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Lynnhurst History

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Throughout most of the nineteenth century, the Lynnhurst area was a rural area of rolling fields and pastures south and east of Lake Harriet. Well away from downtown Minneapolis, it remained lightly settled despite the platting of some streets and lots in the last two decades of the century.

 The first major development (and the beginning of the name “Lynnhurst”) began with “The Colony at Lynnhurst” on the 4600 block of Fremont Avenue South in 1893. Land speculators Charles Loring and Henry Brown had purchased land on the east side of Lake Harriet from Colonel William King, who was forced to sell off his Lyndale Farm due to economic pressures, and were looking to sell the land as building lots.

 Loring and Brown gave triple building lots to nine young married executives on the condition that they build homes costing at least $3,000, the thought being that these homes would act as “seed” and drive demand for their other lots in the area. Lynnhurst was still very rural, and a barn was built on the 4700 block of Fremont Avenue South to house the cows needed to provide milk to the new neighborhood.

When the homes were being built, the streetcar only ran as far as West 43rd Street and Bryant Avenue South, but by the next year the streetcar line had been extended to West 46th Street by Thomas Lowry, a friend of Loring who happened to own the streetcar company. Growth was slow due to economic conditions at the time, but the area began to develop more quickly in the first decade of the twentieth century.

The areas north and east of Minnehaha Creek were mostly developed by 1925, with the areas south and west of the creek developing during the 1930s and 40s.
 The network of parks in Lynnhurst was also developed in the first part of the twentieth century, with Lynnhurst Park created across from the new Burroughs Elementary School on West 50th Street and the grading and creation of the Minnehaha and Lake Harriet Parkways. Proximity to these beautiful parks, and the fact that there were no railroads or industrial areas nearby, made the Lynnhurst district very desirable, and the homes built in the area were of high quality and marketed to the professional class of the time.

Lynnhurst is comprised of mainly single family homes, mainly in the arts and crafts and prairie styles, with a large number of colonial, tudor and romantic revival houses as well. Some duplexes and small apartment houses were built along Lyndale, Bryant and Penn Avenues South, with business nodes at the streetcar stops at 46th/Bryant, 50th/Bryant, 50th/Penn and 54th/Penn. When the streetcars stopped running in the 1950s, the area of Lyndale Avenue south of Minnehaha Creek became the neighborhoods first automobile-centered commercial strip.

The neighborhood today retains the natural beauty that drew the land speculators more than 100 years ago, and the blocks of beautiful older homes, independent shops, restaurants and coffee houses as well as a neighborhood school, beautiful parks and convenient location make Lynnhurst one of the most coveted neighborhoods in the metro area.

Built in 1893 as one of the original nine homes in the Lynnhurst Colony, the Georgian/Colonial Revival home at 4600 Fremont Ave. S. harkens back to a time when this area of Minneapolis was an isolated, semi-rural area.

In 1893, Arthur and Maude Armatage, along with either other young couples, were given triple lots on the 4600 block of Fremont Ave. S. on the condition that they build large homes costing no less than $3,000. These homes were to serve as “model” homes, which would spur further development of the land in the area owned by the same real estate speculators who donated the nine lots.

Because the area was remote, residents had to depend on each other. They built a bart at 47th and Fremont to house the community cows they relied on for milk. And they shared a single telephone, which was located at the Armatage house.

Mr. Armatage was an insurance executive. After he died, Mrs. Armatage went on to become the Commissioner of Parks for Minneapolis and was a very visible local figure for many years until her death in 1964. Armatage School and Park at 56th and Russell Ave. S. are both named in her honor.

The Armatage house was added on to over the years and was slightly damaged in 1937 when a fire started in the third floor maid’s quarters.

– Mike O’Brien

While there are many architect-designed homes throughout Lynnhurst, a majority were built as speculation (“spec”) homes by builders, who would build them and then offer them for sale to the public rather than do a custom home for a specific client.

Built from designs found in plan books, these homes combined popular styles of the time in economical packages for the middle and upper-middle class. Built in 1915, 4649 Aldrich Ave. S. is a good example of a Lynnhurst spec home, with its Prairie-style roofline and Arts & Crafts interior detail.

Features included central heating, indoor plumbing and electricity, all of which were still relatively new. Though autos were becoming more common, many spec houses were built without garages or driveways, as they added extra cost for what was then quite a luxury. Many homes featured multiple-windowed “sleeping porches,” which were usually on the second level and were used for sleeping in the hot summer months. Besides being cooler, they provided fresh air, thought to be essential for good health and preventing diseases such as tuberculosis, which was greatly feared at the time.

In the years from 1910 until the U.S. entered World War II, spurred on by the streetcar line along Bryant Ave. S. and the growing popularity of the automobile, spec homes were built in large numbers along the east shore of Lake Harriet. “Looking to the west from the Washburn Park hill,” noted the Minneapolis Journal on August 20, 1916, “one may count something like 200 houses in sight, all brand new, along Lyndale, Aldrich, Bryant, Colfax and Dupont Avenues. What was open country a few months ago is now like a new city within the city, full of new bright red and green-roofed homes.”

Today, the Prairie and Arts & Crafts styles are experiencing a revival in new homes and furnishings, and original homes like these are prized for their early 20th century craftsmanship, woodwork and other details that cannot be duplicated in new construction.

– Mike O’Brien

Homes designed by many prominent local architects from the 1890s to the 1930s can be found throughout our neighborhood. The designs of Purcell, Feick and Elmslie (Purcell and Elmslie after 1912) are particularly well represented.

For most of their career, William Purcell and George Elmslie designed private homes in the then-burgeoning Prairie style popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago. Purcell and Elmslie, who were followers of Wright, worked for them same architect in Chicago – Louis Sullivan. They came to Minneapolis and started their own firm in 1907. The firm, in various forms, designed many homes in Minneapolis and other cities until 1932.

The designs of Purcell and Elmslie were quite progressive for their time, and incorporated such elements as bands of matching windows, movable walls, wide overhangs, cooling systems and finished basements. Their houses looked different than the Victorian homes that people were accustomed to at the time and had more in common with the increasingly popular Arts & Crafts movement, though the Prairie style was a style of its own.

Several Purcell and Elmslie homes still exist in Lynnhurst, including 4845 Bryant Ave. S., 4829 Colfax Ave. S., 4700 Fremont Ave. S., 4609 Humboldt Ave. S. and 4920 Dupont Ave. S. These homes are all private, but you can tour the Purcell-Cutts House near Lake of the Isles, which is owned by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. On your next wealk through the neighborhood, take a look at these houses and notice their classic yet very contemporary design. The Prairie style is experiencing a revival today, and looking at these Purcell and Elmslie house of 100 years ago, we can see how ahead of their time they really were.

– Mike O’Brien

Around the time of the first world war, Lynnhurst was a rapidly growing district on the fringe of the city, not unlike the Woodburys or Eden Prairies of the 1990s. Blocks of medium-to-large sized stucco homes sprang up between 1910 and 1920 on the east side of Lake Harriet and were quickly filled by families with young children.

One such block of new homes, the 4700 block of Aldrich Ave. S., was visited by Agnes Taaffe of the Minneapolis Daily News during the war for her column “Getting Acquainted With Minneapolis.” In the column, Ms. Taaffe describes “one of the most beautiful blocks in the Lynnhurst district” with its “beautiful stuccoed homes” and “flower boxes fill with lovely blossoms.”

The only thing that marred the beauty of the block, reported Ms. Taaffe, was a “little old tumble-down shack” at the middle of the block. The shack was once a district school in the days when the block was outside the city limits. Residents assured her that the shack would soon be razed and the grounds beautified, which apparently occurred a short time later.

Gardening was more than a hobby to these early neighborhood residents; war gardens were planted and everyone planned to have “at least 50 quarts of fruit and vegetables put away for the winter.” The Wescotts at 4725 had a 2-lot garden that extended back to Lyndale, full of 2-pound tomatoes, corn, beans and cucumbers. The Carlins at 4733 were very proud of the 18-ft. tall sunflowers they had around the backyard garden, while Mr. Kildern at 4716 talked about his farm at 60th and Penn Ave. S., where he grew flax and potatoes.

Today, much on this block and throughout the entire neighborhood remains the same. The war gardens are gone, but residents’ pride in their homes, yards and flowers is still very apparent, making Lynnhurst a beautiful area to call home.

Thanks to Mary Nickel for sharing the Minneapolis Daily News article from her personal archives.

– Mike O’Brien

Location: Minnehaha Parkway and West 50th Street

Size: 8.11 acres

Name: A 1934 report on park names attributed the name to the Lynnhurst District in which the park is located. A report in 1975 speculated that that name was derived from the many linden trees in the area. It is as likely, however, that the name derived from Lyndale Farm, William King’s farm that once included most of Lake Harriet. King named his farm for his father Lyndon King. The Lynnhurst Field name was adopted April 20, 1921 shortly after the park was acquired. During acquisition proceedings the land was referred to as Remington Park, after the legal name of the subdivision.

Acquisition and Development

The land for Lynnhurst Field was designated for purchase by the park board on February 16, 1921. The park board paid $24,800 for the land. The purchase concluded four years after the park board first decided to acquire land in the area for a park.

The park board had first designated land for the park in late 1917. At that time the park board envisioned a much larger park than it eventually acquired, extending one block further north (toward Lake Harriet) than the present park and another block west to Knox Avenue between 49th and 50th. The resolution to acquire the land also included a resolution to improve the land, creating playfields. After the first designation of the land, the matter fell from park board proceedings for nearly two years until, in November 1919, the park board again designated land for the park (the same day it designated land for what became Linden Hills Field), but this time without the block between Knox and James, and deferred improvement of the land. The board simply stated that it did not need the extra block to create the park. The park board’s annual report of 1919 said it that was completing the acquisition of 19.1 acres for the park.

The acquisition proceeded smoothly until the appraisers appointed by the board made their report in late 1920. Owners of the property to be taken for the park appealed the award amounts in district court. The court then appointed three new appraisers and they couldn’t agree on the value of the land, although they all appraised it at a higher value than had the appraisers appointed by the park board. Faced with paying more than it had planned for the land, the park board abandoned efforts to acquire the two blocks north of the present park. It decided that the nearly ten acres at the present location were “sufficient” for a playground for the neighborhood. The sums involved illustrate the demands on park board resources at the time. The land it chose not to acquire would have cost an additional $7,500—and today is likely worth millions.

The official acquisition date for Lynnhurst Field, February 16, 1921, is when the park board approved the acquisition of the smaller area. The park board vacated Irving Avenue through the park and asked park superintendent Theodore Wirth to prepare plans for the park.

In the 1921 annual report Wirth published a plan for Linden Hills Field and noted that the plan for Lynnhurst Field was an exact duplicate of Linden Hills in its appointments, which included a community building, outdoor gymnastic apparatus with separate spaces for men and women, play areas for children, athletic fields, tennis and volleyball courts and horseshoe pits. Wirth noted that “early execution” of the plan for this “very fast growing district” was important because a park was needed as much as the school—Burroughs School—that had been built the year before across the street from the park near 50th and Humboldt. Wirth also wrote that a “sufficient” part of the grounds was devoted to plantings and lawns to give the field an attractive appearance.

As with many park plans generated in that time, the plan would eventually be modified. By 1925 the park had yet to be developed and in the 1925 annual report Wirth wrote that people in the neighborhood were “exceedingly anxious” to have the park improved and were circulating petitions among property owners to agree to be assessed for the costs of building the park. One of the problems was that, as was the case with so many other neighborhood parks, the property was “low, swampy land.” Wirth’s 1925 plan included a “larger proportion” of the ground for active service and a smaller part for “ornamentation” than in his original plan. Included in the plan were ten tennis courts.

Even with a new plan in hand, the park board didn’t proceed with improvements until 1927, when it hired architects Downs and Eads to design a shelter for the park. The park was finally developed in 1928 into playing fields and playgrounds, with a shelter to serve as a warming house for skaters. The original development included only two tennis courts, but eight more were added along 49th street in 1930.

Lynnhurst Field was singled out for improvements on the park board’s 1945 list of post-war projects— and it was one of the few projects on that list that was eventually funded. In 1948 those improvements began and the annual report of that year included an explanation of why they were necessary. The park had been built on peat that ranged in depth from six to thirty-seven feet. The peat had sunk over the years, which wreaked havoc on concrete slabs poured for tennis courts, as well as graded fields. The old courts were removed, the peat was excavated and the ground prepared for new courts. The old play areas were also enlarged and the wading pool, which had been built by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, was replaced. The makeover of the park was completed in 1949.

The first time that Lynnhurst offered full-time, year round programming at the recreation center was in 1958.

Noting an interest by community groups in improving the park, the park board reported in its 1963 annual report that plans had been drawn for remodeling the recreation center and outside facilities. But those plans were not implemented. Instead, by 1968 the park board had developed plans to re-develop the park dramatically in 1970 and 1971 with $450,000 in city bonds. The board reported at that time that the redevelopment of the park offered an “unusual opportunity” to blend the parkway and the outlet from Lake Harriet to Minnehaha Creek into a community park.

In 1970 the board took action to seize that opportunity. The board approved a plan that placed a new community center with a gymnasium south of West 50th Street on land leased from the school board adjacent to Burroughs School, and closed Minnehaha Parkway on the west side of the outlet from Lake Harriet to Minnehaha Creek from 49th to 50th to integrate the park with the overflow channel. In addition to building the community center across 50th from the main park, a toilet building and warming house were added on the park side of 50th and the old shelter was demolished.

The gym at Lynnhurst Park and Burroughs School was supposed to be step one of a two-step plan. The park board agreed to build the gym that could be used by Burroughs school and in return the school board would add a gym at Kenwood School for use by park programs. The second step didn’t happen until more than ten years later, when the school board finally renovated and expanded Kenwood School in the early 1980s.

Following a fire in the school building, the old school was demolished, and a new Burroughs school was built further west on the school board’s property in 2005. The school is no longer connected to the community center.

Most recently, the Lynnhurst playground equipment was replaced in 1996, and the community center was renovated.

© Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, 2008, Compiled and written by David C. Smith 151

Neighborhood Schools

Burroughs Community School

1601 West 50th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Kenny Community School

5720 Emerson Ave. South
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Armatage Community School

2501 West 56th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55410

Justice Page
Middle School

1 West 49th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Middle School

5757 Irving Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55419

High School

201 West 49th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55419

High School

3414 West 47th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55410

Neighborhood Attractions

Washburn Library

5244 South Lyndale Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Lynnhurst Park

1345 West Minnehaha Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Lynnhurst Community Center

1345 West Minnehaha Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Lake Harriet South Beach

4740 Lake Harriet Parkway East
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Minnehaha Creek Park

West 51st Street & West Minnehaha Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Newton Sledding Hill

West 51st & Newton Ave. South
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Contact Us

Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association (LYNAS)

3109 W. 50th St., PMB 283
Minneapolis, MN 55410
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