Rochester, MN, is perhaps best known as home of the Mayo Clinic. But it should probably be at least as well known for its Historic Southwest neighborhood.
This Rochester neighborhood had its beginnings back in 1863, when the first homes were built. And it was first established primarily as a place for the staff of St. Mary’s Hospital to live. Later, when construction of the Mayo Clinic began, many more homes were built between 1912 and 1914 to accommodate the influx of new residents.
Also, when talk of the neighborhood rolls around, you’ll often hear the descriptors “iconic” and “culturally significant.” History, beautiful homes and historic structures, landmarks, parks, tree-lined streets – all these make it a great place for families.
It almost goes without saying, then, that Rochester’s Historic Southwest neighborhood deserves – no, demands – a closer look.
Overview of Historic Southwest Neighborhood
Located southwest of downtown Rochester, the neighborhood’s boundaries are South Broadway Avenue on the east, 10th Avenue SW on the west, 2nd Avenue SW to the north, and 10th Street SW to the south.
The Historic Southwest neighborhood is also the third most walkable neighborhood in all of Rochester, with a walkability score of 72. “There are about 68 restaurants, bars and coffee shops in Historic Southwest,” and you “can walk to an average of 6 restaurants, bars and coffee shops in 5 minutes.”
As we mentioned, this neighborhood has often been called “iconic” and “culturally significant.” The reason for this lies in large part in the beautifully preserved historical sites and structures and many significant landmarks that serve to showcase the community’s history and rich culture.
One prime illustrative example is Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial Park. This beautiful public park boasts military and memorial landmarks and top-notch sports facilities, as well as an 18-hole golf course and play areas for kids.
But the neighborhood isn’t all historic buildings, cultural attractions, and parks. It’s also comfortably close to the downtown district making a good area for professionals who work in busy center of the city. And it’s great for families, too, with lower crime than some areas of Rochester, quiet tree-lined streets, and a relaxing suburban residential feel.
A Little Background
Founded in 1854, Rochester began as a stagecoach stop between Saint Paul and Dubuque, Iowa. It was founded by George Head who named the city after his hometown of Rochester, New York. Population growth and business opportunities exploded with the initiation of the Winona and St. Peter Railroad service in October of 1864.
The “Great Tornado” destroyed a large portion of Rochester in 1883. In response to this disaster and because there was no close medical facility, Dr. Mayo (who had arrived in 1863) and his sons cared for the wounded. The ultimate outcome was the establishment of a new medical facility in 1889, St. Marys Hospital.
And the Historic Southwest neighborhood began to grow up around it . . .
“As you stroll down 4th Street SW, you are taken back in time to where the growth of this community began. Originally built for staff of St. Marys Hospital and Mayo Clinic, the Historic Southwest neighborhood homes were built as early as 1863, with the majority of homes built between 1900 and 1920 as the population of Rochester exploded from under 7,000 to close to 14,000. Between 1912 and 1914, as the construction of Mayo Clinic was underway, many homes were built within a 1-mile radius to accommodate all of the new community residents in the city.”
Home Styles and Values
While there are many restored and well maintained older homes and historical residences in the Historic Southwest neighborhood, it is still a good mix of home styles and dwelling types. There are, for example, along with the classic colonial designs, a good many custom single-family homes as well as apartment buildings.
Consider this to get an idea of the many different designs in Rochester’s Historic Southwest neighborhood . . .
“The American colonial is a two-story home with a staircase in the center. English Tudor homes feature steeply pitched gable roofs and decorative half-timbering. The Greek Revival style has a medium pitch, side-gable roof with narrow eaves and classical columns, and Federal Style homes are simple squares two stories high and two rooms deep. A variety of designs distinguish houses. From stucco and shaker siding to brick exteriors, wavy roofs, column-supported overhangs, large front porches, small yards and tuck-under garages, homes in this neighborhood—ranging from 1,300 to 8,000 square feet—are truly unique.”
As with most other places, the neighborhood hasn’t escaped inflation. In the early 20th century construction of a modest home would run you about $4,000, and mansion in Pill Hill (just to the northwest) would “cost anywhere from $8,500 to $21,000. In 2020, these same properties range from $300,000 up to $1.6 million.”
Home Values/Prices and Sales
As of November 2020, the median list price was $342,500 (or $192 per square foot), down from the previous year. And the median sale price for the period was $350,000.
This means, then, the sale-to-list-price ratio was just about 100%. On average, homes sold very close to the asking price, which made it a fairly balanced market. It was neither a buyer’s nor seller’s market, and supply pretty well matched demand.
The average time on the market for the same period was 63 days. This, too, is slightly down from the previous year.
Some Notable Homes
What’s really intriguing about homes in the Historic Southwest neighborhood is that many of them have their own unique stories. And this is characteristic of the neighborhood as a whole.
417 9th Avenue SW
This home appears in the historic registry, in which it’s described like this . . .
“Dr. Frederick Le Roy Smith House; ca. 1930. Two-story brick-and-stucco Prairie School residence with broad-eaved hipped roof; first story sheathed in brick veneer, second in stucco with decorative wood banding; windows arranged in groups; multi-paned upper sash, single-paned lower; arched canopy over entry. Detached, one-story wood frame garage with stucco and brick walls and pyramidal hipped roof. In 1917, Smith became an associate in the Section of Postoperative Treatment at the Mayo Clinic.
912 8th Street SW
This home sits on a double lot and is an impressive 6,700 square feet. For the past 100 years, it has served as a place for family gatherings and for friends visiting the Mayo Clinic.
“Harry and Margaret Harwick’s family owned the home for many years. Harry was the administrator for the Mayo Clinic for 44 years. The Harwicks gifted the home to the Mayo Foundation and Rochester Foundation in 1974. The home was then sold to Louis and Beverly Ohly in 1977. The Ohlys had 14 children and 33 grandchildren. The home served as a venue to celebrate three Ohly weddings, as well as large family holiday celebrations for decades.”
Added Bonus: HSNA
This neighborhood has a definite sense of community. Residents strive to work together to preserve the best from the past and adapt to the new in the best possible way. This can be seen in the Historic Southwest Neighborhood Association (HSNA), which has this mission statement: “To preserve and enhance our neighborhood, promote community, and unite our residents through a common voice.”
The association grew out of the “need to address and resolve issues impacting our neighborhood that could not easily or successfully be done by any one individual. This has become especially true in an ever-growing, ever-changing Rochester.” One of the primary objectives of the HSNA is “to preserve the old neighborhood feeling that comes from being as old as the city itself.”
The association holds monthly general meetings to address topics of interest and importance to the neighborhood, particularly those that affect the well being of the neighborhood and its residents. In fact, local police officers attend meetings to hear concerns and provide safety updates.
And One More Thing . . .
Thus far, then, the Historic Southwest neighborhood seems like a pretty good place to live But if you’re a parent of school-aged children, there’s probably one more thing you’d like to know about – the schools.
The neighborhood is home to seven schools: two elementary schools, two middle schools, and three high schools. And most of them are highly rated.
Consider, for example, these ratings from Great Schools:
- Folwell Elementary Schools – 5 stars (out of five possible)
- Willow Creek Middle School – 5 stars
- Mayo Senior High School – 4 stars
Really, there’s just not much negative to say about Rochester’s Historic Southwest neighborhood.