Many people associate AAA with a call for help when their car won’t start.
Others value the maps and travel assistance the organization provides.
There was a time when AAA also served as a social connection for those fortunate enough to own an automobile. And AAA welcomed them to its country club setting in what is now southwestern Bloomington.
AAA’s clubhouse provided a recreational getaway from the big city, during an era when a trip from Minneapolis to Bloomington was an unpaved adventure. It also served as a popular destination for live music and dancing, and it hosted weddings and proms.
And while it is long gone, its memory – and relics from the bygone era – is not forgotten. A few of those Minneapolis Automobile Club china sets and silver serving dishes currently can be found in the Bloomington Historical Society’s display case at Bloomington Civic Plaza.
Much of the display and history is culled from the collection of Henry Seifert, the father of Jean Bellefeuille, a Bloomington Historical Society board member.
A summer retreat
The clubhouse served as a summer retreat for members of AAA, providing garage stalls for club members to work on their vehicles, rooms for overnight stays, and a restaurant for dining. Live music provided entertainment for those that gathered to socialize, according to Bellefeuille.
The clubhouse was built in the early 1900s, but burned down. It was rebuilt in a Swiss chalet style in 1919 and would continue to provide a destination for AAA members for another four decades.
Located along Bloomington’s Auto Club Road near Minnesota Valley Country Club golf course, the AAA clubhouse and its grounds
hosted proms and weddings, including the wedding of Bellefeuille’s uncle and aunt, John and Mary Ellen Mullaney, on June 30, 1951.
The changing times and changing focus of AAA brought an end to the clubhouse in 1958. Furnishings inside the clubhouse were sold, and items that went unsold were offered to employees. Seifert, a 35-year AAA employee who studied history and began his AAA career working part-time for the organization while attending college, collected everything he could from the auto club. He donated much of his collection to the historical society in 2012, two years before he died.
China, serving dishes and utensils bearing the AAA logo are on display at Bloomington Civic Plaza, as well as historic photos and other artifacts from the early years of AAA. A prom dress worn during the 1956 Bloomington High School prom, held at the clubhouse, is also on display.
The auto club collection will be on display for the next several weeks at civic plaza, 1800 W. Old Shakopee Road, and the historical society is looking for additional photos and stories from its history. Submissions may be arranged by calling the historical society at 952-881-4327.