District 10 Como Community Council

Know Your Como

The D10 Neighborhood Relations committee has assembled volunteer writers from the neighborhood to celebrate and appreciate the large and small contributions of our neighbors and the diversity that make Como a special place. The latest Know Your Como pieces will be posted in the D10 website’s newsfeeds and our weekly newsletter, but you can find all the articles archived below.

Do you have an interesting neighbor, live by a unique building, or know some fun history about our neighborhood?  Help share the story of our community by contributing to Know Your Como!

The goal of Know Your Como is to celebrate the diversity and contributions – large and small – of our neighbors and the people who came before us. Through stories, graphics and photos, we aim to highlight the rich history and iconic places that draw people to our community. Help us appreciate and learn about what makes Como a special place by contributing to this project. You can do so by interviewing your neighbors, collecting oral stories, taking photos and researching the many buildings and locations that make this community our home.

To get involved, please send an email to knowyourcomo@district10comopark.org  describing how you’d like to help. If you’d like to submit a story, a photo or graphic, please complete the Submission form below.

By Sonjie Johnson JO Thompson, Inc. has been in the Como Park flooring business for almost 60 years. The family first owned property on Robert St in the 1950s, then on University and Snelling in the 60s. In 1965, Jim Thompson, Sr., bought what is now Nelson’s Cheese Shop. Shortly thereafter, he purchased the property that is J.O Thompson Inc. flooring business, currently owned and managed by his son, Jim. Having worked in the shop at a very young age, Jim says that a multitude of businesses have come and gone over the years.

Over the past year District 10 Como Community Council has had the privilege of working with many individual and group volunteers to plan and put on the major community events that are hosted each year. We have been hosting a major event in each of the four subdistricts so that we can encourage neighbors from the whole community to engage with each other and community partners that have vested interest in the district.

By Sonjie Johnson Early bird walkers* held an impromptu coffee klatch at the pavilion on October 12th, beating the rain by only hours. Two homemade coffee cakes, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and a carafe of coffee from Caribou.

By Sonjie Johnson Imagine having a dream – a dream that seems entirely out of reach.  And yet…. That dream came true for Dani Carlin, when he and his partner, Meg opened the doors of The Little Naturalist Day Care in Como Park in 2021.

The Monitor (Midway, Como, Frogtown) featured D10's Know Your Como and the Neighborhood History Project on the front page of their August issue! The story covers the partnership with St. Kate's students to recognize the historic Racial Covenants that exist in our neighborhood, and the future plans of the Neighborhood History Project.

By Sonjie Johnson An apt description of Marcia Anderson’s journey, and it’s far from over. A published author and retired collections curator for the Minnesota History Center,  Marcia moved to Como Park in 1987, partly because of its nature-centered culture and community.

This year we're featuring Como community members who are showcased AT the Fair.

By Sonjie Johnson It’s a clever and evocative nickname for a musician - especially fitting for Dan Newton, a multitalented performer and Como Park resident, best known as the creator of the Café Accordion Orchestra he established 30 years ago.

By Laura Oyen Over the past year the Como Neighborhood History Project has been fortunate to work with students and staff in collaboration with the St. Kate’s Welcoming the Dear Neighbor? (WTDN?) Project. WTDN? is an interdisciplinary team of faculty, staff, students and community members which began in 2017 as a collaboration between St. Catherine University and Mapping Prejudice.

By Sonjie Johnson “Duck Point?” I ask the man transplanting a brown-eyed Susan in an area adjacent to Como Lake’s East Como Blvd parking lot. His name is Alfred Kauth and he says that this is the Duck Point Garden.

By Sonjie Johnson It’s not every day that a Como Park resident finds a 450-million-year-old fossil in his backyard. But that’s what happened to Joel Alter a few years ago. A retired, non-partisan researcher for the Minnesota Legislature, Joel has lived in Como Park for nearly 40 years. He was digging in a ravine behind his house in 2006 when he unearthed a large piece of limestone. When he picked it up, a section split apart and he saw what appeared to be a fossil.

By Lauren Erchul Did you know that District 10 is home to an emergency shelter and supportive housing program for homeless youth? Booth …

By: Laura Oyen Our quick transition from winter to summer also meant it was time to work on the Midway Parkway Gardens! …

By Sonjie Johnson Drawing inspiration from nature found as close as Como Park, or her lake country hometown of Wadena, MN, Mary …

The number of people participating in the Como Park Cleanup events is progressively increasing, with each person giving the most valuable, most meaningful, and most precious thing possible – their time. At our Lake Como Cleanup events, volunteers meet at the Pavilion to get tools, supplies and have a refreshment. Then they walk along the lake pedestrian paths or the shoreline and pick up trash.

Readers of the April 3, 1888 Saint Paul Globe might have noticed this tidbit in the paper that day. “The public schools reopened yesterday after the regular Easter vacation with a full attendance. The new McClellan school, Oxford and Stinson, schools being occupied for the first time.” McClellan school took several years to transform from the “Comoville” school, temporarily located on Front Ave in a rented building, to the two story eight room building that stood for 87 years.

It is April and there is still snow on the ground with whispers on the radio that more is on the way. I understand that it is Minnesota, but I really want to see grass, pretty plants, and wonderful gardens!!! So, I think about other things to make me happy like BBQ and sitting on the front deck talking to neighbors and the State Fair.

By Sonjie Johnson Thirty-five-year Como Park residents, the Burnes worked, met and retired from the University of Minnesota Plant Pathology Department. An avid outdoors couple, they are often seen walking or biking the Como Park paths. That’s where we met and I learned that Pat and Todd are horticulturists.

A donation today means supporting the quirky, celebratory, and informative articles that we share about our neighbors each week. And if you’ve already donated during our Como Springsgiving drive: from the bottom of our hearts, thank you!

By Brianna Blake Edward and Alma Thomas moved into their home at 1376 Frankson in the 1930’s. Edward was a bookkeeper for a company that imported coffee. He enjoyed fishing on area lakes. He knew many people in the neighborhood whom he met while walking his dogs. Alma was a homemaker and a stay at home mom to James and Marjorie.

“I Don’t Want a Dog!” That’s what the Halker’s daughter (then 6) said when the family went to Second Chance Animal Rescue to adopt a puppy for their son. All that changed when the foster mom put Duchess, a golden ball of fur, in their daughter’s lap. The Halkers went home with two dogs – Duchess and Shiloh.

Axel Emanual Carlson was born on November 29, 1884 in Horda, Sweden. He lists himself as a farmer working on the family farm from 1906 to1908. He immigrated to the US between April and May of 1908 at the age of 24. From his application for employment with the Northern Pacific Railway we are able to trace his early years in the U.S.

Sonjie Johnson continues to introduce the furry friends around Como. These stories were compiled by Sonjie.

By Sonjie Johnson and Jeanne Steele It was mid-February, a bright, mild day when Sonjie Johnson, an inveterate lake walker and observer, …

Meet Stella. She’s a 12-year-old Springer Spaniel, adopted by Jim and Melanie Salasek in 2019, from Pet Haven,( Minnesota’s first, and oldest foster-based animal rescue.) Their five-mile daily walk includes the Como Lake paths. Always eager to greet both two and four-legged friends, Stella is an early morning favorite. It wasn’t always that way.

Everyone says so. The early morning walkers are the friendliest. We say “good morning,” or “have a great day!” Even the guy with ear buds who walks fast and never makes eye contact occasionally throws up a hand in greeting or dismissal. We all have opinions about the latest kiosk addition at the east end of Como Lake. We agree a food truck with coffee and hot chocolate would be a good addition on weekends.

D10 Board Member and Como Neighborhood History Project leader Laura Oyen presented House History Training and resources on 12/3/22.

Grandfather Oscar and father Willis share memories of the Kunze farm in this second part of the Kunze farm story. Information is also from a newspaper clipping, interviews, and a personal account written by my father, Willis. In the newspaper on the occasion of Oscar’s 90th birthday (Pioneer Press, November 21,1968), he was interviewed at the Gibbs farm on Larpenteur and Cleveland where as a boy, his family visited the Gibbs family.

My great grandfather, Alexander Kunze, came to Minnesota in I868 and acquired farming land. Later my grandfather, Oscar Kunze, lived and worked on the farm, and my father, Willis Kunze, grew up on the farm. He later built a house on a piece of the property which is the house I live in now.

Don McCall estimates that he’s been asked that question more than 5,000 times since he bought his velomobile in 2017. The most memorable encounter was with the St. Paul Police, who pulled him over for riding west on Como Avenue, in what they assumed was a motorized vehicle without a license. As with most encounters, the cops ended up in a long discussion and a picture of Don’s startling method of transportation.

This summer students and faculty from the St. Catherine University Summer Scholars program teamed up with community members to complete 10 oral history interviews of long time Como community members. Their work during the summer of 2022 explored the Como Park neighborhood history and highlights aspects of our community beyond the State Fair, Park, and the Zoo.

This year’s first Como Community Council Harvest Festival at Tilden Park featured all things harvest: backyard chickens, vegetables from the community garden, fermentation demonstrations and the great pie bake-off.

As a young mother, Robin Sherritt Gadban, now 69, often packed a picnic and brought her kids to Como Lake for the day. She dreamed of living in Como Park, and one day her dream came true.

Anyone who follows what we do over at Neighborhood Relations may have figured out by now that we LOVE competitions, and we LOVE seeing the amazing things our community can do. For the last few years, we have done the Halloween and Holiday decoration competition and every time I love the creativity that is unleashed.

It was a search for a new home that brought most people to the United States, but their fight for a roof over their heads didn’t end when the tempest dropped them on our shores. Across the American landscape, clashes erupted where one people tried to start homes in places that millions already called home. Such is the story of the house my wife and I bought our first year of marriage, a house built in 1886 by Lake Como, back when some could probably remember the area as it once was: home to the Dakota.

By Sonjie Johnson It was an astonishing idea. Spend $100,000 in 1873 to buy 260 acres of land, including Como Lake, a lake that was little more than a large swamp at the time? Crazy as it sounded, that’s exactly what the Minnesota Legislature decided to do.

While digging through some papers recently I was reminded of a young mother (me) who was looking for a way to meet others in the community and frankly, get a few moments away from two young children at home. That was over 25 years ago, and marked the beginning of my participation in the Midway Parkway Garden Club.

The crocuses were just poking their heads out on a cold April day at the North Path Garden at Como Lake. This soon-to-be colorful and well-tended plot is the creation of Debby Smith, recipient of the St. Paul’s 2021 Volunteer of the Year award, a distinct and well-earned honor. And she had a lot to tell.

“It’s important to call it out,” asserts a promo now airing on TPT – Twin Cities Public Television. “We need everyone’s perspective -- to come together.” The speaker is Rahel Nardos, MD, a friend of Tseganesh Selameab, MD, a Como neighbor, mother, spouse, and doctor. The ‘it’ Dr. Nardos refers to is race. The show, “Speaking of Race,” is a co-production of TPT and the Center for the Art of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Q: What is made out of plastic, filled to the brim with liquid gold, and looks like a friendly little bear with a rendition of the Como Pavilion glued to its chest?

If you are looking for a place to warm up this winter be sure to stop into Sumo & Smoh. Sou Moua’s (Sumo) and Salima Janmohamed’s (Smoh) delicious eats will warm your belly and the couple’s uplifting energy and kind presence will melt your heart.

You remember the one, the one who knew the best car repair shop. The one who could get your snow blower started, or find your dog that got out. If somebody’s kid was playing a local gig, or it was time for a picnic, you’d get an email with a time and place. Every neighborhood had one.

Green is Dave Crawford’s favorite color, which makes sense when you see the dream home that he and his wife, Diane Peterson, designed and built just east of the golf course. If you drive or walk north on Lexington Avenue, surely you’ve noticed it: it’s big, modern, colorful, and passive.

Pick a day. Any day, at Como Lake, 7 or 8 in the morning. Ask another regular walker if they’ve seen Bobby and they’ll know exactly who you mean.

Bikes, planes, streetcars and golf carts. These modes of transportation peppered a chance conversation I had with my neighbor Bob, whose recollections of living in our neighborhood go back 80+ years.

throughout; we just need to take time to find them. One of those gems: an exceptionally talented poet, literary critic, essayist, and teacher. His name is Michael Kleber-Diggs.

At least 350 homes in Como contain racially restrictive covenants, new research by the University of Minnesota’s Mapping Prejudice project shows. The covenants created impenetrable barriers; for decades, they meant only white people could own those homes or live in those parts of the neighborhood.

Moving halfway across the country with children and a pet cat is stressful at the best of times. The Maierhofers did it during the pandemic.

would be closed until further notice, many students were ecstatic. Despite the pandemic worsening, they took it as a break from school, an early spring break even. But as time went on and distance learning got underway, that joy has vanished, replaced with stress and dread.

Howling with coyotes at midnight while skating on Como Lake is one of the recent ways Tim Silverthorn has enjoyed his neighborhood of 20+ years. Tim, along with a few other District 10 neighbors, helped maintain a do-it-yourself ice-skating rink at Como Lake this season.

than-life red ant that resides in their front yard at 919 Nebraska Ave. Henceforth, she shall be called Marie ANT-oinette.

Jill Miller and her husband, Dan, are the inaugural winners of the Como Community Council’s first Holiday Decoration Celebration. The Millers are Como residents since 2005, but this is their first year putting up lights, a move inspired in part as a way to uplift the neighborhood as the Covid pandemic continues.

in the picture like? Do you like talking with interesting people? Then you could be exactly who we are looking for to help unleash our new project: Know Your Como.