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The Thursday Musical Club


Always the most fashionable neighborhood in Grand Forks, Reeves Drive was home for the leaders and financiers of the community. The street had been named for D. P. Reeves, builder of steamboats in the 1870s. By 1899, Reeves Drive was the address of six bankers, four lawyers, and three businessmen. Most of the Reeves Drive people were from prominent New England or Scandinavian families, others had invented Cream of Wheat cereal.

The neighborhood was "as cosmopolitan as an older town in the effete East," observed Mrs. Mathilda Engstad, who with her husband, Dr. John E. Engstad, lived there. Mrs. Engstad told of the sophisticated "smart set" of Reeves Drive in a memoir entitled The White Kid Glove Era. "Grand Forks had an extraordinary number of attorneys and judges in those days," wrote Mrs. Engstad, "and most of them . . . lived on Reeves and Belmont avenues." It was "the time when ladies wore genuine jewelry or none at all," recalled Engstad. It "was the time when we made calls on our new neighbors and all those calls were returned within a fortnight; when a dinner call was imperative, when ladies drove in pairs in enclosed carriages and white kid gloves to make a dozen or more calls of an afternoon, leaving visiting cards, one of her own and two of her husband's. We had no autos, nor radios, nor movies. It was the day of the horse and buggy. It was a leisurely, dignified, and comfortable life," she wrote, and "we got along very well without mechanical refrigerators, electric washers, or vacuum cleaners" because "we had a strong and willing maid in the kitchen."

"We had time to . . . entertain our friends . . . in our homes, when we could show off our finest table-linen, our silver and our china, when we had . . . cut-glass finger bowls, and tiny after-dinner coffee cups," recalled Engstad. "We had leisure to relax, to read and to attend study and music clubs."

They had a dancing club, a reading club, and a riding club, but the best of the weekday gatherings was the "Thursday Musical" club. The Thursday Musical club had been organized in 1898. "Some of our society ladies, mothers of families all," observed Mrs. Engstad, "were fine pianists and singers."

The W.A. Gordon home on Reeves Drive was the "regular meeting place" for the Thursday Musical Club "until the club bought its Steinway Grand" piano, and then they used the Pioneer Club Ballroom downtown as "a permanent meeting place." The women played the music of Beethoven, Grieg, and Mendelssohn on the Steinway for each other's edification.

The era of Gilded Age splendor on Reeves Drive passed away by the time of World War I, wrote Mrs. Engstad, when a number of the fashionable families moved away from Grand Forks, mostly to Minneapolis.

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, History Department, MSU Moorhead.

Sources: Mrs. J.E. Engstad, "The White Kid Glove Era," unpublished manuscript, Orin G. Libby Collection, #376, University of North Dakota Special Collections Library, Chester Fritz Library, p. 4, 9, 12, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20.

Advertisement for "Reeves Avenue, Belmont Avenue," Grand Forks Daily Plaindealer, October 9, 1900, p. 2.

"Gordon, Wm. A.," Grand Forks And East Grand Forks City Directory, 1893-94 (Sioux Falls: Pettibone Directory Co., 1893), p. 70.

"John E. Engstad," Grand Forks City Directory, 1891-92 (Sioux Falls: Chas. Pettibone & Co., 1891), p. 45.

Steve Hoffbeck, Steven Grosz, and John Keaveny, "Historic Reeves Drive & South 6th Street, Walking-Driving Tour," Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau, brochure, Grand Forks, ND, 1991.