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$33,000 awarded for historic survey of Hamline Midway

Posted on 08 August 2016 by Calvin

A long-awaited historic survey of the Hamline Midway neighborhood has obtained needed funding from the Minnesota Historical Society. The St. Paul City Council in July accepted the funding of $33,000 through two grants. The money will be used to complete a cultural resources study.

The study was sought for many months by neighborhood residents, preservation advocates, and members of the group Historic Hamline Village. Advocates in recent years have butted heads with Hamline University over the demolition of university-owned houses, off and on-campus, including the White House.

The White House, which was located on the Hamline campus, was the longtime home of the university president.

Neighbors have also criticized the university for tearing down other homes, including older homes that have long ties to the community and university’s growth and development. One sticking point has been the lack of a current master plan for Hamline University redevelopment and growth. The fight over the demolitions led to the formation of a joint university-community group.

1549 Minnehaha 2Photo left: The house at 1549 Minnehaha Ave. dates from 1888 and was home to Prof. W.D. Walcott. He chaired the Hamline University philosophy and psychology department. Demolition was halted in 2014 after the neighborhood raised red flags about its possible destruction. (File photo)

Council President Russ Stark, whose Fourth Ward includes the area to be studied, said he is pleased that the study dollars are available. “This should give us current information on the historic resources in the neighborhood and help us discuss next steps,” he said.

A timeline for the study isn’t known. One wrinkle is that the neighborhood district council, Hamline Midway Coalition, is operating at limited capacity this summer due to a lack of staff. Stark said he expects that the district council will have involvement in the study.

The funding for the study is tied to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which established a strong federal policy favoring the preservation of properties and sites which have been significant in American history for the public’s benefit.

The state and its historical society have long taken the position of helping local units of government to engage in a comprehensive program of historic preservation.

1538 Englewood 2Photo right: 1538 Englewood Ave. was built in 1887. This property has been identified as eligible for historic designation. It is a brick Queen Anne style, which is considered unusual. In the past, Hamline University officials have considered moving the house. (File photo)

A state goal is to promote the use and conservation of historical, architectural, archaeological, engineering, and cultural heritage sites in the state for the education, inspiration, pleasure, and enrichment of the citizens of the state through the creation of local heritage preservation commissions.

The city also has policies which promote heritage preservation, including a chapter in its comprehensive plan.

Both the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission and Department of Planning and Economic Development will be involved in this study.

Stark noted that the last study of the Hamline-Midway neighborhood dates to 1983, as part of a larger Ramsey County historic sites survey. That information needs to be updated, to determine which buildings have historic significance and are eligible for designation.

The last property in the neighborhood to obtain National Register of Historic Places status is Hamline Church United Methodist, 1514 Englewood Ave., which received designation in 2011.

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