Prospect Park applies for historic status

The possibility of a light-rail system could determine the historic district status.

by Joy Petersen

With the hope of preserving the character of the Prospect Park neighborhood, the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association is in the process of applying for national historic district status through the National Register of Historic Places.

Susan Roth, the Minnesota Historical Society’s national register, said Prospect Park has not yet applied for historic district status.

In the application, Prospect Park officials will need to explain what aspects of the neighborhood are historic, which could include elements of its architectural style or famous historic residents or events that happened in the neighborhood, she said.

Roth said the National Register of Historic Places recognizes buildings, sites, objects and districts.

“If we are looking at a collection of properties, such as we might be doing with Prospect Park, we would be looking at Prospect Park as a historic district,” she said.

Some people have speculated additions to the light-rail system that would pass through the neighborhood could determine whether the neighborhood gains historic status, but completing either project would not immediately affect the other, PPERRIA member Joe Ring said,

Instead, an assessment would be made after the fact. A panel from the Minnesota Historical Society would study the effects of changes in the neighborhood’s character only after both things happened, Ring said.

These changes could include architectural modifications to the shape of a historic house or differences in the landscape due to light-rail or road construction.

If the changes create a modernizing effect, the Minnesota Historical Society would ask the city to reverse them.

Because taking out a light-rail line and renovating houses cost money, the city would need to consider all the possible effects of the changes before investing, Ring said.

Milwaukee Avenue in Minneapolis’ Seward neighborhood is considered a historic district.

Jean Johnstad, Seward Neighborhood Group board president, said the historic status of the avenue stems from the history of its working class and its architecture, and has improved the quality of housing on the street.

“It’s a national historic preservation street which was saved because it basically was not the architecture of wealthy people,” Johnstad said. “This has always been more a working-class neighborhood.”

Prospect Park’s application could cite famous buildings within the neighborhood, including a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house and the Witch’s Hat water tower.