Listen to Looch: 'Return To Skid Row' sheds fresh light on a lost Minneapolis community


Mary Lucia talks about 'Return To Skid Row,' a Twin Cities PBS Original production. (Mary Lucia; Luke Taylor | MPR)

This week, Mary Lucia has something for those fascinated by the history of Minneapolis: Return To Skid Row, a Twin Cities PBS Original production.

At the film's core is "Skid Row," a color film shot on a 16 mm movie camera by bar owner and amateur photographer John Bacich between the years 1955 and 1961. The footage was shot with no sound, yet Bacich provides his own narration — and because Bacich was part of the community, he knows several of the people on camera by name.

In Return to Skid Row, Bacich's original footage is bookended and contextualized by commentary from authors James Eli Shiffer and Stewart Van Cleve, and University of Minnesota professor Brenda Child. Mary Lucia's takeaway from this commentary is "you can knock down buildings, and you can gentrify certain things. But what you're what you're trying to do is get rid of a community — and it may be unsavory — but it was nonetheless a community of people."

Return to Skid Row is available for streaming on Twin Cities PBS website as well as on the TPT Originals YouTube channel, also embedded below.

Return To Skid Row: full documentary

Return to Skid Row walks along the pavement of bygone downtown Minneapolis, preserved in rare footage, memory and 21st Century reflection. A unique 16mm film brings back to life Minneapolis' Gateway district in its' twilight years. Guided by the first-person account from the 'King of Skid Row', the film is an unnerving and illuminating gaze on midcentury poverty, people, place, and the past. (TPT Originals on YouTube)

External Links

An excerpt from "The King of Skid Row: John Bacich and the Twilight Years of Old Minneapolis" by James Eli Shiffer - Twin Cities PBS Originals

King of Skid Row by James Eli Shiffer - official book site

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3 Photos

  • A Skid Row cubicle
    This Skid Row cubicle had room for a bed, a dresser, and not much else, but they offered privacy. The chicken wire ceilings prevented thieves from entering the spaces from above. This resident of the Pioneer Hotel hid behind his magazine when the photographer hired by the city stopped by. (Photograph by Dick Palen, courtesy of the City of Minneapolis)
  • Valhalla Bar and Cafe, 1960
    Drinkers at the Valhalla Bar and Cafe, 105 Washington Avenue South, 1960. The special, posted above the bar: hot brandy, Mohawk 5 Star California Finest, thirty-five cents for a single, fifty cents for a double. And if you were hungry, you could slide over a couple of stools to the lunch counter. (Photograph by Dick Palen, courtesy of the City of Minneapolis)
  • 'Return To Skid Row' titles
    'Return To Skid Row' is a documentary from Twin Cities PBS Originals. (Twin Cities PBS)