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Whittier Alliance Records

Identifier: M/A 0406

Description of Contents

Records include board of directors materials, committee materials, administrative and financial documents, fundraising materials, legal records, housing and development plans, architectural drawings, correspondence, promotional materials, subject files, photographic prints, slides, negatives, and publications either created or collected by the Whittier Alliance. Also included are records from three “sister” organizations that complemented the work of Whittier Alliance: the Whittier Housing Corporation, Whittier Housing Company, and Whittier Community Development Corporation.

Material is divided into 15 series. The largest is the Housing and Development Series. Newsletters and annual reports, located within the Publications series are easy access points to the collection. Board meetings, housing and development projects, and the planning process for Whittier’s participation in the first phase of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program are especially well documented. Topics of note include cooperative housing, transit access projects, development projects on Nicollet Avenue, and the neighborhood’s first elementary school, the Whittier Community School for the Arts. The bulk of materials date from the 1990s-2000s.

Additional descriptive information is provided at the start of each series.

The Whittier Alliances’ record keeping practices varied over its long history. The use of scratch paper was prolific, with staff often flipping paper upside down and printing on the reverse. A major fire in 1984 at Butler Drug, the business adjoining the Whitter Alliance office, may have contributed to a scarcity of materials from the earliest years of the organization. The Dayton Hudson Foundation’s 1978 publication Whittier Urban Design Framework and a 1981 follow-up publication, Partners, overview the organization’s early accomplishments.


  • Creation: 1972 - 2015



The collection is available for use in Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library during the department's open hours.


The Whittier Alliance was founded in 1978 by a coalition of residents and business owners of the Whittier Neighborhood in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Bounded by Franklin Avenue to the North, I-35W to the East, Lake Street to the South, and Lyndale Avenue to the West, Whittier was officially designated as a neighborhood by the city of Minneapolis in 1960. In 1991, Whittier was the first neighborhood in Minneapolis to participate in the city’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP). Through the years, the Whittier Alliance maintained a focus on engaging Whittier residents and business owners in block clubs, committees, task forces and events addressing a wide variety of issues, including housing, neighborhood livability, economic development, health and safety, crime prevention, education, and youth opportunity. Housing development has been a major focus for the organization. Another major achievement was opening the neighborhood’s first elementary school, the Whittier Community School for the Arts, now known as the Whittier International School.

In the late 1960s, the Whittier Community Organization was founded in response to increasing neighborhood poverty and housing stock decline. The Whittier Action Council and the Whittier Development Corporation, other Whittier Alliance predecessors, were founded with similar goals shortly thereafter. In 1975, the Dayton Hudson Foundation took an interest in the emerging field of “neighborhood revitalization” and selected Whittier as the pilot neighborhood to support with a one-million-dollar grant. This funding supported research and planning for the Whittier Alliance’s first Whittier Neighborhood Plan in 1977.

In 1978, the Whittier Alliance was officially incorporated as a non-profit community development corporation. The Alliance was originally organized as a true alliance of ten Whittier neighborhood groups, with each group being invited to name two people to its board of directors. This board structure was short lived, however, and was soon replaced by a hybrid form of appointments and persons elected at large.

Early on, Whittier Alliance focused on housing shortages. Between 1978 and 1992, the Alliance developed 330 units of low-income housing through a combination of small home ownership assistance and multi-family rental rehabilitation. By 1992, home and business owners who were disgruntled with the Whittier Alliance’s focus on low-income housing took control of the board and halted the Alliance’s housing initiatives.

By 1993, affordable housing cooperatives owned by the Whittier Alliance had fallen into disrepair. To rehab and stabilize the finances of these properties, the organization requested $1.3 million from the NRP. The NRP agreed to the request on the condition that a separate organization, the Whittier Housing Corporation (WHC), would be formed and take over management of the properties. An acrimonious relationship between Whittier Alliance and WHC followed, as well as years of struggle to shore up the finances of these affordable housing projects. By 2000, Whittier Housing Corporation dissolved and ownership of the co-ops transferred to various development companies.

In 1996, discord between board and staff again came to a head, this time due to disputes about how staff was managing the NRP “3-10” loan program as well as a grant from Public/Private Ventures for a program called Community Change for Youth Development. Facing these challenges and a cash shortfall, the Whittier Alliance board laid off all staff, transitioning to a volunteer, board-run organization. The organization slowly rebuilt its staff, but another operating funds shortfall in 2003 related to the reduction of NRP funding resulted in an additional round of internal restructuring and layoffs.


50.61 Linear Feet (112 boxes, 3 oversized folders, negatives)

Language of Materials


Donor Information

This collection was donated by Whittier Alliance in July and November 2019 as accessions 2019.26 and 2019.43.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Amelia Foster from May to December 2022 and by Michael Valdez from December 2022 to March 2023. Processing was financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Whittier Alliance Records
Michael Valdez
February 2023
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Hennepin County Library Special Collections Repository

Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis MN 55401 U.S.A.