Friday, January 15, 2010

Who Will Save the Sheltering Arms House?


Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Contributed Photo.


Although I'm not sure of the original source, I've been told of an Eastern proverb that you are responsible for the life you save. I look at that saying and think that one act of kindness isn't enough; once you've extended your hand in that way then your connection to that person is ongoing. That's quite similar to how I feel about a certain house in the Hawthorne neighborhood that is at risk of being demolished. After a bit of research, I've come to call this place "The Sheltering Arms House." The property is located at...

...2648-50 Emerson Ave N. It's been vacant for quite some time and I drive past it at least once almost every day. From the very beginning of my time in Hawthorne, this house stood out as one with architectural features that just aren't incorporated into houses being built today. I've called it in numerous times when it's been open to trespass. I've kind of "adopted" this house, and I feel that connection to its fate. This is a house that does not deserve to be demolished.

Up until today, the house has either been called by its address (which is clunky) or referred to as "The Purple House." I did some research, however, and found some early building permits (link goes to the JNS pdf support site where other documents will be added as they are found). The original owner of the house is listed as "Sheltering Arms." There is even a "matron" listed on the permit: Florence B. Hynes. How interesting is that? A matron of the house in 1908 listed right on the permit?

Although I can't be sure yet, I think there's a strong possibility that the "Sheltering Arms" owner of this house in 1908 was the predecessor to Minneapolis' Sheltering Arms Foundation. It appears that the home was built as a group home, perhaps for orphans. This house may have been the first such home owned by Sheltering Arms in Minneapolis. Given that the permit is titled "Permit to build outside of fire limits," it would seem that the house was built in what would have been the 'burbs in 1908. So this is almost certainly the first such home in NoMi.

There's no doubt that repairing this home will be a significant undertaking. But it is a four-plex that appears to have actually been built that way. In a neighborhood where so many of our mult-unit housing has been poorly spliced and diced, this house is also unique. Given that it sits on the border of the Hawthorne and Jordan neighborhoods, its place in NoMi's history is substantial. To tear it down, as is being proposed, will be to lose that piece of our communal history forever.

I will continue to research this property in attempts to find out more of its history. JNS readers, please share what you know as well. The Sheltering Arms House can be saved. The question is, who wants to save it?

9 comments:

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

It was pointed out to me that the original permit to build was probably in 1891. The permit pulled in 1908 was to do repairs of some kind, and it looks like the place was converted into four flats in 1910. I'm new to reading the tea leaves of housing history, so please correct me if I'm wrong here. But even so, the history of this building is indisputable.

Anonymous said...

Dyna sez-

Sound like the building has historical significance- we definately need to hold off on tearing down this home!

Johnny Northside said...

I was looking into this and, well, could this be the same "Sheltering Arms" that started as an ORPHANAGE?

Could that building possibly be an old orphanage?

http://www.sheltering-arms.org/index.asp?page_seq=5

Johnny Northside said...

Sheltering Arms itself might have a good idea of its institutional history. We should talk to them.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

For those of you who don't feel like cutting and pasting, click here for John's link.

I doubt this house was THE original Sheltering Arms orphanage/hospital. I'll know more later though.

M. Clinton said...

After research today at the Hennepin History Museum, we now know that not only was it an orphanage, but it was in fact THE Sheltering Arms Orphanage! In fact, the history of Sheltering Arms supports its conversion to "Four Flats" in 1910 as the building permit attests to. In 1910, Sheltering Arms moved from this small orphanage to a large newly built brick orphanage on West River Parkway (demolished in the 1980's). Pretty cool to find an old orphanage in the neighborhood!

Anonymous said...

There's no good reason to demolish a structure like this, but then the city of Minneapolis doesn't have their head on straight and seems to think the wrecking ball is the answer to any issue. I vote to save this place! If the city has demolition dollars burning a hole in their pocket, there is some crappy 1980's and 1990's construction that is in worse shape...

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful house and I think I recall being told it was a commune in the 70's.

Johnny Northside! said...

Sheltering Arms is saved!

For details, go here:

http://north-by-northside.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-sheltering-arms-house-has-buyer.html