Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Big House on Hillside, Connected to THE Big House

Post and bottom photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman, top photo contributed.

The mansion at 1522 Hillside Avenue North has long been a gateway property with the potential to set the tone for the rest of one of the Northside's most picturesque blocks.  However, for the past several years, the house near the corner of Hillside and Irving Ave N has sat vacant.  1522 was carved up, from an expansive single-family home into an eight-unit rental monstrosity.

The locals along Hillside will tell you that after it went vacant, the place became a flophouse for transvestite hookers.  There are two ways to confirm that tidbit of information.  One involves reenacting scenes from "The Crying Game" or "Funky Cold Medina," and the other is achieved by reading the police reports and finding a statistical over-representation of men being arrested there.  I'm guessing the good people of Hillside went with the latter route.

Eventually that was shut down, and the empty home has been slouching towards demolition ever since.  It went into tax forfeiture, was transferred to the city of Minneapolis, and had a date with a bulldozer.  While utilities were being disconnected, a new benefactor approached the city and asked to purchase the house.  That person is...

...Nicole Curtis, the Rehab Addict.  She proposed turning it back into a single-family residence, profiling the rehab on her television show, and the putting the home on the market for a new owner.  Nicole is currently going through the neighborhood and City Council approval process.  Like any transaction, it won't be guaranteed until the ink is dry on the closing documents, but we're hopeful that this will go through.

In the meantime, a friend of mine who can dig up undiscovered historical connections began his research.  Whenever the City of Minneapolis seeks to demolish a house, they have to first attempt to find any historical significance to it.  That search however, often barely scratches the surface of what's out there.  City staffers found very little, but what if the house had a different address when it was built?  Sure enough, the building permit for 1518 Hillside matches up with this property.

The builder of 1518 Hillside Avenue North was an architect who would rise to his own level of prominence in later years - a man by the name of James Leck.  Leck went on to build Manufacturer's Hall at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, and he and his architecture firm had a significant role in some of the most iconic college football stadium construction of the early twentieth century.  The Leck Company was involved in the Notre Dame stadium, and most importantly, "The Big House" where the University of Michigan Wolverines play.

He also built the old University of Minnesota Memorial Stadium.  Which is okay, I guess.  You know, if you're into vastly inferior football programs.

1522 Hillside is turning into the realization of almost everything I daydream about that does not involve Batman.  They said the house couldn't be saved, and we're saving it.  We were told it would cost a half a million dollars to fix, and the rehab will happen at a portion of that amount.  Housing developers were inside the place and said there was nothing historic left, when really nothing could be farther from the truth.  The city's cursory search for historic relevance missed this home's connection to some of the most iconic collegiate sports architecture, and a north Minneapolis resident picked up on that.

To say this is a vindication of the preservationist stance serves only to diminish what is really happening here.  A house is being saved and a community will benefit.  Everybody wins, which is more than what the Gophers can say about their games against the Michigan Wolverines.

15 comments:

  1. Great story. What a gem to have in the neighborhood!

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  2. DO NOT DEMO THE NORTHSIDE! SAVE OUR QUALITY AND HISTORIC HOUSING STOCK AND SAVE US FROM SCHLOCK!

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  3. Dyna notes:

    Sad to hear it was recently occupied by some less functional members of the transgender community. Bit more history: Back in the 70s one of my roomates there was a low income woman of transsexual history who made history by successfully suing the state to make them pay for her sex reassignment surgery.

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  4. This is beyond amazing. Based on past experience, though, I have to take the "I'll believe it when I see it" stance. If it really happens, it will give me new hope for our immediate neighborhood. This project, combined with the possibility of a reborn Butter Roll and the new school headquarters, could really make an impact on "Tangle Town." Now if we could just replace the James on Broadway Carwash with something non-criminal... That's one structure that I wouldn't mind seeing replaced with an empty lot!

    - Dan (Hillside Resident)

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  5. Actually I do believe the trannies lived there legitimately, while it was an actual occupied rental property. I think many Hillside neighbors can tell you about contacting the old landlord there, Aaron, and complaining about the problems with the trannies.

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  6. I believe and guess what...that goes a long way these days:) Thanks Jeff for bringing this great house to my attention.

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  7. Nicole has already done amazing things for our city...look at her current transformed property at 3049 3rd Ave South....4 months ago it was the remnants of a crack house, today it's a gorgeous property that anyone would love to own. I cannot wait to see what Nicole does with 1522 Hillside...if anyone can do it, it's Nicole!

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  8. This house is listed on the most recent "demolition" report presented quarterly to the HPC. Is that a mistake or was it demolished...?

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  9. So is it going to be saved or demolished? Nicole Curtis has not said anything about
    it recently on her Facebook page. How about
    the house next door...was it saved?

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  10. I hope for the best for that house it is north mpls.

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  11. I recently moved in close to this house. I walked past and was overcome with sadness that this grand historical home was in this condition and abandoned. The minute I got home I googled this address and was pleased to see that Nicole Curtis was in the works to save this amazing property! This will change my feeling that maybe I had made a mistake moving into this n.side neighborhood, to this was the kind of hopes I had when I did.

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  12. Progress busting out all over at 1522 Hillside Ave. N., lots of historic artifacts found.

    http://adventuresofjohnnynorthside.blogspot.com/2014/01/this-is-north-minneapolis-this-is-nomi.html

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  13. just found this, we had a chance to paint a half a day with Nicole on her Detroit house....this is so good to know as she starts out on this journey of another historic save...and now there's a MeeeeCHIGAN connection in Minneapolis too!

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  14. I, along with 40 other amazing people got to help clean all the trash and cat stained carpets out of this wonderful old home this morning. You can see the beautiful wood floors under the dirt and they look to be in good condition in many areas. I'm excited to watch her progress back into the grand lady that she is. She is going to make a wonderful home for someone and it was an honor to drive in from Wisconsin to help out. Thank you to everyone who came out today and to Nicole and everyone on the Rehab Addict team for doing what you do!

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  15. So how's this house coming? Has a wonderful family moved into it? Any Update?

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