Bloomington Historical Society banner

The Norling Collection

Self portrait of Norling
Self portrait of Irv Norling, 1967

The Norling Family Photo Collection chronicles life in the Bloomington community during the transition from agrarian society to suburbia. The Irwin (Irv) Norling photo exhibit displays some of over 10,000 photos that the Norling Family took of Bloomington, Minnesota, from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Irv Norling and his family captured the everyday life of the community, commemorating life's many celebrations. Photographs include weddings, confirmations, Lions Club rodeos, Bloomington mayors and councils, school constructions, dedications, events, Girls Scouts, Boys Scouts, Shriners pancake breakfasts, the Bloomington Athletic Association, parades, the Millers baseball games at Met Stadium, Marvin Anderson ramblers, development from the east to west side of the city, the opening of I-35W ...anything and everything that was Bloomington.

The Bloomington Historical Society is proud to be the repository for the significant Norling Collection. The society assigned the archiving of the collection a high priority, consulting with specialists from the Minnesota Historical Society, photo conservators and curators. Normandale Community College history professors and students assisted in the collaboration of service-learning-oriented projects. Over 160 students participated in the scanning of the approximately 10,000 negatives and 2,500 photos in the collection.

Norling Photo Exhibit Suburban World

Featured at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul from April 1 through June 15, 2008, the exhibit is a collaboration of the Minnesota Historical Society and the Bloomington Historical Society. The exhibit was a companion to the book Suburban World by journalist Brad Zellar who was inspired by Norling's images. The exhibit is now in the permanent collection of the Bloomington Historical Society.

For further information, call 952-881-4114 or 952-881-4327.

The following are samples of Norling's view of suburban Bloomington in the mid-twentieth century.

Cool Celebrities

Todd handing paper to older man.


July 11, 1957

Mike Todd in Bloomington. Mike was a Hollywood Producer who was married to Elizabeth Taylor. In this photo, Mike is delivering a paper to the house he grew up in, located on the former Cal’s Market site. Mike’s father ran the Garden Store at the site of the old Baillif store at 102nd and Penn Avenue South.

Todd with men in front of voters registration


July 11, 1957

Mike Todd was given key to the Town of Bloomington by Mayor Gordon Miklethun. They are standing on the steps of the Bloomington Town Hall, which served as the town offices.

Sign says Todd Avenue and 102nd.


July 11, 1957

The town named a street after Mike Todd (for a day) at the intersection of 102nd and Hyland. Mike was killed in a plane crash some time later.

Booming Businesses

Dismal street scene, couple of cars and a Standard Oil Station.


June 15, 1958

Lyndale Avenue looking North from 100 feet north of 98th Street.

Another dismal scene with old cars and muddy sides of the road.


March 5, 1956

Community State Bank, looking SE from the west side of Lyndale Avenue.

Acres of autos around a box store.


November 3, 1960

Opening of the Southtown Shopping Center at 79th and Penn Avenue, with Montgomery Wards as an anchor. Located on 200 acres, the one million square foot Mall was the first regional shopping center to serve Bloomington.

The old theater.


November 2, 1968

Southtown Theater at I-494 and Penn Avenue.

Car lot.


June 9, 1960

Osterberg Studebaker Dealer at 93-94th and Lyndale was one of many car dealerships to locate here.

Friendly Folks

Mayor with the wife and four children. Love those flowered curtains!


December 1, 1956

Mayor Gordon Miklethun with family during holidays.

Parade float with kids.


August 20, 1958

Centennial parade, showing KSTP vehicle. KSTP filmed many of Bloomington’s events over time.

Pretty girl shaking hand of councilman.


July 19, 1954

Herman Kossow with Ms. Bloomington.

Pretty girl and kids on float wave to the crowd.

14804A and D

August 20, 1958

Bloomington Optimist float in Centennial Parade.

Teacher and students around a table


March, 1958

Sunday school class at St. Patrick's.

Seven members of the Legion pose in full regalia.


April 25, 1956

American Legion Post 550 Commanders at Post 550.

Flags wave, guys march down wet street.


June 12,1954

Everett R. McClay Post 1296 parade color guard.

Boy on horse and boy standing with adult by horse.

13912A and C

July 4, 1957

Lions Club Rode prize show horse (winner) with child wondering if he should get on the horse. The Lions Club and other civic organizations were active in sponsoring many special events over the years throughout the Bloomington community.


July 4, 1965

Ray Fleischman house, 7408 Nicollet Avenue, portrays suburbia--the house in the suburbs with a picket fence.

Expanding Institutions and Infrastructures

Large crane and men digging and laying sewer mains.


February 29, 1960

Excavation for sewer and water mains in Bloomington. The project earned Bloomington the All-America City Award in 1961.

A line of buses in front of the school.


May 13, 1960

Bloomington school buses lined up, ready to transport the rapidly growing numbers of schoolchildren. The buses were owned by the George Knapp Bus Company.

Old technology for the Police.


May 5, 1970

Cy Johnson, Richfield Police Chief, at his desk.

Benedict holds hand up.


January 2, 1974

Bob Benedict being sworn in as Mayor of the City of Bloomington. He was the younest Mayor to serve Bloomington, before or since his term.

City Clerk Al Bremecker gave the Oath of Office.

Three guys getting the oath.


January 2, 1974

Oath of Office being given to City Councilmen Bill Belanger and Robert Darr and to Mayor Bob Benedict.

Council Chambers


June 20, 1959

John Pidgeon and Robert Hoffman at Council meeting.

Nelson walking in front of City Hall.


October 21, 1965

The new Bloomington Municipal Building with Harold Nelson (Harold's election photo).

Awful Accidents

Boy, did that car get squished!


July 7, 1960

Accident at 78th and Normandale between Donley & Johnson sod delivery truck and passenger vehicle. Irv Norling had police scanners in his car, by his desk at work and by his bed. He rushed off to all police and fire calls to record the event. When he was not available, his family took the photos.

Two finned tuna boats meet on a bridge and get smashed up badly.


March 11, 1971

Fatal accident at I-494 exit and E. Bush Lake Road. Irv Norling’s photos were used for investigative purposes by the Bloomington Police Department.

All-American Sports

Group shot of happy boys at dusk after a thrilling game.


August 2, 1957

BAA Giants baseball team playing at Toro field. The Bloomington Athletic Association is regarded as an outstanding example of the youth sports programs throughout the nation. The program has attracted many thousands of youth participants and many thousands of volunteer parent coaches and other volunteers who assisted.

The bleachers are half in.


April 15, 1956

Metropolitan Stadium under construction. The Met opened in 1956 for the triple-A Minneapolis Millers and was home to the Minnesota Twins, the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Kicks. The stadium was also the site of numerous concerts and other events. It was a common ground for millions of Upper Midwesterners, an integral part of life in Twin Cities. Demolition of the Met began on January 29, 1985.

Teenage boys celebrating victory.


February 10, 1964

Bloomington High School Bears hockey team at winning game.

Women pose as team after game.


August 14, 1957

Walsh's Women's softball team and winning champs. Walsh's Grocery Store was a popular place for Bloomington families to shop.

Group shot of men's team.


August 14, 1957

Red Birds men's baseball team.

Arnie kneels by the boys on the field.


November 17, 1963

Arnie Johnson with Bloomington Athletic Association (BAA) football team at Met Stadium. Arnie is known as the "Father" of BAA boys sports. - Betty Lokken as the "Mother" of BAA girls sports.

That's quite a jump!


Winter 1955

Bush Lake Ski Jump.

The Norling Photo Collection is a copyright of the Bloomington Historical Society. These photos shall not be used for publication without prior contractual arrangements with the Bloomington Historical Society. Permission must be requested for use on the Internet to institute procedures to prohibit printing or sales of the photos via the Internet or by any other means. For information about the Collection or use of photographs, contact 952-881-4327.

Comments by Vonda Kelly, Past President and Executive Director, Bloomington Historical Society.

  Home     About BHS     Collections     Heritage     History     Links