Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hawthorne Supports Study of Sheltering Arms House

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman

Earlier this month, the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council board took up the issue of what to do with the Sheltering Arms House, located at 2648 Emerson Ave N. Technically, this was the second time the board reviewed the house. Several months ago, before the potentially historic nature of the property was known, the board declined to oppose either CPED's acquisition of the property or its demolition. However, upon finding out new information, the support of a study to determine its historic designation was unanimous at both the housing committee and full board.

CPED has already acquired the property, so the question of acquisition is moot. As for its demolition...

...this desire to explore the historic nature of the house delays that question. The Sheltering Arms orphanages, founded in the 1880's, were led by a group of thirty Episcopalian nuns, "to provide services to children without discrimination as to race, color, or creed." These orphanages were the precursors to the Sheltering Arms Foundation in Minneapolis today.

Furthermore, the historical contributions of women and minorities in Minneapolis are woefully under-documented. Whether this house - believed to be either the first or second Sheltering Arms orphanage in Minneapolis - meets historic criteria, a group of women in racially-inclusive servant leadership is a significant part of our neighborhood's history.

What the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council has done is expressed its support for the Heritage Preservation Commission of Minneapolis to do a historical designation study. These are the following criteria used to determine if a site is historic:

(1) The property is associated with significant events or with periods that exemplify broad patterns of cultural, political, economic, or social history.

(2) The property is associated with the lives of significant persons or groups.

(3) The property contains or is associated with distinctive elements of neighborhood identity.

(4) The property embodies the distinctive characteristics of an architectural or engineering type or style, or method of construction.

(5) The property exemplifies a landscape design or development pattern distinguished by innovation, rarity, uniqueness or quality of design or detail.

(6) The property exemplifies works of master builders, engineers, designers, artists, craftsmen or architects.

(7) The property has yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.

What is important here is that cost does not come into play while the study is underway. (Even an ongoing study doesn't necessarily rule out demolition; it just makes such a move more difficult.) Once its historic nature (or lack of) has been determined, THEN cost comes back into the picture.

I've argued from the beginning that first, I believe this property to be historically significant, and second, that such designation should not be necessary to prevent this house from being demolished. But if this study finds historic significance at the Sheltering Arms House, and therefore keeps it from demolition, so much the better.

One person who was inside the house did express concern that it has serious water damage that could make it unsalvageable at any cost. If JNS readers know of some basic ways that Hawthorne could help the city protect the house and mitigate any further damage, please share them in the comment section below or contact me directly.


Madeline Douglass said...

I recommend that you contact Bob
Roscoe and John Stark of Preserve
Minneapolis and have their group
meet at the Sheltering Arms and brainstorm about possible ways to save the house.

They did this last year for Wesley
methodist church...lots of good ideas.

You may want to include invites to
AEON or other developers to get
their ideas.

Any local members of the Sheltering
Arms foundation could be included
unless they consider the house a
difficult project that they could not fund or can't get involved in.

Also you could call Prof. Greg Donofrio and Prof. architect Bob get the students
from their historic preservation
program to the building out of their classrooms and into the
communitys for some "real world" experience.

As to securing the house, if there
are any NRP funds that could be used to purchase whatever is needed
that might work...otherwise maybe
Northside hardware or some hardware
stores...the ReUse Center? could give a discount on possible materials and

volunteers (those who would "work safely") could be recruited to fortify the house.

The officials who OWN this house
either is it Mr. Elfric? with CPED
housing or the Twin Cities Land Banking Consortium need to be
directly involved...a dialog needs to happen with them...and since the Hawthorne board now supports this perhaps Diane Hofstead will
understand that there is political
will to do it.


Do NOT rely upon the broken dysfunctional, powerless
and even corrupt Historic Designation System and their
endless pointless studies that do nothing but delay demolition.

Remember...interim protection does
NOT provide ANY protection.

Landmark designation does NOT prevent arson or demolition.

If the Sheltering Arms House is going to be MUST
be saved by other organizations
and by strong grassroots citizen

Nothing the HPC does or does not
do will save the Sheltering Arms.

Johnny Northside! said...

Interesting email I received about Sheltering Arms today:


Dear Johnny,

I found you while doing research on the Sheltering Arms Orphanage. Family documents show that my grandfather, Jasper Lapping, and his sister, Nellie, were sent to the Orphanage in 1892 by their father after his wife died. Jasper was 9 and Nellie was 12. Two years later, Nellie died from Typhoid Fever at the Orphanage.

Should I assume that 2648 Emerson Ave North in Minneapolis is the address for the orphanage at that time? Is is still there? Are you aware of any archive of records that were kept that would document the children that were sent there?

Thank you for any answers you can provide and thank you for contributing to the preservation of this historic home.

Johnny Northside! said...

Another cool email I received today.


Jeff and John,

I have an 1895 census that shows the Sheltering Arms Orphanage to be at 2646 Emerson "near corner of 27th Avenue N". It lists both of the Lapping children and other children. Could 2648 be the same dwelling? Will see what I can pull together and submit a story with docs for your blog as soon as I can gather photo's etc. One of Jasper's daughters is still alive (99 years old and very lucid) and may also remember some details. I will make that part of the story.

Let me know anything else you discover oon this subject.

To which I reply: Can it be the same? It's a duplex, right?

Jeff, you know?

Johnny Northside! said...

Sheltering Arms is saved. For details, see this blog posting.