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On the Street Where You Live (Beltrami Avenue)

By Cecelia Wattles McKeig (from The Depot Express newsletter, Winter 2013)

Anyone who has walked or cruised up Beltrami Avenue has surely noticed the beautiful stone house on the northeast corner of 10th Street and Beltrami Avenue. John Moberg, one of Bemidji’s most prominent loggers and logging railroad builders, contracted to have the large brick home at 1002 Beltrami Avenue built in 1908. The contractor was Thomas Johnson who had several building projects going on at the same time. While he was building the Moberg house, he was also in charge of an eight-room house for Earl Geil, a home on the farm of August Berg, and a brick building for the Hamm’s Brewing Company. The very next year he was the contractor for the Carnegie Library.

John Moberg owned one of the first cars in Bemidji, brought from North Dakota in 1908 and, convinced of the future of this new vehicle, built the first garage and began selling Fords. He partnered with C. W. Jewett under the firm name of Northern Automobile Company. Their firm was located at 418 Beltrami Avenue. Moberg retired from the partnership in July 1910, and the business was carried on at this location by Mr. Jewett well into the 1920s.

The Mobergs lived for a time outside of town and apparently rented out the house. Several familiar names were listed at this address after 1916. The Bemidji Pioneer noted that A. M. Hayes was hosting a Christmas party there in 1916. In the fall of 1917, Mr. and Mrs. E. H. Denu and Mr. and Mrs. Frank T. Beaver moved from their summer cottage at Lavinia to the John Moberg residence on Beltrami, and Mrs. Denu hosted a musical program for the Methodist ladies at her residence in June 1918. Mrs. Philip Gill hosted the Little Mothers Club at this address in the fall of 1921 and reported “a very pleasant social time, sewing and conversing, after which Mrs. Gill serve a dainty lunch.” In 1922, this ad appeared in the Bemidji Pioneer: To Rent: Brick residence on Beltrami Avenue and 10th street. Inquire of John Moberg, Phone 272.

In 1923, John Moberg was elected mayor and served in that capacity until leaving Bemidji to take up a logging contract in British Columbia. Morris Kaplan served out the balance of Moberg’s unexpired term. In 1924, Moberg was again elected mayor and by 1927, he was engaged in the automobile business. The Mobergs again took up residence in the house on Beltrami Avenue.

The Moberg home next became the long-time residence of Harvey and Inga Hoberg. They moved to Bemidji in February 1927, and Harvey worked for the David Park Company for 30 years as a field manager. After the creamery closed, he operated Harvey’s Café in Nymore. He was appointed chief clerk of the State House of Representatives in 1963 and held this job at the Capitol for eight years. He worked until 1988 as a landscaper for KKBJ radio, which his son, Justin, started in 1980. Their son Duane became a member of the legislature in the 1980s. Inga Hoberg owned and operated My Ladies Dress Shoppe in Bemidji. She also prepared the baked goods during the years her husband owned Harvey’s Cafe.

When the Bemidji Hospital burned in 1929, several of the patients were taken to the Hoberg residence, as it was close and had a large number of rooms. Other patients were taken to the Poor Farm and to hotels around town. The house became the second Lutheran Parsonage in the 1970s.

Just across the street is a large white house at 1001 Beltrami Avenue. In 1912, this was the home of Charles and Lela Vandersluis, owners of Bemidji Hardware. It next belonged to Thomas J. Burke, the president of Northern Grocery. On May 12, 1922, about fifteen friends of Mrs. Helen Burke surprised her at her home. The guests enjoyed “social conversation” and a birthday lunch was served by the guests, who also presented her with a beautiful fern as a birthday token. Mr. Burke was about 20 years older than his wife Helen. By 1930, she was widowed but she continued to live in the home with her three children, Margaret, Thomas J. Burke, Jr., and Helen into the 1930s.

Miss Pearl Engen, Supt. of the Bemidji Lutheran hospital announced on Aug 15, 1947 that ten cadet nurses had moved into the new nurses’ home at 1001 Beltrami Avenue and that other nurses would take up residence there at a later date. Mrs. Harriet was the housekeeper.

There were many other longtime residents on Beltrami Avenue. Philip Hines, chief engineer at Bemidji State Teachers college, lived in the home at 1100 Beltrami Avenue in 1920, and his wife Adelia was still there in 1956. They had two daughters, Vivian and Leona, and a son, Grover. Vivian worked as a clerk at Bemidji Book and Stationery. Leona married Denis McGenty in 1933. Philip died on April 4, 1939 at the age of 63, but Adelia stayed in the home until at least 1964. She died in 1973.

The house across the street at 1101 Beltrami Avenue belonged to John and Jennie (Guthrie) Edwards. A very quiet, simple home wedding took place on Aug 12, 1920 at the Edwards home when their daughter Miss Basha Edwards was married to Mr. Nelson Norman of Berthold, N. D. After the death of their father, John Edwards, this became the home of the Edwards sisters, Agnes, Real, and Fayal, all early Bemidji business women making their living as milliners. They owned a hat shop in 1930. In 1940, they were all living in the house with their mother Jennie and working at home as seamstresses. How many dresses do you suppose they tailored during World War II, and sewed when the conflict was over and women were eager to dress up with real nylon hose and new fabrics? The Edwards sisters likely knew many of Bemidji’s society women. Agnes and Real were still living in the home in 1966 when Agnes died. Fayal died on July 16, 1970, and the house became vacant. Real died in 1973. Their home became the site of the Battered Women’s Shelter and then the home of a university professor.

The Elletson family resided at 1110 Beltrami Avenue from 1910 into the 1970s. W. H. Elletson, a carpenter by trade, wife Emma and two sons George and Adam Delbert moved to Bemidji in 1901. They are listed at this address in 1910. Mr. Elletson owned his own shop. George was a postal clerk. In 1920, three generations lived at the house: William and Emma, son George, his wife Ella and child Maxine, and son Adam Delbert and his wife. Tragedy struck the Elletson household on July 1, 1921 when William Elletson drowned while bathing in Lake Bemidji. Emma died in 1925, and the house was then owned by Adam Elletson and finally by his widow Mrs. Gertrude Elletson until her death in 1981. Adam died in 1949.

In these two blocks, there were more longtime residents. Sam Cutter, who worked for the U.S. Postal Service and wife Minnie lived at 1111 Beltrami Avenue for at least 25 years. Vera Cutter, their daughter, attended MacPhail School of Music. Vera married Harold Naylor in 1934. They were both excellent musicians. Harold sang at many functions. They had a radio program for a number of years in Bemidji. They lived in the house from 1934 onward. By 1951, they had moved to Park Avenue.

John and Goldie Vinje owned the house at 1115 Beltrami Avenue starting about 1930. He came to Bemidji in 1898 where he worked in the lumber mills and then was foreman of a railroad construction crew. Goldie Allen married John Vinje in 1924. He died in 1939. Goldie married Ray Hampton in Idaho in 1949. Goldies Beauty Saloon was in operation here from 1940 until her death in 1971.

Each house has its own interesting history. Births, deaths, and celebrations accompany the history of all of them.

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