Merriam Park, boasts quiet, tree-lined streets, neighborhood groceries, and easy access to both downtowns. Primarily made up of professionals, families, and students, all three have a suburban quality and thriving locally owned businesses. Merriam Park is a well-established, historic neighborhood with an abundance of charm. In 1881, John L. Merriam set out to construct a "'suburban residence town" centrally located between both downtowns. Merriam, himself, made the daily commute into downtown Minneapolis, a trip that took twelve minutes by train. To this day location remains one of Merriam Park's strongest assets (Interstate 94 runs through the neighborhoods’ north end, offering commuters a five-mile trip into either downtown), and the neighborhood lives up to Merriam's original vision with Victorian style homes and four neighborhood parks. Unique shops and restaurants highlight the neighborhood's independent personality. Try Lula, a vintage clothing store, and O'Gara's Bar and Grill in the neighborhood's retail hub on the corner of Selby and Snelling avenues.
Merriam Park's identity derives not only from the atmosphere of its scenic riverfront and well-kept homes but also from the interesting people who live here. From the long-distance racer who trains by running a marathon every day, to the president of the University of Minnesota, Merriam Parkers treasure their neighbors as well as their neighborhood's aura of urban wilderness.
Bordered by the magnificent gorge of the Mississippi to the west and by the mansions of Summit Avenue to the south, Merriam Park is conveniently located midway between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. It includes Desnoyer Park, Iris Park, Merriam Park, and Shadow Falls located on or near the Mississippi River.
Although it is in the center of urban activity today, once upon a time Merriam Park was one of the Twin Cities' first suburbs, located a couple of trolley stops outside of early St. Paul. Colonel John Merriam, who in the 1880s owned much of the neighborhood's bluff land, envisioned the creation of a rural village built on large estates separated by abundant parkland. Merriam built himself a luxurious house and sold lots to those who would agree to his requirement that homes built on this land cost at least $1,500-a sizable amount at the time.
Traces of Merriam Park's exclusive beginnings are still apparent along the Mississippi, where tum-of-the-century Tudor and Arts-and-Crafts style houses line streets shaded by mature, graceful trees. The green and fittingly groomed land surrounding the Town and Country Club, located along the river north of Marshall Avenue, adds to Merriam Park's air of grandeur. During winter, the country club's gates are left open for cross-country skiers.
It seems every style of architecture is represented here, from opulent Queen Annes, Gothic and Italianate styles reflecting Victorian taste, to colonial revivals, Dutch colonials, Tudors, American foursquare, and prairie style homes. Built to last, these homes exhibit solid construction and craftsmanship and loving attention to detail. Housing is mixed from small to large, with many of the biggest houses clustered in the vicinity of Marshall Avenue.
Generally, you'll find housing to be less expensive than in Highland, with houses near the University of St. Thomas campus occupied by students and university related folk. And there's been a recent influx of young families moving into the two-and-three-bedroom 1900s stucco and wood houses that line many of the streets of Merriam Park.