Even in the late eighteen-hundreds, affordable housing was a problem. In the area we know as Phillips today, lack of low-rent housing was enough of a red flag that papers were writing articles about it. There were many wealthy buildings in this area, and it’s fascinating to know that Phillips wasn’t always the low-income area that it is today. The west side of Phillips had many of the wealthiest families, including the Pillsburys and the Washburns. Because of the Great Depression, however, the area, especially the east side, began sliding. This is but one example of how a neighborhood changes over time.
It is also interesting to note that historically, Minnesota had its share of underground activity in the 1920’s and 30’s. Minneapolis was a hotbed of organized crime, with the figure of Kid Cann (Isadore Blumfeld) running his operations out of the West Hotel. His operations consisted of activities such as prostitution, bootlegging and racketeering. This is not an era many people know about, but it’s well-documented.
The demographics of Minneapolis have changed over the decades. First came the Scandinavians—Swedes, Norwegians, Danish—then followed many other European immigrants—Germans, French and Irish to name a few. The majority of Minnesota’s historical culture lies in this area. Of course, over time, other people started migrating to Minnesota. Starting in the 1950’s, the Native Americans slowly started trickling back in. Blacks went from 362 in number in1880 to 4,176 in 1930, concentrating in two areas of Minneapolis—in what is known as the North Side and the South Side today.
And there’s more. The Jewish community, including different nationalities, settled in three different areas—the near north side of the city, the South Side between Chicago and Cedar, and near Lake Calhoun. The Asian immigrants vary from Chinese to Philippinos to Hmong to Thai, and many others including Taiwanese. There was an influx of Japanese after the end of World War II, but most of them returned to the west coast. Mexican-Americans were concentrated mainly in St. Paul’s West Side, but an influx of Latinos in different Minneapolis areas started happening in the 1990’s.
An unfortunate side effect of this diversity growth was the prejudice many members of these various groups faced. In 1923, there were several active Ku Klux Klan groups, maybe as many as ten. After Minneapolis was named the most anti-Semitic city in 1946 by sociologist Carey McWilliams, Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey acted quickly to counter the growing prejudice found in the city.
The newest population growth comes from African immigrants, mostly of war-torn countries, namely Somalia. It will be interesting to see what they contribute to the ever-changing community of Minneapolis.