"Bohemian Flats" is the name given to a colorful and vibrant former residential area of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Laying southeast of downtown just around a river bend from St. Anthony Falls, the area was surrounded by limestone bluffs along the west bank of the Mississippi River. About the time Minneapolis was incorporated (1867), immigrants seeking employment in the city or at the mills at St. Anthony began settling there. In 1884, the Washington Avenue Bridge was constructed over the area, linking central Minneapolis with the campus of the University of Minnesota, on the east bank of the river. By 1900, the 100 homes, a few stores, and a church created what many described as an Old World-style village below the University.

The Bohemian Flats was a vibrant area, unique among its surroundings, and renowned for its allure all the way to New Orleans.

Although initially populated by Scandinavians, the Flats soon included families of Slovaks, Bohemians, and Germans. The homes they built there were little more than shacks, and utilities were primitive. Every spring, the lower level of the Flats would flood. The residents took this in stride and pulled their belongings together and moved to the upper levels to stay with friends. Since the houses were frequently lacking a foundation, one or two would occasionally float away. Still, the settlement grew and eventually came to include about 500 families.

Over the years, this community, which initially served as a stopping- point for immigrants before they moved to other parts of the city, solidified into a self-conscious whole. It defined itself in its' exclusion from the rest of Minneapolis. The separation was not only the result of class and ethnic differences, but was also characterized by physical separation. Seventy-nine steps had to be descended to reach the Flats or climbed to leave them. For these reasons, the Flats came to develop a unique culture which continued many of the unique traditions of the areas from which the settlers came. Religion played a large part in the Flats community. All residents initially had to travel some distance to attend services. In 1888 Saint Emmanuel Slovak Lutheran Church was built in the community on Cooper Street. Those who attended other congregations still traveled by foot to their churches. The Flats also had its share of leftist religious thinking, having a significant amount of "Free Thinkers" that viewed Christianity with a "more rational eye".

In addition to immigrants, the picturesque community also attracted its share of artists who fell in love with the village scene of ramshackle buildings, farm animals kept on many lawns, hand water pumps, and people washing their clothes along the river. Samuel Chatwood Burton, a professor at the University, used a cottage on the flats as his studio and painted many scenes of life there.

In 1915, Minneapolis began concentrated efforts to remove the residents of the Flats from their homes in the name of progress. In the 1920s, the residents won a brief reprieve. Several residents, lead by seventy-year old John Medvec, fought the case in court. As Mr. Medvec testified "I bought that little house in May 1884. I paid $210 for it but never paid for the land. I'm there all the time. I move in the spring because the river rolls over my floor. I raised my family there... The land belongs to the river, if anybody. That's the property of the government. We'll pay taxes, but it isn't fair to ask rent for a riverbed."

"I move in the spring because the river rolls over my floor. I raised my family there... The land belongs to the river, if anybody."

The idea that C. H. Smith (the real-estate operator) could have any moral right to the land was unthinkable to them. "When we have the floods down here and our houses are full of mud and water, Smith stops his big automobile up there on the bridge and looks down at us," another Flats resident declared, "but that's as near as he ever comes to doing anything for us. What right has he to come around now and try to get rent?"

The residents held on for many years as different attempts of eminent domain, obscure landlord claims, or proclamations of inevitability drained their resolve. The community was mostly removed in the early 1930s. A municipal port was then established for barges bringing coal into the city, supplying a nearby manufactured gas plant.

The last resident of the Flats held on until the construction of the current Washington Avenue Bridge in 1963. Joseph A. Kieferle, 80, had called the Flats home for fifty years. A lone abandoned house remained in the shadow of a Great Northern Oil tank until the late 1960s.

The tanks and other remaining parts of the then abandoned "Municipal Docks" were removed in the early 1980s. This was followed by an extensive period of environmental remediation which took place from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. Today, the Flats are part of the West River Parkway of the Minneapolis Parks System.

To quote an article from The Minneapolis Star, November 4, 1935: "The Bohemian Flats was a vibrant area, unique among its surroundings, and renowned for its allure all the way to New Orleans. Modern American society has perhaps become less entranced with piles of coal and train tracks, but progress still marches on in many parts of the world, with the Faustian urge to destroy what was and to build anew; woe to those caught in the way."