Totino House saved from demolition, moved for the second time in its 105-year history

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Joe Olson has been waiting for ten years to find the right house to move onto the lot at 2912 3rd Avenue South, just north of his home in south Minneapolis. He has lived on the 2900 block of 3rd Avenue for twenty-five years and, with business partner Robert Lilligren (a member of the Minneapolis City Council), is co-owner of eight buildings on the block. The 1902 duplex that Olson and Lilligren finally found made a ten-block trip to its new address—but this wasn’t the house’s first move.

According to a City of Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission staff report, the duplex at 720-722 East 26th Street was moved for the first time in 1924, from the east side of Olivet Methodist Church to the west side. Its most recent move began around midnight on the morning of Saturday, December 8th, 2007.


The Totino House (right) in its new home.

Olson and Lilligren purchased the lot at 2912 3rd Ave South in 1998 with plans to build or move a rental property there. After two previous attempts at buying homes to move onto the lot, the business partners purchased the duplex from Children’s Hospital this fall. “The hardest part of moving a house is moving it through city hall,” said Olson. “[City regulations] require that it meet new building code requirements, but it’s an old house.”

Olson and Lilligren’s acquisition was the last home cleared from the block between 25th and 26th Streets and Chicago and Columbus Avenues in Minneapolis to make way for an expansion of the adjacent Children’s Hospital. The majority of the buildings on the block were demolished, but a corner store and a church remain at the north end of the block.

In the Heritage Preservation Commission report, compiled by Aaron Hanauer, the duplex is described as the “Totino House” based on a plaque that, until recently, hung near the front door honoring Jim Totino for “his work with children in the area.” Jim and Rose Totino opened Totino’s Restaurant in Minneapolis in 1951 and sold their frozen pizza line to Pillsbury in the 1970s. The plaque is now missing from the home, most likely stolen along with other architectural elements when the duplex and surrounding properties were vacated after being purchased by Children’s Hospital.

As late as the end of September and early October, neighborhood residents and local historians made appeals to City Council for the preservation of the building next door, the Olivet Methodist church at 724 East 26th Street. According to a historic analysis done by Hess Roise Historic Consulting, the church building had not housed a congregation since 1967. Instead, the building served as a community center and a settlement house. Most recently, the church held artists’ studios and an informal music venue. Ultimately, appeals were denied and the church was demolished last month. Olson and Lilligren’s duplex is thought to have been used as the church parsonage while the church was operational and to have contained offices for the settlement house.

“It’s a field of dreams,” said Olson of the lot next to his house, vacant no longer.

Caitlin Cook-Isaacson (cook0212@umn.edu) is a resident of Minneapolis.

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