Milwaukee Avenue Historic District
Boundaries: Located along Milwaukee Avenue and bounded by Franklin Avenue and 24th Street.
Date of Local Designation: 1975
Date of National Designation: 1974
Historic Profile: The Milwaukee Avenue Historic District is a contiguous two-block development of 19th century homes constructed for working class families. Stretching from Franklin Avenue on the north to 24th Street on the south, Milwaukee Avenue bisects 22nd and 23rd avenues, and was initially labeled 22½ Avenue. Originally platted as an alley, real estate agent William Ragan developed it as a street for speculative purposes in 1883. This intent is reflected in the lot sizes, which are small in depth and width. Building clusters of modest homes on small narrow lots was a method often employed for housing lower class residents in the industrial period. Milwaukee Avenue is the earliest "planned workers’ community" in Minneapolis.
During the late 19th century, the population of Minneapolis grew rapidly. Between 1880 and 1890 alone, the population increased by 351 percent. This increase included a considerable number of immigrants who needed low-cost housing during their first years in Minnesota. City directories of 1885 and 1886 show most of the residents of Milwaukee Avenue to be Scandinavian immigrants.
Representing the "common man’s architecture" popular in the later 19th century, houses along Milwaukee Avenue were constructed of brick veneer on timber frame between 1884 and 1890. Only a few residential areas built in Minneapolis during this era had such a significant number of neighboring brick houses. From certain angles, the proximity of the homes gives the impression of row houses. They are close together with very narrow side yards and no front yards. The houses share common architectural treatments such as uniform roof slopes, uniform separation on lots, modified flat arch windows and open front porches.
Due to severe deterioration in the building material, the houses on Milwaukee Avenue were nearly demolished in 1970. Remarkably, many of the original design characteristics survived intact. Defending the district’s historic integrity, the neighborhood fought the proposed total demolition project. In 1974, the district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it was later rehabilitated from its battered state. As a result of its "rescue," Milwaukee Avenue became the first planned unit development in the City of Minneapolis.
1974, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
1910, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
City of Minneapolis, "Local Heritage Preservation Study," 1975.
Updated May 2010
Last updated Feb 7, 2019