9th Avenue NW cuts through Crowder Show Grounds

Believe it or not, there was a time when gas sold for 18 cents a gallon—tax paid and pre-war test.

That was the price given in an ad that appeared in the Little Falls Daily Transcript in the early 1930s for Crowder’s Gas Station. Also in papers from the same era were ads for a carnival, put on by West Bros. Shows, to take place at the Crowder Show Grounds. The carnival, they related, would offer 10 big, new and up-to-date rides—three for 10 cents, and 10 high class shows which included a minstrel show, monkey circus and circus side show.

While Crowder’s Gas Station still remains in business on Lindbergh Drive North in Little Falls, the Crowder Show Grounds—though admittedly not used as such for many years—is being cut in half by the construction of an addition to 9th Avenue NW. The addition will go from Lindbergh Drive to Paul Larson Drive, allowing drivers the opportunity to get to and from Larson/Glastron Boats and LeBourget Park without going through the Lindbergh Drive/Broadway intersection.

With a handed-down scrapbook he now owns, Brian Crowder recently took time to share the history of the Crowder Gas Station and Show Grounds. As he related, Charles Klein, his great-grandfather, started the family’s oil business in 1898. When the Klein Oil Company was passed on to Charles’ daughter Minnie, who had married William Edgar Crowder, the company had 15 gas stations in Minnesota and North Dakota. One was located on Lindbergh Drive North in Little Falls where William had purchased, in 1934, seven acres of land. The small prairie land by the station became the show grounds.

Today, there are just three gas stations that belong to family members. In addition to the one on Lindbergh Drive, one is in Grand Forks and one is in East Grand Forks. The one in Little Falls is managed by Brian’s brother, Matthew.

Eleven-plus years ago, Brian also opened 9th Avenue Salon on the family’s property. “I called it 9th Avenue because I knew the street was coming,” he said. “Yes, it’s been 12 years in the making. It’s finally getting here.”

Balking by the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad appeared to be the main obstacle in the construction. With the avenue crossing the railroad tracks, and with railroad officials seeing every crossing as a hazard, they tried their best to block the building of the new road. However, because the railroad officials had once approved the crossing, and citing the fact that the city and county had put a lot of effort into obtaining federal and state funds for the construction of the street, the latter two threatened to sue the railroad for going back on its agreement to construct a crossing. Eventually, the district court gave the order that the street and crossing were to go in. The court-imposed completion date is June 30.

Total cost of the project has been set at $620,582. The federal government will pick up 80 percent of the cost, or approximately $496,466. The remaining amount—$124,116—will be split between the city and the county, with the city paying $12,058, and the county paying $112,058.

“We’re happy the road is finally going in,” said Crowder. “It’ll be a nice additional access to Larson’s, LeBourget Park and to town.”

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