In most cases, there is no single document that will provide you with a complete history of your home, property, or neighborhood. The locations listed offer a variety of resources to find information.
|• Original building permit index card: Receive a photocopy of the card (also available the Minneapolis Development Review) that lists the legal description of a property and every permit pulled. Please be sure to call in advance of your visit so that staff can page the card from locked storage.|
|• Architecture: Check for information on a building’s architect. Information is also available through the Northwest Architectural Archives at the University of Minnesota, a repository with the city’s most extensive collection of information about Minnesota architects and contractors and their projects.|
|• Newspaper clippings: Access available clippings for a particular address, homeowner, architect or Minneapolis neighborhood (Special Collections houses a significant collection of Minneapolis neighborhood newspapers). Also visit the library’s online catalog for details about specific publications. Ask a Special Collections librarian to access the historic clippings.|
|• Online photo database: Access roughly 10,000 photographs that date back to the 19th century. Also try the Hennepin History Museum, which houses a significant collection of Minneapolis home and building photographs (photographs are not online; call the museum to see if they have the desired photographs), and the Minnesota Historical Society’s online image database. The University of Minnesota’s IMAGES database is another good source for digital photographs as is Minnesota Reflections.|
Minneapolis Central Library
|• Minneapolis City Directory (1859 to 2003) Lists the previous occupants of a house and often their occupation(s). Beginning in 1930, use the reverse directory to look up an address and find the names of the people living there. Available on microfiche on the 4th floor. Directories from 1859-1917 are available online.|
|• Dual City Blue Book (1885 to 1924) Private directory lists the names of the city's wealthier resident alphabetically and by address. Available on microfiche on the 4th floor.|
|• Platbooks View the library's digitized platbooks (1885 - 1898 - 1914) online or view paper copies of these plus additional platbooks on the 4th floor next to the information desk. The University of Minnesota also offers an online collection of local platbooks.|
|• Historic maps and atlases (1850s to 1920s) View property boundaries, roads, railroad tracks, streetcar lines, the names of businesses,and geographical attributes. The oldest maps of the city are available via Minnesota Reflections.|
|•Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Database: (1850s to 1920s) View property boundaries, roads, railroad tracks, streetcar lines, the names of businesses,and geographical attributes. (Requires a current library card.)|
• Lot Surveys on Microfilm (1916 to 1965) Surveys contain original footprint, dimensions and outbuildings of a property or building. Organized by building permit number (B122143 to B394097), not by address. You must obtain your home’s original building permit number from the building permit index card or building permit to access your lot survey. Available on microfilm in the general periodicals department on the 3rd floor.
Lot Surveys are expensive to have done and we strongly encourage homeowners to keep them in a safe place with their building abstract. Anytime there are large renovations/changes done to a house or lot, a lot survey is required. Lot surveys are kept at Development Review in the Public Service Building (Room 300, 250 South 4th St.) for two years. After two years if the building owner did not keep a previous lot survey a new survey has to be made.
City of Minneapolis Development Review Office
|• Building permit index cards (1884 to 1973) City-maintained cards list the legal description of a property and permits pulled for that address.|
|• Building, Moving and Wrecking Permits Building or house’s architect, if one was used.|
|• 1934 Works Progress Administration survey Minneapolis homes and residents including the condition of the building and yard; the type of heating; whether the house had running water, sewer connections, mechanical refrigeration or ice box; the number of residents at the home; the ethnicity and nationality of the occupant(s) and more.
|Visit the Development Review Office to access all three resources and use their electronic kiosk.|
|•Minnesota Historical Society offers excellent Building & House History resources including its new Placeography wiki, a statewide resource for sharing information about house, building, farmstead, public land, and neighborhood history.|
• Aerial photographs: (1930s to present) Show in detail the evolution of neighborhoods over time, and an extensive collection of maps that contain the physical and social features of the land surrounding a home including historical and contemporary road maps, plat maps, land use maps and demographic maps at the John R. Borchert Map Library, University of Minnesota.
|• Public Land Survey System: (1848 to 1907) Learn more about the land on which a property sits with these original public land survey maps. Handwritten notes recorded by the public land surveyors, available on microfilm and indexes in the periodicals department at Wilson Library at the University of Minnesota. Maps and corresponding notes together describe what surveyors found on the land that would later become privately-owned property in the city. A primary purpose of the survey was to enable the federal government to sell its land to private entities; land patents, the official documents that identify the land purchased, the buyer, and the date of sale can be found online.|
|• Social Explorer: Learn about the demographic characteristics of a neighborhood and how they have changed over time. This user-friendly mapping and reporting tool draws on census data from the years 1790-2000.
|• Northwest Architectural Archives Collect the records of architects, engineers, contractors, landscape architects, and interior designers from a region which includes Minnesota, western Wisconsin, northern Iowa, and the eastern Dakotas. There is a partial list of building plans created by Minneapolis architects and builders (1909-1993).
|• Hennepin County Recorder's Office Historic property ownership information.|
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Plan your visit to Special Collections
We welcome visitors! Please call at least one day ahead to make an appointment if you have a reference question or a research project.
10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Monday - Thursday &
First and Third Saturdays of the month
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