HISTORY OF MORRIS

The city of Morris is a railroad town. Founded in 1871, it is named after the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad's chief engineer, Charles F. Morris. Morris is a three hour drive northwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul and about two hours southeast of Farg o N.D./Moorhead MN. Including the University student population, Morris has a population of about 5600 people.

The following is an article by Tami K. Plank, Historical Researcher at the Stevens County Historical Society. It provides a history of the buildings in the downtown area of Morris.

Main Street, Morris

The skyline of Morris' main street, Atlantic Avenue, has changed considerably over the last 125 years. When the village was established in 1871, Atlantic Avenue was a one sided street with buildings only on its east side. The area between the street an d the railroad tracks was vacant except for the depot (between Fifth and Sixth Streets), two elevators, and a slough containing rushes, cattails, and teal ducks.

After the establishment of cottonwood trees in this area, Morris residents hoped to have a park here but the railroad company did not approve. In 1900 this section was divided into lots and sold and in a few short years Atlantic Avenue became a two-sid ed street. Buildings built during this period of growth include Krueger (now Benson) Drug, Linne Bakery (former Thedin's Building) and Colyer's Mortuary (now Sarlettes Music).

The first business buildings in Morris were wooden structures which proved to be a threat to the village. Two fires, one in 1882 and one in 1890, destroyed close to half of the business places in Block 2, between 5th and 6th Street. Residents worked fe verishly at both fires using fire equipment, and finally, water buckets, to prevent the whole town from going up in smoke.

Sidewalks, where there were any, were made of wood. In 1900, cement sidewalks were laid on main street as an experiment as the cost of keeping up the wooden ones was proving to be too expensive.

Atlantic Avenue's dirt street was often close to impassable in the spring and after heavy rains. The mud, along with cans, bottles, and other refuse, often brought public comment in the local newspaper. The street was in such poor condition that one year word spread around town that someone had lost their life after falling off the wooden board walks into the mire. Only after a crowd had gathered was it realized that the "body" was actually a pair of overalls and boots stuffed with hay and placed upside down in the mud by a couple of practical jokers. For many years after, large quantities of gravel and sand were dumped in the street, only to disappear to the unknown.

It wasn't until 1919 that Atlantic Avenue was paved. The State Highway Commission approved the new Glacier Trail Highway from St. Paul, through Morris, to Glacier Park. This called for the paving of only the center eighteen feet of the street, so Morris' citizens signed a petition so the street would be covered from curb to curb.

The business part of Atlantic Avenue extended north from Fourth Street to past Tenth Street. Up until about the 1940's, Atlantic Avenue from Fourth Street going south was a tree lined residential area. Today, while there are many apartments along the street, only one reidential home remains on Atlantic Avenue. Landmarks that once dotted the skyline of Morris' main street include the Merchants Hotel, Green's Mill, the Glass Block, Varnum's Hardware, and the Northern Pacific Depot.

The oldest buildings today on Morris' Main Street are Eul's Hardware, built as a bank in 1883, the Masonic Hall, built in 1890 after its wooden structures were entirely destroyed by fires twice, and the Halverson Building, originally called the Brick Block or Spooner Brick Block, built in 1895. The newest structures are McGinnis Appliance and Dr. Hauger's Dental Office, both built in 1995.

If you would like to learn more about this topic or other historic events that took place throughout Stevens County, please visit the Stevens County Historical Museum, 116 West 6th Street, Morris. SCHS memberships support research, exhibits and educational programming.

(Included by permission of the author and the Stevens County Historical Society.)