Our History

Our Journey to Becoming One Organization

Hammer & NER together, are one of the largest nonprofit residential service providers in Minnesota. For 100 years, Hammer, and for 50 years, NER, have supported people with intellectual and other disabilities to help them live their lives to the fullest. 

Scroll down to learn more about our journey to becoming one!


As a nurse at the Faribault State Hospital in 1923, Alvina Hammer saw the shameful plight of individuals with developmental disabilities. She and her friends opened the Hammer School, a home setting with a loving environment – a school that would focus on abilities, not disabilities. Hammer has compassionately cared for adults and children with developmental disabilities for 100 years. Read more about Hammer School here.

1920s – 1930s

Alvina Hammer started the Hammer School near Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, then moved to a larger home on Dupont Avenue, and later to two duplexes on Humboldt Avenue and Lake Street.

During the 1920s, as the Hammer School grew in reputation, Miss Hammer married Herman Rutzen, a long-time friend. The Rutzens worked together to pursue Alvina’s steadfast commitment of caring for the developmentally disabled. Learn more about Ralph here


By 1929, the Hammer School needed more space for the children to roam and play. Alvina purchased a piece of the Drew property outside Wayzata by paying off its delinquent taxes. Situated on Superior Boulevard (then a two-lane dirt road, now known as Highway 12), this piece of land had once been home to Swanson’s Nursery and the Minneapolis Gun Club. For years, tangled rose bushes as well as spent shell casings were found on the grounds.


The Hammer School was incorporated into a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.


A group of dedicated and caring people in the northeast metro area, who worked with children with developmental disabilities, had a vision. After two-and-a half-years of pure determination that vision was realized.


In 1973 a dedicated group of volunteers opened Northeast Residences at St. Mary’s convent. They offered the first respite care, which did not fit existing regulations, but the County was supportive. In February 1973, Northeast Residence Inc., was incorporated and approved as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in September of that same year. Today, although times have changed, and 50 years have passed, that vision continues to be realized. In addition, the board of directors and employees of Northeast Residence, Inc. strive to educate other members of the community on the rights of people with developmental disabilities to enjoy life experiences that affirm their individuality, dignity, and self-respect.


Frank has been a member of our east metro (NER) family most of his life, going back to 1975 when he was eight years old and moved into our ICF home. This was just two years after Northeast Residence opened its doors in what was a former convent in downtown White Bear Lake. There were eight other people in the home at the time. Frank is one of the original people we’ve cared for at Northeast Residence. Read Frank’s story here.


Deinstitutionalization pushes for people to be moved into supported community-based homes. Corrine Schmidt, Executive Director, with Kim in the back yard of what was previously the convent in downtown White Bear Lake and became the first NER long-term home for nine people. Picture is from very either 1989 or early 1990’s.


Hammer Residences’ Vision

Respecting Abilities. Reaching for Opportunities. Realizing Dreams

Northeast Residence’s Vision

To support a community of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities to live to their fullest potential through experiences, choices, quality assurance and self-determination


In 2020, Northeast Residence approached Hammer Residences to join together. Our organizations share the same passion and values around caring for and supporting people with intellectual disabilities. We believed that we could both be better, in a number of ways, if we joined forces. After months of meetings and sharing who we were, we both agreed to begin a new journey together.


On January 1, 2021, NER was acquired by Hammer Residences, and we began to work together to merge the two organizations. Hammer & NER have now fully joined forces to provide people with intellectual and other disabilities the opportunity to live life to its fullest.


On January 1, 2023, Hammer & NER officially became one organization, making us one of the largest nonprofit disability services in Minnesota.

Hammer & NER celebrate their Anniversaries in 2023. Hammer was founded 100 years ago and NER 50 years ago. 

We are Better Together!

Together, we help people be as independent as they are able, by helping them achieve their goals and aspirations, and be active in their community.

We do not do this work alone. Our dedicated staff, board members, donors, advocates, and volunteers are valuable partners in our work. We also strive to educate community members on the rights of people with developmental and other disabilities to affirm their individuality, dignity, and self-respect.

Ralph’s Story

Ralph was a lovable boy who had a disability few people understood in the 1920s. Alvina Hammer, founder of the Hammer School, believed Ralph, and other children with disabilities, deserved to live in a loving environment, a home setting with a school that would focus on their abilities. Ralph was a part of the Hammer family until he passed away in 1995.

Today, our Ralph statue symbolizes each person who is supported at Hammer & NER, along with those who have passed away and the people who will be supported in the future.

We are proud to support people with
intellectual and other disabilities in being a valued and seen part of their community, to learn and grow in a supported home or apartment, and to live their life to its fullest now and into the future.