Friday Photo – Preserving what?

Local architect Robert Roscoe recently published a book called Milwaukee Avenue: Community Renewal in Minneapolis. It details the Housing and Redevelopment Authority’s plan to condemn and acquire the area for urban renewal, and Roscoe’s role in ultimately defeating the plan and rehabbing the street. He kindly lent me his photo archives for this post.

Milwaukee Ave. in the mid-70’s

In light of the recent debate on this site about historic preservation, one thing in the book that caught my attention and surprised me was that in many cases, very little of the original house could be restored. Thin foundations had shifted, brick veneers had cracked and been covered in stucco, and interior trim and moldings had been painted, damaged or removed. So new foundations were dug under the houses, new brick facades put on (some of which were composed of brick from demolished buildings in Downtown East) and the interiors rebuilt with contemporary materials and techniques.

A new foundation is built.

It wasn’t so much the structures themselves that were being preserved, but the typology of the place – the small, nonconforming lots, repetitive facades and rooflines. As scarce as the old growth wood and meticulous craftsmanship of older buildings are, the context they reflect is scarcer. When these houses were first built, there was a streetcar down the block and cars were for jerks. And after having come shudderingly close to being destroyed, here they stand, improbably poised for the next turn of Fortune’s Wheel.

Milw _AV_6
Milwaukee Ave. more recently.

The book can be purchased at Magers & Quinn in Uptown and Boneshaker Books on Franklin. Mr. Roscoe will do a reading at the Mill City Museum on May 1st at 7PM and a Milwaukee Ave. tour on June 21 at 10AM.

Joe Scott

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