Red Cedar Lane Neighborhood

Tour curated by: Richard L. Kronick

Red Cedar Lane – an Introduction

The story of Red Cedar Lane revolves around John Jager (pronounced YAH- ger) who was born in Slovenia in 1871 and died in Minneapolis in 1959. In 1898, Jager received a degree in architecture from the Vienna Polytechnic Institute. In 1901, the Austro-Hungarian Empire sent him to China where he designed and superintended re-construction of the Empire’s Beijing embassy, which had been destroyed a year earlier in the Boxer Rebellion. Jager also visited Japan and became very interested in Chinese and Japanese language, art, and culture. He eventually spoke and wrote seven languages fluently.

In 1902, Jager immigrated to Minneapolis where he joined his father and two brothers. One brother, a Catholic priest, was instrumental in getting Jager his first architectural projects in Minnesota: several churches, including St. Bernard’s, 187 Geranium Ave. W., in St. Paul, and St. Stephen Catholic Church in St. Stephen, Minnesota (Brockway Township, Stearns County).

In 1903, Jager’s fiancée, Selma Erhovnic, whom he had met in Vienna, joined him in Minneapolis, and they were married. Selma, a talented fabric artist, was a graduate of the Imperial and Royal School of Lace Making in Vienna. She later taught embroidery, lace-making, and other fabric arts for the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts, precursor of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The Jagers’ daughter, Katherine, was born in October, 1903.
In 1904, the Jagers purchased a 20-acre parcel of land on Minnehaha Creek in the southwest corner of Minneapolis. There they built a house and over the next 50 years, John Jager developed the land, laying out Red Cedar Lane and later, the street called Forest Dale, which circles around Red Cedar Lane. He planted trees and shrubs all over the area, including the rows of red cedar trees that still make Red Cedar Lane seem like a canopied outdoor room.

In 1908, Jager attended a lecture in Minneapolis by the architect, William Gray Purcell. Subsequently, the two men became best friends. When Purcell’s partnership with George Elmslie ended in 1921, Purcell moved to Portland, Oregon, and later to southern California. Purcell and Jager maintained a voluminous correspondence that lasted until Jager’s death in 1959. Purcell wrote, “John, my life-long friend, has the best brain – the most powerful creative urge – and the biggest heart of all the men I’ve known.”

From 1909 to 1933, Jager held the title of Superintendent in the Minneapolis architectural office of Hewitt and Brown. While his duties were mostly administrative, Jager did at least one design project for the firm; he designed much of the woodwork in the sanctuary of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis. Other notable buildings by Hewitt and Brown are Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church (1916) and The Architects and Engineers Building, 1200 2nd Ave. So. (1921), which housed the firm’s offices for many years.

In 1927, Purcell designed the house at 3 Red Cedar Lane for Henry M. Peterson, a real estate developer. Then, working for Peterson, Purcell and Frederick Strauel, a draftsman who had worked in the Purcell & Elmslie office, designed six other speculative houses (i.e., built for sale; not for a specific client) in the area. In 1930, Jager purchased a half share in an additional piece of land at the northeast corner of his original 20-acre parcel. This new section became Russell Court, a cul de sac that now contains four mid-century Modern houses.

As the Jager-Purcell friendship grew over decades, Jager came to be regarded as the ceremonial “silent partner” in the Purcell & Elmslie firm. In his later years, Jager and Strauel organized the firm’s accumulated papers, including hundreds of building drawings as well as Purcell’s many essays, articles, and a large amount of correspondence. This collection eventually became the William Purcell Papers, which are housed at the Northwest Architectural Archives, a component of the library system of the University of Minnesota.

Houses in the Red Cedar Lane neighborhood
The houses on Red Cedar Lane itself are all of a piece: They are versions of what the architectural historian David Gebhard called the English Cottage Fantasy Revival Style — though real estate agents usually call the style “Tudor” or “Tudor Revival.” The English Cottage Fantasy Revival Style is characterized by:
• Facades purposely asymmetrical – yet balanced in terms of massing
• Prominent use of natural materials: stone, wood, and brick
• Color schemes from nature
• Prominent, steep roofs
• Thick wood posts and beams, often together in timber frames
• Fake half-timber on upper walls
• Lantern-style exterior light fixtures and heavy old-style iron hardware
• Multi-pane windows organized in horizontal bands
• Pointed arches and battered walls (i.e. walls whose edges slope inward at a slight angle as they go up)

The tour begins at the corner of Upton and Red Cedar; Red Cedar Lane is between 52nd St. and 54th St.

Locations for Tour

Red Cedar Lane – an Introduction The story of Red Cedar Lane revolves around John Jager (pronounced yăger) who was born in Slovenia in 1871 and died in Minneapolis in 1959. In 1898, Jager received a degree in architecture from the Vienna…

Architect: Perry Larawa Date: 1940 Style: English Cottage Revival This house of several gables is sheathed in two colors of brick, some of which were intentionally “aged” with dashes of mortar. The front door is surrounded by a sheltering…

Architect: William Gray Purcell Date: 1928 Style: English Cottage Revival William Purcell, who is best known for the Prairie School buildings he designed with his partner, George Elmslie, designed this house after the Purcell & Elmslie…

Architect: Perry Larawa Date: 1940 Style: English Cottage Revival Perry Larawa, who designed the house at 1 Red Cedar Lane for his own family, also designed this house. It was purchased by the Joseph family in the 1950s. Burton Joseph was a…

Architect: Bruce Knutson Date: 1990 Style: English Cottage Revival The Josephs, who owned 5 Red Cedar Lane, sold the eastern part of their large lot, where this house was built. A timber frame surrounds the front door. The exterior surface of the…

Architect: Carl B. Stravs Date: 1924 Style: English Cottage Revival This house was built for a Baptist minister named Pierce. Its architect, Carl Stravs, like John Jager, was educated in Vienna and, from 1905 to 1909, the two architects were…

6 Red Cedar Lane — John and Selma Jager house Architect: John Jager; remodeled by William and Susan Sandberg Date: 1919; remodeled 1973 Style: Originally, a simple gabled structure with clapboard siding and basement clad in boulders. As…

Designers: Isadore, Seymour, and Marjorie Mandel Date: 1953 Style: Woodsy Modern The design of this house was a collaboration among Isadore Mandel, his brother Seymour, and Seymour’s wife, Marjorie. The house was built for Seymour and Marjorie…

Architects: Purcell and Strauel (“spec” house for Henry M. Peterson) Date: 1932 Style: English Cottage Fantasy Revival This is one of seven speculative houses designed for developer Henry M. Peterson, who owned the house at 3 Red Cedar Lane. …

Architects: Frederick Strauel (“spec” house for Henry M. Peterson) Date: 1928 Style: English Cottage Fantasy Revival One of the “spec” houses designed for developer Henry M. Peterson. The featured element of this house is a round-arched…

Architects: William Purcell and Frederick Strauel (“spec” house for Henry M. Peterson) Date: 1928 Style: English Cottage Revival The dominant feature of this house is its two-story polygonal bay. As with the other houses in the neighborhood,…

Architects: William Purcell and Frederick Strauel (“spec” house for Henry M. Peterson) Date: 1929 Style: Spanish Colonial / English Cottage Revival Surprise! While most of the Purcell and Strauel houses in this group are purely English Cottage…

Architect: Frederick Strauel (“spec” house for Henry M. Peterson) Date: 1929 Style: English Cottage Revival Primarily, this house is an essay on one of the most important components of the English Cottage Revival Style: half-timbering. Of…

Architects: William Purcell and Frederick Strauel (“spec” house for Henry M. Peterson) Date: 1928 Style: French Cottage Revival/Colonial Revival Surprise! Here, the architects and their client departed completely from the English Cottage…