SUMNER GLENWOOD NEIGHBORHOOD
SUMNER FIELD + PHYLLIS WHEATLEY
Sumner Glenwood was home to immigrant communities in the early 1900s, who built churches, homes, and retail shops. In the 1930's these buildings were razed to make room for the Works Progress Administration-funded "Sumner Field Homes" housing project of 1938. The first federally subsidized homes in Minnesota were built in exchange for the destruction of a pre-existing community. There was also an influx of Black residents in the neighborhood, and while the housing project itself was segregated by race, the adjacent Sumner Field park and the nearby Sumner Library served as important resources and connecting points between people of different backgrounds and races.
During the late 1960’s, Sumner Glenwood was also impacted by the development of I-94, which isolated the neighborhood from the once adjacent downtown area. This was in addition to the existing MN State Highway 55, which splits the area in two and creates a dangerous barrier for residents to cross. The Sumner Field Homes became home to Southeast Asian immigrants during the 1970’s, diversifying the neighborhood even further. The Sumner Field Homes residents built up their own community, but lack of investment and maintenance led to the decline of the buildings and their eventual demolition in 1998. Between 1990 and 2000, the communities of Sumner Glenwood experienced a 95.7% population decrease from 3,336 to 144. A new master plan was proposed in 2000 on the same land that had already experienced multiple turn-overs at the hands of policy and infrastructure implementation.
The Phyllis Wheatley House was originally founded in 1924 as the first settlement house to serve the needs of Black residents in Minneapolis. The settlement house, named after an eighteenth century enslaved female poet, was opened to address the lack of social support for young, single black women as well as for the broader Black community.
In 1929 the Phyllis Wheatley House opened in a new location, the lot immediately adjacent to the original building. Phyllis Wheatley was considered a cornerstone of life in the neighborhood and was involved in advocating for social reform in addition to providing housing for Black students who were denied student housing at the University of Minnesota.
It was listed in "The Negro Motorist Green-Book," as one of the only places in Minneapolis that Black travelers could find refuge during the era of Jim Crow. In 1970, the Phyllis Wheatley House was demolished to make way for the construction of I-94 becoming an example of the community sacrifice disproportionately endured by BIPOC communities and taking place at the hands of infrastructural policy.
Hear stories about life in the Phyllis Wheatley House in TPT's Cornerstones: A History of North Minneapolis (10 min).
SAINT ANTHONY WEST, WHITTIER, PHILLIPS NEIGHBORHOODS
35W + I335
The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 allocated $25 billion for the construction of more than 40,000 miles of highway. The act introduced a cohesive and extensive interstate network that would cross the entirety of the United States. In response, and most notably, Minnesota received funding for the construction of 35W and I94 both of which were to designed to connect the downtown core with the expanding suburbs.
The City of Minneapolis held only 2 community meetings about the construction of 35W despite the massive demolition of homes, businesses, and more that would be required to make way for this massive infrastructure project. Some community members voiced opposition to the project, but given their lack of agency and political power in the process, interstate construction marched forward.
Like many other areas of the city, South Minneapolis is now divided by a roughly 300’ wide path or about a block’s width of asphalt and sound barriers. While today Whittier and West Phillips are clearly divided by the highway, these neighborhoods and others like it pre-highway lacked the hard boundary of the interstate, and many community members viewed the area as a more cohesive whole. The interstate was completed by 1970 erasing homes, businesses, and other resources and creating an enormous physical barrier between BIPOC communities in Minneapolis, across the Twin Cities, and the U.S.
The jog in the highway just south of downtown in the now Whittier and Phillips West neighborhoods occurred because the Minneapolis Institute of Arts was located directly in the originally proposed path. While today many may view the museum as a cultural or community asset, this shift in the highway path signaled which institutions and social classes held power and influence over the project, and which didn’t.
After the installation of 35W and I94, Minnesota had plans to implement additional highways to increase the transportation network of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Money had been allocated, land had been purchased, and buildings had been demolished for the construction of I335 before its implementation was blocked by the Moratorium Bill of 1975.
With the construction of 35W and I94, Minneapolis was experiencing a decrease in population as residents increasingly moved to the suburbs. This lowered their ability to fund additional highways and the Moratorium Bill allowed for the already allocated funds to be re-allocated.
Even though I335 was not built, the land was razed and sat vacant for almost 20 years, creating a drastic divide in the previously cohesive neighborhood. The vacant land was slowly developed into a line of luxury condos and townhouses.
3rd AVE NE
2nd ST NE
3rd AVE NE
2nd ST NE
Urban Determinants is a group Master's Final Project for the Master of Architecture Program at the University of Minnesota designed by
Ashleigh Grizzell, Erin Kindell, MacKenzie Kusler and Adam Rosenthal and advised by Vahan Misakyan.