Dinkytown Commercial Historic District
c. 1905, Minnesota Historical Society
2015, CPED Staff
Boundaries: Commercial parcels located around the corner of 14th Avenue Southeast and 4th Street Southeast.
Neighborhoods: Marcy-Holmes and University
Historic Use: Mixed-use, residential, commercial
Current Use: Mixed-use, residential, commercial
Date of Local Designation: 2015
Date of National Designation: N/A
Area of Significance: Streetcar development
Period of Significance: 1899-1929
Historic Profile: The earliest development in the Dinkytown area related to its position on a rail corridor between the downtowns of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Its strategic location allowed it to develop as a commercial center linked to the area’s commerce and industry.
Dinkytown has a long-standing connection to the development of the University of Minnesota. Early property ownership records also showed that many local residences were home to professors and other University employees. Additionally, many early businesses catered to University-area needs such as lodging, restaurants, and school supplies (including printing and book-binding), in addition to typical daily needs seen in many commercial areas. This close relationship continues today, with much of the housing and commercial in this area catering to the University students, faculty, staff, and visitors.
Dinkytown also plays an important part in the history of streetcar development in Minneapolis. It was the terminus of very first horse car line route established from Downtown Minneapolis to the surrounding community. In 1875, the Minneapolis Street Railway constructed the line along Central Ave NE and 4th St SE, terminating at the intersection of 4th St SE and 15th Ave SE. The line was soon extended northward along 15th Ave SE towards Como Ave SE, along with other system expansions. This line was eventually converted to electric streetcar. Over the years, pieces of the streetcar network were assembled (and operators consolidated), and this link became part of a larger streetcar system.
The 14th Ave SE corridor, between University Ave SE and 5th St SE, became the center of the commercial development that progressed through the remainder of the nineteenth century and into the next. Many of the current structures located along 14th Ave SE were built between the early 1900s and late 1920s. A number of these were built on the sites of earlier buildings that were demolished prior to the construction of the later buildings.
Much of the construction that occurred in Dinkytown from the late 1880s into the 1930’s can be attributed to the streetcar. This station at the corner of 4th St SE and 14th Ave SE became the point of entry for students commuting from across the region to the University. The lines running through Dinkytown connected Minneapolis and Saint Paul as well as surrounding cities.
While Dinkytown started as a streetcar neighborhood commercial hub, there was one major difference between it and the other similar districts of Minneapolis. The difference for Dinkytown was the presence and proximity of the University of Minnesota’s main campus. In the early 1900’s, many of the Dinkytown businesses were already catering to the University clientele. College Inn Hotel/Dinkydale (1902) and the adjacent annex located at 1310-1320 4th Ave SE provided visitor and student housing on the upper levels with storefronts below. The three-story 1910 Tudor Revival style structure at 323 14th Ave SE was a private residence on the upper two stories for University professor Harlow S. Gale, with a restaurant occupying the main floor storefront. The 1902 constructed Northwestern School Supply Company replaced the previous streetcar barn.
In the 1920’s another building boom occurred in Dinkytown. Retail and services aimed at the student clientele continued to occupy the neighborhood in increasing numbers. Restaurants in particular provide an interesting glimpse into the cultural history of Dinkytown and its strong connection to the University. The building at 323 14th Ave SE adjacent and connected to the Tudor Revival residence of Professor Harlow S. Gale was constructed in 1920 by the Baltimore Dairy Lunch company. This early version of a fast food restaurant was started on the east coast in the late 1880’s. Many businesses came and went over the years in the buildings in this area.
The area continued to grow and change in subsequent decades, particularly post World War II with the boom in the University student body and the overall economy. The buildings from this later era are not included in the officially designated district, but are discussed in the designation study.
Student culture is also a characteristic of Dinkytown. This has evolved over the years in response to changing social norms and current events. Consistently, it has reflected intellectual and artistic inquiry – and at times dissent and protests. While not as straightforward to document in the physical forms of the district, this nonetheless remains an important part of Dinkytown’s history and significance.
c. 1905, Minnesota Historical Society
2014, CPED Staff
“Designation Study: Dinkytown Historic District” 2015
Updated: August 2015
Last updated Sep 20, 2019