The Milwaukee Avenue Historic District is a historic district in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the Seward neighborhood. The district comprises two city blocks of small homes on quarter-sized lots. These houses were built between 1884 and 1890 by William Ragan, a Minneapolis real estate speculator. Built for lower-income residents, the houses had deteriorated in condition by the end of World War II, and by the 1970s, were planned for demolition. A group of residents and concerned citizens fought to save the houses, eventually leading to their inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places and the federal protection and rehabilitation that comes with the designation. Today, the houses sit along a bike- and pedestrian-friendly mall on which motor traffic is prohibited.
During the late 19th century, the population of Minneapolis was growing rapidly, increasing 351 percent from 1880 to 1890. With the number of people moving into the city, lower-cost housing was needed for immigrants who were new to Minnesota. The street had originally been platted as an alley between 22nd and 23rd Avenues South, but William Ragan developed it as a street and labeled it 22½ Avenue. The houses were situated close together on narrow lots, with very narrow side yards and no front yards. This almost gives the impression of rowhouses. Most of the houses were built with brick veneer on timber frames, and they have uniform-sized roof slopes, modified flat arch windows, and open front porches.
The street kept its '½' until 1906, when petitioners asked the Minneapolis City Council to change the street's name to Woodland Avenue because they said the '½' made them feel like they lived in an alley. For an unknown reason, the street's name was not changed to Woodland Avenue, but to Milwaukee Avenue. The Avenue's proximity to the Milwaukee Short Line Railroad has been suggested as a cause.
By the time World War II was over, the houses on Milwaukee Avenue were falling into disrepair. They had been neglected throughout the Great Depression and wartime. In 1959, the City of Minneapolis presented a plan for the Seward neighborhood, which listed the houses on Milwaukee Avenue in 'deteriorated' condition, meaning they had no indoor plumbing or were severely battered.
In many other neighborhoods, the City had renewed and thus gentrified areas without public hearings, because residents of those neighborhoods were low-income renters. In Milwaukee Avenue's case, however, the residents were of medium income, and seasoned protesters, since many had protested the Vietnam War. By 1970, the City of Minneapolis planned to raze the Milwaukee Avenue houses using funds from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program.