Discover Cottage City… Linden Hills’ historic lakeside community

lake calhoun boating party 1890
Historic photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

When I meet with buyers looking for a house in Minneapolis, Linden Hills often appears on their wish list. After all, Minneapolis is the City of Lakes and Linden Hills is nestled between two of the city’s most popular lakes… Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet.

When people first saw the Minneapolis lakes in the mid 1800s they didn’t love them as we do now… they were shallow and marshy, and people feared they could cause fevers and other illnesses. There could be some truth to that, because they were heavily infested with mosquitoes.

Henry David Thoreau stayed in Minnesota for a month in 1861 as a treatment for tuberculosis. Horace Mann, Jr. came along as his companion and they stayed at a house on the edge of Lake Calhoun surrounded by thick woods. Horace Mann, Jr. described the lake as a beautiful sheet of water.

He described the woods as…

“full of great big mosquitoes, so when you walk in them, particularly near nightfall, they swarm around you in such a cloud that you can hardly see through them. There are also a great many pigeons in the woods back of the house, though I should hardly know them from a mosquito here by size.”

In the early days the city lakes were so far away from the center of the population that a visit to the lake required most of a day. I love seeing the photos with horse-drawn carriages, the drinking fountains for the horses, and the young trees which have since grown contributing so much to the character of the parkways along the lakes. Take a look at what women wore when swimming back then… they had to be strong swimmers to swim while wearing those swimming costumes!

lake calhoun carriage-bathers2
Historic photos courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

It was the arrival of the Lyndale Railroad “Motor Lane,” which reached Lake Harriet in 1880, that changed everything… and Cottage City was born on the south shore of Bde Maka Ska in the area of Linden Hills, so named for its linden trees and hills rolling down to the lake. No longer was a private horse-drawn carriage needed to get to the lakes. Neverthless, lakeshore homes were not affordable for working-class Minneapolitans even in the 1800s.

Leave it to a real estate marketer to develop Cottage City, a new neighborhood on the south shore of  Lake Calhoun, as Bde Maka Ska was known at that time. Starting in 1883, little clapboard cottages were built on tiny 25-foot-wide lots from the lake up the hill to West 40th Street, between Xerxes Ave S and Richfield Road.

cottage city map-streetcar

To make it more appealing, they dredged the lake and and used the material removed from the bottom of the lake to create most of the lake’s level shore area, including Thomas Beach and the west and south parkways. By 1925, Lake Calhoun (now Bde Maka Ska) was a popular recreation destination.

lake calhoun beach – x2 -1925
Historic photos courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

I have driven down West 40th Street many times and wondered about the twin cottages in the photo below, thinking this must have been an early lake cottage destination. I was right! Contractor Loren Chadwick actually built three identical cottages on adjacent lots in 1902 for $300 each. One was torn down, and in 1972 the other two were joined to make one home. The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission designated them a local landmark for their architectural design and illustration of development in Minneapolis.

Chadwick cottages
Chadwick Cottages

If you walk the streets in Cottage City, you can still find modest cottages mixed in with larger homes both new and old. This area also has not escaped the ‘tear down’ phase of new construction. The small white house in the photo below is likely one of the original cottages… which could fall victim to a ‘tear down’ like the mound of dirt on the lot next to the yellow house in the adjacent photo.

small house-tear down

The streets in this neighborhood are all fascinating to walk for an amazing mix of houses. Thomas is especially rich with original cottages… plus one of the oldest houses in the neighborhood, built in the 1800s, at the corner of Thomas and Bde Maka Ska Parkway.

cottage city-composite

Want to learn more about this area? The Linden Hills Neighborhood Council has a wealth of information including walking tours.

Think you would like to live here? Contact us… we can help.

Sharlene Hensrud, RE/MAX Results –


Written By

I love what I do! Highly insightful, analytical and creative, there is nothing I love more than helping you find the right solution for your real estate transition. My mission is to serve my clients with honesty and integrity, exceeding their expectations in service and support… and to help others by donating a portion of every transaction to Habitat for Humanity.

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