Inside modest house, surprising history

Wedge home and garage may be among oldest buildings in the city

THE WEDGE — Nestled on the corner of Bryant Avenue and 26th Street is a small, unassuming home. It blends in with the rest of the housing stock with its creamy, off-white siding and basic exterior looks.

But this house may hold more than a few surprises, despite its average looks. And it’s for sale.

Local historians believe the house — and garage behind it — belonged to Roswell Russell, an early pioneer of Minneapolis. They also believe the garage, once a shack, is the third oldest building in the city, while the house is the fourth.

These historians, Bob Glancy, who is also the real estate agent, and Kathleen Kullberg, have been working to get the property historical status in the city.

The house was originally located near the intersection of Hennepin Avenue and West 28th Street, now a condominium building and previously the site of West High School. It was moved to make way for a mansion that Russell built to house his family.

Russell was born in Vermont in 1820 and moved to Fort Snelling in 1839 to help schoolmate, friend and future U.S. Senator for Minnesota, Henry Rice, run a general goods store, according to a report compiled by historian Kathleen Kullberg of the Wedge neighborhood. After eight years, Russell made a land claim east of the Mississippi River from roughly Boom Island to the Stone Arch Bridge.

That same year, he opened the first store in St. Anthony, the city east of the river that would later become part of Minneapolis.

In 1854, Russell made claim to land near Lake of the Isles, which included the lake’s four islands (later to be made into two). The shack was constructed to legally claim it.

Since that time, government documents show that around about a dozen people have owned the house.

A tour of the house shows that despite the original bones, little is left that would indicate its age. New siding was put on outside and several additions have changed the building’s shape. A window has been covered over with siding. It originally lacked a basement, but one was later dug after it was relocated to Bryant Avenue South and West 26th Street.

Despite that, some details do still exist. Several windows have aging panes and original doorknobs adorn second-floor doors.

And Russell isn’t the house’s only claim to fame. Linus Maurer rented one of the second-floor bedrooms in 1952. Maurer was a friend of Charles Schulz, who was famous for his Peanuts comic strip, and the inspiration for Charlie Brown’s friend Linus van Pelt.

The preservation efforts have attracted attention, including that of City Council Member Meg Tuthill (10th Ward).

“Minneapolis is often too quick to knock down our historic buildings,” Tuthill said.

Kullberg and Glancy have been working to get the historic property status with the city. So far, it has been nominated, but matter has not come before the Historic Preservation Commission. If accepted, it will have a one-year temporary status that would prevent changes to the property while it is investigated by the historic property board.

With its rich history, Kullberg is sure that property will be accepted. She has unearthed countless stories about the property and its connections to people all across the United States.

“These people come alive to me,” she said.