More than 100 years ago, in 1917, Nathan Bemel, a Russian immigrant fleeing the Czarist Army, came to Rochester and went into the scrap metal business. In the early 1930s, Bemel purchased land south of the Olmsted County Fairgrounds that had once been part of Dr. Christopher Graham’s flying field and began scrapping cars.

In the 1940s, this area would become part of the Golden Hills Addition.

By the late 1950s, suburbia began to creep over those Golden Hills. Highway 63 was better known as South Broadway, houses were being built around the property and nobody wanted to live near a junkyard.

In the early 1960s, bowing to pressure from the city and neighbors, Bemel closed the yard. The land was cleared of cars, trees and the old buildings and the corner of U.S. Highway 63 South and 16th Street Southeast would become the newest home for the World’s Innkeeper, Holiday Inn.

Lens on History is a weekly photo feature by Lee Hilgendorf, a volunteer at the History Center of Olmsted County.

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