The purpose of this "History Tour" is to impress on you how the
city is "the image of society inscribed in the ground." This History
Tour is designed to lead you through several of the older neighborhoods in Mankato.
The entire tour should take about two hours.
As you walk around the city, OBSERVE YOUR SURROUNDINGS AND NOTE YOUR
OBSERVATIONS. Here is a partial list which will serve as a guide of things
to look for:
- General appearance of the
neighborhood, including streets, trees, houses, etc.
- Housing types--wood frame,
brick, one or two story, style of housing stock, etc.
- Housing quality
(use standards such as substandard, moderately well kept, well
kept). Is there plenty of parking space for cars?
What are the conditions of the outbuildings?
- Age of housing--often told by
style. For example, two-story wood with high peaks, gables and porches is
most likely pre-1900 (and may in some cases be the original farmstead for
- Demographic characteristics
of the neighborhood: general age of the population (look for clues--bikes,
toys, playground equipment along with fences and stationwagons might indicate a young family
population. The condition of houses, cars, streets1 etc. might yield clues
to the economic status of the residents.)
- Condition of public
facilities (streets, sidewalks, etc.). Have trees been planted on the
boulevard to replace lost elms? What kind of public street lighting is
- Density of population--the
average for Mankato is 3
persons per household.
- Density of uses: Are there
various types of residences (single-family, duplex, apartment) and/or
business uses near each other? Is there evidence of rehabilitation,
reinvestment, or new development? Has any rehabilitation been sensitive to
the character of the neighborhood and the original structure?
- Are there public and private
places for people to meet? Are there pedestrains
on the street? Does this appear to be a cohesive neighborhood? Are there
parks nearby? Do they appear to be well-designed?
- Community buildings (schools,
churches, etc.)--What are they? Where are they? Do they appear to fit in?
- What are the boundaries to
the neighborhoods? How significant are they?
- What changes are taking place
in each neighborhood?
STOP! THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU JUST READ, AND RE-READ IT. NOW YOU ARE READY
TO START THE TOUR.
The city of Mankato was originally
laid out in a river valley, constrained by bluffs, slough, prairie and the
river. Refer to the map below as you go along:
- Houses were on small lots
(44-66 ft. fronts)
- Streets are at right angles
to each other in old area.
- Suburbs break the original
layout: city begins to be built by many small, incremental decisions.
FOURTH AND WARREN
MSU old campus (first buildings in 1868) was sold for $200,000. The old
Cooper Dorm became Colonial Arms (sold for $750,000) and two classroom
buildings (originally offered to the County for $1) became the new County
Office Building (cost: $3,000,000).
PARSON AND RAMSEY
These old row houses are typical of housing in the east (particularly Baltimore).
They have been sold, and are now a condominium.
BROAD AND LINCOLN
This is the Lincoln Neighborhood.
- An old elm used to stand in the
triangular park: it died a few years back. There also used to be a
fountain honoring the Civil War vets.
It was melted down for ordnance in WW II.
- This is the edge of land
created by Warren's Second
Addition (one of the early suburbs). From this corner you can see a slice
of the history of Mankato
- 1860's: Second
Empire house (217 Lincoln):
building the roofline at the floorline of the
second story was a tax dodge in 19th century France.
But Americans liked the look. Original Passenger Railroad Station (816
Broad): now converted to a residence.
- 1870's: Queen Anne
style (104 Parson), Victorian gothic (231 Lincoln)
- 1920's: Bungalow (209 Lincoln),
style (730 Broad): wide overhang, large porch is typical.
- 1930's: Brick house (221 Lincoln):
note the absence of a porch; they didn't use them any more.
- 1950's: Rambler (808 Broad)
BYRON AND LINCOLN
Here we see examples of what to do (and not to do) in rehabilitating old
- Siding (aluminum &
asbestos): 114 & 118 Lincoln
- Stucco: 103 Lincoln
- Substantial Rehab: 113 Lincoln
(purchased in 1970 for $11,800)
- Sandblasted brick: 820
Second (house is local brick--has soft inner core protected by hard outer
surface; hard surface stripped by sandblasting)
*Note the sisterhouses (216 & 212 Byron) and
the differences in their rehabilitation.
GROVE AND SECOND
- 107 Grove: new apartment
house does not fit the character of the surrounding neighborhood.
Lutheran: Design is a common one in suburban areas, but does not fit the
"inner city". This particular structure was designed to
complement an older, traditional structure which has since burned down.
Now the structure doesn't give you enough clues to what it is supposed to
- 731 Second: Although this
obviously looks like a church,
it isn't—it’s a sound studio.
WARREN AND SECOND
Here you are on the edge of the old silk stocking (upper class) district.
- Ryan's Paint (630 Second):
addition breaks the line of storefronts
- Hubbard House (606 5.
Broad): another fine Second Empire house
- YWCA (603 Second): used to
be Judge Cray's house
- Johnson & Moonan Law firm (600 Second): filling in the porch
ruined the lines of the building
- KSA Architects (526 Second):
used to be a funeral parlor.
CHERRY AND SECOND
- Post Office: Note that there
is an addition to the back. It is done so well that you hardly notice it.
Also note the absence of handicapped access (federal buildings are exempt
from the federal and state laws requiring handicapped access to public
Center: Site of the old
Methodist church, it once served Methodist/ Baptist/Congregationalist
denominations. Now it is only Methodists again. Architecturally, it is styled after the
bus station and the Inn Town Motel across the street.
- Inn Town Motel: This was the
first motel in town. Now it has been converted to apartments.
- Earl Johnson Furniture: The
building used to be an auto sales and repair
- Cherry and Front: To the
north is the Mankato Mall, an Urban Renewal Program project. This entire
area used to look just like the shopping area to the south (Front
St.). The old buildings were incorporated
into the Mall, and their sense still remains.
- Mankato Mall: This was once
a major shopping mall. Now it is
mostly offices & restaurants.
- twists and turns pique
- natural light comes
through clerestories and skylights
- Note that roof is
suspended independently of the buildings. If a building burns it will not
affect the soundness of the rest of the structure.
Civic Center (Front & Hickory):
(229 5. Front) is on the registry of historical buildings. It is
attributed to Louis Sullivan's Prairie
School. Design elements from
this building were incorporated into the Civic
Center when it was
constructed in 1995.
- The Martin
Building (120 5. Front) has
four stories and Walnut Towers
(101 Walnut) has nine stories, but both are the same height. The
difference is in the ventilation system.
- Railroad Station: This was
the old hub of the city. Now it houses the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention
& Visitor Center.
- Holiday Inn (Front &
Main): The lobby has such a low ceiling to allow access to the ventilation
- Minnesota Valley Regional
Library (100 E. Main): "Neo-penal"
architecture. It is functional, although the building is low and rather
small-scale for its significance. The library is designed in a very open
format, and uses the fountain in the lobby as a source of "white
noise" to smother random sounds generated throughout the large space.
Note the use of floor materials to define space.
NO TOWN (MULBERRY & N. FRONT)
This is an urban renewal area with no buildings. The Embers restaurant is
inappropriate--it fits Madison Strip, not downtown. The old riverbed came to
the edge of the Holiday Inn--much of the land in No Town was reclaimed from the
(N. FRONT BETWEEN PLUM AND VINE)
This area has the best turn-of-the-century architecture in Mankato.
The infrastructure (streets, sewers, etc.) is in place, some of it has been rehabilitated,
but the area still has not caught on for commercial activity.
- Hubbard Mill: brick building
constructed in 1886, still in operation.
- American State Bank (302 N.
Front): infill architecture, styled after the Hubbard building.
- Notice the cornices and
decorations on the storefronts. Most are cast iron (not stone, although
they look like it). Many are styled after Greek and Roman designs.
- Travel Center (429 N.
Front): adaptive reuse of a gas station.
(421 N. Second): Lightning destroyed the towers in 1968. New towers were
built and the old church completely rebuilt. Notice the windows--they are
chunks of colored slab glass, 1 inch thick, set in epoxy.
OLD WORKING CLASS DISTRICT (N. BROAD BETWEEN SPRING AND MAIN)
The houses in this area are reminiscent of the houses in the silkstocking district, but simpler. The houses are
generally closer together and have less architectural detail in the structure.
Building (Broad &
Washington): Prairie School
- Tourtellote Parkway (4th
St., between Washington & Mulberry): Site
of the old railroad switching yard.
(413 4th St.) and the Downtowner Apartments (413
5th St.) are on the sites of the original
hospitals in Mankato (one for
Catholics, one for Lutherans).
(Fourth & Main): The mosaic was done by the same firm that restored
St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice.
County Courthouse (204 5. Fifth):
- Courthouse is classic
Richardson Romanesque design, built from local Kasota
- On the south side of Fourth,
from Cherry St., you
can see the old railroad abutments for the line that ran from the Lincoln
neighborhood past the courthouse to the switching yard at Tourtellote Parkway.
Compare: What does this tour tell you about the people
who used to live in Mankato? What
does it tell you about the people who live in Mankato
Analyze: You have seen evidence of many changes made
in the fabric of the city over time.
Which do you think were the most successful? What do you surmise that it took to implement
them (Who? How? How much?
Why?) Which do you think were least
successful? Why didn’t they work
(assume that the people who did it meant well and gave it some
thought—where did they go wrong?)
© 1996 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 10 January 2003