While vacationing with my family in Yankton, South Dakota this Easter, I was left with a few hours to kill on a lazy Saturday afternoon. My sister-in-law and newborn nephew would be my tour guides, but let's be honest here, Yankton is not a bustling metropolis with a host of activities at the ready. So although many people would struggle to find things to do, I knew immediately what I wanted. I turned to her and decisively said, "Take me to the crappy part of town with nice houses."
And what I love most about saying that was that she knew exactly what I meant. "Oh, that area would be...
...the historic housing district next to the old college that got turned into a minimum-security prison."
"That sounds PERFECT," I said, and off we went.
What follows is a series of photos from wandering around that district. My sis-in-law didn't know too much about the houses I was salivating over, but promised that the next time I was in town she'd set up a coffee meeting with their local housing historian. As if my adorable nephew weren't reason enough to go back and visit, now I'm already planning my next trip to South Dakota. Feel free to either linger on the photos or scroll to the end of the post for the proposal of what we could do in Minneapolis.
|I believe this is an old hitching post for a horse, and something that old makes this house easily among my favorites.
The problem I was having, as I mentioned above, was that my sister-in-law didn't know too much about these houses. Were they historic because of an occupant? A designer or architect? A certain architectural style? Was the historic figure or style of local or broader importance? All excellent questions, and virtually none of them were answered. What Yankton's historic district did have, though, were these interesting little placards showing which houses in the district were officially designated.
Do we even have those at all in Minneapolis? Because I've been through some areas in SoMi, like the Healy block, and I can't remember ever seeing one. I happen to rent an apartment in a house that has a historically designated exterior, and the only time anything is ever posted that would mark it as historic is when an orange placard notes an upcoming hearing.
Little signs out front don't go far enough though. I tried Googling some of the names on the Yankton signs and didn't really get anywhere. Sure you can download a historic home brochure from the city's tourism site, but that information is woefully incomplete and I only found it later anyway. If we were to mark historic houses in Minneapolis, how would people be able to access information instantly as they see some of the significant homes in our fair city?
I'm glad you asked. I'm always looking for ways to use smartphones and social media to share information and organize our community. Why not set up at least basic web sites for each historic house? Then we could link to those sites using QR codes.
|Image from a blog that is no longer live and cannot be linked.
Just imagine: you walk down the street and see a gorgeous home. There's a sign in front that designates it as a historic property. In one corner of that sign is what looks to be a Rorschach ink blot. Being a tech-savvy aspiring local historian, you whip out your phone and scan the code. And in an instant you have the whole housing history at your fingertips. When was it built? When was it designated historic? Why? Who built it? Who lived there?
With so much amazing technology propelling our future, we ought to be able to use some of it to connect us to our past.