Louis J. Kampff might not recognize today’s Northeast Minneapolis, but he would certainly fit right in. He was a serial entrepreneur and built the first pottery shop in what was then St. Anthony, Minnesota Territory. He was a real estate developer. He also served on the city council. With his big, bushy beard, he could easily be taken for a hipster.
This German immigrant was among the first settlers who helped build Northeast, although he doesn’t have the name recognition of a Pierre Bottineau or Giacomo Beltrami.
He was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1828. He learned the pottery trade and emigrated to the U.S. in 1854. He settled for a time in Galena, Ill., where he met and married Mina Koehlberg in 1857. The young couple moved to Minnesota that same year.
In August 1857, he built a 16-ft. by 20-ft. log shanty on the outskirts of St. Anthony near a clay pit along the Mississippi River and began making earthenware goods. He used horses to grind the clay, built his own kiln and shaped his pots and jugs by hand.
He most likely made jugs for John Orth and Gottlieb Gluek, fellow immigrants who had established breweries along the river. Legend has it that he loaned Gluek $1,000 on a handshake deal to start his brewery.
Evidently, Kampff made good money at his trade. In 1860, he built a new pottery factory at 808-810 Marshall Street NE. The two-story building was made of stone. Federal census records for that year show that Kampff used $200 worth of glazing supplies and four cords of wood costing $80. He paid $600 in wages for three employees. The plant produced 20,000 gallons of earthenware valued at $1,000 (about $32,000 in today’s money). In 1862, his inventory was valued at $125, and he paid $3.75 in taxes.
He was busy on the home front, too. In 1861, he had a home built for himself and Mina at 2300 Marshall Street NE. They needed a large house to accommodate their growing family, and Louis was able to provide a nine-room, three-bedrooom, three-bath home with a wraparound porch. Henry Dittman got the building contract; it cost $1,200 to erect the house on the riverbank, which still stands.
Eventually, Mina bore eight children. Six of them – Louis, Jr., William, Augusta, Dora, Mina and George – lived to adulthood.
In 1936, the Minneapolis Star reported, three generations of the Kampff family gathered at the house to celebrate its 75th anniversary.
In 1863, the Civil War was raging, and 36-year-old Kampff dutifully registered for the draft on July 1. He was apparently healthy: there’s a check mark next to his name. Other names on the page are crossed out, with reasons such as epilepsy or a heart condition listed as a reason for rejection. There’s no evidence that he served in the Union Army.
By 1870, Kampff’s business was turning out $3,000 ($59,000) worth of pottery every year. An agricultural census conducted in July of that year disclosed he owned 17 acres of improved land, and 70 “other” acres. He had three horses, a milk cow, two other cattle and three sheep.
Six years later, Kampff was in poor health. According to a family history written in 1947, he suffered from rheumatism. He sold the pottery business to Jonas G. Swahn and turned his acreage
into an orchard. He made a living selling apples, plums and grain.
The 1880 census lists him as a farmer, but he seems to have spent his subsequent years building houses: 2230, 2302 and 2308 Marshall Street NE, were all built by Louis J. Kampff for his children when they married.
Daughter Mina married Edward Warneke in 1896. The wedding took place at Louis’ home and was attended only by relatives, reported the Oct. 4, 1896 Minneapolis Tribune. “Mr.and Mrs. Werneke [sic] have taken possession of the house at 2218 Marshall, presented to them by Mr. and Mrs. Kampff,” the paper noted.
Kampff became a real estate developer, selling lots from his holdings. On May 21, 1890, he sold a lot to Henry T. Plant for $900, according to the St. Paul Globe.
He also sold real estate to his kids. The March 25, 1903 Minneapolis Journal reported that Louis and Mina sold eight lots to their son William for $900.
The entrepreneurial bent was strong with Kampff, and he soon went into business with son George and his son-in-law.
They founded the Kampff-Warneke Company Furniture and Dry Goods Store. The business was capitalized at $50,000, according to the Nov. 1, 1901 Minneapolis Tribune. A machine shop and a pharmacy also operated out of a building at 2201 Marshall. Two single-family homes built in 1997 now occupy the land where the store once stood, one with a 22nd Avenue address.
Louis J. Kampff died April 23, 1903 at age 75. He is buried at Hillside Cemetery. The land where the pottery factory stood and where Gottlieb Gluek’s brewery tossed broken bottles is now part of Edgewater Park.
Although the Kampff family name has largely disappeared from Northeast Minneapolis, his name lives on. In 1888, Louis and Mina received permission from Hennepin County to have their land between Marshall and California Streets from 22nd Avenue to 23rd Avenue platted so they could sell building lots. The area is known as “Louis Kampff’s Addition” and includes what is now the California Building.
City directories, census records.
Egan, John, Atlas of Hennepin County 1903, Minneapolis Real Estate Board, Geo.lib.umn.edu/plat_books/minneapolis1903
Hamilton, James, “Tales of Bottineau,” Bottineau Neighborhood Association, 2002
Martin, Lawrence A., “Thursday Night Hikes: Marshall Street/NorthEast Minneapolis Architecture Notes,” March 20, 2002, http://www.angelfire.com/mn/thursdaynighthikes/nmpls_arch2.html
Smith, G. Hubert, “Minnesota Potteries from Pioneer Craft to Modern Factory,” Minnesota History, Summer 1953
Warner, George E., and Neill, Edward Dufford, History of Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis, Including the Pioneers and Explorers of Minnesota, North Star Publishing Company, 1881
U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865, ancestry.com
Below: St. Anthony Pottery, 808-810 Marshall Street NE. The photo was taken c. 1896, when it was owned by John Malchow. (Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society) Louis Kampff (From ancestry.com) Opposite page: Original plat of Louis Kampff’s Addition. (Courtesy Hennepin County Library Special Collections)