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“Dapper Dan” Hogan, a St. Paul, Minnesota saloonkeeper and mob boss, is killed on December 4, 1928 when someone plants a car bomb under the floorboards of his new Paige coupe. Doctors worked all day to save him–according to the Morning Tribune, “racketeers, police characters, and business men” queued up at the hospital to donate blood to their ailing friend–but Hogan slipped into a coma and died at around 9 p.m. His murder is still unsolved.
Hogan was a pillar of the Twin Cities underworld. His downtown saloon, the Green Lantern, catered to (and laundered the money of) bank robbers, bootleggers, safecrackers and all-around thugs. He was an expert at defusing petty arguments, keeping feuds from getting out of hand, and (the paper said) “keep[ing] the heat out of town,” which made him a friend to many lawbreakers and a valuable asset to people (like the crooked-but-well-meaning police chief) who were trying to keep Minneapolis and St. Paul from becoming as bloody and dangerous as Chicago.
Hogan and the police both worked to make sure that gangsters would be safe in the Twin Cities as long as they committed their most egregious crimes outside the city limits. If this position made him more friends than enemies–“his word was said to have been ‘as good as a gold bond,'” the paper said, and “to numbers of persons he was something of a Robin Hood”–it also angered many mobsters who resented his stranglehold on the city’s rackets. Police speculated that some of his own associates might have been responsible for his murder.
As the newspaper reported the day after Hogan died, car bombs were “the newest form of bomb killing,” a murderous technology perfected by New York gangsters and bootleggers. In fact, Hogan was one of the first people to die in a car bomb explosion. The police investigation revealed that two men had entered Dapper Dan’s garage early in the morning of December 4, planted a nitroglycerine explosive in the car’s undercarriage, and wired it to the starter. When Hogan pressed his foot to that pedal, the bomb went off, nearly severing his right leg. He died from blood loss.
The first real car bomb–or, in this case, horse-drawn-wagon bomb–exploded on September 16, 1920 outside the J.P. Morgan Company’s offices in New York City’s financial district. Italian anarchist Mario Buda had planted it there, hoping to kill Morgan himself; as it happened, the robber baron was out of town, but 40 other people died (and about 200 were wounded) in the blast. There were occasional car-bomb attacks after that–most notably in Saigon in 1952, Algiers in 1962, and Palermo in 1963–but vehicle weapons remained relatively uncommon until the 1970s and 80s, when they became the terrifying trademark of groups like the Irish Republican Army and Hezbollah. In 1995, terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols used a bomb hidden in a Ryder truck to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
When St. Paul — officially — served as a safe haven for criminals
Criminals had to agree to three conditions: that they checked-in with police upon their arrival agreed to pay bribes to city officials and committed no major crimes in the city of St. Paul.
The O’Connor layover agreement was instituted by John O’Connor shortly after his promotion from St. Paul Detective to Chief of Police on June 1, 1900. It allowed criminals to stay in the city under three conditions: that they checked-in with police upon their arrival agreed to pay bribes to city officials and committed no major crimes in the city of St. Paul. This arrangement lasted for almost forty years, ending when rampant corruption forced crusading local citizens and the federal government to step in.
After becoming police chief, O’Connor re-organized the police force and gave himself nearly absolute power. He then reached out to criminals throughout the Midwest, letting them know that St. Paul was a safe place for them. He promised that the police would disregard offenders who performed their deeds beyond St. Paul as long as they remained law abiding while in the city.
To accomplish his plan, O’Connor required a liaison from within the criminal ranks to keep an eye on his peers. William “Reddy” Griffin was the first keeper of O’Connor’s system. After arriving in town and meeting with the police, criminals stopped to “check in” with Griffin at the Hotel Savoy in downtown St. Paul. Among his many duties, Griffin collected bribes and brought the money to O’Connor. When Griffin died of apoplexy in 1913 at the age of sixty-five, “Dapper” Dan Hogan took over his role.
Thanks to the layover agreement, St. Paul in the first half of the twentieth century became a refuge for many of the most notorious gangsters of modern American history. John Dillinger and Billie Frechette, Ma Barker and her boys, “Babyface” Nelson, Alvin Karpis, and others considered St. Paul a safe haven at some point during their “careers.” Minnesota became an epicenter of illegal activity, with major crimes committed across the state. While surrounding towns and cities suffered, St. Paul remained nearly free of major crime.
The layover agreement remained in force for so long because each side benefited financially. As long as criminals stayed in the city, bribes flowed toward corrupt officials and the system remained intact. It was so lucrative that criminals policed their colleagues to ensure that no one ruined a good thing. If anyone broke O’Connor’s rules, the “heat” would be too hot to overcome, and the financial windfall would quickly come to an end.
O’Connor retired from the police force on May 29, 1920. A car bomb killed Hogan on December 4, 1928 his murder remains unsolved. The layover system persisted, but without O’Connor’s heavy hand to police it, things began to change. St. Paul’s crime rate eventually surged. The city that had enjoyed a reputation for safety in the 1920s became a “poison spot of crime” in the eyes of the nation.
When Prohibition ended in 1933, the city’s criminals took over. No longer able to make money selling illegal liquor, many turned to ransom. In June, the city was shocked to learn of the kidnapping of Hamm’s Brewery president William Hamm Jr. by the Barker-Karpis gang. In January of 1934 the gang struck again, this time carrying off Schmidt Brewing Company heir Edward Bremer. The kidnapping of such public figures alerted the nation and forced the federal government to intervene.
The arrival of federal agents in St. Paul spelled the beginning of the end of the layover agreement. Under surveillance by a higher authority, local officials could no longer ignore crime and accept bribes with impunity. In 1934 the federal government passed a series of crime laws that increased the FBI’s jurisdiction. This allowed the Bureau to attack the gangster menace throughout the country.
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That same year, frustrated St. Paul citizens, led by journalist Howard Kahn, took the fight to local corruption. Chicago detective Jamie Wallace, hired by Kahn and Commissioner of Public Safety Henry Warren, wiretapped the St. Paul Police Department for over a year. Those wiretaps exposed a bevy of crimes and provided transcripts of officials tipping off organized crime members. In July 1935, reporters at Kahn’s newspaper (the St. Paul Daily News) wrote a story about corruption within the police ranks.
The O’Connor layover agreement ended in 1935 with the conviction or resignation of many of the city’s police force. The old guard was gone, and the new guard made sure that O’Connor’s system did not return.
For more information on this topic, check out the original entry on MNopedia.
Matt Reicher is a student at Metropolitan State University graduating with a BA in History in May 2014. He is currently interning with MNopedia and is interested in the Territorial and WWI eras of Minnesota history.
Irvine, the son of a wealthy local lumberman, would go on to become president of the Weyerhaeuser Timber Co. The mansion he and his wife built on Summit Avenue is now the Minnesota Governor’s Residence.
In an editorial on May 30, 1903, the Pioneer Press admonished parents about the dangers of allowing their children to play in city streets, which were increasingly used by automobiles. The newspaper also called for speed limits and new laws governing who may operate “these flying ‘devil wagons.’ ”
“No doubt ‘the automobile has come to stay,’ but it should be permitted to stay only under conditions that shall make the use of the streets by people who don’t own automobiles as safe as it was before,” the newspaper’s editors wrote.
Kane might be surprised to learn that the speed limit on St. Paul’s urban streets — including Selby — is now set at the “criminal” rate of 30 miles per hour.
Over the years, Rolette’s high jinks were mythologized by generations of Minnesota storytellers — including some at the Pioneer Press. Below is a comic by staff cartoonist Jerry Fearing, which no doubt contributed to Rolette’s legend. For an enlarged version, click here.
The Pioneer Press helped cement the myth that Joe Rolette’s antics kept the capital in St. Paul with this comic, which appeared in a 1964 publication by staff cartoonist Jerry Fearing called “The Story of Minnesota.” Fearing spent a good deal of time researching his 76-page pictorial history of the North Star State, but he was nonetheless taken in by fanciful early accounts of the capital removal story.
Hogan was the arbiter of the city’s infamous Layover Agreement, according to local crime historian Paul Maccabee’s book “John Dillinger Slept Here.” The Layover Agreement allowed criminals who were on the lam to lie low in St. Paul, as long as they behaved while they were in town.
Hogan died at 8:55 that evening, about nine hours after the explosion. The Pioneer Press editorial board feared his death would touch off a gang war and “make St. Paul a shooting gallery.” Local newspapers called for city officials to oust the criminals and institute law and order.
“St. Paul has been a sanctuary for the underworld long enough,” read an editorial in the next day’s Pioneer Press. “This city cannot continue to be a safe haven for crooks, professional gamblers, gun men and breakers of law.”
But it did continue. After Hogan died, his protege Harry Sawyer took control of Hogan’s criminal enterprise. Although the case remains unsolved, Maccabee calls Sawyer, who harbored much resentment toward his boss over unpaid debts, “the most credible murder suspect.”
Kathleen Soliah was born in Fargo, North Dakota, while her family were living in Barnesville, Minnesota.  When she was eight, her conservative Lutheran  family relocated to Southern California. After graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Soliah moved to Berkeley, California, with her boyfriend, James Kilgore. There, she met Angela Atwood at an acting audition where they both won lead roles. They became inseparable during the play's run. Atwood tried to sponsor Soliah into the SLA. Soliah, Kilgore, and Soliah’s brother Steve and sister Josephine followed the SLA closely without joining. 
When Atwood and other core members of the SLA were killed in 1974 during a standoff with police near Watts, Los Angeles, following their murder of Marcus Foster, Oakland school superintendent,  the Soliahs organized memorial rallies,  including a rally in Berkeley's Willard Park (called Ho Chi Minh park by activists) where Soliah spoke in support of her friend Atwood, while being covertly filmed by the FBI.   At that rally, Soliah said that her fellow SLA members had been:
viciously attacked and murdered by 500 pigs in L.A. while the whole nation watched. Well, I believe that Gelina [Atwood] and her comrades fought until the last minutes, and though I would like to have her with me here right now, I know that she lived happy and she died happy. And in that sense, I'm so very proud of her. SLA soldiers – I know it is not necessary to say but keep on fighting. I'm with you and we are with you! 
She asserted that Atwood "was a truly revolutionary woman . among the first white women to fight so righteously for their beliefs and to die for what they believed in". 
While a fugitive, founding SLA member Emily Harris visited Soliah who was working at a bookstore. Soliah later recalled, "I was glad she was alive. I expected them to be killed at any time." She felt sorry for the group and agreed to help the remaining group hide from the police and FBI.  She assisted them by procuring supplies for their San Francisco hideout and birth certificates of dead infants that could be used for identification purposes. 
Crocker National Bank robbery and Myrna Opsahl murder Edit
On April 21, 1975, SLA members robbed the Crocker National Bank in Carmichael, California, in the process killing 42-year-old Myrna Opsahl, a mother of four depositing money for her church.   Patty Hearst, who acted as getaway driver during the crime, provided the information that led the police to implicate the SLA in the robbery and murder  she also stated that Soliah was one of the actual robbers.  According to Hearst, Soliah kicked a pregnant teller in the abdomen, leading to a miscarriage. 
Several rounds of 9 mm ammunition spilled on the floor and found in Opsahl's body  during the robbery bore manufacturing marks that matched that of ammunition loaded in a 9 mm Browning Hi-Power semi-automatic pistol found by police in Soliah's bedroom dresser drawer at the SLA safehouse on Precita Avenue in San Francisco.  In 2002, new forensics technology allowed police to link these shells definitively to those found at Crocker Bank prior to charging the former members of SLA, including Soliah, with the crime.  Prosecutor Michael Latin said that Soliah was tied to the crime through fingerprints, a palm print, and handwriting evidence.  The palm print was found on a garage door from a garage in which the SLA kept a getaway car. 
Los Angeles Police Department bombs Edit
On August 21, 1975, a bomb that came close to detonating was discovered where a Los Angeles Police Department patrol car had been parked in front of an International House of Pancakes restaurant earlier in the day.  After the bomb was discovered, all Los Angeles police were ordered to search under their cars, and another bomb was found in front of a police department about a mile away.  Soliah was accused of planting the bombs in an attempt to avenge the SLA members who had died a year earlier in the standoff with LA police. 
The pipe bombs were rigged to detonate as the patrol cars drove away. One police officer present that day described the first bomb as one of "the most dangerous pipe bombs he had ever seen" and went on to say:
This device was designed to go off when that car was moved, and the only way you move a car is to get in and drive it. This bomb wasn't directed against property. It wasn't directed against the car. You could have thrown a device under the car and lit a fuse and then ran. It was directed at whoever got in the car and moved it, however it would have also taken out anybody in the vicinity. 
At Soliah's 2002 sentencing hearing on the bombing, police officer John Hall,  who had been in the car on top of the bomb described a little girl who stood feet away with her family:
Your honor, it horrifies me to think that the lives of dozens of innocent people, like that child in the window [would have ended] in an instant had the defendant and her co conspirators successfully carried out their terrorist acts. 
Soliah, along with five other SLA member, was indicted in 1976 for setting the police bombs, but vanished before the trial could commence.  When Soliah was eventually brought to trial years later, the evidence against her was not considered by prosecutors to be a "slam dunk", although enough to convince a jury of her guilt.  Two witnesses who had originally testified in her grand jury indictment had died by the time she was found and brought to trial: a plumber who had sold materials used in the bomb had picked Soliah out of a lineup as one of the buyers, and a bomb expert had stated the explosive could have been built in Soliah's apartment. Police could not identify any fingerprints on the devices other than those of the officers who had disarmed them  however, Soliah's fingerprint, handwriting and signature were identified on a letter sent to order a fuse that could only be used for bomb-making purposes, and components matching those used in the police car bombs were found in a locked closet at the Precita Avenue house where Soliah lived with the other members of SLA. 
In February 1976, a grand jury indicted Soliah in the bombing case. Soliah went underground and became a fugitive for 23 years.
She moved to Minnesota, having assumed the alias Sara Jane Olson the surname chosen being one of the most common names in Minnesota due to the state's large Scandinavian-American population.  In 1980 she married the physician Gerald Frederick "Fred" Peterson, with whom she would have three daughters. Olson and Peterson spent time in Zimbabwe, where Peterson worked for a British Medical missionary group, before settling in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where Olson resumed her acting career.  She was active in Saint Paul on community issues.  Her husband described the family as interested in progressive social causes. 
On March 3, 1999, and again on May 15, 1999, Soliah was profiled on the America's Most Wanted television program. After a tip generated by the show, she was arrested on June 16, 1999. Soliah was then charged with conspiracy to commit murder, possession of explosives, explosion, and attempt to ignite an explosive with intent to murder. 
Shortly after her arrest, Soliah legally changed her name to her alias, Sara Jane Olson. She also published a cookbook titled Serving Time: America's Most Wanted Recipes.  
On October 31, 2001, she accepted a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing explosives with intent to murder.  As part of a plea bargain, the other charges were dropped.
Plea controversy Edit
Immediately after entering the plea, however, Olson told reporters that she was innocent and that she had decided to take a plea bargain due to the climate after the September 11 attacks, in which she felt an accused bomber could not receive a fair trial from a jury.  "It became clear to me that the incident would have a remarkable effect on the outcome of this trial . the effect was probably going to be negative," she said. "That's really what governed this decision, not the truth or honesty, but what was probably in my best interests and the interests of my family." 
Angered by Olson's announcement that she had lied in court, Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler ordered another hearing on November 6, at which he asked her several times if she was indeed guilty of the charges. Olson replied "I want to make it clear, Your Honor, that I did not make that bomb. I did not possess that bomb. I did not plant that bomb. But under the concept of aiding and abetting, I plead guilty." 
On November 13, Olson filed a motion requesting to withdraw her guilty plea and acknowledged that she did not misunderstand the judge when he read the charges against her. Rather, she said:
I realize I cannot plead guilty when I know I am not. . Cowardice prevented me from doing what I knew I should: Throw caution aside and move forward to trial. . I am not second-guessing my decision as much as I have found the courage to take what I know is the honest course. Please, Judge Fidler, grant my request to go to trial. 
Sentencing in explosives charges Edit
On December 3, 2001, Fidler offered to let Olson testify under oath about her role in the case. She refused. He then wondered "I took those pleas twice . were you lying to me then or are you lying to me now?"—and denied her request to withdraw her plea. Observers expected her to serve only three to five years, but on January 18, 2002, she was sentenced to two consecutive 10-years-to-life terms.  Fidler warned that according to California law, the Board of Prison Terms could later change the sentence to a lesser term.  Olson's lawyers asserted that due to discrepancies between 1970s laws and current California laws, their client would most likely serve only five years, which could turn into two years for good behavior.  The Board of Prison Terms did later change the sentence.
At her sentencing hearing, Olson's teenage daughter Leila, her pastor, and her husband spoke in her defense, while Olson's mother claimed on the stand that Olson had never been a part of the SLA and spoke against prosecutors and police she asserted had harassed the family. 
Sentencing in Opsahl murder Edit
On January 16, 2002, first-degree murder charges for the killing of Myrna Opsahl were filed against Olson and four other SLA members: Emily Harris, Bill Harris, Michael Bortin (Olson's brother-in law who had married her sister Josephine), and James Kilgore, who remained a fugitive.  Judge Fidler arraigned Olson on the murder charges immediately following her sentencing hearing on January 18.  Olson pleaded not guilty to that charge at the time.  On November 7, along with the other three defendants, she pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second degree murder.  She was sentenced on February 14, 2003, for the maximum term allowed under her plea bargain, which was a six-year term  concurrent to the 14-year sentence she was already serving.
The state Board of Prison Terms had scrapped her original sentence in October 2002 in exchange for a longer 14-year sentence, saying Olson's crimes had the potential for great violence and targeted multiple victims. In July 2004, a judge said there was "no analysis" of how the state Board of Prison Terms had decided 14 years was appropriate, and threw it out. Her sentence was instead converted to five years, four months. 
However, an appeals court panel restored her full 14-year sentence as of April 12, 2007. It ruled that a lower court did not follow procedure when they allowed Olson to appeal.  
Olson served her time at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla. Her custody status was "Close A",  which is reserved for inmates requiring the most supervision.
This status limited her privileges and required that she be counted seven times a day. It also prevented her from being able to seek a relocation to a facility closer to her home. David Nickerson, Olson's attorney, stated that this status reflected the Department of Corrections' view that she was a potential flight risk. 
Olson's husband and three daughters continued to support her during her imprisonment and took turns visiting her frequently in Chowchilla.  In an interview with Marie Claire (coincidentally published by Hearst Corporation), Olson's 23-year-old daughter Emily Peterson dismissed her mother's radical past with the SLA, saying "She lived in Berkeley. It was kind of normal.  I always tell people she wasn't a terrorist. She was an urban guerrilla."  Kathleen Soliah/Sara Olson never publicly expressed remorse or regret for her actions. 
Release from prison and rearrest Edit
Olson was released on parole from the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla on March 17, 2008.  For five days, she stayed at her mother's home in Palmdale, and spent some time hiking with her husband. 
On March 21, 2008, she was rearrested when it was decided that she had been mistakenly released a year early from prison due to a miscalculation by the parole board.  Her attorney claimed that the action was a political move.  Olson was taken back into custody by the California Department of Corrections and placed in the California Institution for Women in Corona for an additional year. 
Release and parole Edit
After serving a total of seven years, about half of her sentence, Olson was released from prison on March 17, 2009, to serve her parole in Minnesota. Police unions in both Minnesota and California protested the arrangement, stating that they believe her parole should be served in California, where her crimes were committed. 
In a letter to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty also protested Olson being allowed to return to Minnesota. 
Daughter competes in American Idol Edit
Olson's 28-year-old daughter, Sophia Shorai, was a contestant in the 2011 season of the talent show American Idol. 
The Death of Dan Hogan
On December 4, 1928, at around 11:30 am, after a substantial, late morning breakfast with his wife and father-in-law, Dan went to the garage of his home at 1607 W 7th street, got in his Paige Coupe, turned the ignition and pressed the starter. A bomb detonated with such force it blew the car backward out of the garage. Because he was a heavy set man, Dan’s head was shielded from the blast by his stomach. He was rendered unconscious, but didn’t die from the impact however, his right leg was utterly pulverized and eventually amputated in hopes of saving his life.
After nine hours in the hospital fighting for his life, Hogan slipped into a coma and died from his injuries. The local underworld was so upset over this act that after initially lining up to give blood for transfusions, they offered to help the police find the perpetrators this horrible crime. The initial rumors were that the killing was done as an “outbreak of a feud” by either an outlaw band he attempted to keep from working in the city or a gambling organization. Hogan’s wife and sister in law both spoke of seeing men by the garage behind their house but never thought anything of it.
Popular opinion later shifted to a theory that Harry “Dutch” Sawyer, Hogan’s second in charge had him killed. Sawyer was angry that Hogan had not repaid a $25,000 bond in 1924, and also cheated him out of a percentage of revenues from The Hollywood, a casino located south of Saint Paul off of Mendota Road. Hogan had placed a large sum of money in a safe deposit box for his wife to have in the event of his death, and when she went to get the money it was gone. Sawyer was the only other person that had a key. In spite of all of this, the mortally wounded Hogan, forever the reputable gangster, refused to name potential assailants.
St. Paul’s Rice Park is 170 years old. Here’s its history in photos.
Men read newspapers on benches in Rice Park in this undated photo, sometime between 1914 and 1917. Construction of the Latimer Central Library can be seen in the background. (Pioneer Press file photo)
The original fountain in downtown St. Paul's Rice Park featured a boy and a swan, seen here on Nov. 3, 1922. (Pioneer Press file photo)
A few hardy folks enjoy the chilly weather at Rice Park in downtown St. Paul on Nov. 3, 1922. (Pioneer Press file photo)
Workers decorate the Rice Park Christmas tree on Dec. 21, 1925. (Pioneer Press file photo)
Construction of Santa Claus' headquarters is underway in Rice Park on Nov. 24, 1926. (Pioneer Press file photo)
Phyllis Plucinik and Karolyn Kriner stroll through a snowy Rice Park on March 16, 1951. (David Dornberg / Pioneer Press)
A lunchtime crowd enjoys a performance by Max Metzger and his band on June 16, 1970, the first in a series of free summertime concerts at Rice Park. (Joe Oden / Pioneer Press)
Spectators gather around Alvin Carter as he works on a painting during a special art event in Rice Park on July 30, 1975. Carter's group, ArtsPeople, sponsored the event.(Sully Dorshow / Pioneer Press)
Although it looks like the man in the topcoat is holding hands with the girl in the fountain at Rice Park, he was just standing close enough to enjoy the spray of the fountain on a mild fall day in early October 1975. (Neale Van Ness / Pioneer Press)
Willard Cohee enjoys the weather and a cigar on July 16, 1978. (Pioneer Press file photo)
Colleen O'Neil sips a fountain drink next to the fountain in Rice Park on July 9, 1980. (Roy Derickson / Pioneer Press)
Charlie Yang and two friends take advantage of St. Paul's 86-degree weather with a dip in the Rice Park fountain on May 31, 1987. (Jeff Christensen / Pioneer Press)
A bird's-eye view of a lunchtime concert on May 22, 1989. (Joe Oden / Pioneer Press)
Scott Anderson, tuba player with Summit Hill Brass, keeps the bass line smooth during a free Sunday concert the quintet put on in Rice Park on July 30, 1989. (Joe Oden / Pioneer Press)
From the bucket of a cherry picker, Bernie Jabs of the Forestry Division of the City of St. Paul Parks and Rec Dept. strings holiday lights across the top branches of a tree in Rice Park on Oct. 23, 2000. (Pioneer Press file photo)
A bronze likeness of the Peanuts character Marcie reads on a bench in Rice Park on Dec. 5, 2004. A statue of Peppermint Patty can be seen in the left background. (Pioneer Press file photo)
Jeff Rolszen, St. Paul, Minn., Sarah Cagley, Roseville, Mandee Bratvole, Mpls., and Erin Harris, Woodbury students from the St. Paul Conservatory of the Preforming Arts, located in the Landmark Center, St. Paul, Mnn., take their lunch break in Rice Park to enjoy the warm weather, Nov. 8, 2006. (Pioneer Press file photo)
"It feels more like 80 when I'm in here," said busker Mike Gould of Northeast Minneapolis, who played his 12-string guitar in the Rice Park fountain in St. Paul on a hot Monday afternoon June 2, 2012. (Richard Marshall / Pioneer Press)
Vulcanus Rex LXXXI waves to the crowd in Rice park as the Vulcan Crew arrives in Rice parking during their "Hot Time In Rice Park" assault of the St. Paul Winter Carnival Ice Palace in St. Paul on Friday Feb. 2, 2018. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)
When Rice Park was gifted to St. Paul 170 years ago, it was an overgrown pasture frequented by more sheep than people.
As the city grew up around it, the park became St. Paul’s most important public square — the site of celebrations, political rallies and outdoor concerts.
Rice Park has undergone several transformations over the years. The latest is scheduled to wrap up this month after a handful of construction delays.
Donated by early Minnesota politician Henry M. Rice in 1849, the park “was kept in a tolerable order” early on by a German florist, who was allowed to grow flowers and vegetables on its 1.62-acre grounds in exchange for his maintenance work, according to Christopher C. Andrews’ 1890 history of St. Paul.
The first addition to the park was a handful of trees donated in 1862 by the city’s mayor. St. Paul’s fledgling police force was enlisted to plant them.
A fountain and bandstand followed in 1872, and electric lights were installed in 1883, writes Larry Millett in his American Institute of Architects guide to downtown St. Paul.
Although the original fountain was removed in 1925, the park remained largely unchanged until 1965, when it received an extensive facelift, Millett writes.
O'Connor Layover Agreement
John O'Connor during the height of his power in St. Paul, c.1912.
The O'Connor layover agreement was instituted by John O'Connor shortly after his promotion from St. Paul detective to chief of police on June 11, 1900. It allowed criminals to stay in the city under three conditions: that they checked in with police upon their arrival agreed to pay bribes to city officials and committed no major crimes in the city of St. Paul. This arrangement lasted for almost forty years, ending when rampant corruption forced crusading local citizens and the federal government to step in.
After becoming police chief, O'Connor re-organized the police force and gave himself nearly absolute power. He then reached out to criminals throughout the Midwest, letting them know that St. Paul was a safe place for them. He promised that the police would disregard offenders who performed their deeds beyond St. Paul as long as they remained law abiding while in the city.
To accomplish his plan, O'Connor required a liaison from within the criminal ranks to keep an eye on his peers. William "Reddy" Griffin was the first keeper of O'Connor's system. After arriving in town and meeting with the police, criminals stopped to "check in" with Griffin at the Hotel Savoy in downtown St. Paul. Among his many duties, Griffin collected bribes and brought the money to O'Connor. When Griffin died of apoplexy in 1913 at the age of sixty-five, "Dapper" Dan Hogan took over his role.
Thanks to the layover agreement, St. Paul in the first half of the twentieth century became a refuge for many of the most notorious gangsters of modern American history. John Dillinger and Billie Frechette, Ma Barker and her boys, "Babyface" Nelson, Alvin Karpis, and others considered St. Paul a safe haven at some point during their "careers." Minnesota became an epicenter of illegal activity, with major crimes committed across the state. While surrounding towns and cities suffered, St. Paul remained nearly free of major crime.
The layover agreement remained in force for so long because each side benefited financially. As long as criminals stayed in the city, bribes flowed toward corrupt officials and the system remained intact. It was so lucrative that criminals policed their colleagues to ensure that no one ruined a good thing. If anyone broke O'Connor's rules, the "heat" would be too hot to overcome, and the financial windfall would quickly come to an end.
O'Connor retired from the police force on May 29, 1920. A car bomb killed Hogan on December 4, 1928 his murder remains unsolved. The layover system persisted, but without O'Connor's heavy hand to police it, things began to change. St. Paul's crime rate eventually surged. The city that had enjoyed a reputation for safety in the 1920s became a "poison spot of crime" in the eyes of the nation.
When Prohibition ended in 1933, the city's criminals took over. No longer able to make money selling illegal liquor, many turned to ransom. In June, the city was shocked to learn of the kidnapping of Hamm Brewing Company president William Hamm Jr. by the Barker‒Karpis gang. In January of 1934 the gang struck again, this time carrying off Schmidt Brewing Company heir Edward Bremer. The kidnapping of such public figures alerted the nation and forced the federal government to intervene.
The arrival of federal agents in St. Paul spelled the beginning of the end of the layover agreement. Under surveillance by a higher authority, local officials could no longer ignore crime and accept bribes with impunity. In 1934 the federal government passed a series of crime laws that increased the FBI's jurisdiction. This allowed the Bureau to attack the gangster menace throughout the country.
That same year, frustrated St. Paul citizens, led by journalist Howard Kahn, took the fight to local corruption. Chicago detective Jamie Wallace, hired by Kahn and Commissioner of Public Safety Henry Warren, wiretapped the St. Paul Police Department for over a year. Those wiretaps exposed a bevy of crimes and provided transcripts of officials tipping off organized crime members. In July 1935, reporters at Kahn's newspaper (the St. Paul Daily News) wrote a story about corruption within the police ranks.
The O'Connor layover agreement ended in 1935 with the conviction or resignation of many of the city's police force. The old guard was gone, and the new guard made sure that O'Connor's system did not return.
Thunderstorms moving across Minnesota are approaching the Twin Cities metro from the west early Thursday afternoon.
Extreme heat warnings are in place for the next three days in most of Minnesota.
With heavy rains expected Tuesday night, a flash flood watch is in place for a number of counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
We've learned there was another powerful painkiller in Prince's system.
Dangerously hot and humid conditions are expected for many counties in Minnesota this week.
For some of you, it will come as no surprise to hear that another shutdown of Highway 100 is on the way.
A 56-year-old Buffalo man has pleaded guilty in connection to a scheme that caused investors to lose at least $1.2 million.
We&rsquore getting a first look at Minnesota&rsquos latest efforts to protect clean water.
Minnesota residents can now use an online map to see the radon levels in their counties.
Strong storms moving through the state caused significant damage Monday afternoon and night.
Residents of Hanover, Minnesota, on Monday will try to convince city leaders to reconsider plans for a new baseball field at Settlers Park that would require the city to remove some century-old trees.
A 6-year-old boy was airlifted Wednesday after he was injured in a lawnmower incident.
Bicyclists in Minnesota now have access to 125 county-level bicycle maps.
Residents of Hanover, Minnesota, on Tuesday will try to convince city leaders to reconsider plans for a new baseball field at Settlers Park that would require the city to remove some century-old trees.
Severe thunderstorms packed a punch throughout the Twin Cities Tuesday knocking out power, downing trees and causing flash flooding.
Murders were up significantly in Minnesota last year compared to the previous year, according to a new report released Friday.
After four teen suicides in a community west of the metro in the last year, a father on a mission is bringing hope and healing to classmates his son left behind.
Xcel Energy is dedicating some of its land to helping restore butterfly and bee habits.
Noodles and Company officials are warning customers about a data breach.
Finalists for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' "Parks and Trails" license plate were announced Monday.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says law enforcement will step up patrol to crack down on intoxicated boaters this weekend.
Strong storms moved through the Rochester area Wednesday night.
A woman who fled police and caused a multi-vehicle crash near Maple Lake earlier this month has died.
A band of thunderstorms tracked south and west of the Twin Cities Friday.
The 19-year-old woman who was beaten, shot and left to die in a Wright County park was remembered Saturday.
A 73-year-old Rockville woman was driving the car that caused a crash near Maple Lake on Tuesday injuring at least three others and damaging four other vehicles. Authorities are investigating what led to the incident.
A line of thunderstorms that moved out of Minnesota left behind damage in the southeastern part of the state and in Wisconsin.
A car that was being sought in connection to a homicide investigation was recovered Thursday, the Wright County Sheriff&rsquos Office says.
Charges have been filed in the death of a woman who was found beaten and shot in a Wright County park last week. Nineteen-year-old Cheyenne Clough of Buffalo was found Wednesday morning, June 1, in Crow Springs Park. She was taken to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale and died Saturday, the Wright County Sheriff's Office said.
Mills Fleet Farm is looking to expand to Monticello. The Monticello Community Development Director says a Minnesota-based architectural firm submitted an application on behalf of Fleet Farm for a 165,000-square-foot retail store on Chelsea Road.
Five people are set to be arraigned Wednesday morning on charges tied to the homicide of a young mother in Wright County. All of them are being held at the Wright County Jail after being arrested across the state.