Researching the history of homes, buildings and neighborhoods in Minneapolis

In most cases, there is no single document that will provide you with a complete history of your home, property, or neighborhood. Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library has many resources to help you find information.

Original building permit index cards

Learn about the construction and improvement history of your house or building. 

Search by street name in the Minneapolis Building Permit Index Card Collection (for example: 34th Ave. S. or Columbia Blvd. or 50th St. E.)

Learn how to interpret a permit card (PDF)

Contact Special Collections for assistance with your search.

Newspaper clippings

Clippings may be available for a particular address, homeowner, architect or Minneapolis neighborhood. Special Collections houses a significant collection of Minneapolis neighborhood newspapers.

Historic photos

Thousands of photographs that date back to the 19th century are available in Special Collections.

View digitized photograph collections

Minneapolis City Directory (1859 to 2003)

Minneapolis city directories online (1859-1931)

Lists the previous occupants of a house and often their occupation(s). Beginning in 1930, use the reverse directory to look up an address and find the names of the people living there.

Dual City Blue Book (1885 to 1924)

This private directory lists the names of the city's wealthier resident alphabetically and by address.

House Plan Books

View the library’s digitized house plan books online or view these plus more in print in Special Collections. Local architect publications like these, which primarily date from the early 20th century, may contain similar or identical floor plans to your house, which could indicate that the house was built from stock plans.


View the library's digitized platbooks (1885 - 1887 - 1898 - 1914 - 1940) online or view paper copies of these plus additional platbooks. The University of Minnesota also offers an online collection of local platbooks.

Historic maps and atlases (1850s to 1920s)

View property boundaries, roads, railroad tracks, streetcar lines, the names of businesses,and geographical attributes. The oldest maps of the city are available via Minnesota Reflections.

Sanborn Fire Insurance map database (1850s to 1920s)

View property boundaries, roads, railroad tracks, streetcar lines, the names of businesses,and geographical attributes. Print volumes of a 1912 Sanborn map with changes through 1930 are available in Special Collections.

Lot surveys on microfilm (1916 to 1965)

Surveys contain original footprint, dimensions and outbuildings of a property or building. Organized by building permit number (B122143 to B394097), not by address. You must obtain your home’s original building permit number from the building permit index card or building permit to access your lot survey. Search building permit index cards online

Lot Surveys are expensive to have done and we strongly encourage homeowners to keep them in a safe place with their building abstract. Anytime there are large renovations/changes done to a house or lot, a lot survey is required. Lot surveys are kept at Development Review in the Public Service Building (Room 300, 250 South 4th St.) for two years. After two years if the building owner did not keep a previous lot survey a new survey has to be made.