Kenwood was the name of an addition platted just outside the Minneapolis city limits around 1887. At that time, a rail line ran along the west side of the neighborhood near the shoreline of Cedar Lake. A depot and a hotel were located at what is now West 22nd Street where it ends at Cedar Lake.
Lake of the Isles and its shoreline were acquired by the City of Minneapolis in 1886. The lake became part of the city’s famed park system and “Chain of Lakes”, along with Cedar Lake to the west and Lakes Calhoun and Harriet to the south. Lake of the Isles originally was a very large, mosquito-infested swamp, and in 1899, the city started the dredging that created the charming lake with its unusual islands, extensive shoreline, and surrounding picturesque parkland.
A newspaper ad of the late 1880’s announced the Kenwood Addition as “high, sightly and attractive” and as the “choicest place for elegant residences.” Lots were platted, streets were graded, city water pipes were laid, and city streetcar lines were planned. Soon a number of large residences were built and over the next few decades the neighborhood filled with homes built in various styles then popular.
Kenwood has several landmarks In addition to Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake. These include the 1910 brick water tower on Kenwood Parkway; the Peavey Fountain (originally built to water horses) at the intersection of W. Lake of the Isles Parkway and Kenwood Parkway; the “Mary Tyler Moore House” of television programming fame at the SW corner of Kenwood Parkway and W. 21st Street; and three grand, adjoining homes on the 2200 block of W. Lake of the Isles Parkway, built by Cream of Wheat founder Emory Mapes for himself and family members. Other landmarks are Kenwood’s small commercially zoned area at Penn Ave. S. and W. 21st Street; Kenwood Elementary School and Park/Recreation Center at Penn Ave. S. and W. Franklin Ave; Lake of the Isles Lutheran Church on W. Lake of the Isles Parkway at W. 21st St; and the very large natural green space amenity, Kenwood Park.
Kenwood Park occupies most of the northern portion of the neighborhood. Although the park includes baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, and a playground, most of the park has been reserved as open, natural space. According to the Minneapolis Park Board website, the land for Kenwood Park was purchased in 1907, and low land in the park was filled with material dredged from Lake of the Isles in 1908. Tennis courts and sidewalks were installed between 1911 and 1913. During the 1920’s, neighborhood residents opposed plans for further development of the park, fearing the destruction of the park’s natural features. Neighborhood opposition caused the development plans to be scaled back significantly.
Kenwood includes about 540 residential structures, most of which are single-family houses dating from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Many larger homes were divided into rooming houses and duplexes during the mid-1900’s, but in the 1960’s and 1970’s most of these homes were rehabilitated and converted back to single-family use. Kenwood’s popularity grew in the 1980’s and 1990’s as residents and buyers recognized the increasing value of the neighborhood’s beautiful homes and Kenwood’s proximity to downtown, Uptown, and the Minneapolis park and lake system.
Those interested in historical research can find many photographs of the neighborhood in the archives of the Minnesota Historical Society, at www.mnhs.org , and the Minneapolis Public Library, at www.mplib.org.