130-year-old Mpls apartment building gets historical makeover

Practically engulfed by the skyscrapers and parking lots that surround it, there's a three-story apartment building in downtown Minneapolis that has stood the test of time.

John Kistler and his partner bought The Oakland three years ago and gave the historic building a new lease on life.

"It's surreal. It's unbelievable. It's such a great feeling to think that people are using this space again," Kistler told FOX 9.

The Oakland opened in 1889 with six luxury apartments, the first apartment building designed by architect Harry Wild Jones, who also designed the chapel at Lakewood Cemetery, Butler Square and the Washburn Water Tower.

But over the years, it was turned into a rooming house and fell on hard times, surviving three fires until a fourth in 2016 left it gutted without a roof and facing the wrecking ball.

"The property was worth more than the building was. It was imminent. It was going to get torn down," said local historian Liz Vandam.

City councilperson Lisa Goodman contacted Kistler and his partner, who along with dozens of volunteers and professional trades people helped restore the building to its former glory.

Since last year, it has been home to 24 studio apartments used for short- and long-term rentals.

"Sometimes I still can't believe it got saved. It's really heartwarming to see that it's being used as an apartment building. and people are enjoying it," said Vandam.

On Thursday, a stand alone brass marker that details The Oakland's history will be unveiled that will be the first of its kind in Minneapolis.

Perhaps it's fitting since The Oakland was one of the first apartment buildings in the city to be built using bricks and is one of the last of it's era that is still standing.

"To be able to preserve that show how Minneapolis grew in this old brownstone apartment building that has lasted for 130 years downtown is an incredible feeling," said Kistler.