Meet David Bell, Founding Father of Excelsior and Minneapolis

by | Mar 2020

Lakewood Cemetery, where David C. Bell is buried.

Photo: Jeff Liss

David Bell laid the cornerstone for Excelsior Academy and played a key role in several early Minneapolis institutions.

In 1885, David Bell laid the cornerstone for the Excelsior Academy. Under the stone was a time capsule that included a piece of wood from the first log ever machine sawed in Excelsior, an autograph album with the names of the sixty students who were attending the high school, a program of exercises, and other items. Bell closed the ceremony with “a few words of blessing,” according to the Minneapolis Tribune. This appearance was rare for Bell, who preferred less conspicuous roles.

David Bell had a small summer cottage on Gideon’s Bay, next to a cottage owned by his brother John Edson Bell. The brothers were partners in various ventures, including a Minneapolis dry goods store and the Hennepin County Savings Bank.

Extremely poor growing up in Almond, New York, David had managed to attend some college at Alfred University. David’s main business would be the David C. Bell Investment Company, which is now Bell Mortgage Bank. David was a founder of the Minnesota Linseed Oil Company (now Valspar) and was on the very first board of Minneapolis’ First National Bank. He was the first president of the Minneapolis YMCA and held many other prominent positions.

The Bells are buried at the Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

Steve Kobs is a volunteer for the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society and the great-nephew of David Bell. 


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