See entire Minneapolis Tribune article.
“As soon as the water got too high the women would go out in boats and start paddling around. I remember wishing, when I was young, that I could live down there so I could be right in the mess.”
– A Minneapolis housewife remembering the floods, 1941.
Living in the Bohemian Flats may seem picturesque, but the proximity to the Mississippi River created unique problems. Annual flooding caused many residents to seek shelter on higher land, taking refuge with friends or family. Some even camped in the abandoned Noerenberg Brewery.
Many of the houses did not have foundations and risked floating away in the floods. One family, too large to find temporary lodgings, remained in their home and continued cooking, sleeping, and enjoying the vantage point as the house floated down the street.
As the water retreated, families returned to scoop sand and debris out of their homes, repair any damages, and settle in to begin anew.
“[There is] much poverty and suffering ….Most of the homes so squalid that the word home used in their connection is a bitter irony, [they] are [instead] wretchedly built shanties.” -Josephine McPike, Seven Corners Librarian, 1917.
The Bohemian Flats was home to some of the worst housing conditions in the Twin Cities.
The City of Minneapolis used the land beneath the Washington Avenue Bridge as a city dump after being banned from dumping waste directly into the river. This created hazardous conditions for the residents of the Bohemian Flats, providing the community with an unbearable odor, contaminating drinking water, and causing outbreaks of disease. The city dump occupied this space until 1889; by then, a squalid lifestyle had become associated with the image of the Bohemian Flats.
See the entire Diptheria article.
See entire Goodbye Dump article.
See entire “Murder on Bohemia Flats” article.
“Inebriety is common among them, unfortunately too common for the happiness and welfare of their families. The complex conditions of the new life, unemployment, sickness, and the dire rising of the river, bring about in many cases a desperation, resulting only too often in utter intemperance and cruelty.”
-Josephine McPike, Seven Corners Librarian, 1917.
A high crime rate was one of the reasons many people avoided the Bohemian Flats and much of the crime and violence was attributed to excessive alcohol consumption. Even after the breweries closed or relocated in the 1890s, a number of bars remained in close proximity to the neighborhood. Social institutions believed the bars to be a source of temptation for the Slovak immigrants. However, it is likely that the discrimination faced by Slovak immigrants led to damaging stereotypes.
See entire Two Men Badly Slashed article.
See entire Gives Wife Fatal Blows article.
See the Exhibit Pages of Each Panel
- “No Place Like Home”: Remembering the Bohemian Flats
- Navigating Changing Identity in a New Country
- “A Squatter’s Domain”: Life on the Banks of the Mississippi
- “High Waters on River Flats”: Living on the Mississippi River
- “The Laborer’s Lot”: Poverty, Employment, and Social Programs
- “Adieu, River Flats”: The Eviction and Legacy of the Bohemian Flats