3111 2nd Ave. So.: John & Maria L. Broom

Healy's Queen Anne masterpiece

Healy re-used design elements of this house over and over.

Built: 1891
Cost estimate on building permit: $5,000

This was the twentieth house that Healy built in the district. While he was building it, he also was working on the Bennett-McBride House at 3116 Third Avenue South, a Harry Wild Jones-designed house in Kenwood, and an elaborate Queen Anne across from the University of Minnesota in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.

The first owner of 3111 2nd Ave. So. was John Hodge, a saloon keeper. The second owners were John & Maria Broom. John was an early Minneapolis settler. Born in London, Ontario, he walked to Minneapolis from Duluth in 1869 at age 24. In 1872, he married Maria L. Cooley. She was born in New York City and came to Minneapolis when she was 13. As a girl she had attended the funeral of President Abraham Lincoln.

John Broom was a buyer, clerk, and finally a department manager at the Wyman-Partridge Company, “large dealers in dry goods, and notions and manufacturers of ‘Flour City’ furnishing goods.” (Their building at 110 No. 5th St. in the Warehouse District still stands.) By his death in 1926, John Broom had worked for Wyman-Partridge for fifty years.

The Brooms moved into this house in 1899. In addition to their eight children (Lillian, Nellie, Alice, Florence, William, Cromwell, John, and George), Maria’s mother, Sophia Cooley, lived with them until her death in 1902 at age 86. Maria died in 1936 at age 83.

Daughter Lillian was an artist and art teacher; she died in 1955. Nellie and Alice stayed in the house until 1965 when the I-35W freeway was under construction. The primary legacy of the Broom family is that they maintained the house without the modernizing changes that happened to so many houses on the Healy Block. Their one dramatic change was a breakfast porch added to the southeast corner in 1910 by English-American master builder Henry Parsons. The breakfast porch is elaborately decorated with art-glass windows. The Brooms and the Parsons were both active members of Simpson United Methodist Church at 2740 1st Ave. So.

In recent times, the house was bought by Margery and Walter Matilla. Margery loved painting her house and helped paint the Bennett-McBride house when Ron Domanski and Norm Lindberg owned it. After Margery and Walter divorced, Margery married woodworker Pete Holly in 1982. Pete has made matching woodwork for many Healy Block restoration projects and for other Twin Cities houses.

One of the Matilla daughters, Mercedes Austin, is a nationally recognized tile designer and the owner of the tile-making firm Mercury Mosaics. Mercedes has speculated that growing up in an environment of artistic beauty helped to create her sensibilities as an artist.

With tenacity and courage, Margery Holly has led the fight on the Healy Block against slumlords, drug dealers, MnDOT when they wanted to encroach further, and the City of Minneapolis when she deemed their policies detrimental to her micro-neighborhood. She has appeared in numerous newspaper stories advocating for preservation, restoration, and livability. Margery and her neighbors, notably Carolyn MacDonald, along with Trilby Busch Christensen, began advocating for historic designation for the Healy Block in 1981. They achieved local designation in 1989 with the help of Eighth Ward Council Member Sharon Sayles-Belton. The block was made a National Register Historic District in 1993.

This is my favorite Healy design. It has a hipped roof with an offset gable on the south end of the front façade and a tower cap -- but without tower -- on the north end. I think of it as a tower that has been “absorbed” into the house’s structure, leaving only a suggestion. The front gable-end features a lunette window divided vertically into three sections. Below the gable-end on the second floor are a pair of Healy’s typical arch-topped Moorish Revival windows over a single glass pane. The woodwork around these three windows is elaborately articulated. The second floor porch sits under the tower cap and the porch’s upper fretwork and balustrade are curved to match the cap. The two double-hung sash windows are curved and set into a curved wall. On the first floor, the porch goes across the entire front, curving around the north end in front of a curved window with stained glass in its upper section. The round and curved elements give the house an appealing complexity and make it Healy’s ultimate Queen Anne masterpiece with design elements that seem to flow and merge.

Healy was apparently pleased with this design. Over the winter of 1891-2, he designed and built 3119 2nd Ave. So. While that house was drastically remodeled in the early 1920s, the remaining structure suggests that it was a reverse version of the 3111 design. At the same time, Healy built 2416 1st Ave. So., repeating many of these same features. And in 1892, he built two more versions, one at 3332 2nd Ave. So. (demolished for I-35W) and one at 2314-16 Bryant Ave. So., the front of which has been extensively remodeled. In the next couple of years, Healy also used the tower-cap-without-tower feature in the Orth House, 2320 Colfax Ave. So., and the Wagner House, 1716 Dupont Ave. So.



Private Property