The rich history that exemplifies the cultural and socioeconomic trends of Minneapolis is exemplified in the Homewood neighborhood, a neighborhood on track to be designated as North Minneapolis’ first historic district. The full designation study from the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission and the Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development can be viewed here.
By the 1880’s, Minneapolis had experienced rapid population growth – between 1880 and 1890, the city’s population had nearly quadrupled. Foreign and domestic migration, driven by the city’s supremacy in heavy industry and growth of rail commerce, reached a peak in the 1890’s resulting in new housing subdivisions on the city’s periphery.
The Homewood subdivision – bound by Plymouth Avenue, Penn Avenue, Oak Park Avenue and Xerxes Avenue – was an 80-acre parcel first conceived and platted in 1889 as an exclusive development for upwardly mobile Minneapolitans. The neighborhood featured over sized lots, mandatory 35-foot front setbacks and stone pillars marking the development for a distinctly upscale look and feel.
The remainder of the neighborhood was platted by 1909 with curvilinear streets and its picturesque centerpiece, Farwell Park. Numerous architect-designed homes were built on the western edge. The extension of the Plymouth Avenue streetcar to Sheridan Avenue North by 1912 helped bring in middle and upper-middle class merchants and small business owners, as well as the city’s preeminent Jewish enclave. Due to restrictive covenants prohibiting Jews from living in the city’s newest suburban subdivisions of Golden Valley and Edina, the Homewood neighborhood became a desirable location for upwardly mobile Jewish families. Eleven homes in the proposed historic district were designed by the city’s first Jewish-owned architecture firm, Liebenberg & Kaplan, designers of the Uptown and Granada theaters in South Minneapolis.
By the 1960’s, due to post-WWII population shifts, the growth of suburbs and the removal of many restrictive housing covenants, the Jewish community in Homewood dwindled to just a few families. Despite the change in residents over the years, Homewood has maintained its beauty and majesty and will be preserved for generations to come, thanks to the proposed historic district designation.
Author: David Hlavac