Washburn-Fair Oaks Mansion District - Overview


The development in the area was spurred by the desire of prominent families to move away from the central business district and to build larger and more elegant homes along what was the edge of town. Development began around the early 1870s and continued through about 1930. The houses within the district represent a number of popular architectural revival styles.

The park itself is named for the William Washburn mansion, known as "Fairoaks". It was one of the grandest Twin Cities mansions, built in 1884 for William D. Washburn, a lawyer who moved to Minneapolis in 1857 and amassed a fortune in the family milling business. Washburn lived in the house until his death in 1912, at which point he willed the mansion to the Minneapolis Park Board. The park board ultimately found the mansion too expensive to maintain, so it was demolished in 1924.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts building is located immediately south of the park. The site was formerly occupied by the Dorilus Morrison house, built in 1858 by a lumberman who moved from Maine and became a businessman in Minneapolis, as well as the city's first mayor. Clinton Morrison agreed to donate the old family estate to the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts. The house was demolished in 1911, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, designed by the New York firm of McKim, Mead, and White was completed in 1915.

The neighborhood surrounding the mansion district is now home to many young professionals and artists.

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