Address: 131 Oak Grove Street
Contractor: W.D. Lewis
Current Use: Residence
Date of Local Designation: 2011
Date of National Register Designation: N/A
Area(s) of Significance: Significant Persons; Architecture; Master Architects; Neighborhood Identity
Period of Significance: 1889-1904
Historic Profile: The residence at 131 Oak Grove Street is historically significant for its representation of Loring Park’s brief tenure as Minneapolis’ home for upper class families, its embodiment of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, its association with master architect Harry Wild Jones, and its association with Henry Ladd. These four areas of significance are all interrelated.
131 Oak Grove is associated with distinctive elements of neighborhood identity because it is a tangible remnant of the neighborhood’s wealthy, single family heyday in the late 1800s. In 1883 the newly formed Minneapolis Park Board purchased land from J.S. Johnson and Allen Harmon to complete its first park: Central (now Loring) Park. Prior to the park’s completion in 1885, swamp land hindered development around the pond. The park’s creation, which included dredging the swamp to enlarge Loring Pond, accelerated the development of substantial homes in the neighborhood. Oak Grove Street in particular attracted some of the city’s most socially prominent families. By 1892, Oak Grove Street was lined with well-designed single-family dwellings.
In the early part of the 20th century multi-family and non-residential uses entered the neighborhood more frequently, but these changes did not push out single family residences. From the 1920s through the 1960s the proliferation of streetcars and automobiles later made it easier for wealthy families to build newer residences in areas further south and southwest of downtown. As the city’s population continued to rise, land close to the downtown became more vulnerable to high-density redevelopment. In 1914, Oak Grove Street contained 36 single-family structures from the late 19th and early 20th century. By 2010 only four remained. One of those remnants of Loring Park’s origins is 131 Oak Grove Street.
The residence at 131 Oak Grove Street is also historically significant for its embodiment of the distinctive characteristics of the Richardsonian Romanesque style. As wealthy families moved toward the city’s newest park in the late 1880s, they constructed new residences on the open land. Like upwardly mobile people throughout this time, these wealthy Minneapolitans sought to create comfortable, high-quality spaces designed in the latest styles to reflect their wealth, power, and fashion. In the 1880s and 1890s the Richardsonian Romanesque style was extremely popular in the United States. Heavily influenced by Medieval European architecture, the Richardsonian Romanesque style allowed architects to provide contemporary castles with all of the comforts of modern technology to nineteenth century American nobility.
The style’s name is a combination of its creator, Henry Hobson Richardson, and his passion for Medieval European Romanesque architecture. The style is characterized by heavy masonry walls composed of rusticated stone blocks and low semi-circular arches. Frequently, polychromatic masonry blocks of different textures are arranged to decorate walls along with elaborate stone carvings. The employment of towers and complex roof structures often gives Richardsonian Romanesque buildings asymmetrical facades. The combination of heavy masonry features lends buildings an appearance of tremendous rock mass, leading observers to frequently refer to these buildings as “piles.” With the exception of polychromatic masonry blocks, the residence at 131 Oak Grove Street bears all of the hallmarks of the Richardsonian Romanesque style.
Henry Hobson Richardson is considered to be one of the three greatest architects in American history, thanks in large part to his development of this style. Not only is the building an excellent example of the Richardsonian Romanseque style, it was designed by Richardson’s protégé, master architect Harry Wild Jones, in his hometown, Minneapolis.
Born in Michigan in 1859, Harry Wild Jones faced considerable pressure to follow in the footsteps of several generations of religious leaders. While he became neither a preacher nor a missionary, as many of his ancestors had, he approached architecture with faith and fervor. Trained at what was then the nation’s leading school of architecture, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jones graduated in 1882 and quickly found employment in the office of Henry Hobson Richardson. Within a year he married and moved to Minneapolis where he worked as a draftsman for James Plant and William Channing Whitney. After studying abroad in Europe and additional work for Whitney, Jones established his own practice in late 1885 or early 1886. From then until his death in 1935 Jones designed hundreds of residential, commercial, and institutional buildings, many of which not only remain standing but have been designated as landmarks. Across the United States as well as in Burma and China, Jones’ impact upon the built environment is quite tangible to this day.
Harry Wild Jones designed the residence at 131 Oak Grove Street for Henry and Anna Ladd in 1889. As a prominent realtor, Henry E. Ladd appears to be historically significant within the context of Minneapolis’ late nineteenth and early twentieth century development.
Born in New Hampshire in 1847, Henry Elmer Ladd moved to Minneapolis with his family in 1867. Ladd initially found work in such diverse professions as bridge toll collecting, photography, and retail sales of confectionaries and fruits, the latter being his first independent enterprise. In 1874 Ladd sold his business and moved to the northeast. There he married Anna Hager, a native of Massachusetts. In 1878 Ladd returned to Minneapolis and embarked upon a career in real estate.
For twenty to twenty-six years Ladd earned widespread recognition in the Twin Cities real estate market, broadening and deepening his property expertise throughout this time. Ladd sold urban, suburban, and rural property. Ladd dealt in both commercial and residential properties, brokering deals with major organizations like Northwestern National Life Insurance and Farmers and Mechanics Bank. Ladd also served as a notary public, sold insurance, brokered mortgages, managed rental properties, promoted investments in Minneapolis, and acted as an agent for out-of-state land investors. Ladd used local, turn-of-the-century development trends to market property, such as advertising lots’ proximity to rail lines and bodies of water. Ladd postulated on the condition of the real estate market in numerous Minneapolis Tribune articles. Ladd also participated in a local, grassroots movement to professionalize the real estate practice during the city’s formative years. Ladd died in 1904 at the early age of 57, but his legacy lives on in his residence at 131 Oak Grove Street.
date unknown, Hennepin County Library Special Collections
2010, CPED Staff
“Henry E. Ladd House Designation Study,” 2011.