SHERWOOD FOREST HISTORY
As compiled by Jim Couling (1954 - 2012) in March 2006
Sherwood Forest was platted and developed in 1941 by Dickinson & Gillespie, Inc., a real estate firm, which developed some other neighborhoods nearby, in Minneapolis and in Southern California, among others. The Sherwood Forest tract was named and is legally known as “Oak Knoll Third Addition.”
Dickinson & Gillespie partnered with United Fur Ranches, Inc., who owned much of what is now Sherwood Forest and Fox Hills during the 1930s. United Fur Ranches also owned the Hilloway Park area but it was not part of Oak Knoll third and its development is unclear at this writing. Fur Farms including United States Mink Ranches and United States Silver Fox Farms, Inc. also had interests in the area. Fur Farm company ownership gets a bit fuzzy and United States Fur Ranches may be the result of some bankruptcies, mergers and legal maneuverings.
It is assumed, but not yet confirmed, that landowners prior to the 1930s were involved in fur farming. The hilltop up from Timberline Road overlooking Crane Lake had “long been called Foxes Peak” because of the area’s fur farms, according to a long time Hopkins resident who during the 1930s was a teenager living in the Oak Knoll area. The fur farms and named-peak led Glen and Goodie Hamilton, who in 1941 purchased 80 acres around Timberline Road, to name the area “Fox Hills.”
When Sherwood Forest proper was platted in 1941, Timberline Road was named Red Oak Drive and Hilloway Road was White Oak Drive. In the Hilloway area Byrnes Road is named after William Byrnes, a Hilloway Park area landowner in the 1890s. Street signs did not go up in Sherwood Forest until 1949 when the FHA declined to grant further loans to homebuilders until the roads were identified. In 1958, the state set the neighborhood speed limits at 20 MPH. County Road 73 was paved over what was then a gravel road in 1933; prior to 1925 it was a dirt road.
The first recorded owner in what is now Sherwood Forest was John Riheldaffer (1855 -1882). United Fur Ranches, Inc. assumed control in the early 1930s and with Dickinson & Gillespie, Inc., began selling lots in 1941. One of the first lot purchasers were John and Helen Bolster. In 1944, they built one of first homes in the soon to be named Sherwood Forest, the “log cabin” located off Park Ridge Drive at the East entrance pond. They lived there until the mid 1990s and the house stayed in the family until 2005. The house at 11400 Park Ridge Drive W was another early home here (the second story was added on later).
After WWII, Dickinson & Gillespie began an advertising promotion of Oak Knoll 3rd Addition with lot prices of $395.00 to $695.00. That summer, Oak Knoll 3rd Addition was “named” Sherwood Forest by Mr. Gillespie after seeing the movie "The Bandit of Sherwood Forest." A 30-foot billboard depicting Robin Hood with a drawn bow and arrow was placed at the East entrance. (He named his nearby developments "Ivanhoe Woods" and "Windsor Hills.”). By 1950, lot values had increased to $1,000.00 and more. A number of lots were purchased and built on in the 1950s by architects who were influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright and his contemporaries; many of these unique homes still exist in the neighborhood. Images of these houses are being assembled for eventual inclusion in the neighborhood Web Site photo gallery.
Covenants attached to the sale of Sherwood Forest lots dictated that the costs of dwellings, including garage, be a minimum $3,000.00 - $4,000.00, depending on the lot. The ground floor square footage, exclusive of one story open porches and garages could not be less than 575 sq. ft. for one-story homes and 480 sq. ft. for 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 story homes. Setbacks, street facings and more were also defined. The covenants also stated “no horses, cows, goats, sheep or swine...will be permitted to be kept on any of these lots.” And further, the covenants included a “Racial Clause”: “No person of any race other than the Caucasian race shall use or occupy any building or lot, except [a] different race domiciled with an owner or tenant.”
The Hilloway Park area, which was developed separately, also had covenants that included a similar racial clause. Covenants differed by dictating lots as 5 acres and that “no swine, mink, fox, skunk or other fur-bearing animal shall be kept...” That excluded horses and into the early ‘70s the area was mostly treeless pasture for horses. It’s unclear at this time whether the area was prairie or if it was logged, perhaps during the mid to late 1800s to supply the mills and furniture factory located at Minnetonka Mills during that time.
The pine-filled city park, Hilloway Park, did not have many trees until the early 1950's when the then land owner, Fred Atkinson (12020 Hilloway), hired members of the junior class of Blake School who were raising funds for their prom, to plant pine seedlings he obtained from the state. Early in the 1960's, the land was given to the city for a park with the stipulation that it remains in its natural state.
Wildlife has always been part of our area and until 1949 so were hunters, especially of pheasants and ducks. In the fall of 1949, a petition was circulated throughout the Sherwood Forest neighborhood requesting that the area be designated as a game preserve, which it was. Hunting continued a bit longer in the Hilloway Park area. Also in 1949, the Crane Lake area between Fox Hills and Highway 12/I-394 was designated a protected wetland. The origin of the Crane Lake name is unknown but the name does appear on maps dating to the 1890s.
Up until 1971, neighborhood children had a school within walking distance: Oak Knoll School. In 1895 one acre of land at Country Road 73 and Timberline Road was deeded to “School District 133” and a small frame schoolhouse was built. In 1925 a new school building was built on the site housing 2 rooms each with 4 grades; this structure with subsequent additions exists today. Additions to the building were made in 1935 (2 classrooms and a gymnasium) and in 1952 six more classrooms were added (the 1-story wing), including one for kindergarten. Local residents help furnished the kindergarten classroom and contributed toys and equipment, obviously delighted to have it because, after all, the post-war baby boom was underway.
From 1952 until it closed the school served kindergarten through 6th grade. It was an independent (“common”) school district until it consolidated with Hopkins Schools in 1953. The school was closed and sold in 1972 by the Hopkins School District to Groves Learning Centers who later sold it to the current owner, Omegon, a residential chemical-dependency treatment facility.
The original neighborhood association, defined in part by the original lot covenants, was dissolved in 1959 and its assets, activities and officers were turned over to the newly formed Sherwood Forest Association, Inc., which exists to this day. One of new association’s first actions was construction of the East monument. It was constructed through a combination of membership dues and deals from residents with “connections.” For example, then resident Neal Sorenson obtained the slate from Sorenson Slate Co. An electrician resident wired it and the light at the front ponds. Prior to the monument there was a fence with resident names on it. The “big stone” at the front pond was placed in the early 1960s.
During the 1960s especially, and into the ‘70s, the association held an annual dinner/dance party for adults, built and maintained skating and hockey (with boards) rinks at the front ponds and sponsored door-to-door Christmas caroling led by Irene Mhyro (then and now a Park Ridge Drive W resident). Mr. Mills, then a resident of Oak Ridge Lane, made Christmas Eve home visits as Santa and held a Halloween haunted house. Starting in the 70s, an annual picnic was held. The first picnic was at the ponds but the mosquitoes caused it to be relocated to the Sherwood Hill area in subsequent years.
In the late 1990s the association fell into a period of dormancy until the spurred by the vehicle-damaged East monument (fall 2003). At a July 2004 meeting initiated by residents Jaye Snyder and Valerie Gilbert, 125 plus residents rallied intent on rebuilding both the monument and association. Officers were elected (Jim Couling, Tim Pickford, Whitney Frisch and Wayne Bren volunteered) for a one-year term that became two years; three of the four had grown up here and left only to return as adults.
Since 2004, volunteers (led by residents Clem Moore and Steve Freie) have rebuilt and restored the monument, cleared the front ponds of much buckthorn as part of a planned multi-year restoration, held community events (National Night Out and Chilly Fest), distributed crime alerts and more. Officers worked to give voice to neighborhood concerns at the city hall, and in March 2006, unveiled a new neighborhood Web Site built by Wayne Bren and Jim Couling that is intended as a resource and forum to foster and promote community.
The neighborhood has seen many changes over the years from additions made to houses and lot sub-division to the 1980s Hilloway Park area development, and yet, much remains the same, especially the neighborhood’s character and sense of place. As of 2006, a few original lot homesteaders still live here, there are many 20+-year residents and at least eight children who grew up here during the 1950s - 1970s have returned to live here again.
Research of our neighborhood area history is ongoing and information will be added to this Web Site section and archive. Sources include government records, association records, the Hennepin County History Center, Hennepin County Libraries and the MN History Center, among others. Special thanks to residents Nancy Braun, Gwen Meyers, Peggy Wolfe, Daryl and Nikki Laub and Betty Johnson of the Minnetonka Historical Society. If you or someone you know has recollections, documents or photos related to our history and development, please contact me at (952) 593-1125. We would especially like to find a photo of the 30' Robin Hood billboard.
For Minnetonka history, including an archive of documents, maps and photos visit the Minnetonka Historical Society Web Site
at http://www.minnetonka-history.org or SFA AOI at Articles of Incorporation.