Many people have contacted the Historical Society seeking
help in researching the history of their house. We
hope that the following will be helpful.
Hennepin County Tax Records
The first thing to do is to go to the
County Property Information Search (PINS) website. This website
contains public information from the county tax records.
Enter your address and it will give you the year the house
was built, the legal description and dimensions of the lot,
whether the house is homesteaded, etc. Your name and address
should also appear as owners of the property.
The site will also indicate the name of the subdivision.
With that you can enter the name of the subdivision and
block number where indicated to get a list of all of the
houses on the block. For example, if you want to know the
ages of all the houses on your street, look up your own
address to find out the subdivision name and block number,
then enter that information to get a list of each house in
that block. Click on each house on your street to get the
The site also has a very helpful mapping feature.
5005 Minnetonka Blvd.
There are two places in City Hall that may be helpful in
your search. The first is the Permits and Inspections
desk on the second floor. There they have microfiched
documents for every house in the City. Give them an
address and they will pull the file and let you view it on
the machine. These documents are generally building
permits, which may tell you when a garage or an addition was
added. You can glean the names of owners from the
documents as well (but be careful - often permits are taken
out in the name of the contractor). These records
generally only go back to the 1950s, and the
first record is often a certificate of when the house was
hooked up to City (then Village) water.
The second place to go in City Hall is the Tax Assessors
Office, on the third floor. They, too, have files on
every house in the City. Ask to see your folder, and
you will find records of tax assessments - not going back
much further than the late 1940s. The records of
inspections will give you names of owners through the years.
And depending on the age of your house, there are probably
pictures taken in 1955 and 1960.
City Hall can also provide plat maps of various
neighborhoods. There is a fee charged for each map
Abstract of Title
Your property may be titled by an Abstract of Title.
The Hennepin County Tax website will indicate
whether your property has an abstract of title or is titled
If you have an Abstract, it is your best source of
information on your house and neighborhood. An Abstract is
prepared by a Title or Insurance company, and tells you who
owned your property (not necessarily your house) before you.
It is updated every time the property is sold. It is a
valuable document because it would be almost impossible - or
at least very expensive - to reconstruct. You should keep
yours in a safe deposit box and work from a copy. (If you
don't have one, check with your title company - sometimes
they store abstracts for homeowners.)
Abstracts can be very difficult to understand. First of all,
the descriptions of property change. St. Louis Park (Section
21, Township 117, Range 21) was first divided in 1855, so
the first conveyance recorded will probably be from the U.S.
Government around that time, described in 40-acre Government
Lots. These lots are quite different from the blocks and
lots that resulted when the land was first platted. Then
there could be subsequent plats; in the Center, e.g., 2,000
acres were platted into 25 ft. lots in
1882, and those lots were often replatted when the
Walker plan fell
through and the land was bought up by others.
Second, one purpose of an Abstract is to document clear
title to the land. When the property is sold, a search is
made to find out if there are any liens on the property.
Often people with similar names are identified as possible
clouds to the title. Those entries can be disregarded.
Third, conveying the land (sometimes for a token $10) is
different from getting a mortgage, and both of those
transactions are recorded separately. Sometimes the same
entity will own the mortgage, but the land will be conveyed
back and forth. Or, in later years, it may be the opposite.
There may be a whole flurry of transactions that don't
actually amount to any kind of change in ownership. (Note
that 30-year insured mortgages weren't available until FHA
came along in about 1939.)
One important use of the Abstract, especially for an older
house, is to determine who owned the house the year it was
built. With that information, you might be able to use the
resources of the
Northwest Architectural Archives to obtain
plans and other documents pertaining to the building of the
Note that if your house is titled by Torrens, there will be
Also note: Almost all of the Village's street names
were changed in 1933. A crosswalk can be found at
Often a good source of information is your neighbors.
Look on the Hennepin County Tax website (above) and pull up
the houses on your block. The site will tell you when
the current owner bought the house, back to about 1970.
Before that, it will say that no information is available.
You may want to knock on the door of a "no information"
house to see if the longtime owner has any information about
your house or neighborhood.
See Also Research Resources for other places to go.
National Park Service:
www.nps.gov regarding preservation issues
National Trust for Historic Preservation:
www.preservationnation.org also regarding preservation
Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library:
Carnagie Mellon University architectural archives:
Sanborn Map Co.:
www.sanborn.com Digitized historic Sanborn maps
can be found online through a subscription service called
ProQuest. Contact Environmental Data Resources, Inc. (www.edrnet.com/sanborn.htm)
to order a subscription.
Drafting a House History: Compiled by Barbara Bezat
and Alan K. Lathrop, U of Minn Libraries, 1979,
How to: House History: Minnesota Historical