Posh Park Av. back in the spotlight

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 28, 2012 - 4:18 PM

The history of Minneapolis' Park Avenue -- and the movers and shakers who built their mansions there -- will be explored in a popular walking tour.

view larger photos

  

Ryan Knoke can rattle off historical facts at lightning speed about the homes along Park Avenue S. in Minneapolis.

"Did you know that Reinhold Zeglin [an early Park Avenue resident] owned the Coney Island Hotel on Lake Waconia?" he said. Another fun fact: "Everyone has seen that row of gingerbread Victorians rising up along 35W. They were designed by [master builder] T.P. Healy, who did many homes on Park."

Knoke caught Park Avenue fever in 2004 when he and Montana Scheff bought a 1905 Colonial Revival at 36th Street and Park. After visiting the 101-year-old man who had lived there and hearing his stories, "we became fascinated by the history of our own house and Park Avenue, too," said Knoke.

As they extensively restored and refreshed their century-old home, which was designed by Barclay Cooper, Knoke and Scheff researched Park Avenue home histories.

They pored over faded photos, newspaper clippings and census records at the Minnesota Historical Society, Hennepin County Public Library, Hennepin History Museum and other resources, often unearthing intriguing trivia.

They discovered that Park Avenue was once an elegant tree-lined boulevard with stately mansions and architecturally eclectic homes, in styles ranging from Queen Anne to Italian Renaissance.

"After a lot of digging we knew the street had been something special with its huge mansions and lovely Victorians designed by prolific architects," said Knoke. "We wanted to share it with the public and hope it will change their perception."

Since 2008, Knoke and Scheff have organized and led walking tours of Park Avenue's single-family homes, describing architectural details and their significance, as well as sharing anecdotes about residents and designers.

"Some stories read like a 1910 People magazine," said Knoke. "People roar with laughter when I tell them about some of the architects' personal lives."

The tours also focus on the rejuvenation of Park, thanks to the rising number of homes being lovingly restored by owners. "People are rediscovering Park Avenue and the great architect-designed houses on par with Lowry Hill at a fraction of the cost," said Knoke.

This summer, the men have expanded the popular event into a two-part series. It's the first time they'll tell history buffs about the eight remaining mansions along the "Golden Mile" north of 28th Street.

"I had already done the research, so why not share it?" said Knoke. The tour will depart from the swanky Art Deco lobby of 2615 Park Av. S., and participants are invited inside the John Cowles and Anson Brooks mansions.

"It's such a rare opportunity to get into the Cowles and Brooks mansions," said Knoke. "I'm the Park Avenue architectural historian, and even I have never been in those mansions until this tour."

A century ago, Park Avenue was graced with more than 30 stately mansions. Knoke, inspired by Larry Millett's book "Once There Were Castles: Lost Mansions and Estates of the Twin Cities," will honor the bygone beauties during the tour.

"I'm going to stand in a parking lot and hold up a photo and say, 'This was here,'" said Knoke. "I think people will react with a mixture of sadness and awe."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619

  • related content

  • Park Avenue then and now

    Saturday July 28, 2012

    From mansion-studded boulevard to "freeway" to urban renewal, the Minneapolis street has a rich history.

  • George Peavey mansion by “society architect” William Channing Whitney.

  • HISTORIC PARK AVENUE WALKING TOURS

    What: Park Avenue residents Ryan Knoke and Montana Scheff will lead the two-part tours.

    Part One: "The Mansion District -- Age of Opulence Along the Minneapolis Golden Mile." Learn the history of the eight remaining mansions and see the interiors of the John Cowles and Anson Brooks mansions. 10 a.m.-noon Aug. 11. Meet in the lobby of 2615 Park Av. S., Mpls.

    Part Two: "The Southern District -- Queen Annes, Classical Revivals and Stories of Their People." More than a dozen architect-designed homes south of 28th Street. The Reinhold Zeglin House owned by Knoke and Scheff is on the tour, which will end in their garden for refreshments. 10 a.m.-noon Sept. 15.

    Tickets: $5 for each tour. Ticket includes discounted admission to the Swan Turnblad mansion (American Swedish Institute). Go to www.preserveminneapolis.org. Past tours have filled up; pre-registration is recommended.

    Historic park Avenue WALKING TourS What: Park Avenue residents Ryan Knoke and Montana Scheff will lead the two-part tours. Part One: "The Mansion District -- Age of Opulence Along the Minneapolis Golden Mile." Learn the history of the eight remaining mansions and see the interiors of the John Cowles and Anson Brooks Mansions. 10 a.m.-noon Aug. 11. Meet in the lobby of 2615 Park Avenue, Mpls. Part Two: "The Southern District -- Queen Annes, Classical Revivals and Stories of Their People." More than a dozen architect-designed homes south of 28th St. The Reinhold Zeglin House owned by Knoke and Scheff, is on the tour, which will end in their garden for refreshments. 10 a.m.-noon Sept. 15. Tickets: $5 for each tour. Ticket includes a discounted tour of the Swan Turnblad mansion (American Swedish Institute). Go to www.preserveminneapolis.org. Order soon; past tours have filled up.
  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close