What toy factory used to be here?
Several small factories are located along the parkway and have co-existed with their residential neighbors for many years. Since the area is vulnerable to flooding, some businesses have built flood walls to protect their property while others erect sandbag walls when floods are predicted.
Over the years, the area has experienced numerous floods, with the highest ones recorded in 1993 and 2001, when the Mississippi crested at over 22 feet, seven feet above flood stage. Flood waters reached the roofs of the picnic shelters and extended south to the railroad tracks closing River Drive for several weeks. Heavy equipment was needed to remove the accumulation of mud and debris left by the flood waters before the parkway and bike path could be reopened.
Trees and vegetation partially obscure the view from the parkway of the historic former StromBecker toy factory, built in 1918, which is located at 50th Street and 4th Avenue, on the opposite side of the railroad tracks away from the danger of floods. The business was founded in 1911 by the Strombeck and Becker brothers and got its start making wooden handles from the wood scrapes discarded by the John Deere Plow factory.
In the 1930’s, the brothers felt the need to diversify their wooden handle business and decided to experiment with wooden toys. With the country suffering through the Great Depression, the company knew they had to keep the cost low. Rather then offering finished toys, they packaged wooden pre-cut model airplanes and trains which sold by the hundreds of thousands and provided kids of all ages the opportunity to sand, build and paint their own special toy.
The companies’ model toy business flourished until the 1950’s when plastics came into vogue and took over the toy business. Today the wooden model kits and assembled planes and trains are highly sought after by antique toy collectors.