A Futuristic 'New Town' on the Cuff of the Twin Cities Still Retains its Charms

MinnPost recently posted an interesting article about a modernist suburban town, Jonathan, Minnesota, which now acts as a neighborhood within the Chaska city limits. Jonathan was planned as a 'New Town' in the 1960s, based on an idea that originated in Sweden and took a strong hold in Scotland, England and the United States. Jonathan was the first of its kind in the US, putting into play many of the urban planning principles of its Swedish predecessors. I can't say if the creators of Jonathan looked specifically to Sweden as a guide, but I do know that one contributing architect, Ralph Rapson, spent much of the early 1950s in Scandinavian countries, designing US Embassies for Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, and The Hague. In the process of designing the Stockholm US Embassy, Rapson worked alongside the preeminent Stockholm urban planner, Sven Markelius, the man behind Stockholm's infamous 'Satellite Cities' or 'New Towns'.

Ralph Rapson designed only one home for the Jonathan community in 1966, The Red Cedar House - aka the Weyerhaeuser Demonstration House D-1317. Ralph was commissioned by the Weyerhaeuser Company to design "a house for everyman", using Weyerhaeuser products. The home was featured in Better Homes & Gardens and the plans were made available to anyone for reproduction. It was intended for the self-supporting community to be linked to the Twin Cities via some sort of high speed rail system, much like the Satellite Cities of Stockholm, but the Jonathan Development Corporation folded in 1979 before that stage of the project was realized. 

Much of the futuristic town remains intact, including The Red Cedar House. See the MinnPost article for more on the history and quirky characteristics of Minnesota's own 'New Town'. 

[photo credits: Triangle Modernist Houses]

Caroline Engel for Rapson-Inc. 


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