Minnehaha Historic District
Boundaries: Generally bounded by Nawadaha Boulevard, 39th Avenue South, 49th Street, Hiawatha Avenue, Minnehaha Avenue, Minnehaha Creek and the Mississippi River.
Date of Local Designation: 1986
Date of National Designation: 1969
Historic Profile: As one of Minneapolis’ oldest and most popular regional parks, the Minnehaha Historic District features Minnehaha Creek with its falls and glen. This cascade and stream have attracted Native Americans, settlers, tourists and entrepreneurs since the beginning of Minnesota history. The district is located between Hiawatha Avenue and the Mississippi River, with Nawadaha Boulevard bordering the region on the north. This park preserves historic sites illustrating commercial, transportation, pioneering and architectural themes.
The central feature of the park, Minnehaha Falls, rests near the original mouth of Minnehaha Creek where it formerly emptied into the Mississippi River. Once called Little Falls or Brown’s Falls, the cataract was a popular tourist attraction on the "fashionable tour" by steamboat up the Mississippi River during the 1840s and 1850s. The falls have always been a favorite subject of artists and pioneer photographers, beginning with Alexander Hesler’s daguerreotype in 1852. One who never visited them, however, spread their fame worldwide. In 1853, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow commemorated Minnehaha Falls in his famous poem, "The Song of Hiawatha."
Serving as the central region that distinguishes the district, Minnehaha Park shows inspired foresight in urban planning. Noted American landscape architect Horace W.S. Cleveland sketched the master plan in 1883, as part of the Grand Rounds system of parks and parkways. The plan emphasized the natural beauty of the riverbanks and lakes, and proposed a linked series of open spaces, woods, vistas and recreation areas along the waterways. Cleveland’s plan included the Minnehaha Falls area although it was beyond city limits at that time.
The district also includes several historic sites within and surrounding Minnehaha Park. The Minnehaha Princess Station is an ornate Victorian train depot built in the 1870s by the Minnesota Central Railway, later called the Milwaukee Road. The John H. Stevens House nearby was moved to the park in 1896 from its original location west of St. Anthony Falls. The Greek-revival house was built in 1849 and is regarded by some as the birthplace of Minneapolis. The Longfellow House also stands within the vicinity of the park. Robert F. Jones built the home in 1906 to complement his Longfellow Gardens and Zoo. The 10-room, two-story Georgian house is a replica of the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In 1993, renovation preserved and restored the aging Minnehaha Park including historic sites within the park and the landscape itself. Today, the Minnehaha Historic District survives as a unique park rich in history, scenic beauty and natural resources.
1895, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
1905, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
"National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form," October 1969.
"The Minnehaha Park Restoration Plan," Summer 1992.
Updated April 2007
Last updated Nov. 22, 2011