Minneapolis Park Board considers future of historic Stevens House

Damage to the Stevens House following the October 1 fire. (FOX 9)

After three arsons at Minneapolis' John H. Stevens House in 2022, Minneapolis park officials are debating the future of the historic building.

The Stevens House, which is considered to be the "birthplace of Minneapolis", was set on fire three times between late August 2022 and early October 2022. After the fires, park officials made efforts to secure the building. Currently, the house is still considered to be in fair condition outside of the fire damage.

During a meeting on Wednesday, Minneapolis park officials looked at four options for the building: Restore it, restore and relocate it, give it to another entity, or remove it entirely.

Restoration of the house alone is estimated to cost $350,000 to $650,000. Adding security features and fire suppression is expected to cost in excess of $250,000. Even if they were to entrust the house without another agency, park officials would likely first have to restore it before handing it off.

Outside of some insurance money, the park board doesn't have any dedicated funds to pay for a restoration, and it has not yet reached a settlement on those funds.

During a presentation, Minneapolis Parks Assistant Superintendent Michael Schroeder admitted keeping the historic house at Minnehaha presents a problem because it's difficult to fully protect due to its remote location at Minnehaha Park.

"We are also facing some of the backlash – and probably the cause of the fire – in relation to early settlements, colonization, and indigenous populations," said Schroeder.

Restore it

If the park keeps the house, they would have to decide how to move forward with the structure. Whether that means crafting new programming for the building, securing it and closing it off from public use, or turning it into staff office space.

Restore and relocate

Under this option, the park board would have the house dissembled and stored at a secure spot for a temporary period. From there, the park board would have to determine a location to put the house where it could be better surveilled.

Give it to another agency

If they wanted to offload the house, they'd have to find someone to take it. Either way, they'd likely have to restore the house first before entrusting it with another agency to care for the historic building.

Remove it

The house is under the jurisdiction of the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission and would need at least their approval to be demolished. If they were to go ahead with a demolition, they would be required to document the building before tearing it down.


The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has already received bids for the rehab project. Officials have until April 3 to award a contract. If the window expires, they have to re-bid the project.

Next steps forward

No decision was made Wednesday on the future of the Stevens House. Three board members expressed some support for restoring the building. While Commissioner Tom Olsen questioned whether it was prudent to keep the building.

"I really don't care about this house at all," explained Olsen. "And it seems like an albatross around our neck and I don't think the history is relevant. Ask most folks in this city about this house… what this is, they wouldn't know. You tell them, you'd show them, and they say, ‘Oh that’s interesting, kind of.'"

Olsen says he wouldn't be opposed to using insurance funds to restore it and then handing it off to another entity. Otherwise, he says, "I would really prefer getting rid of it and putting up a nice, safe plaque and some signage and some more interpretation of the overall history of our park in the history of it."

Commissioner Becky Alper said she would prefer to give the building to another entity as-is. Otherwise, she would support removing it or restoring it for staff use.

"When I think about our mission, I'm looking at the MPRB goals," Alper explained. "I think about people and I think about nature, and I really think we got to be thinking about the school children of tomorrow and not the school children of yesteryear in our decision-making."

The Stevens House has been in Minnehaha Park since 1896, when the park board acquired it. Upon taking the building, the park board agreed to take care of the structure.