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A History of Minneapolis: an Overview by Staff at the Hennepin County Library

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Featuring historical photos and items from the collections of the Hennepin County Library, with contemporary photos from the Phototour of Minneapolis by Chris Gregerson.

Social Services

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Charitable and philanthropic organizations have been well supported by the community since early days. Many organizations were especially interested in assisting people in poverty or hardship. The Women's Christian Association was founded in 1866. Early projects included providing clothes for freedmen, providing for the destitute, and finding homes for young girls who came to Minneapolis as strangers. Over the years they have managed homes for young men, young women, and aged women. Other early organizations were the Young Men's Christian Association, Washburn Memorial Orphan Asylum, Sheltering Arms, Minnesota Soldiers Home, Bethany Home, the Pillsbury House (which grew out of the Bethel Mission), and the Unity House.

Young Women's Christian Association Building (YWCA) designed by Hewitt & Brown and built in 1929 was at 1130 Nicollet Avenue. It was razed to make room for a new YWCA at the same location, which opened in 1976.
Minneapolis Collection, M3647.

Crowds on Nicollet Avenue participating in a fund raising event for the World War I War Chest (circa 1916 – 1917) .
Minneapolis Collection, M4819.


In 1884, Charles Brackett helped organize the Associated Charities of Minneapolis to help support cooperative work among the charitable agencies. Community Chest, United Fund, and the United Way are some of the organizations that have worked to raise charitable contributions to support a broad range of social services for the community of Minneapolis. Over the years, many organizations have stepped up to help fill a need within the community.

Washburn Memorial Orphan Asylum, operating from 1889 to 1927, at Nicollet Avenue and Fiftieth Street. The building was on the site of the present Washburn High School.
Minneapolis Collection, M0854

Minnesota State Soldiers Home built in 1904 on fifty acres on a bluff between the Mississippi River and Minnehaha Creek.
Minneapolis Collection, Postcards. Institutions: Soldiers Home

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