A History of the Alano Society and the Original Mansion Owners

The Alano Society of Minneapolis was incorporated in March of 1942 which makes it is the oldest continuously operating Alano Club at a single location in the world.

The architect of the mansion was William Channing Whitney. Built at a cost of $6,000 for John Washburn, vice-president of Washburn-Crosby, forerunner of what is now General Mills. The original structures were the main building and a carriage house in 1887, followed by a barn in 1888 (which was taken down in 1916).

The two Washburn brothers who were rivals and at some points partners, in the development of Minnesota from the 1850’s into the early years of the Twentieth Century. In the early 1850’s Cadwallader Washburn, father of John Washburn, began a flour milling company, which in later years became General Mills.

2218 photo

The Washburns controlled the interests of Minneapolis along the West Bank of the Mississippi River.

1870 the Soo Line was formed to transport flour products across country, with the primary investors in the flour industry controlling the railroads. Pillsbury was a rival of the Washburns in the late 1870’s; unfortunately, the Pillsbury mill suffered a grain dust explosion‚ killing 18 people. This event prompted the millers to clean up conditions in the mills.

In 1908‚ due to the over-speculation in the Grain Market, the stock market plummeted and the prominent families lost huge amounts of money. In the 1920’s‚ the water rights were sold to what was to become NSP. John Washburn, who was by this time heading what was called the Washburn-Crosby Company, essentially pointed the company in a more diverse and successful direction.

The labor riots of the early 1930’s brought these wealthy families down. The Washburn family opposed the formation of unions, but eventually labor unions were formed and the wealthy investors lost huge amounts of money. In the late 1930s, the Washburn family was no longer able to afford to run the mansion and they deeded the mansion to the Minneapolis Historical Society while servants remained there to live.

In March of 1942, the Alano Society was incorporated into a holding society by the members of The Minneapolis Group of AA, in order to legally acquire and own real estate. In April 1942, property at 2218 First Avenue South was purchased from the John Washburn family for $19,000, even though other parties were interested in buying this excellently located mansion and had offered $30,000.

The stipulations of this deed included that 2218 was to be kept in its original form.

This meeting place has spun off countless A.A. meetings in all corners of Minnesota, the upper Midwest, and Canada. Many of the members who first embraced the A.A. program here have carried the message outside the fellowship, to the hospitals, courts and treatment centers. Treatment centers and half way houses in turn have been sending the still suffering alcoholic back to us to continue their recovery. There are 49 weekly meetings held at 2218, including one Al-Anon Family Group meeting.

If pride has any place in the A.A. program, it should be enjoyed by those members that support A.A. and 2218 the Mother Club. Please consider supporting 2218, either through financial contribution or volunteer support. The need is great and the reward is even greater. In this way, we can ensure that this meeting place is still here and available for the newcomer and those who continue to seek continuous, lifetime sobriety.

One Day at a Time, with a plan to leave no one behind.