Before this project, I had no idea there was a neighborhood named Seward in Minneapolis. In fact, I was unaware of quite a few of the neighborhoods. I was born and raised in the suburbs of St. Paul so to me Minneapolis had only Uptown, Downtown, Dinkytown and Northeast and everything fell under just those categories. Seward is located southeast of Downtown and is defined by a triangle of land that is bordered by Hiawatha Avenue, the Mississippi River and Interstate 94.
Before my partner and I visited Seward, I did some digging around on the internet about the neighborhood and how it came to be. I was a little taken back when I figured out that Seward is actually one of the oldest neighborhoods in Minneapolis. The history of Seward starts at the first rapid expansion of the city in the late 19th Century. Seward developed rapidly after the main commercial thoroughfare and cultural cornerstone was created: Franklin Avenue. Along with that, growth emerged with the construction done in 1870 to the Iowa and Minnesota Division of the Milwaukee railroad. According to LIVE MPLS, By 1930, Seward was a fully functioning and developed city.
As the years passed on, the neighborhood of Seward began to deteriorate. Community members soon realized they would need to work to renew the neighborhood for the future. In 1960, the Seward Neighborhood Group (SNG) was formed to build the first school-park facility (SNG.com). Due to the success of the SNG, the efforts encouraged more activism with the residents. In 1970, the community became politicized during the urban-renewal period in Minneapolis, mobilizing to ensure National Historic Preservation status for the small working-class homes that lined Milwaukee Avenue.
Milwaukee Avenue low income housing today:
One of the most prominent stories from Seward’s history is of the Milwaukee Ave housing. Around 1880, when the neighborhood was growing and the flow of people were consistently making Seward their home, Seward needed low-income housing for new immigrants. The street was originally an alley with the street name of 22 1/2 Avenue (Wikipedia). The street kept the ‘1/2’ until 1906 when the residents petitioned it to be changed because they felt like they lived in an alley and didn’t matter to the community as a whole. The petition passed, thus the name Milwaukee Avenue emerged. By the time World War 2 was over, the houses on Milwaukee Ave were plummeting into disrepair. Many of the houses didn’t have plumbing or electricity and the upkeep was neglected during the Great Depression. The city wanted to completely wipe out all of the houses and rebuild but the community of Seward protested against it. The community formed the Seward West Project Area Committee (PAC) in order to save the homes. They argued that the homes held significant value and needed to be preserved for Seward history. The PAC won and the houses were all repaired and restored instead of demolished. The Avenue is now only bike and pedestrian friendly, cars are prohibited.
As far as history goes, the Seward neighborhood swings on the side of uneventful. Being that it is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Minneapolis, I found it incredibly challenging to find a whole lot on the history of Seward. Today, the neighborhood still remains one of the most politically liberal communities and the residents share a level of passion for their community that is indescribable.
“What changes does the future have in store for Seward? Only time will tell. The beginning of the new century has already seen a new influx of immigrants who have brought their energy, imagination, and diversity to the neighborhood, and the next several years will see the introduction of a light-rail line that will run along the neighborhood’s west side. Whatever happens, Seward is sure to remain a unique place for people to live, work, and play.” – The Seward Neighborhood Group. After my brief visit and information digging, I couldn’t agree more with that statement.
http://sng.org/history.html (Seward Neighborhood Group)