Dayton's and the Monkey's Tomb

Weird Nicollet Tour, Minneapolis

Dayton's and the Monkey's Tomb

Minneapolis, Minnesota 55407, United States

Created By: Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District


700 Nicollet Mall

Dayton’s Department store was built in 1902, and quickly became the center of Nicollet Avenue’s shopping scene. Known for its seasonal sales, the store was famous for having themed window displays and wares from all over the world. As a child, going to Dayton’s, I most remember the fantastic “Dayton’s 8th floor” a seasonal attraction whereby the top floor of the building would be transformed each Christmastime into a diorama world based around a particular children’s book. Young people from all over the region would be brought there to be transported and enchanted by stories like Paddington the bear or Dickensian london.

Those displays, often of fantastic animals, were deliberate. Less deliberate was an animal that emerged during the recent remodeling of the Dayton’s building, when the store was sold, redeveloped, and repurposed into 21st century retail and office spaces. In 2017, somehow a mummified monkey was discovered in an air duct during the remodeling. According to one worker, it “revealed itself in the ceiling during construction” and was “a good example of the natural mummification process.”

Nobody really knows where the monkey came from or how it got mummified in the walls of the department store. According to Governor Dayton, a descendant of the original Dayton family merchants, the monkey might have gotten loose from a rainforest-themed display.

According to a man named Tom Netka, who died in 2001, the monkey was stolen. After the monkey was discovered, his children released a video of Netka admitting to monkey theft. In the video he tells about how Dayton’s once had featured a pet shop there called the “pet-o-rama” in the 1960s. When Netka was 15 years old, he an an accomplice named Larry Murphy who stole a monkey from the store. They then walked out of Dayton’s with the squirrel monkey in Murphy’s shirt.

As the tale is told, after the monkey repeatedly soiled Netka’s room, his mother made him bring it back a couple days later. The young Netka then walked up to the store, opened the first floor door, and threw the monkey back in.

The Daytons’ monkey is now on display at the Science Museum, very near the display of questionable medical devices.


This point of interest is part of the tour: Weird Nicollet Tour, Minneapolis


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