Because of a family emergency, we regret that we have had to cancel this tour. Thanks for your interest. Watch the blog for other upcoming Healy Project events.
Because of a family emergency, we regret that we have had to cancel this tour. Thanks for your interest. Watch the blog for other upcoming Healy Project events.
Henry Ingham was a master builder contemporary with T.P. Healy. Originally from Knaresborough, Yorkshire, Ingham arrived in Minneapolis armed with royal certification as a master carpenter. He began building two years before Healy, in 1884, and was active until 1933. To date, researchers have found 144 structures with Ingham’s name on the building permits (similar to Healy’s output). Along with fellow Englishman Henry Parsons, Ingham and Healy make up the “Big Three” of Minneapolis master builders. Unlike Healy, Ingham is known primarily not for his design skills, but for his exquisite craftsmanship as a carpenter. One of his houses has built-in hardwood cabinets and drawers in every closet, including those used by the servants.
It should come as no surprise that I’ve heard stories about haunted Ingham houses. Here are a few I’ve collected over the years:
Occupants of a house built by Ingham and used as a mixed-use office/residence told stories of footsteps sounding in the halls and staircase at night, and lights in the kitchen going off and on when no one was in the room. One resident, “Doug,” said that he had heard the back door open and shut several times in the middle of the night, but when he went out to investigate, no one was inside or outside. None of the tenants much liked going into a dark, small room off the kitchen, and they used it solely as a storage area. Formerly a rooming house and previous to that, a boarding house, the house has had many residents over the years. Apparently at least one of the departed former tenants has chosen to hang around.
Several blocks away is a single-family Ingham house that has had at least one revenant put in an appearance or two. The family w ho lived there in the ’70s and ’80s told me a number of stories about their paranormal experiences at the house. When “Karen” and “Dave” moved in, even though they liked the house, they frequently got the feeling that the house wasn’t completely theirs, as if someone else’s presence still persisted in certain rooms. One night Karen and a friend came to the house, entering through the back door. The rest of the family wasn’t at home, and for a while the two women puttered around in the kitchen, reluctant to leave it. Finally, the friend remarked, “Don’t you feel like running through the house, looking under the beds?” The friends shared a laugh, but then both admitted that they strongly felt a presence in the house and were not eager to leave the kitchen. After a while, this feeling passed, and they ventured into the parlor without incident.
The couple’s daughter, who was three at the time they moved in, quickly acquired the unorthodox habit of leaving her room in the middle of the night to sleep in the hallway. She continued this practice two or three times a week for several years, yet could not explain why she felt the need to leave her room. One night, Karen decided to sleep in the daughter’s room and see what, if anything, would happen. She was awakened by the disturbing impression of hearing a hell-and-brimstone sermon delivered by a male voice. The disembodied voice, like that of a sidewalk evangelist, harangued an invisible audience about sin and perdition.
“Dave” also had a curious experience. He was working in the backyard when a strange old man carrying a violin case appeared at the gate. Pointing to the window of their son’s bedroom at the back of the house, the man said that he had lived in that room for nearly 25 years. He had stopped by because he had recently been having recurring dreams about being in the house. He did not know why this was happening, only that it had become a regular, unsettling occurrence.
Their son had an encounter with the ghost, but only once. As he was coming out of his room one morning, he saw a misty figure emerge from the bathroom, turn to look at him, and disappear into his sister’s room. The apparition was that of a middle-aged man, his mousy brown hair wet as though he had just washed it. Was this ghost and the unseen hellfire evangelist one and the same? They never did find out.
Across town multiple residents of another Ingham house have felt the presence of the ghost of a little boy. “Mike” lived in the large house for a while. Many years before he moved in, a mother and her two-year-old son were brutally murdered in an arson fire in the house next door. Mike knew this but his partner “Ron” did not. Therefore, Mike was surprised when Ron told him that he frequently felt the presence of a small boy, but Ron never actually saw the child. Mike was pretty freaked out when Ron said that the boy would often crawl under their bed.
After Mike and Ron moved out, their friend “Jon” rented the house. Jon, like Ron, knew nothing of the fire that had killed the woman and boy. He worked out of the house as a massage therapist. One woman client, after coming back for several sessions in the house, asked Jon if he was aware that the house was haunted. He said that he did not and asked her who the ghost was. “A little boy,” she replied.
Mike had another strange experience with the house. Mike and Ron brought their cat Midnight with them when they moved into the house on Halloween a decade ago (a foreshadowing of paranormal developments?). However, when they moved out, the cat refused to leave with them. He would run away from their new place and go back to the Ingham house. Their friend Jon, a cat lover with a cat named Tom, was now occupying the house. They assumed that Midnight just liked Jon and Tom better than he did Mike and Ron. But a while later, Jon and Tom moved out of the Ingham house and moved in with Mike and Ron, leaving the house vacant.
Nobody lived at their former home, and nobody was there to take care of Midnight. Yet the cat continued to run away and go back to that house. Midnight had lived many places. He had not lived in the house for very long, so what was his attachment to the place? As Mike was friends with the owner and had keys, he finally just let Midnight into the vacant house and would go over to feed him. Midnight now had the Ingham house all to himself. But why did he want to live in this large, empty house alone? After Mike told a friend about the cat’s puzzling behavior, she replied, “Well, maybe Midnight is not alone in that house.” This suggestion gave Mike goosebumps. He now believes that Midnight has become the little boy ghost’s cat. Midnight still lives there to this day with the current residents–including the child’s spirit?
The last story involves an Ingham house that was wrecked to put in Mueller Park in the Wedge neighborhood. One of the tenants, “Jen,” who occupied the upper unit just prior to the house’s demolition told me that she heard inexplicable footfalls. On several occasions, sometimes at night, sometimes during the day, she heard what sounded like someone walking up the staircase to the second floor. When she looked out into the stairwell, no one was there. Her roommate also reported hearing the footsteps, too, when he was alone in the apartment. Jen also occasionally felt like she was not alone in the apartment, although she could see or hear nothing out of the ordinary.
I’ve kept the other addresses anonymous because these days homeowners fear would-be ghost investigators showing up on their doorsteps more than they fear being made fun of for telling such stories. However, since this house is gone and no building replaced it, I can give the address: 2510 Bryant Ave. S., built 1898. At midnight on Halloween, perhaps you’d like to venture over to Mueller Park to where the house once stood and listen for ghostly footsteps ascending a ghostly staircase. Or perhaps it’s best just to sit at home and raise a toast to the spirits and wonder. . ..
I’ve collected dozens and dozens of ghost stories since my first article, “Enter Ghost”, was published in the Wedge neighborhood newspaper in October of 1978. I’ve collected stories of haunted houses, museums, hospitals, ships, highways, barns, churches, schools, theaters–you name it. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear about your experience.
For nearly four decades I’ve been collecting and retelling ghost stories, as long as I’ve been researching and writing about the work of Theron Potter Healy. It seems that old houses and ghost stories just naturally go together, so it’s no surprise that I’ve heard about haunted Healy houses.
Here are stories I’ve heard about houses built by T.P.Healy:
The first was told to me by a woman I’ll call “Lee” who was raised in one of Healy’s Queen Annes. As a child, she found the large Victorian house mysterious, even a bit spooky. One day when she was looking through the closet in her room, she discovered a pile of letters tied up with a ribbon. She took them out and read them.
The letters, she discovered, were those exchanged by a former resident of that room and her boyfriend in the military. Apparently the writer was, like her, the daughter of the homeowners. Lee was taken aback to learn that the boyfriend was stationed at a base that had the same name as she. As Lee read through the letters, it became clear that the writers were star-crossed lovers who never did get together. Her parents disapproved of him, and pressured her into ending the relationship.
Lee sometimes felt a presence in the room, and once, she saw the apparition of a young couple standing together by the closet. She couldn’t help but wonder if they had been united eventually, if not in life, then in death. Why the letters were still in the closet, Lee did not know. She put them back where they were and never looked at them again. They are still in the closet, awaiting the next resident to find them and speculate about the full story surrounding their contents.
The second story involves another Healy Queen Anne on the same block as Lee’s former home. The owner “Ted” says that he knew the house would be his from the moment he saw it while driving by. He called the number on the “for sale” sign out front. The owner, who lived out of state, told him that the house was vacant, and that it would be difficult to get a key to Ted. Instead, the owner advised Ted to climb in through a basement window. And so he did.
Ted went from the basement, to the main floor, up the formal staircase to the second floor, then up to the third floor. As Ted was looking around the attic rooms, he heard someone moving around on the second floor. Ted froze, thinking that someone had seen him breaking and entering and had called the police. How could he explain that the owner had told him to break in?
However, when he went down to the second floor, no one was there. In fact,, the house was completely still. Ted checked the first floor and basement and found no one. Not intimidated by the mysterious interloper, Ted wound up buying the house, which he still owns and lives in today.
Shortly after Ted acquired the house, he invited a well known psychic in for a tour. She told him that the lower floors had residual hauntings, but nothing active. On the other hand, on the third floor “lived” a little boy ghost, an intelligent haunting. The psychic told Ted that the boy had said to her, “Ted doesn’t see me, but Newton does.” This freaked out Ted because Newton was his cat’s name–and the psychic didn’t know that. Ted still occasionally hears footsteps on the second and third floor, but is not disturbed by them.
The next Healy haunting story involves a turn-of-the century house in South Minneapolis. Actually, I have stories from two owners about it. When my first ghost story articles appeared the “Wedge” newspaper and the “Hill and Lake Press”, then-owner “Jake” told me that “weird things” were happening in the house. But when I asked him to explain, he demurred, saying he’d rather not think about it.
Ten years later I became friends with the couple who currently own it. Owner “Cherie” told me that when she was in the front bedroom of the house, sometimes their dog would stand, hackles raised, looking out into the hallway at the top of the stairs. Occasionally, the dog would bark at something out there that the humans couldn’t see. At times they would hear footsteps in the hall and on the front staircase.
While these owners didn’t know it when they bought the house, the neighbors eventually told them that someone had been murdered in the house. When the property was a rooming house, the landlord had gotten into a dispute with one of tenants. Their quarrel eventually escalated to the point that the landlord came to the house with a shotgun. As the tenant stood at the top of the stairs, the landlord shot him. The tenant tumbled down the staircase, killed by the blast.
One sunny winter Saturday I was visiting with Cherie. We were talking and sipping tea in the parlor when we heard a loud “clink” from the kitchen. We hotfooted it through the pantry into the kitchen. To our amazement, a glass jar was sitting in the middle of the hardwood floor, intact. It had formerly sat on a shelf over the sink, 10 feet away. How did it get there? Perhaps an unseen resident was trying to make his or her presence known.
Years ago, while I was writing the article about Healy for “Twin Cities” magazine, the owners of a Healy house in Central Minneapolis told me about their feline ghost. The house had been converted to a duplex; what had been the formal front stairs was accessible to both upper and lower units. Both the owners, one tenant, and two visitors had witnessed the apparition of a cat bounding down what was the main staircase. The cat seemed real and solid–until it passed through the closed front door and disappeared. Who knows what the back story to that is?
A final ghost story, which is not about a haunted house: For the past four years, members of the Healy Project have met at different Healy-built houses to celebrate his birthday in May. On his 170th birthday, a group of Healy aficionados met at a house in the Wedge. We gathered around the cake on the dining room table and sang “Happy Birthday.” The candles stayed lighted throughout the singing. But the instant the singing stopped, a big gust of wind from the doorway blew them out. No fooling.
Do you have a ghost story to share? I’d love to hear it. Email me at email@example.com and we can meet at a Twin Cities coffee house–or if you’re out of town–over the phone.
Next: A post on haunted houses built by master builder Henry Ingham.
On Saturday, October 3rd, a beautiful fall day, 26 people walked around the north end of Lowry Hill East. Guided by Anders Christensen, Ezra Gray, and Sean Ryan, they looked at buildings by T,P. Healy and other master builders and architects.
At the end of the tour, they viewed the interior of a restored house designed and built by Healy in 1899. Ironically, forty years ago, this house was bought by Healy Project board member Nathaniel Forbes, who undertook some of the initial restoration projects.
Here is Anders’ introduction to the tour, giving background information about the builders and their houses:
“Theron Potter Healy is Minneapolis’s most famous builder. He was a master builder, coming from a time before academically trained architects. He was a real estate developer, a house designer (often referred to as an architect), and a general contractor, all in one.
Why is he our most famous?
First, Healy was prolific: nearly 200 buildings in a twenty year time span–commercial buildings, our first YWCA, apartment buildings, barns, carriage houses, auto sheds, and all those marvelous houses. The three largest concentrations are in Central (the Healy Block), Lowry Hill, and here in Lowry Hill East/the Wedge. He built for many of the most prominent families; he built for virtually every leading architect, he built in 13 Minneapolis neighborhoods.
Second, since his rediscovery in 1978, he was nicknamed “King of the Queen Anne” by Trilby Busch. The Queen Anne style is what we think of when we talk about a “Victorian” house. We will see some of Healy’s Queen Annes in the North Wedge. The Queen Anne house is romantic, fanciful, curved, ornamented–pre-modern. It reached its peak in 1892.
The Crash of 1893 was the second worst financial panic in American history. It came about because of Wall Street speculation in railroads. Everybody wanted to be a Vanderbilt. The Columbian Exposition of 1893, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair, was centered around the White City emphasized Neo-Classical architecture. The State Buildings presented a variety of American colonial models. After 1893, the Queen Anne was out of date.
The Queen Anne did not come back into favor until the late 1960s and 1970s. They were cheap, center city, a repudiation of ’50’s modernity, and adored by gay men.
Third, T. P. Healy’s personal story is compelling. Born in Round Hill, Nova Scotia. His family’s business was the Healy Woodworking Company. Healy did not work in the family business. He made his way to Halifax where he was a merchant and ship owner transporting hardware up and down the New England and Canadian Maritime coast.
His fortune sank with his two ships. The age of the wooden ship was coming to an end. His wife’s health suffered from the cold, damp climate. In 1883 he took his family (wife Mary Ann and eight children–Lena, Alice, Charles, Dora, Erena, Reginald, Birdie May, and Bessie) to Bismarck, Dakota Territories to build schools, houses, and tenements with his older brother Anderson Healy. In 1885, they came to Minneapolis with one additional child, Henry Chester. Healy was forty-one years. He was starting over in a new city. Twenty-one years later in February of 1906, he died of a heart attack while out for an evening stroll. He was sixty-one years old.
On our tour we are going to see a number of houses designed and built by T. P. Healy. We are also going to see the works of three other master builders–Henry Ingham, Henry Parson, and P. C. Richardson, as well as houses designed by such Minneapolis architects as the Orff brothers George and Fremont, Harry Wild Jones, William Kenyon, Edward Stebbins, Walter Keith, James McLeod, Clarence Johnston, William Channing Whitney, Edgar Joralemon, Warren Dunnell, Frederick Clarke, Septimus Bowler, Christopher Boehme, Victor Cordella, Lowell Lamoreaux, Frederick Kees, and Joseph Haley.
This tour has three themes:
1. History is stratified. There is not just one past, there are many layers of the past. Understanding our history is important because it helps to orient us.
2. Almost all old buildings are capable of restoration. We will see many examples of this on our tour. We can see beyond condition to understand what once was and to envision what is possible.
3. In Minneapolis, many fine old buildings have been lost by our failure to adaptively reuse them. It is a failure of imagination and political will. It is also the result of a municipal political system corrupted by the financial influence of real estate developers.”
On Saturday, October 3rd, the Healy Project is offering its third Minneapolis architectural walking tour, this time showcasing the historic houses of the North Wedge, that is, the apex of the Lowry Hill East neighborhood north of West 25th Street. In addition to viewing the exterior of these historic homes, tour-goers will get to see the interior of an 1899 Healy house:
The tour will start in Mueller Park at 1 p.m. and will wind around the Norh Wedge, to Franklin Avenue and back, highlighting Healy-built houses and houses by other Minneapolis master builders. Join researchers Anders Christensen, Sean Ryan, and Ezra Gray in walking around the neighborhood, looking at historical houses built by T.P Healy, Henry Ingham, and other master builders.
In November 2013, the Project gave its inaugural tour featuring the Healy Block Historic District, right off the 31st exit of I-35W in south Minneapolis. These Queen Anne houses are Healy’s signature designs and the most famous of his buildings. The North Wedge tour will showcase some of his later designs, showing the transitions in styles taking place in the 1890s and early 1900s.
Tour-goers should assemble in Mueller Park (2500 Bryant Avenue South) in Minneapolis at 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 3rd.
Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 on the day of the tour. To reserve a place on tour, sign up on Eventbrite:
28 August 2015
The fire is out and everyone is safe. Now what?
After the firefighters left (“You have a beautiful house, but your kitchen is a disaster”), we started cleaning up the water and dirt left on the first floor wooden floors. We went to Walgreens and picked up another mop and bucket to supplement the one we had at home. The kitchen has a tile floor and the water from the fire hose flowed through the floor directly into the basement. So, we had two inches of water in that area of the basement. Fortunately, that is where the laundry is located and there is a drain there and eventually the water went down the drain after soaking the bottom two inches of everything.
We mopped up the water and soot from the floors that lead from the kitchen to the front and back doors. We kept the front and back doors open to let out the smoke residue. And slept another half hour.
We called our insurance agent at about 8:30 am and heard from an adjuster within an hour. We lived in the house for two more days. Everyone said to not stay there and breathe the smoke residue. We finally agreed. We should have moved out right away. We stayed at a friend’s place for a couple of days while the insurance company set up a hotel downtown.
The insurance company sent us some names of fire mitigation contractors they have worked with in the past. We looked at their records, including with the Minnesota Dept. of Labor and Industry’s Residential Contractor licensing system and a neighbor who used one of the contractors. We selected a company that did an excellent job on another old house fire. They were able to accurately reconstruct that old house look we are looking for.
Meanwhile, we had to get all our clothing, bedding, and curtains cleaned. They all smelled of smoke. Ditto with all our electronics: TV, DVD, clock radios, computers, spare hard drives, etc. All three floors of the house filled with smoke due to the fire in one room. (More about these subjects later.)
NOTE: This is the first in a series by the owner describing step-by-step the restoration and repair of the damage incurred in a fire in a Healy House. T.B.
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26 August 2015
It is just over a month since the fire in the kitchen of our 1890’s Healy House.
At about 2 am on a Monday morning we were awoken by our smoke detector. There was smoke everywhere. We ran down the stairs, my wife with her cell phone in hand calling 911. While opening the back door in anticipation of the fire fighters needing to get into the house, I saw flames in our kitchen. Everyone got out of the house in plenty of time and the fire trucks (five plus a command vehicle and an ambulance) arrived and they were inside with a house, with a hose, within 5 minutes.
The fire damage was limited to the kitchen, but there was smoke throughout the house. The kitchen will need to be gutted and maybe the bedroom above it. For the preservation side, the kitchen was the most altered room and had very few original features. The effect on the rest of the house is limited to smoke damage and some exterior storm window destruction by fire fighters to allow for ventilation. The fire fighters did a great job and were very kind and helpful. They did tell us that the kitchen’s tin ceiling probably prevented the flames getting to the second floor.
Over the next few months I will be going over this experience: insurance people and friends; cleaning clothing and cleaning electronics; anger and loss; but mostly the kindness and understanding of others.
UPDATE: Success! The Healy Project fundraiser at the Lowbrow broke the previous record for “Give Back Mondays” at the restaurant. Dozens of people showed up. The place was packed. Good energy, good food, good times. See photos of the event below.
The Lowbrow restaurant in South Minneapolis is hosting a Healy Project fundraiser. Have dinner at the Lowbrow on August 10 (a Monday night) and 10% of the profits will benefit The Healy Project. Treat yourself to a reasonably priced night out for a good cause!
The Lowbrow specializes in classic tavern fare with ingredients from local farms and all made from scratch. They offer local grass fed beef burgers, delicious hand-cut fries, Bison chili, plus gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan offerings. (Check out this restaurant on Facebook.)
The Healy Project is dedicated to education about and the preservation of the beautiful old houses of T.P. Healy and other early Minneapolis builders.
If you can’t make it August 10th, please consider a donation of any amount on this site to help us preserve the legacy of T.P. Healy.
PHOTOS of the Lowbrow fundraiser on August 10th:
Many of you have seen this family portrait of Theron Potter and Mary Ann Jefferson Healy with their children, taken c. 1887, the year after they moved to Minneapolis. This clear digital copy was recently sent to me by a Healy great-grandson, Charles Woodrich.
His mother, Phyllis Healy Woodrich, daughter of Charles Evans Healy and Nettie May Olds, had passed away in April eleven days shy of her 95th birthday. A couple of decades ago, she had typed up her childhood impressions of the people in this photo and affixed these to the back of the photo. They are a wonderful view of the Healy family in the 1920s as seen through the eyes of a young girl:
Aunt Alice was a pleasant lady who helped me with knitting on her front porch at Newton and Oliver (21st St.). She was married to Uncle Frank Johnston who was the exact image of a Dickens character – sunken eyes, bald, pale complexion – like Scrooge maybe. I shied away from him so I don’t know if he was as mean as he looked.
Charles was my father. I was 12 when he died and I don’t remember him very well but from all I hear he was a very jolly man and once sat on a wet sponge the entire evening thus making the people who put it there as a joke very uncomfortable as he didn’t acknowledge it was there. He was a potato broker and in those days there were no government subsidies. He went broke several times but my brothers told me that many years he was a millionaire. We always had a maid, moved to Arcola for the summer. He belonged to Lafayette and the Athletic club. All the relatives spoke well of him.
Dora married Percy Wood – nice as I remember. He sold fire engines for a living but only sold one in his lifetime. They were not well to do. They had 2 sons: Jim who married a woman who felt that her family was socially above everybody. She got polio and walked with difficulty after but she was very creative and made silk lampshades, lovely needlework. She didn’t like any of us except my mother. The other son was Granville who was a hydro*** ?. The hole in his head never closed so his head kept growing but his body didn’t keep up. He spent his life in a wheelchair and made rag-rugs. He was extremely good natured.
Lena I really liked her but didn’t know her too well. She had broken blood vessels on her face and was very good natured and happy.
Reginald married Aunt Marge. He borrowed a large amount of money from my father and never repaid it. Aunt Marge was cheery and very smart. They had two children: Ann Strothman and Barbara who was a war orphan from France and somehow never found her place – She always seemed unhappy. She eventually married (a cad) and ended up shooting herself some years later.
Erena married Joe White who was a handsome vain man, lived on the corner of Sheridan and 21st. He made marvelous molasses taffy. Eleanor, Dick and John were their children. Eleanor at 90 is the star of the family.
Birdie I don’t remember at all. She married a Hooker and moved to Calif.
Chester everybody said was awful. He married Lulu whom we all liked. He gave me the footstool in the living room when I was 6.
Bessie was the matriarch of the family and never lost her English accent. She terrorized everybody and was very mean to Mother. We always had to show up at her apartment before Christmas. I must say she did have a fascinating tree and always made lovely cookies for the children. She was secretary at St. Paul’s Church all her life. Never married but had a woman friend we called Aunt Jessie. I was 20 before I found out she wasn’t my real aunt.
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Note: Another child, Ernest Theron, born in Halifax in 1874, died in infancy.
We are indebted to Phyllis Woodrich for giving us this glimpse into Healy family life nearly a century ago. Thanks also to Charles Woodrich for passing this on.
As a footnote, I’d like to urge those of you who care about your family history to write notes on the back of family photos giving a who-why-when-where of their subjects, as did Phyllis Woodrich. So many old photos are discarded because no one knows who’s pictured. My father was very good about this and wrote similar comments about his aunts and uncles on the back of a family portrait from the early 1900s. Without these, the greats- and great-greats have no clue about the personalities and lives of their ancestors.
In Memoriam Phyllis Gertrude Healy Woodrich, April 25, 1920-April 14, 2015
Great news for Healy’s most famous Queen Anne houses: On Monday evening, March 23rd, at a meeting held by Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis with residents of the Healy Block Historic District, the proposed sound wall was defeated by unanimous vote among those residents present. In addition, a new proposed design for the I-35W expansion was presented and approved. Monday’s win for the Block is an inspiration for the preservation community: an example of how historic district residents can triumph during a long and challenging political process.
Plans for expanding and redesigning I-35W at the 31st Street exit have been in the works for a long time. Since the early 1990s, various plans have come and gone, representing serious threats to the Healy Block. In their current manifestation, expansion plans were introduced more than four years ago. Negotiation and discussion between the various government entities (federal, state, county and local) and the Block residents have been going on since then. (See post Threats to Healy Houses Renewed) Over a year ago Block representatives met with MNDOT commissioner Charles Zelle to work out some of the issues with the design. The new design and the nixing of the sound wall represent a significant win for livability of the residents on the Block and the future preservation of these historic houses.
David Piehl, who owns and lives in the J.B Hudson House on the Block, explains why eliminating the sound wall from the expansion plans is important: “A wall would be ugly, and the snow storage requirements for the freeway would mean the wall would be 10 feet closer to our homes than it currently is, in addition to being 20 feet high on top of the already-high embankment. Furthermore, the improvement in noise levels was projected to be around 5 decibels, which is not nearly significant enough for us to want to make the other sacrifices the wall would require.”
After the vote on the sound wall, discussion turned to the design of the off-ramp. Residents previously selected a design with a single-lane ramp, separated from Second Avenue by a median. However, the Federal Highway Administration vetoed it as “fatally flawed” due to lack of “storage.” That left another option which was very similar, but had a two-lane ramp.
At the meeting Block residents David Piehl, Ioannis Nompelis, and Pete Holly fought hard to keep the pavement and traffic as far from the historic houses as feasible. Residents recognize that Second Avenue on the 3000-3100 blocks serves three purposes–as a residential street, an off-ramp, and frontage road.
On Monday project organizers presented a modified design that has the ramp starting as single lane, then widening to two. They also widened the median separating Second Avenue from the ramp to 12 feet by taking a portion of the embankment. As Piehl reports, Block residents “are OK with this because it moves green space closer to our homes and the ramp further away. We wanted the median to be wide enough to be planted, so we can plant a visual screen between Second and the ramp, and we got that. A visual screen will also be re-planted on the embankment. The proposed median runs all the way to 31st Street. Second Avenue becomes a single lane with parking, but entirely separate from the ramp south of 31st. Even better, Second at 31st will be ‘right turn only’ due to adding 20 feet of boulevard space in front of the two homes on the 3000 block—which again moves traffic away from those homes, improving livability. The ‘right turn only’ lane reduces the appeal of 2nd Ave as a ‘frontage road’. The upshot is that Second Avenue will be a single lane residential street separated from the ramp by a 12-foot-wide, planted median.”
The miracle is that after four years of negotiating and fighting with the various entities involved in the I-35W expansion, residents of the Healy Block finally got nearly everything they asked for, short of moving the ramp. As Piehl says, “It is amazing to think that they started with bringing the freeway 30 feet closer, and a massive retaining wall–and we got them to a place where the plan is an improvement over what currently exists!”
This is a truly remarkable win for preservation in Minneapolis. Thanks go to a talented city planner, Jeni Hager, who diligently designed, re-designed, and re-designed again to ensure that the current proposal satisfied residents’ aesthetic and livability concerns as well as state and federal requirements. Many thanks also to supportive City Council members Elizabeth Glidden and Alondra Cano for their leadership. And finally, thanks and congratulations to David Piehl, Ioannis Nompelis, Pete Holly, John Cuningham (who worked for moving the ramp) and other Block residents who persevered and made it happen.