Notable Northsiders - Frank R. McDonald
There had been a city workhouse just south of where I lived when I was a child. I have a very dim (or was it imagined?) memory of it being demolished; I was transfixed at seeing such a large building in ruins. My father must have brought me over to the field on the edge of the grounds to watch the demolition- I do know that some of those bricks ended up edging our petunias. A few of the outbuildings remained for many years, along with an enormous brick chimney. We played in the field, lit firecrackers inside large sections of storm sewer pipes- the City used the land as a storage area- and climbed hills of "clean" fill. Around the turn of the 20th century Frank R. McDonald was the superintendent, he was evidently a progressive who wrote extensively about the role of a workhouse as a true "reformatory." He believed it was a viable alternative to prison and also an effective way to treat the disease of alcoholism. In the nineteen-thirties there were several shanty-towns along the nearby river; I imagine that some of the workhouse residents didn't travel far upon their release. There were still a few "shacks" remaining near the river as late as the 1967.
We children were always warned against talking to "bums," those drifters who would pass through heading into or out of town. Lyndale Avenue ran between my house and the river. It was based upon an old Indian trail that had been used for hundreds of years, long before the white man and his liquor: the vice which would land many poor souls in the old Minneapolis Workhouse, so long ago.
Minneapolis Workhouse, 1902