Hiawatha Golf Course National Register Nomination Clears Minnesota Historic Preservation Review Board
On the evening of February 7, 2023, the nomination for listing the Hiawatha Golf Course in the National Register of Historic Places sailed through the Minnesota Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). The eighteen-hole course that opened in the mid-1930s and is significant to African Americans was enrolled as a Landslide site on March 1, 2022, because of plans to redesign it as a nine-hole course as part of a plan to address periodic flooding and other issues. It’s an important moment for Hiawatha; while the site had already been determined eligible for listing as part of the Grand Rounds, the individual listing elevates its importance and historic significance. The nomination is currently being reviewed by the Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer and will then be sent to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C.
The online meeting, with more than 50 in attendance, had the potential for being a protracted event like recent hours long Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board meetings. Fifty-nine letters and emails were received prior to the start of the proceedings; 41 supported the nomination, ten were opposed, and eight, including a lengthy letter from the MPRB, expressed no support or opposition. In the end, only two members of the public spoke.
The HPRB members were clear that their vote was based solely on whether Hiawatha met the criteria for listing in the National Register. They acknowledged the MPRB’s concerns about Hiawatha’s environmental issues and challenges but noted that was not within their purview. They also acknowledged that the nomination was focused on the site’s existence as the Hiawatha Golf Course, which began in the mid-1930s. In answer to opponents and critics that the nomination did not include sufficient information about the period of pre-European contact and the site’s historic association with Native Peoples, the HPRB members encourage those opponents/critics to commission the research necessary for a possible addition to the anticipated National Register listing.
The future of Hiawatha as an eighteen-hole golf course is unclear. The Master Plan endorsed by the MPRB calling for the site to be redesigned to nine holes will cost tens of millions of dollars – likely the most expensive undertaking in the park board’s history. The fact that the mayor withheld his support for the Master Plan will likely make it more difficult to obtain the money. This will continue to play out for several more years.