Willard Hay is located in the northwest part of the city. The neighborhood is south of West Broadway Avenue and stretches from Penn Avenue to Xerxes Avenue. It gets its name from two elementary schools within its borders: Francis Willard and John Hay. The former was named after an American educator, author and reformer born in 1859, and the latter was named after an American diplomat and author born in 1839. A mainly residential area, the neighborhood includes Willard-Homewood, one of the city's first planned developments, built during the first quarter of the 20th century and located south of Plymouth Avenue.
Source: City of Minneapolis profile of Willard Hay neighborhood
Bill Cottman has lived in the Homewood section of Willard-Hays neighborhood since News Years Day of 1999. Now retired, Bill is an artist focusing on photography, writing, jazz music and programming. He also spends a lot of time grandparenting and lives a block away from his daughter, Kenna and her children, Yonci and Ebrima. Learn more about the talented Cottman family by visiting Salon 1016.
I consider this tour of WIllard Hay as the first of many visits. I hope that you will consider showing me the parts of the neighborhood not covered in this first tour which focused on the Homewood section of the larger neighborhood. Sign up to be a tour guide or nominate a neighborhood gem to be covered anytime!
Willard Hay is a large neighborhood and within its bounds, the Homewood neighborhood is highlighted using red shading. Bill decided to focus our walk within the Homewood boundaries. As stated in the neighborhood profile, Homewood was one of the city's first planned communities. It was an early version of a gated community. Unfortunately, like much of the country, the development was a means of discrimination against Jewish and African American citizens. Homewood Studios has chronicled this neighborhood's history.
Homewood Studios was established in 1999 with the vision of being regarded as a safe, creative, desirable and healthy place to live and work and grow." (source: Homewood Studios website). They have a rotating schedule of artist exhibitions, improvised music and book readings.
In 1998, owner, George Roberts expanded on this vision during a zoning hearing:"I have been a resident of Homewood, in North Minneapolis, since the fall of 1970. I have been a teacher of English and writing at North Community High School, ten blocks from my home, since 1974. During all this time I have been developing as an artist, poet and printer, and have viewed all these activities as “my work.”
My family life, my teaching life and my artistic life are all bound irrevocably to my neighborhood, Homewood, which has a diverse and interesting history and which has undergone considerable change for the better since I first moved in. I live two blocks from the building I want to purchase and develop as Homewood Studios.
I view art as a primary way to build community and to enhance my neighborhood. A plethora of accomplished artists of all kinds are my neighbors, and we have no gathering place, no venue where our collective energies can coalesce, no place where one plus one might begin to equal three.
It is my hope to create a nexus point in my neighborhood where art and artists, friends and neighbors, students and teachers, children and adults can find nurture and where they might fulfill themselves and their community.
I view this building, 2400 Plymouth Avenue, as an addition to my home, as an extension of my classroom. And I view this enterprise, the opening of Homewood Studios, as the first step in revitalizing an entire commercial block, and thereby the aspirations and nascent visions of our entire community." (Source: Homewood Studios website).
Next door to Homewood Studios, you'll find Plymouth Avenue Art Studio. From the studio's website:
"Shirley Jones, MFA has been teaching art in the public school system for over 30 years. She completed her Masters of Fine Art (MFA) degree at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. Her career has been honored with exhibits at the Phipps Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Art, St. Paul Companies and the Guthrie Theatre. Currently, much of her time is spent teaching and creating innovative pieces of artwork."
Established in 1992, Asian Media Access uses technology to reach a wide audience for Pan Asian issues primarily focusing on social betterment.
The stretch of Plymouth Avenue North is friendly to artists and it would only make sense to continue that on the block west. The Artists' Core has a Facebook group but there have not been any posts since April 2010 and I was unable to gain recent updates. If you have information, please post in the comments!
Green space at Sheridan and Plymouth Avenue North used to be Uncle Bill’s Convenience Store. Bill shared with me that violations led to it being torn down. Hopefully the community can find a use for this space that aligns with their vision of a healthy place to live and work.
Stone markers from the 1900's delineated the Homewood development from the rest of the neighborhood. The markers were deteriorating and the neighborhood chose to spend neighborhood revitalization funds to help restore and preserve them.
While most of Willard Hay was not hit by the tornado that touched down in North Minneapolis the summer of 2011, some of the homes along the western edge did experience damage and lost a lot of trees.
Bill pointed out former University of Minnesota Gophers and Minnesota Vikings football player, Carl Eller's home. Inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2004, Eller has been active in his retirement in North Minneapolis.
Although Theodore Wirth Park runs the western edge of the Willard Hay neighborhood, BIll mentioned there are not many easy access points to the trails.
My favorite part of the Homewood neighborhood is the triangle shaped garden between Thomas Avenue North, Oak Park Avenue North and Seridan Avenue North (shaded in dark green below). The history of this community garden is that it used to be a 5 street intersection where automobile accidents regularly happened. The Block Club turned it into a little park/garden. Susie Iasaacsman, planted gardens and worked on beautification but unfortunately, the City of Minneapolis mowed over it. Sheri and Stefan live in the white stucco home on the Thomas Avenue North side of the garden. The wood block baracade was added because of cars driving through community garden.
Bill's wife, Beverly is a storyteller and goes by the pseudonym of Auntie Beverly. Her character was born under a tree at the park where she told her first story to her then 2-year old grand-daughter. Beverly's work samples are available on the Salon 1016 website.
Bill told me about the work of resident, Lorraine who does programming at the park. She does this on her own without financial support. She has been known to go from having curse words spat at her by youth experiencing frustrating situations and through her balance of compassion and discipline, earns the respect and love of those same children. In fact, during our visit to the park, Bill and I hung out with a group of kids who had kind words for Lorraine. Sounds like a future neighborhood gem post to me!
I gave the group of Willard Hay kids my point and shoot camera and I love the results:
I was fortunate that while in Farwell Park, Al McFarlane drove by and stopped to talk to Bill. Al has been in the media business for more than 37 years and is Founder and CEO of Insight News, a community newspaper with an editorial mission of: "Information, Instruction, Inspiration in a user-friendly, culturally relevant communications vehicle." In addition to paper copies, digital issues of Insight News are available through Issuu, a digital publishing platform.
Willard Hay/Homewood Links
* Willard Hay Neighborhood Profile
* Willard Homewood Organization
* Minnesota Compass neighborhood data - Willard Hay (PDF)
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I'd love to hear from you, please leave a comment. What was your favorite part of this tour? What places do you plan on visiting? Do you live and/or work in the neighborhood? If so, do you have additional information on any of our tour highlights?