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.