The story of the Healy Block, a historic district on the 3100 blocks of 2nd and 3rd Avenues So., revolves around Theron Potter “T. P.” Healy (1844-1906), born into a family of farmers and carpenters in Round Hill, Nova Scotia. Theron married Mary Ann Jefferson, a descendant of Thomas Jefferson’s brother Stephen. In Halifax, Theron was a “commission merchant.” He owned three schooners, two of which he built, that were used to move food up and down the Atlantic Coast. He also may have built houses.
After one of Healy’s ships sank in a storm in 1883, he sold one of his remaining schooners and headed, along with Mary Ann, their eight children, and his older brother, Anderson Healy, a carpenter, to Bismarck in the Dakota Territories. There, they built tenements, a poor farm, a jail in a neighboring county, and in the winter of 1886, an Indian School in Fort Peck, Montana.
In 1886 the Healys moved to Minneapolis, where T.P. became the city’s premiere master builder, a term that denoted proficiency in building as differentiated from “architect,” which denoted design ability. However, Healy was both a designer and builder. The Healy Block Historic District contains fourteen Queen Anne houses and three horse barns, all designed and built by Healy between 1886 and 1892. The houses were owned by prominent businessmen, including jeweler J. B. Hudson and retailer Richard Sears, and women active in society. The district, at the end of the first streetcar line coming out of downtown on Fourth Avenue South, once included thirty-six Healy houses and thirteen horse barns. However, the neighborhood was drastically changed in 1959-60 when fifteen Healy-designed houses were demolished for I-35W, including eight on the 3100 block of Second Avenue South.
After 1893, Healy built to the designs of the most prominent Minneapolis architects in the Lowry Hill, Whittier, Loring Park, and Loring Heights neighborhoods. Nicknamed “The King of the Queen Anne,” Healy was prolific, building over 200 structures between 1886 and 1906. His houses were filled with sumptuous woodwork, elegant hardware, jeweled stained glass, wallpapers, and fabrics.
Today, the Healy Block Historic District is defined by its proximity to I-35W. Ironically, though much of the district was destroyed, the freeway construction also exposed the remaining houses to public view; they are prominently visible beside the 31st Street exit. The freeway demolition process did not destroy the southside African-American community as it did St Paul’s Rondo neighborhood. The freeway did, however, create a race barrier on Minneapolis’s south side.
The Healy Block remains the most intact and concentrated example of Queen Anne architecture constructed by a single builder in Minneapolis. Since the 1960’s, the district has housed a resilient and resourceful group of residents who have restored, protected, and promoted the Healy legacy.