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Victory Neighborhood

History

According to 2010 census data, there are approximately 4580 residents in 2000 households in the Victory Neighborhood. Recent trends show many young families moving into the neighborhood and rising property values. Most of the housing stock in Victory (88%) was built between 1920 and 1960 with only a small percentage predating that period.

The History of the Victory Neighborhood

The Victory neighborhood, located in the Northwestern part of the City of Minneapolis has it’s roots grounded in the Mdewakanton band of the Dakota (Sioux) nation. This group of American Indians was settled throughout the central and southern half of Minnesota, particularly around the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. Until the middle of the 19th century when European settlers began to move into the area to farm, the Dakotas residing in the “Victory neighborhood” called this area “Omnina Wakan Wakpadan” or “Spirit Refuge Creek”, or what we today know as “Shingle Creek”.

Victory Neighborhood before construction.

When the town of Minneapolis was officially authorized by the Minnesota Territorial Legislature in 1856, there were no longer any Dakota Indians living in present day Victory. Rather, they had been replaced by “squatters”, who had laid claim to this land in order to farm. In 1867, a charter was issued by the state Legislature upgrading Minneapolis to a City. The land within the boundaries of the current Victory neighborhood was not annexed as part of the city of Minneapolis until 1887.

Growth continued slowly in the first part of the 20th century in the Victory neighborhood. What was known as the “pre-war grid zone” became defined with the addition of Victory Memorial Parkway in 1921.

The 1920’s and 1930’s saw a great deal of growth in the Victory neighborhood. Tradesmen and middle managers of many local manufacturers moved into the area for it’s convenience and proximity to their employer, as well as for the ease at which they would be able to access the downtown area via the electric streetcars that ran down Penn and Thomas Avenues. Many of the neighborhood homes were built at this time. These homes typically were craftsman style 1-story bungalows as well as many Tudors. They usually had 1-car garages that would accommodate the family’s model T Ford.

Victory Memorial Drive

The flagpole at the turn of Victory Memorial Drive.

Victory Memorial Drive is the centerpiece of our neighborhood. The neighborhood itself began to thrive when the Drive was finished.

Originally called Glenwood-Camden Parkway, the acquisition of the lands over which it was built began in 1910 and ended the following year. It was initially planned by the Park Board that the space would be used for straight roadways, walks, and green spaces in between with spaced play spaces.

Construction began soon after acquisition finished, but it came to a halt in the spring of 1917 as World War I dwindled resources and money. During this halt in construction, the idea of Victory Memorial Drive was hatched. First mentioned by Theodore Wirth in the 1918 annual report, he discussed the use of “long parallel rows of stately trees” on a drive as a commemoration of the fallen soldiers. Before each tree would be a monument to the soldier that it represented.

The plans for Glenwood-Camden Parkway were revised to accommodate two one-way roads, a walk and a bridle path on the south-north section; and a two-way roadway, walk and bridle path on the east-west section. The bridle paths and one of the south-north roadways were omitted from the final plans, drawn up in 1920. They were intended for future construction.

Construction of Victory Memorial Drive.

The Board authorized the sale of bonds totaling nearly $400,000 in March 1920. The bonds were purchased by Minneapolis Trust Company, Minnesota Loan and Trust Company, Midland National Bank, Lakewood Cemetery Association, Charles N. Loring, and Earle Brown.

Dedication of the Drive.

The parkway was dedicated in 1921. When completed, the parkway was just over four miles long. It started in the south between 19th Avenue North and Lowry. It extended along the western boundary of Minneapolis. This section of the parkway was approximately one mile long and formed a 62-acre park. The parkway turned at 45th Avenue North and continued for nearly three miles, forming a 112-acre park (previously farm land). The parkway then connected Webber Parkway and Charles C. Webber Park.

In subsequent years, flags and wreaths were placed at the trees by the American Legion on Memorial Day. In addition, Memorial Day remembrances were held on the drive.

On Decoration Day 1923, the American Legion of Hennepin County replaced the wooden flagpole at the point where the drive turns (45th and Xerxes) with a bronze one. The pole was set in an ornamental brick base containing eight bronze tablets. They contained messages from General John J. Pershing, another from Marshal F. Foch, another with the Preamble of the Constitution, and others with the names of soldiers and other appropriate inscriptions.

In 1924, a memorial tree was planted in honor of each of the ten Hennepin County posts of the Grand Army of the Republic, which was supported by the American Legion. The trees were planted around the flagpole in the apex of the triangle where the drive turns at a right angle. The trees were known as the “Grand Army Circle”.

Bronze cross.

The markers in front of each tree were originally wooden crosses. They were replaced by bronze stars and crosses in 1928. The crosses and stars showed the name, rank and company of the soldier they remembered (crosses placed for Christian soldiers and stars were placed in honor of soldiers of the Jewish faith). The American Legion posts of Minneapolis assumed responsibility for the maintenance of the markers.

The American Legion installed the dedication tablet for Victory Memorial Drive in 1928 to mark the tenth anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. At this time, the wooden crosses in front of each tree were replaced by bronze stars and crosses.

Lincoln statue dedication (May 25, 1930).

In 1929, the 125 surviving members of the ten Minnesota units of the Grand Army of the Republic (out of the original 3000 members) raised the money to construct a statue of Abraham Lincoln in the center of the Grand Army Circle. The body of the statue was a replica of the famous statue by Augustus St. Gaudens of Lincoln in Chicago. The head was modeled by Max Bachman. The replica was dedicated on May 25, 1930.

Since 1919, the Soldier’s Memorial Commission had been planning a memorial to all of the community’s soldiers. A suitable location was sought and it was intended to be placed on Victory Memorial Drive. The memorial was budgeted at $100,000 and several fundraising plans were looked at. Mr. E.H. Hewitt of Hewitt & Brown Architects submitted a proposal and sketch for the monument. The Great Depression put a damper on the plans. The money collected was invested and had aided in maintenance of the bronze stars and crosses. The memorial was put on hold, to be looked at after World War II. It is not known what happened to the plans.

In 1996, in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of Victory Memorial Drive, the Drive was rededicated to all Hennepin County soldiers who have lost their lives while serving their country.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board developed a Master Plan for the restoration and preservation of the Parkway in 2004. Their objectives were to preserve green space and views, to preserve the historic integrity of the Parkway, to rebuild and improve the trails, to highlight areas through gateway plantings and gardens, and to enhance signage.

Some of these objectives were met in 2005 and 2006. Historic plaques were added at several sites. The trail was also repaved with asphalt for better support for runners and bicyclists. New drinking fountains and benches were added. Gateway plantings were installed to highlight the area at Humboldt and 33rd Avenue. New signs were installed to align with the style used throughout the city for the Grand Rounds. Local signage was also enhanced.

ViNA launched a “Lincolns for Lincoln” campaign in May 2005 to assist with restoration the Lincoln statue. Loring School students solicited donations of “Lincoln currency” (pennies and five dollar bills) with a goal of raising $5,000. This was an historic nod to the Grand Army of the Republic’s original campaign to build the statue during which Loring School children were asked to contribute their pennies for the statue. In addition to the Loring School student efforts, donation jars were distributed throughout the neighborhood. They were present at neighborhood events such as the ViNA Garage Sale, Ice Cream Social and band concerts. Local businesses hosted jars in their establishments. Within a year, ViNA raised nearly $2000 to aid in the costs of renovating the Lincoln Statue.

Victory Memorial Drive was designated as an historic district in 2005 by the Minnesota State Legislature. In 2011, the cities of Minneapolis and Robbinsdale along with Hennepin County and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board completed a renovation of the parkway and its monuments.