Lex-Ham…A Unique History of Neighbors Working Together!
The following history was compiled and presented to the Lex-Ham community in June 2003 by Karl Grahek, longtime Lex-Ham resident.
As you know, good, healthy gardens don’t just happen. They are planned, weeded, nurtured and cultivated. Good, healthy neighborhoods don’t just happen either. They are planned, nurtured, safe guarded and beautified. Our neighborhood — Lexington-Hamline — has been very well tended to by our community council over the past several decades.
Over 30 years ago the residents of this neighborhood joined together to form the LHCC. They defined the boundaries of the area they wished to organize, gave the area a name “Lexington-Hamline”; and incorporated a tax exempt, non-profit organization to manage and carry out the goals and objectives put forth by the residents.
Prior to this our neighborhood did not have a name and was just another part of the City of St. Paul. Through the efforts of the LHCC our neighborhood obtained an identity and as time went on it acquired a very desirable reputation that garnered the respect and admiration of many other community groups and governmental agencies.
Through the ongoing efforts of the LHCC, problems were identified and solutions proposed and enacted. Over the years, the LHCC met with many successes: To mention a few:
1. Through its crime prevention programs home security surveys and grants were obtained, a liaison with the St. Paul Police Department was developed and a neighborhood watch program was initiated. As a result of these and other measures taken by Lex Ham residents we saw a decline in the incidence of crime in our neighborhood.
2. The activities of our housing committee has resulted in bettering the housing stock of our neighborhood by initiating a group home maintenance program, coordinating grants for home improvements and monitoring other programs that could be of benefit to our homeowners.
3. The council has put forth much effort to obtain street and sidewalk improvements for our area and spearheaded the protest against the installation of “goose neck mercury vapor lampposts” by seeking ways to retrofit our existing lampposts with energy efficient sodium vapor lamps. This became a reality and was so successful it was implemented throughout the city.
4. The council has worked on transportation issues such as the Selby Avenue Bridge, Ayd Mill Road, installation of a stop light at Griggs and Marshall, safer pedestrian crossings on Lexington Parkway and supported the installation of stop signs on residential streets throughout our neighborhood.
5. Recreation. The very first project that the council undertook was to create the Hague-Schuneman Tot Lot. This parcel of land was owned by the city and stood vacant except during the winter when it was utilized as a dumping ground for snow that had been removed from city streets. The council was concerned about the lack of playground space for neighborhood children so it sought to have this land made into a tot lot. After much work and negotiation the Hague-Schuneman Tot Lot became a reality. Dunning Field was another major accomplishment for the Council. Demonstrations, law suits and persistence eventually resulted in The LHCC gaining management of the western part of Dunning and in 2000 the completion of the Dunning Recreation building.
These are but a few of the many accomplishments that the LHCC enjoyed over the years. Other avenues of success were the Energy Conservation Project, publishing a monthly newsletter, the Eavesdropper, formation of a low income housing project, a youth recreation program, and spin offs such as the Youth Express, the Lex Ham Garden Club, the LexHam Community Theater and Band and the Farm in the City.
In the 60’s our neighborhood was faced with an increase in crime, deteriorating housing stock (abandoned and boarded up houses started to appear) and a “flight to the suburbs” followed. Real estate values dropped dramatically. It was during this period that the LHCC came into being and through the hard work, commitment and diligence of our residents this scenario was reversed. Our neighborhood achieved recognition for its efforts when Lex Ham was identified by David Lanegran, professor of Geography at Macalaster College, as one of the Twin Cities, “Turn Around Neighborhoods” — meaning that Lex Ham had succeeded in reversing the downward trend in it’s quality of life and had achieved the status of a stable and up and coming neighborhood . Needless to say that this success was reflected in a dramatic rise in real estate values and this is readily seen today as we witness the rapid sale of homes in our neighborhood.
I would just like to shift gears a bit at this point and state that the LHCC has faced some trying times during its almost 40 years of existence and the “death knell” has sounded before in light ot a lack of funding. Here again, hard work, perseverance, and financial commitment sprinkled with creative positivism was able to stave off putting up the “out of business” sign.
All of us who are residents of this community have indeed reaped the benefits of the work of our community council in those many ways which were mentioned earlier. Now we are faced with another crisis in funding as are so many other organizations and it behooves us to dig deep to help in what ever ways we can to enable the LHCC to continue its mission to ensure the quality of life in our community that we now enjoy.
(Note: The history was presented during a community meeting called to consider issues around a tight budget and decreasing funding.)