The following was an article written by Debbie Ellsworth for the Westwood Hills neighborhood newsletter and reprinted by permission.
BOB MCNULTY, FOUNDER OF NEIGHBORHOOD, IS REMEMBERED
Do you know who built your house? In this neighborhood, chances are good it was Bob McNulty, the man who not only built most of the houses in Westwood Hills, but raised his family here as well.
Bob died this past summer, and even long-time neighbors were surprised at the vast scope of his enterprises, which were discussed in the obituary in the StarTribune. His construction company built the Met Sports Center in Bloomington, and he was one of the original owners of the Minnesota North Stars. His company also worked on building sports arenas in many other cities in the country, from Boston to Atlanta.
Of interest to those of us here is the fact hat Bob got his start in the construction business building hundreds of homes on what used to be a large private golf course owned by his grandfather. Bob sold some of the land to the city for the junior High and the Nature Center. He also donated the land for Willow Park on Cedar Lake Road, and then built the houses around it. Helen McNulty shared this and other fascinating information with me about how her husband built this neighborhood and what Westwood Hills was like in the ’50s and ’60s.
Westwood Hills Trivia Question #1: Do you know how the area got its name? Answer: Bob’s grandfather named it after the Westwood Hills in Los Angeles, since he was living in Los Angeles at the time.
Trivia Question #2: What was Bob’s training and background? If you guessed architecture, you’re wrong. Bob got his degree in history, and just got into the construction business by chance. They first lived in the house on the southwest corner of Westwood Hills Drive and Curve. When the contractor that was building that house for them quit unexpectedly, Bob had to take over and finish building the house. Someone liked what he had done and asked Bob to build a house for them. Then, just to keep the crew he had working for him busy, he built another house on the Curve on spec. One thing led to another, and soon Bob was running a big construction company and building houses all over the area. Many of the houses were bought by friends and family. The Foulkes’ house was originally built for Helen’s parents. McNulty houses had a reputation for solid quality that still holds up today. (Bob’s two sons now head up McNulty Construction.)
When the McNultys built the larger house for their family of seven on the Curve, they enlisted the help of the neighborhood kids to make the short move. They got a bunch of kids to carry the pots and pans and other unbreakables half a block down to the new house, and then Helen took them all out for ice cream at the drug store afterward!
Helen said this neighborhood was swarming with kids (72 on her street at one point) back in the early days. She said that after the kids got loaded onto the Kindergarten bus, the mothers would all go back to someone’s house for a coffee hour. She told about how Jeanne Lamb decided one summer that there had to be some order imposed on the free-for-all, so she gathered all the kids and set out the Summer Rules, such as “everyone goes home to go to the bathroom,” and “no playing in garages.”
And why have the McNultys stayed in this neighborhood for 38 years? Helen said that she has done a lot of work in cultural diversity over the years, and has always felt it was very important to have a solid base for her family. They felt their children were comfortable here, and they’ve always thought this was “such a nice little neighborhood.” Most of us would agree that the neighborhood Bob built is still a pretty nice place to raise a family!
Robert J. McNulty
Photo courtesy Jim McNulty