Successful Preservation Profiles

Butler Square, Minneapolis

The Butler Brothers Building has served two distinct purposes since its construction in 1906—first as headquarters for one of the world’s largest wholesalers, then, following renovation in the 1970s, as an office and retail complex. While the original exterior design by famed local architect Harry Wild Jones was largely restored, the interior was opened up with sky-lighted atriums that exposed the massive support timbers. The Butler Square project spurred designation of the surrounding 30-block area as the Minneapolis Warehouse Historic District in 1989. Since then, numerous rehabilitation projects have breathed new life into this part of downtown, making it one of the most vital and active neighborhoods in the city.

Litchfield Opera House, Litchfield

The Opera House in Litchfield was built in 1900 and served for several decades as a venue for traveling theater troupes, local musical performances, and civic assemblies. Remodeled in 1935 as a community building, the city-owned structure was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, but gradually fell into disrepair and underutilization, with extensive interior alterations and rampant mold growth. The Litchfield City Council voted to demolish the building in 2006.

The following year, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota included the Litchfield Opera House on its annual 10 Most Endangered Historic Places list, and a local citizens group—the Greater Litchfield Opera House Association, Inc.—was formed. After a formal reuse study was completed, GLOHA, Inc. purchased the building from the city in 2008 and began renovation. This volunteer-led effort has obtained numerous grants to restore missing features of the historic interior and return the building to active use. The efforts to save the opera house have also resulted in an increased preservation ethic in Litchfield, which adopted a Historic Preservation Ordinance in 2008. Already, a downtown commercial historic district has been established to promote and protect more than 50 historic buildings.

Milwaukee Avenue, Minneapolis

The houses in the Milwaukee Avenue Historic District were developed between 1883 and 1895 in what is now the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. These low-cost vernacular structures with brick cladding and gingerbread trim were populated by Scandinavian and Eastern European immigrants who worked for the nearby Milwaukee Railroad shops and other industries.

In the early 1970s, the City of Minneapolis planned to raze these homes along with 70% of the neighboring 35-block area in a gambit to address blight and “renew” urban housing stock. Visionary neighbors recognized the integrity of the original Milwaukee Avenue houses; they successfully challenged City Hall’s plans and advanced an alternative that emphasized historic preservation. Although eleven of the original houses were eventually demolished, most were preserved and rehabilitated, with new foundations, restored facades, and reconstructed replica porches. The houses front on a narrow street that was converted to a pedestrian walkway, and the entire district was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Minneapolis historic landmark district. In September 2007, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota hosted a self-guided walking tour of the restored homes that attracted over 700 visitors.

Androy Hotel, Hibbing

Built by the Oliver Iron Mining Company and designed by architect Spencer S. Rumsey, Hibbing’s Androy Hotel was “The Grand Lady of Howard Street” when it opened June 30, 1921. Like many grand hotels of that era, it served as the city’s center of business and social life until it closed in 1977. After standing vacant for 14 years, a demolition permit was approved by the city. A local grassroots effort ensued to save the building, and its rehabilitation in the mid-1990s created a mixed use of 49 senior housing units and commercial space. Much of the hotel’s original detailing, such as terrazzo floors and Italianate design, were saved in its first-floor commercial use. The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota holds a facade easement on the building, ensuring its long-term preservation.