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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.
|The north side, showing typical Healy dormer and second-story balcony. The missing balusters on the porch were kicked out by an intoxicated man––but saved for future replacements. Amazingly, most of the exterior woodwork is original.|
|Detail of the front porch: the ball-and-stick fretwork and stained glass windows.|
|The south side, showing the barn (one of the few unchanged Healy barns still standing) and the back porch.|
|John Cuningham and Anders Christensen celebrate the former’s acquiring the Bennett-McBride House (house next door in background), June 28, 2012 (photo by M. Douglass)|
Note: This is a corrected version of the May 23rd posting, edited after a recent interview with Wayne Tinberg. A new post on that interview will follow.
|The roadbed for 35W being laid in Richfield in 1960.|
The previous blog post was devoted to three Healy houses lost to freeway construction and one to changes in fashion. So far, the entries on this blog have presented the building list of Healy houses in roughly chronological order.
At this point, it may be helpful to take a look specifically at all the houses wrecked for I-35W construction in 1959-60, no matter what their building date.
According to city records, nine houses designed by T.P. Healy were built on the west side of the 3100 block of Second Ave. South. In order of house number, they are:
3106, built in 1888 for $3,000
3108, built in 1888 for $3,000
3142, built in 1887 for $4,000
|An old photo of 3130 Second Avenue (courtesy Robert-Jan Quene). It would be interesting to find more photos of these lost Healy houses.|
The most famous resident of that block was Richard W. Sears, co-founder of the Sears and Roebuck Company.
|“If you buy a good watch you will always be satisfied, and at our prices a good watch will influence the sale of another good watch; and that’s our motto: “Make a Watch,Sell a Watch.” (Richard Sears in 1892)|
|This is my favorite Healy house. Healy’s development of the Queen Anne is the balancing of a variety of elements, the circular and the rectilinear. This house seems to melt from one section to another. A.C.|
|The second floor porch below the tower, the front of the house curved, the balcony railing curved, unique among existing Healy houses.|
|Detail of front porch, with the classic double entry doors. For everyone who has been here, this is the spiritual center of the Healy Block.|
|The front gable end with half-round window and fishscale shakes.|
3120 Third Ave. So.
Owner: T. P. Healy
11-4-90 / 5-1-91
Est. cost: $6,000.
|The significance of this house is told by the building dates. Healy begins to build a house in the winter. Now how difficult would that have been in 1891?|
Although the house has been clad in asbestos shakes sometime mid-20th century, according to Mina Blyly-Strauss, who grew up in the house, it’s “not so pretty on the outside, but has all the stained glass and natural woodwork throughout. The second floor layout matches 3116 Third and the first floor is similar. including a very similar entry staircase in the front, though–unlike 3116– the third floor is unfinished. It was duplexed at one time, but the only thing left of the second floor kitchen are the sink and some upper cabinets.“
|Underneath the siding and porch enclosure, one can still see remnants of the original Healy exterior in the second-floor bay window and balcony, the rounded section under the side gable, and the high front gable end.|
|A collage of images of 3120 from the Healy Block 1998 photo series (photo courtesy Mina Blyly-Strauss)|
3101 Second Ave. So.
30 x 60 Wood dwelling
Owner: T. P. Healy
8-23-90 / 11-1-90
|Originally the residence of Dr. Rufus H. Lane, this Queen Anne is one of the most visible Healys, well known by people exiting 35W at 31st Street.|
|Detail over the porch entrance|
The entrance has classic double solid doors. The classical porch columns, dentils, and this appliqué decoration look like a very early attempt to neo-classicise a Queen Anne. Healy built a house on the southern corner of this block the previous year. He seems determined here to show us everything he’s got.
|The third floor enclosed porch, with detailing above echoing design above entrance. The paneled gable end is similar to that of 2936 Portland, built the same year.|
|Back porch on the side, eyebrow dormer curved bay under northside gable end (probably with both curved glass window sash and curved glass storms, curved wraparound front porch, corner tower with a bell roof, and that is just the north side.The trees in front protect this house from the western sun in the summer and help absorb the noise of 35W.
|Third floor porch below paneled gable end, the corner tower with the bell roof, and the second floor porch with the cat-slide roof.|
|A relatively plain Healy Queen Anne set between its more elaborate neighbors. According to Madeline Douglas, the current owners, the Mauris, have brought this house back to life. Master Carpenter Peter Holly, who lives on the Healy Block, has restored the porch woodwork to its intricate original glory, as he has so many other Healys.|
3107 Second Ave. So.
30 x 50 Frame dwelling
Owner: T. P. Healy
3-30-91 / 6-1-91
Est. cost: $5,000.
|This photo shows the porch restoration by Peter Holly. The porch and entrance reveal the elegance of Healy’s design: the delicacy of the posts, railings, and upper trim, the classic double entrance doors, the skirting, the curved window, the elaborately trimmed main window.|
3127 Second Ave. So.
30 x 55 Frame dwelling
Owner: T. P. Healy
4-2-90 / 7-1-90
Est. cost: $6,000.
|This was the home of J. B. Hudson, an important figure in the retail jewelry business in Minneapolis. Healy would build J. B. Hudson a second home on Lowry Hill in 1905. (Photo taken in 2011)|
|The front gable end with the distinctive cap over the triple set of gable end windows. On the second floor, note the arched stained glass transoms over the rectangular window in the bay.|
Note by owner David Piehl: All of the jewelled glass windows in my house were stolen when it was vacant prior to my ownership…with documentation provided by Andy Gage, they were reproduced by Century Studios to look as close to original as possible(remember that Century Studios makes the finest Tiffany reproductions, experts have trouble telling they aren’t original). The piano window had been missing for so long that we had no documentation on it, same with the second floor arched windows. The piano window was created using a design Robert Quene created, and I bought a set of antique windows from Keith Miller that fit the 2nd floor; the person Keith purchased them from claimed to have salvaged them from a house across the street before the demolitions to make way for “progress”.
|The house with new paint job under way (Photo taken in 2012)|
From 1890-1892, T. P. Healy builds the Queen Annes that we think of as his classics. My records show that he built 30 houses and a couple of barns during this three year period. Six of these houses have been wrecked, four for I-35. Minneapolis’s population had nearly quadrupled in the 1880’s; it was still growing. Twenty-three of these houses were built by Healy on spec; seven were built for clients. Only two were designed by architects; Healy designed the rest. Nationally, the American economy was heading for a bubble and a crash in 1893.
The building record for T. P. Healy reflects 15 houses and a barn built in the 1880s after his arrival here in 1885. Seven of these houses have been demolished, six by the construction of I-35 in 1959-60. There are undoubtedly more houses built by Healy during this period that have not been found. They may have been demolished. They would likely be in the Central or Whittier neighborhoods, or the Lake Street corridor from 28th St. to 31st St. If anyone reading this page is the kind of person who likes to dig through City building records, go find some more Healys.
3131 Second Ave. So.
28 x 55 Wood dwelling
Owner: T. P. Healy
2-24-90 / 5-1-90
Est. cost: $5,000.
|The Healy Family lived here only two years, 1890-92. In the Healy Block literature, the house is called the Healy-Rea House|
|The front gable end features a high-pitched roof and unusual window treatment.|
Note by David Piehl: “Those doors themselves are not original to the house. In the 1970’s this house was a boarding house, and the owner of 3127 (Adrian Sarff) took one of the original doors with him as a “souvenir” when he sold it to Bruce Grosklags. Bruce talked the absentee landlord of 3131 out of the doors there, and so for many years that set of doors was on 3127. The other original door from 3127 was removed from the basement when George & Andy left, but in the early 1990’s Andy helped me locate it. Some of the Sarff family stopped by to see the house in the mid 1990’s as they returned home from Adrian’s funeral. I was aware that they had the other door (made into a coffee table), and delicately suggested they contact me if they ever wanted to part with it. A few weeks later it appeared on my front porch with a note from them. A few inches at the top and bottom had been cut off, but Pete Holley made a near-seamless repair and I reinstalled them. The original doors for 3131 are badly weathered, but salvageable and are in my basement until the current or future owners of 3131 want to restore them.”
|The classic Healy second story–the bay with an elaborately trimmed center window, the porch, the rich fretwork.|
|George Orff, the architect, signed the permit. He was working as a City official at this time.|
3145 Second Ave. So.
30 x 50 Wood dwelling
Owner: T. P. Healy
1-18-89 / 5-1-89
Est. cost: $6,000.
|The Tudor front porch and side porch were added in 1908 according to the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota brochure on the Healy Block.|
|The south gable end.|
|One of three original barns left on the Healy Block.|