66-house historic district proposed in Lynnhurst

Designation would prevent significant exterior alterations without approval

Update: The Heritage Preservation Commission hearing for the proposed Lynnhurst historic district has been pushed back to June 9.

The city is proposing to designate a cluster of 66 Lynnhurst houses on about five square blocks as a local historic district.

A city-funded study, completed this past winter, concluded that the houses merit designation because they are distinct and well-preserved examples of early 20th century upper-middle class development.

The designation would prevent demolition of or significant exterior alteration to the homes without approval of the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC).

The study looked at 216 houses in a 15-square-block area east of Lake Harriet, narrowing in on a selection of homes on Fremont, Emerson and Dupont avenues between 46th and 48th streets. A previous 2005 survey had labeled the larger area as potentially historically significant.

City law required a formal study of the area’s historical significance after the HPC denied a request in July 2019 to demolish a house on the 4600 block of Emerson Avenue.

The firm New History, which conducted the 2019 study, found that many properties in the area have been altered and lost any historic importance they might have once had. But it concluded that all but two of the houses within the 66-house cluster look substantially similar to how they did when they were built.

“The [proposed] district represents a remarkable concentration of houses from the first third of the 20th century with a high degree of historic integrity,” the firm wrote.

The proposed historic district includes Lynnhurst’s first nine houses, which are located on the 4600 block of Fremont Avenue and were built in 1893 in period-revival styles.

The original homeowners were initially isolated from other residential areas, and they shared resources such as a telephone and cows, which roamed nearby pastureland and lived in a barn at 47th & Fremont. Among those pioneers was Maude Armatage, after whom a Minneapolis neighborhood, park and school are named.

The proposed district’s other 57 houses were built between 1905 and 1937, after the advent of the automobile made the area more accessible. Most of those were also built on large lots in period-revival styles and have similar massing, scale and setbacks.

‘A lot of stature’

Mark Andrew, who owns a home in the proposed district, said he thinks designation would be a good thing for the neighborhood.

“I think it just adds a lot of stature to the community,” said Andrew, a businessman and former Hennepin County Board member and mayoral candidate.

The Minneapolis Planning Commission has voted in favor of the proposed district, and the state’s historic preservation office has said it agrees with the city’s recommendation, according to historic preservation supervisor Andrea Burke.

The HPC will hold a virtual public hearing on the proposal on June 9, and the City Council will also need to approve it before it becomes official.

It would be the city’s 19th historic district and the ninth composed of residential buildings. Other residential districts include the city’s first privately developed racially integrated housing development and a cluster of Lowry Hill homes whose construction was spurred at least in part by the expansion of the streetcar system.

Visit the city website to learn more about speaking at the May 19 meeting. Written comments can be directed to HPC clerk Rachel Blanford at [email protected]

Graphic by Valerie Moe