Early Phillips Area Defined by Railroads and
by Wizard Marks. This article first appeared in The Alley in May,
The creation of neighborhoods, particularly before the automobile
was in common use, was largely a function of where industries were
located, where streetcar lines were developed and where developers
decided to build. Industries, in turn, are located where transportation
is available to ship and receive goods and raw materials. Phillips
Neighborhood exists principally as a result of its proximity to
the Southtown Yards (formerly belonging to the Milwaukee Road Railroad),
to the development of a mass transit system, and to those real estate
developers who bought up farm land on what was then the edge of
town and built housing here.
The thirty years 1860 through 1890 were the most rapid period
of growth in Minneapolis' history. In 1872 the city's corporate
boundary was still 24th St. and the northern boundary of the City
of Richfield was Lake St. By 1883, the southern corporate line of
Minneapolis was 46th St., and by 1887 the city had expanded to 54th
St. The 1890 census set the population of Minneapolis at 164,738,
sixty-four times the number of people in 1860.
The western half of what is now Phillips was home to some of the
city's wealthiest families: Pillsburys, Washburns, Peaveys, Turnblads,
Crosbys, Morrisons, and Stevens. The mansion district which ran
from 10th Av. west to Blasidell Av. was developed by them and for
them. The eastern side of the neighborhood was built for working
people and industries.
In the 1880's the near southside, running from the river to 24th
St. and 10th Avenue housed "Bohemians, Blacks, Scandinavians,
Germans, Irish and Jews." Tenth Street to Franklin, along the
Milwaukee Road tracks, housed Blacks. South of Franklin near Cedar
housed immigrant Russian and Rumanian Jews. For many years a Jewish
temple stood where the Hiawatha overpass now crosses Franklin Avenue.
The neighborhood was also home to early Irish, English and Scottish
immigrants. Until the 1930's, 15-25% of these homes were without
electricity, running water and indoor plumbing. There were few markets,
parks, or boulevards.
In the depths of the Great Depression in 1934, the situation had
deteriorated significantly. On a city map in Legacy of a Working
City, the eastern side of Phillips, along with parts of Seward were
categorized as slum housing and labeled for "foreign born"
and "Negroes." Two small sections of the neighborhood
were called a "rooming house district" and a "residential
lower middle class" district, while the western section was
divided between "transitional business/light industry"
and "main apartment house area." Over 25% of the neighborhood's
people were unemployed in 1934, 75% of the houses were rental housing,
and 20% of the housing was considered uninhabitable. Those statistics
aren't much different today.
Major industries determined where the work would be. By the 1880's
the Milwaukee Road, Minneapolis Moline, and Abbott Northwestern
were already in their developmental stages and they would set the
stage for the development of ancillary industries in the neighborhood
as well as attract people to housing within a short distance of
their work places.
Though Phillips Junior High was built in the 1920's, the area was
not called the Phillips neighborhood until the Model Cities program
of the 1960's created the current neighborhood designations. Early
in the history of the city, this area was referred to as the Near
Southside and later simply the Southside. Most people referred to
their neighborhood by the nearest major street intersection, i.e.,
Chicago and Franklin or Cedar and Lake.