out windows in the new house didn’t get closed and the wind caught it and pulled it off. That made an impression.

Written by johnwhays

July 29, 2009 at 7:00 am

Posted in Intervale

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More About the Farm

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In reviewing what I have written over the years about my memories of the farm, it strikes me how different an experience I had from my two oldest sisters and also the next two older siblings, though maybe to a lesser extent. (For reference, I am the 5th of 6 kids; not counting a sister that only survived 19 days.) When my grandfather took my dad out to see the property for the first time, I don’t know how long it had been inactive. It is my understanding that it had become available due to a tax forfeiture and wasn’t actually in operation. My oldest sister was about a year old and still an only child at the time.

As my mother described it to me back in 2002, my dad actually got the place functioning again. Mended fences, brought in livestock, built the milking parlor. Mom said the hill house had one toilet, in the dirt-floor basement. She refused the idea, Dad promised to build a bathroom and the rest is history. Our grandparents moved into the main house and my mom, dad and oldest sister got the house where the farm superintendent had lived.

It probably deserves to be said here that my parents were city kids, growing up. They lived in some pretty nice neighborhoods around the lakes in south Minneapolis. I marvel over the fact that my mother’s family employed a live-in house servant. I think their jump to raising kids while working a farm is pretty significant. I understand why my mother would at least put a limit such as requiring a decent bathroom.

Well, they kept having kids while up at that small house on the hill until it was obvious they needed more space, and conveniently, my grandfather was doing more work downtown than nearby, so everybody moved. The grandparents went back toward the city again and my parents and siblings got to move into the main house. All this happening before I was born, and so it is not any part of my actual farm memories. I find myself telling stories about little things I remember doing around that house, or the grounds nearby, thinking I am telling stories about the farm, but it doesn’t have any relation to what my older siblings would remember about the time living in that “hill house” or the actual activity of tending to the milk cows or the sheering of sheep.

The total acreage of Intervale Ranch was 477, and we have a map that shows 37 structures consisting of multiple living quarters and barns and sheds and chicken coops and the like. By 1957 my grandfather had struck a deal to sell 414 acres to the City of Edina and the days of my dad’s farming were allowed to wind down toward an end date of April, 1959. A 4-lane divided roadway, County Road 18 (now identified as 169) was built in the early 1960s. It runs north/south and was located just off the end of one of the big barns, separating the acreage that had been sold from the 63 acres remaining that included the main house where I eventually would create my “farm” memories.

This is how the tennis court appeared before I was around.

This is how the tennis court appeared before I was around.

Notice how nice the landscape looks

Notice how nice the landscape looks

This is the way I remember it, with Dad doing much needed cutting.

This is the way I remember it, with Dad doing much needed cutting.

Written by johnwhays

July 23, 2009 at 7:00 am

Posted in Intervale

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Farm Memories

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This may be a bit random, but here are some excerpts of thoughts I have written about the farm and my childhood memories:

When my family finally moved from my grandfather’s farm property, I was about 8 years old. I don’t recall many opportunities to wander the property unsupervised during those years. When my Dad would set about the protracted chore of managing the growth around the house and driveway, such as cutting back overgrown shrubs, my brother David and I would lose ourselves playing in a dirt hole. We would create a world of our own, driving toy trucks up and down a road carved out of the edge of the hole. I remember losing all awareness of what anyone else was doing outside of our play.  driveway

FarmFrontStepThis property that I completely took for granted at the time, was once graced by a lush garden around the house and the nearby tennis court. The long driveway with the circle to the living quarters was paved in cement and trimmed in stone similar to sites landscaped by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and late-depression era work crews. As the driveway continued toward the barns and the garage that was dug into a hill, the cement ended and it became packed gravel. I haven’t found anything to indicate those work crews had anything to do with this stonework, or not, but there were significant retaining walls out of this stone. Along one, near the front entrance to the wrap-around screen porch, there was a trail that led down to the cement tennis court.

frStepsMareBy the time I had grown old enough to wander out and play, most all of this had begun to fall to disrepair; unknown to me, due primarily to the fact it was soon to be sold to a developer for an industrial park. The farming activity had stopped by the time I was born. My playground was like a rich kid’s retreat next to a farmyard, yet in a ghost-like state. There really was nothing we could hurt, because it was all doomed soon anyway. There were barns full of a variety of past pieces of the grand machine. There was still some hay up in the loft of the big barn, where I recall there being a rope swing that had been rigged up on which the bigger kids would play.

For a while during the years I remember, there was a man who boarded a horse in one of our barn buildings. I would pull fists full of tall, wide grass blades to feed through the mesh of a window to the stall for the eager lips and chomping teeth. I also remember the extreme drama of the temper of this animal and how he would kick at the doorway wall of his stall. One day he did get out and there was all sorts of excitement on the property. Just behind the back barn there was a divided four-lane expressway, unfenced to the traffic, and that fed the greatest of fears, I think, that the horse might run that direction. Outside of the barn this animal appeared HUGE to me. The fact that he continued to display a fierce temper, rearing up on hind legs, and eventually stomping on the foot of his handler, may have something to do with my tendency toward apprehension around the animals to this day.HaysFamRelations

I remember running down dirt trails to the chestnut tree to climb and play; a favorite place, just off the area of the tennis court, to while away the hours. Sometimes we rode our bikes and tricycles on the old cracking court surface, but that meant we had to haul them down there. It was much easier to just ride around on the long sloping driveway, and around the circle. There was just enough hill to be very entertaining, but not enough to be too hard to climb back up. Riding around on that driveway was another way I remember getting so lost in my imagination of the games we were playing that there was no other world around…

Written by johnwhays

July 22, 2009 at 6:00 am

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