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 (1859-1944)

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 (1916 to 1965)

Surveys contain original footprint, dimensions, and outbuildings of a property or building. The lot survey collection includes surveys for Minneapolis properties with building permit (B permit) work performed from 1916 to 1965 (permits B122143 to B394097). Lot surveys do not exist for every building permit.

This collection is in the process of being digitized. Additional lot surveys will continue to be added. Search the digitized collection by address or building permit number, which can be found on the building permit index cards.