Marcy-Holmes neighborhood houses students, city history

by Justin Ware

The old brick walls and mid-19th century architecture of the historic Marcy-Holmes neighborhood echo of a place where a major city began.

The Marcy-Holmes neighborhood is the birthplace of Minneapolis and home to more than 5,000 University students.

Some of the original buildings, such as the Ard Godfrey Building on Central and University avenues, still remain.

The Marcy-Holmes neighborhood extends from Central Avenue Southeast to 15th Avenue Southeast between Main Street and Eighth Street Southeast.

“It’s safe, convenient and historic,” said Melissa Bean, staff contact for the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association.

Bean described the MHNA as a grassroots organization, relying primarily on downtown property tax funds.

The organization attempts to improve housing, revitalize parks and make the neighborhood safer for residents.

“Cops on Bikes,” an MHNA neighborhood safety program, consists of Minneapolis police officers who patrol the neighborhood during evening hours on non-motorized bicycles. It encourages residents to chat with the on-duty officers and get to know them better.

Mia Feldbaum, a graduate of Rice University in Houston, and Ryan Ulvin, a University of Montana graduate, had minor run-ins with criminal activity at their home on 11th Avenue Southeast.

A stolen bicycle and a heavily intoxicated intruder are the worst the 11th Avenue residents experienced.

Despite crime concerns, Feldbuam noted, “people have generally been pretty nice.”

For other Marcy-Holmes residents, price supercedes crime as a neighborhood problem.

Jungo Okai, a University senior studying international relations lives in a two-bedroom apartment on Sixth Street Southeast.

Okai said his $450 studio jumped to $600 per month last year, prompting him to find a new apartment.

“I’m thinking of moving out of this neighborhood,” Okai said, “it’s too expensive.”

Despite the neighborhood’s cost of living, the proximity to the University and downtown Minneapolis make paying higher rent worth it for the more than 9,000 residents.

Birth of a city

Penny Petersen, author of “Hiding in Plain Sight,” is an expert on the history of the area.

St. Anthony, Minneapolis’ former alias, once harnessed the power of the St. Anthony Falls and supplied power to the entire city.

The power plant on the river gave rise to many personal fortunes, including John Pillsbury’s.

In 1881, Pillsbury built a flour mill on the east bank of the Mississippi – the largest of its kind at the time. The mill used new wheat refining technology, increasing production and changing the flour milling process worldwide.

In addition to making major advancements in milling technology, “Pillsbury was very involved in education,” Petersen said.

Pillsbury was governor of Minnesota for three terms and gave a great deal of financial support to the University.

“You might say (Pillsbury) was the antithesis of Jesse Ventura,” Petersen said.

Charlotte Van Cleve, a renowned feminist, also called the neighborhood home. Van Cleve Park on Como Avenue bears her name.

In 1876, Van Cleve was behind the successful women’s suffrage movement in the Minneapolis school board elections.


Justin Ware welcomes comments at [email protected]