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Residential Architecture of Minneapolis: Prairie Style

Posted May 23, 2019 @ 1:15am | by Doug

~~~Tour Guide Notes~~~

Nature embraces the Twin Cities. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are nested in a vast evergreen and hardwood forest with lakes, streams, waterfalls, and the Mighty Mississippi River, which flows the 13 miles between them through a lush valley.

This is the perfect setting for magnificent neighborhoods of architecturally stunning homes.

Taking an architecture tour of the two cities is through two, fascinating, open-air museums representing two distinct architectural epochs.

Lake of the Isles mansion – Harry Wild Jones, arch. 1915

Frank Lloyd Wright, architect, 1951

William Gray Purcell and George Elmsie, architects, 1928

The two cities were born about the same time, around 1840-1850, so the architecture goes back to that period.  However, St. Paul, because it was a river port and private enterprise zone, matured far sooner. Its architecture reflects a European and Victorian-era influence.  Upstream a dozen river miles, Minneapolis, in its early going was a closed government operation to develop the hydro power of St. Anthont Falls.  By the time Minneapolis opened up for private development, building styles had changed and today we see early Prairie Style homes and overall a more modern appearance.

Water is clearly the most influential aspect in both cities, but significently more in Minneapolis.  Both cities share the great River and its influence.  However, Minneapolis, as with its moniker, “The City of Lakes” benefits greatly from the influence of water and shoreline, the sylvan scenery of which attracts higher real estate values and homes.

The three homes shown above, for example, all enjoy proximity to water.  The one on top, Lake of the Isles; the center, Cedar Lake; and the bottom, the Minnehaha Creek valley.  There are a dozen lakes of significant size, the Mighty Mississippi and Minnehaha Creek, all of which provide precious real estate and a delightful parade of homes.

Although the “Twin” Cities are called that --- because they were basically born at the same time --- they developed at significently different periods.  Saint Paul is/was the northern most port on the Mississippi River, the final dock up the Mississippi.  Thus it became a bustling village-town-city right from the start, as immigrants poured off the riverboats.  Minneapolis, meanwhile, 13 miles up stream, during this same period had a powerful waterfall which the military managed for operating lumber and grist mills. But private land and business ownership was held off for a time.

Significent residential architecture, thus, reflected different epochal influences.  Saint Paul features old European revival influences, especially in the mansions along its famed Summit Avenue. The oldest mansion there was built in 1858.  However, Minneapolis, its upstart, often disrespected, sibling, didn’t really hit its upscale architecture period until the around 1890.  By then younger architects were bursting with new American styles, which came eventually to be referred to as Prairie Style.

The Prairie Style influence is widespread in Minneapolis, but almost missing entirely in Saint Paul.  Frank Lloyd Wright, largely credited with this movement, designed a few Minneapolis homes.  Others include George Grant Elmslie, George Washington Maher, Henry Gray Purcell, among others.

An excursion along the variety of waterfronts of Minneapolis is an American/Prairie Style, architectural museum. 

Most beautiful!







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