See T.B. Walker
for a description of Walker's plans to turn St. Louis Park
into an industrial town in which he controlled the land, the
streetcar, and the factories. To house the workforce of his new
industrial town, Walker built about 60 so-called
"Walker Houses" west of the industrial circle in
what is now called the South Oak Hill neighborhood
from 1890 to 1898.
Renting for $9-$14/month, the houses were
nearly-identical, narrow, two-story affairs with two rooms up and
two rooms down. They were heated by parlor stoves, and had
no indoor plumbing. It appears that originally they did not
have front doors, but doors on the side. If so, most
have had front doors added later. An explanation may have to
do with the fact that Walker had platted out 25-foot lots,
either with the intention that workers buy one lot for their
house and one for a garden, or to cram as many workers in
together as he could. If the former, perhaps the side
door reflected the intent that the family enter and exit via
Walker's dream collapsed with the Panic of 1893, and he
turned his attention to other endeavors. He was left
owning (and paying taxes on) a great number of unsold lots.
In the 1930s, the E.H. Shursen Agency (Earling Shursen)
sold the last of them.
The wood frame houses were very
vulnerable to fire. On April 16, 1893, five of them burned down. The April 20 issue of the
Minneapolis Tribune reported:
The fire started in the shed of the house occupied by
E.L. Soderlind, and had a good headway before being
discovered. John W. Farber, lving upstairs, had a
very narrow escape, and it was with difficulty he saved
himself, wife and baby. They lost everything but
the clothing they had on. Farber had a small
insurance, the risk having been taken out the Friday
previous. Soderlind saved some front room
furniture, but everything in the back part of the house
was destroyed. He had no insurance. The
other buildings were occupied by Parker, Long, Blocker,
Lund and others, but they saved most of their furniture.
No one knows how the fire originated.
Fires persisted - a resident of South Oak Hill remembers
that a fire in the late 1940s burned many of them.
As of 1999 there were about 50 of them left, a few in
near-original condition, and some modernized so thoroughly
that they are unrecognizable as Walker Houses. Although the
greatest concentration is on Edgebrook and North Streets in
South Oak Hill,
many have been moved from their original locations. (In 1926
there was apparently the need for an ordinance regulating
the moving of houses, buildings, derricks, and other
house at 3750 Pennsylvania appears to be made up of three
Walker Houses stuccoed together.
This house was at 5920 Oxford, built in 1893. It was
demolished to make way for Village in the Park. The
basic two-story structure appears to be an original Walker
house. The front vestibule and additions to the back
This information comes from a variety of sources: newspapers, books, yearbooks, phone directories, interviews, etc. Given the varied sources, we cannot guarantee that all of this information is correct, and welcome any additions and corrections. Please contact us with your contributions and comments.