The Sinister Dr. Dight’s Tree Residence
Eugenicist physician, Charles F. Dight purchased his lot near Minnehaha Falls from Robert Fish Jones. He built his tree house at 4818 39th Avenue South in 1914. According to an article in the Minneapolis Tribune published the same year, “The queer house” was built on iron posts and had a cupola big enough for another room. The structure had 15 windows set in a lattice work and two living rooms. Floors were double spaced in order to accommodate an ingenious hot water heating system. The exterior was sided in rough plaster and tile. Dight said he built his home ten feet off the ground to get a better view of the creek and take advantage of the increased air and sunshine available up in a tree.
The eccentric and controversial Dr. Dight was born in Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1879. He as a member of the faculty at the Hamline University Medical School which became part of the University of Minnesota in 1907. He also taught at the American University of Beirut. Dight ran successfully as a Socialist Party candidate for the Minneapolis City Council and served as Alderman for Ward 12 from 1914 to 1918. While serving on the council he advocated having city garbage fed to the hogs instead of being burned. Dight is probably best remembered for his advocacy of eugenics. He was an admirer of Adolph Hitler and advocated for the sterilization of residents of the Minnesota State School, once known as the School for the Feeble Minded. In in 1923 he founded the Dight Institute for the Promotion of Human Genetics and the Minnesota Eugenics Society. These organizations actively pursued the same type of eugenics championed by Nazi physicians. In 1933, Dight wrote a letter to Hitler praising his efforts to “stamp out mental inferiority.” The Minnesota Eugenics Society was dissolved after Dight died in 1938. The Dight Institute was affiliated with the University of Minnesota until the late 1960s. Dight Avenue, which runs between Hiawatha and Snelling is named for dubious doctor. I wonder if it isn’t time for a name change.