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The Secrets of the Mall of America

Dear Diary,
One of the Twin Cities' infamous tourist attractions is a mall. Perhaps you've heard of it?

And it was only a matter of time before a post about it was published here.

(I consistently park by the JW Marriott and enter through the Mall's recent expansion.)

Built in 1992 at a cost of $650 million, the Mall of America spans (at least) 4.87 million square feet and houses an aquarium, an amusement park, a movie theater and 520 stores. It was the media home of Super Bowl 52, and locals know the best time to vist is in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day, in order to avoid the crowds.

(The kids cannot help but ride a few rides each time we visit.)

Did you know the Mall sits on the site of the old Twins and Vikings stadium?

Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington was home, and there are clues to this fact scattered throughout the amusement park. The original home plate is immortalized with a plaque, and an old stadium chair hangs over the log ride.

It pays tribute to Harmon Killebrew's 522-foot home run, the stadium's record, in 1967.

(The old tribute now has a banner that explains why in the world there's a chair on the wall.)

Fun Facts:
-The fish eat 100-pounds of food daily in the 1.2-million gallon Sea Life Aquarium
-MOA generates approximately $2 billion in annual revenue for the state
-11,000 people are employed year-round, and that number increases to 13,000 during peak seasons
-There are approximately 12,550 parking spots ...
-... serving the 40 million annual visitors
-You can get married at the Chapel of Love, and more than 7,000 people were married there since the Mall's opening
-There used to be a high school there
-And the mall has its own counter-terrorism unit

Scenes from several movies were shot on site here: D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994), Jingle All The Way (1996), You're Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley's Mall Party (1997), Mall Masters (2001), Mall Cops: Mall of America (2010) and The End of the Tour (2015).

In a time when everything is searchable on Amazon, or through online and in-home try-on services, plus delivery, it's still nice to have a massive one-stop shop that encompasses every activity one typically does in a weekend.

Then and Now: Crime Scenes

In The Footsteps of the Most Diabolical Murderer in Minneapolis You’ve Never Heard of

I first visited the Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery last year, in late June. The sun was shining, and even though I decided to visit early in the day, it was already quite humid. The shade trees offered a small reprieve as I explored the fading headstones.

The cemetery is the city's oldest existing, at the time called Layman's, with many notable early citizens interred. These were war veterans, the first African-American residents following the Civil War as well as those with ties to the state's abolitionist movement. Immigrants, many of whom were of Scandinavian decent, and their children were buried there. In fact, it's said that half of the cemetery's graves belong to children.

I left the cemetery with the intent to research the names of those who were laid to rest there. I was curious to hear what stories they had to tell.

I was not prepared for what I was about to learn.

[My first visit to this cemetery jumpstarted my research into who was interred there. I did not expect to encounter evil.]

I learned I frequently walk in the footsteps of an evil murderer and the scenes of his dastardly crime without ever realizing it. It was in a word, chilling.

On the evening of December 3, 1894, a 29-year-old dressmaker named Catherine “Kitty” Ging met her untimely demise along the north shore of what was then Lake Calhoun, now officially Bde Maka Ska.

[Despite over a century of time separating it, I photographed this scene near the spot where Kitty Ging’s body was discovered in 1894.]

Ging was a trailblazer, a feminist if you will, in a time before the term and movement were even a “thing”. She defied the societal norms for women. Instead of doing what was expected of her (i.e., marrying and raising children), she left her home in New York State and moved to Minneapolis to open her own dress shop.

She was single, childless and financially independent. She broke away from the gender roles and had become a self-made woman. I was inspired by her story.

On the day she was murdered she met a man named Harry Hayward for lunch. They lived in the same building, the Ozark Flats – he on the first floor and she on the 5th.

[Now known as The Bellevue apartments on the corner of Hennepin Ave & 13thSt, Hayward’s father owned the building that was then known as the Ozark Flats. Source:]

Hayward made a point to flash $2,000 in cash as he dined with Ging. It goes without saying that $2,000 was a very large sum of money at the time.

Now, Hayward had a reputation for being a “cad”. He was a gambler, a ladies man and living off of his parents money. Today, we’d call him a loser.

After lunch, Ging rented a carriage and spent the afternoon running errands. It’s stated that she was hesitant to take it, as she was in the company of Claus Blixt, a Swedish immigrant. The horse later returned to the stables alone, causing alarm.

She was soon found lying face down near the lake on Excelsior Boulevard and West Lake St. The coroner found a bullet piercing her skull. Documents state that after he downed a pint of whiskey, Blixt raised another man’s pistol and shot Ging, pushed her from the buggy before he abandoned the rig, and slinked away into a nearby saloon.

There were ice skaters on the lake as the homicide occurred.

Meanwhile, Hayward sat at an opera with another woman to establish his alibi. Within a week however, both Blixt, the hired triggerman, and Hayward, who put him up to it, would be on trial for the murder.

In its day, the crime dominated headlines across the nation and Hayward was described as “handsome, even in death” by one reporter. Hayward was sentenced to die on the city’s gallows while Blixt was sentenced to life in prison at Stillwater.

[U.S. Bank Stadium stands at the site of the old Hennepin County Jail, where Hayward stayed through his trial and was later hanged.]

On December 11, 1895, Harry Hayward was lead to the gallows.

I read that the police soon pinned more unsolved murders on him. 

“Throughout there was not a word that might be construed as contrition or sorrow for what he had done. It was the outpourings of a criminal who was only sorry that his career of crime had been checked so soon, for it had been his ambition to be the prince of criminals of his day,” Hayward wrote of himself to the Tribune on the day of his execution.

Harry Hayward’s last words were “pull her tight, I’ll stand pat.”

In an autopsy conducted on Hayward’s body, the coroner noted that a “thickness to [his] skull confirmed mental illness.” He was cremated and interred at Layman’s Cemetery, now called the Minneapolis Pioneers & Soldier’s Cemetery at Cedar Avenue and East Lake Street.

[The Haywards kept a family plot at Lakewood Cemetery, where they held Harry’s funeral. In fear of vandalism, they buried him here instead.]

“All that remains of Harry Hayward, the Minneapolis murderer, is a handful of ashes,” wrote a Kansas City Star reporter. “And that is enough.”

Is it enough?

Is it enough for Kitty Ging?

Father James Keane, a priest at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, where Ging was a parishioner, considered her a cautionary tale. He preached to his congregation after her death about “the dangers of young women eschewing the domestic sphere where she properly belonged.”

Screw you, sir.

Man of God or not, it’s wrong to assume this of women simply because they pursued something else for their lives.

In the end though, her legacy lives on.

Her sister took over her Minneapolis dress shop, and turned it into an even greater success. Today, the scene of her murder is now known as Kitty Ging Green, a beautiful park area along Bde Maka Ska that honors her intrepid nature. 

Catherine “Kitty” Ging is buried in New York at Cold Spring Cemetery in Auburn.