12 News is on a quest to bring you "3 Things" you may not know about the city you live in. Up this week: 3 Things about the city of Brooklyn Center.
#1: An Olympic-size pool
From the Brooklyn Center's Community Center looks pretty unassuming, but inside is a hidden gem. The Community Center holds one of only three Olympic–size pools in all of Minnesota.
Beyond its Olympic scale, the pool is also a bargain. It's open to anyone – resident or not – for less than $6 a visit. There is also a zero-depth wading pool, sauna, exercise room and party spaces for birthdays and other events.
After four decades in operation, the Brooklyn Center Community Center has become a family tradition for some. The current aquatics supervisor, Natalie Ramirez, counts herself among that group.
"I do see us as kind of a hidden gem in the community," she said of the pool.
Ramirez grew up in the area. She took her first swim lessons at the pool, learned to be a lifeguard and eventually became an employee.
"I've kind of grown up here and now I really enjoy the fact that we're so much a part of the community."
#2: Caribou Coffee & Surly Brewing
After you dive in, you can drink up! Brooklyn Center happens to be a bit of a beverage Mecca.
Two major beverage makers straddle either side of Highway 100 within a half mile of each other. Brooklyn Center holds both the world headquarters of mega coffeehouse chain Caribou Coffee and craft beer powerhouse Surly Brewing.
Surly's owner, Omar Ansari, converted an industrial building in Brooklyn Center once used by his parents for a family business into the brewery in 2005. It was the first new brewery west of the Mississippi since the 1980s.
Now devout fans can take free tours of Surly every Saturday. But sign up early; they're a hot ticket to get.
#3: Earle Brown's underground mystery
Then there's the beautiful and historic Earle Brown Farm. Made up of several preserved red and white farm buildings, they are one of the more iconic images of Brooklyn Center. But what Earle Brown did underground is something few people know.
Historians know Earle Brown as an incredibly rich man of his time. He ran a large farm in Brooklyn Center, became Hennepin County Sheriff in 1920, and shortly thereafter started the Minnesota State Patrol. He built a stately office – a building which still exists – in 1932.
"He had such a passion for the whole community," said Diane Sannes, a local historian. "He was thinking he might be elected governor in 1932, so this was an office that was worthy of a governorship."
The office, now called Earle Brown Terrace, serves as senior housing above ground, but below it holds an unanswered mystery.
In the basement of Earle Brown Terrace is a heavy, black door fitting of a high-security facility. No one is entirely sure what once happened behind the ominous door or why it was installed in the basement of Earle Brown's office.
The basement also has thick, reinforced concrete walls and bars on all of the windows. The maintenance director at Earle Brown Terrace, Doug Abram has a few theories of his own. He suspects that at least one of the basement rooms was used as either a jail cell or a vault.
"If someone were to get out of here they couldn't get out the window, they couldn't get through that door there," said Abrams. "I definitely think something was going on down here if you have bars on the windows."
Stranger yet is a far wall in the basement that appears to be a blocked-off underground passage.
"Rumor has it that Earle Brown had some tunnels leading from building to building," said Abram, "and I'm told that sometimes he would disappear and they wouldn't know where he was."
Perhaps it was a place for the then-sheriff to stow criminals, or maybe it was simply a convenient way for a wealthy man to get around his property.
It's one thing about Brooklyn Center we might never know for sure.
Jennifer Anderson reporting
June 21, 2012