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Local author dives into the unique history of the Twin Cities

Plymouth author Julie Jo Severson talks about the 'Weird, Wonderful and Obscure' discoveries she's made across the metro area.

MINNEAPOLIS — When you live in a city, it’s easy to take it for granted. 

For example, right here in the Twin Cities there’s a rare handwritten letter by Mozart housed in the same building where a notorious gangster was once chained to a radiator. Hard to imagine but it’s true and that’s only one of the extraordinary gems found in the new book "Secret Twin Cities: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure."

Author Julie Jo Severson has a deep connection to Minneapolis, having spent most of her life exploring the many places and researching the rich back stories revealed in the book, “Some of the places I knew about from living here most of my life, but I talked to a lot, a lot of people. A lot of locals from archivists to bar tenders. I did a lot of research, then I got out and about and went and explored.”

Obviously, it wasn’t Julie Jo’s intention to release the book during a pandemic so if venturing out makes you feel uncomfortable, take the time now to plan for when social distancing comes to an end. It’s a great book for building your bucket lists and learning about the history, culture and trivia of the area.

Understandably, it’s hard for Julie Jo to nail-down her favorite spots mentioned in the book, “They all feel like my babies, I put a lot of energy into each one.” But she did share a couple of memorable one’s, starting with the weird, “Hot Sam’s Antiques! It’s not for everyone. It’s near Lakeville and the owner calls it his junk yard with a sense of humor.”

Leafing through the book, she stops on page 102, “The Washburn Park Water Tower. It’s completely hidden in Tangletown in South Minneapolis. The moment I turned the corner and saw the tower, it took my breath away.”

Another favorite took her to St. Paul, “Walking through the original tunnel in Swede Hollow, the same tunnel that thousands of immigrants walked through for 100 years. That was a monumental moment, I had chills, I really felt history in that moment.”

Although some places are well traveled, not everyone will know the fascinating back story. That’s the case at the Lyndale Park Peace Garden. The Spirit of Peace sculpture features the story of a little girl that died of leukemia from the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and before her death, she folded a thousand paper cranes for peace.

From the story behind the world’s largest Lite-Brite to where there’s a park hidden 120-feet below street level, if it’s in the Minneapolis metro area it can be found in this book. Whether you’re a local or in town for a visit, Secret Twin Cities will broaden your itinerary.

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