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Recent posts:

Anders Christensen Receives Preservation Alliance of Minnesota Executive Director’s Award Anders Christensen’s Remarks on Receiving Preservation Alliance of Minnesota Award Healy Project Fundraiser at the Lowbrow, May 7th Winter Party Fundraiser December 2017 Talk: Preservation Advocacy, August 17th Open House at 1300 Mount Curve Avenue East Lake of the Isles Walking Tour May 21st New Research on the “Lost” Healy Block: Tour May 7th A Presentation on Master Builders Ingham and Parsons, Saturday, March 18th. Healy Project Winter Party Henry Ingham’s Yorkshire Healy Project Fundraiser at the Lowbrow, May 9th Healy Block Historic District Tour: April 17th Healy Project Holiday Old House Reception CANCELED–Healy Block Historic District Walking Tour–November 8 More Hauntings: Houses Built by Henry Ingham Healy House Hauntings Tour Intro to the History of the North Wedge North Wedge Architectural Walking Tour, October 3rd Healy Phoenix #2 Healy Phoenix #1 Report on the Event: A Great Dinner for a Good Cause A Child’s View of T.P. Healy’s Family Big Win for Healy Block Residents: Revised I-35W Expansion Plan T.P. Healy: Farmer, Commission Merchant & Wholesale Grocer in Nova Scotia Open April 25th: Restored 1885 House in Wedge Learn from the Past, Learn from the Present Grandstanding and Stonewalling at City Hall: Trashing the Public Trust Orth House Demolition An Open Letter to Minneapolis City Council Regarding the Orth House Demolition The Truth Will Out II: More Lies That Brought Down 2320 Colfax Avenue South The Truth Will Out: Lies that Brought Down 2320 Colfax Avenue South Judge Denies Injunction against Wrecking 2320 Colfax Avenue South Poisoning the Well: Testimony about 2320 Colfax Avenue South “City Ghosts” Visit Victorian House Historic North Wedge Walking Tour: Sunday, September 7th Combining New and Old: A New Vision for the Orth House A Place That Matters Healy Project Files Suit to Stop Demolition of the Orth House Happy Earth Day, Zero-Credibility City of Minneapolis Stop Demolition: Allow a designation study for the Orth House Perverting New Urbanism II: Greenwashing Demolition Perverting New Urbanism for Fun and Profit Size Matters: Development at Franklin-Lyndale DEN$ITY: Building Utopia in Gopher City Hypocrisy at City Hall: Planning Department Scorns Sustainable Development Déjà Vu All Over Again: Threats to Healy Houses Renewed Healy Project Special Kickoff Tour Saving Private Houses In Landmark Decision, City Council Stops Demolition of 2320 Colfax Avenue South What’s the Greenest Building? Who Lives in Lowry Hill East? Revoltin’ Developments VI: What You Can Do Revoltin’ Developments V: Sappy Citizens and Maudlin Attachments Revoltin’ Developments IV: Density and City Planning Revoltin’ Developments III: Density and Livability Revoltin’ Developments II: Healy Houses in the Wedge Revoltin’ Developments, Part I Healy Descendant Acquires the Bennett-McBride House On Memorial Day Lost Healys on the Healy Block More Lost Healys The Broom House: 3111 Second Avenue South More on Round Hill Happy Birthday, T.P. The Edmund G. Babbidge House: 3120 Third Avenue South Brightening the Corner: 3101 Second Avenue South 2936 Portland Avenue The Andrew H. Adams House: 3107 Second Avenue South Clones: 2932 Park and 1425 Dupont North The J.B. Hudson House: 3127 Second Avenue South Second Healy Family Home: 3131 Second Avenue South Schlocked: ‎2639-41 Bryant Avenue South 1976 Sheridan Avenue South: Preserved Exterior The William L. Summer House, 3145 Second Avenue South Two More in the Wedge Weapon of Mass Healy Destruction: I-35W Construction The Third: Healy Builds in the Wedge The Second: 3139 Second Avenue South Healy’s First House: 3137 Second Avenue South Anders Christensen, T.P.Healy, and the Healy Project

Revoltin’ Developments II: Healy Houses in the Wedge

     In 1980 when then-Wedge-resident Anders Christensen examined the building permits for all the houses in Lowry Hill East, he discovered that a master builder named Theron Potter Healy had built 30 of them.  Further research revealed that during his career (1886-1906), Healy had built over 120 houses and commercial buildings in Minneapolis.
     In 1993 Healy’s most celebrated creations, the Queen Annes of the 3100 block of Second and Third Avenue South, received national historic designation as the Healy Block Historic District.  In 1977 Healy’s Bennett-McBride House had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a superb example of the Queen Anne architectural style.
         During the first Wedge Zoning and Planning Committee meeting on the Lander Group’s redevelopment plans for 24th and Colfax, architect Pete Keeley said he had contacted the City, and they had said the two houses slated for demolition had “no historical significance.”  At the second meeting, another man supporting owner Michael Crow alleged that the Minnesota Historical Society, too, had said that the Healy house at 2320 was not historically important. I’m sure that both claims are true: Neither the City nor M.H.S. have anything on record about either house.
     None of Healy’s Wedge houses have received historic designation, but that does not mean that they are not historic or architecturally significant.  Many historic buildings have not received official historic designation (through the Historic Preservation Commission or the National Trust, for example), but that in itself does not speak to their importance.
     Consider, for example, the Wedge’s own “Healy Block”, the 2400 block of Bryant Avenue South. Eight (probably nine) houses on this block are Healy’s: 2401, -05, -09,(-10),-20, -24, -28, -36, and -39, ranging in style from Queen Anne to Colonial Revival.

2439 Bryant, Colonial Revival, 1905
2409 Bryant, Queen Anne, 1895          

     On Bryant Avenue north of  24th Street (in the R-6 zone) are four other Healy houses; three of these are currently rooming houses.  None of the houses on the 2400 block are rooming houses, although half of them were at one time.  Former residents have told stories of tenants riding motorcycles up staircases, drunken brawls, drug deals, even murders taking place in these houses. Yet today, with the investments in time and money of their owner-occupants, they have become beautiful and valuable homes.
     2320 Colfax, the Healy house slated for demolition, represents a pivotal point in Healy’s career.  It is one of only two houses built by Healy in 1893. The other 1893 Healy house, 821 Douglas Avenue, was wrecked in 1981 by developer Paul Klodt. 1893 is a significant year in the history of architecture, the year of the Chicago World’s Fair.  In this year the Queen Anne style began to fall out of fashion, replaced by the Colonial Revival style, made popular by the Fair’s “White City”.  2320 is Healy’s first Colonial Revival house, a significant part of his architectural legacy. 
     An old photo of 2320 reveals the original appearance of the house, with a large barn in back, and open field to the north:

The Orth House, 2320 Colfax, as it appeared when new.
The house today.  The porch has been enclosed, but the original roof line, profile, and fenestration remain.

      Obviously, some people don’t care diddlysquat about history or architecture, and this blog is not addressed to them.  I have learned a very important lesson from my service on the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission and the Advocacy Committee of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota:  Governments and institutions are not concerned with saving buildings.  Communities must define and speak out on what’s important to the community–and work to preserve it.
     The 2004 LHENA Zoning Task Force clearly articulated what is important to Wedge residents, that is, ensuring the livability of the neighborhood by preserving the current mix of houses and multiple-unit buildings. Michael Lander has already redeveloped the southern part of the Wedge along the Greenway with high density apartment buildings and condominiums.  This redevelopment makes sense in that it replaced a defunct industrial area.  But the apex of the Wedge is a different story.  Development supporters have made much of the idea of saving the neighborhood “core”, while keeping the “fringe” high density. Truth to say, the apex is such a small area that most of it can be considered “fringe” of the greater neighborhood, the current view from City Hall. The point is moot: R-6 allows high density throughout, so-called “core” included.
     Last month a first in a series of meetings was convened by the City to look into the feasibility of establishing “conservation districts” in Minneapolis.  Such districts would offer more protections than the zoning code, but fewer than those of historic districts, such as the Healy Block.  A conservation district would certainly be a big step forward in saving the houses in the apex of the Wedge, but the idea is only at the beginning of a long planning process, with no guarantee it will be adopted.

“360 Degrees of Wedge Healys”–Photo art by Richard Mueller

      In conclusion, I want to stress that if you want to save 2320 Colfax and preserve the other houses in the Wedge, don’t expect City Hall or an historical society to do it for you.  Property rights are held sacrosanct in this country, and owners can wreck properties on the National Register if they so choose. Case in point–the developer in Arizona who wants to demolish a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Despite a firestorm of outrage and temporary stay of demolition from the City of Phoenix, the developer is still determined to take it down.
       Former Zoning Task Force member Sue Bode said at the first LHENA hearing about the 2316-2320 plan, “Taking down a Healy house is like destroying one by Frank Lloyd Wright.” If you care about Healy’s legacy, if you care about the old houses of the Wedge, speak out.

CAN PREVENT DEMOLITIONS!

–T.B.