An E. Lake Street building that dates back to 1892 and housed two notable businesses may be demolished because it no longer retains its historical integrity, the Heritage Preservation Commission voted Tuesday.
The commission by a 6-2 vote authorized the demolition of 2019 E. Lake St. It was either built or was moved to the site in 1892 for Vine Congregation Church, then used as a Scandinavian meeting hall.
But it gained its most notable tenant around 1925, when the Burma-Vita liniment manufacturing company moved in. About the same time, the company began posting the first of 7,000 sets of rhyming jingles along roadsides promoting its new brushless shaving cream, called Burma Shave.
Burma-Vita followed the Winget Maufacturing Co., which made women's apparel including a bloomer-like item patented as kickernicks and bonnets. The firm was unusual for its time in that it had a female president.
Minneapolis Public Schools sought the demo permit after levelling houses on the rest of the block for its planned 93,000-square-foot building for adult basic education and a program for older special education students. It said the building and parking will take up the entire block paralleling Lake just north of the South High School athletic field.
But pushback against the district over the project isn't over yet. Parents at South plan to meet with several school board members Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the school to press their case for improving what they call inadequate athletic facilities. Improving those facilities was part of the project as recently as a year ago, but was dropped.
Steve Sandberg, an area resident who led the anti-demolition effort, was disapppointed that a city staff report belatedly acknowledged the property's contributions to cultural, economic and social history, yet the commission approved the demolition.
His reaction? "The City of Minneapolis and our public school system is missing a big chance to connect us all to our past history, where the struggles of Scandinavian workers, of European immigrants, of buildings that were repurposed and even moved rather than being torn down, a woman-owned business at the time of suffragettes employed women and prospered, and the nationally famous Burma Shave company got its start and for 15 years grew to prominence. We won't get a chance like this again."
The building has had several additions and window alterations, and its stucco was covered over more recently with white vinyl. "There's just not enough integrity to bring you back to any one history," said commission member Ginny Lackovic. "It's just a little bit too late for this building."
Erin Hanafin Berg, representing the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, passionately disagreed, arguing that time is needed to investigate whether the wood-frame building could be renovated.
But Adam Tomczik, a Corcoran neighborhood group board member, said blocking demolition would leave the block in the same blighted status it has had since 1999.
The commission did order that the school district summarize the building's history in a publicly accessible location nearby. Commissioner Susan Hunter Weir, one of two panel members to vote against demolition approval, suggested that some of the company's old roadside jingles be stamped into sidewalks.
(Photo above: The building at 2019 E. Lake St. in 1929, from Hennepin County Library.)