Editor’s Note: Max Hailperin is walking each of Minneapolis’ 87 neighborhoods, in alphabetical order. He chronicles his adventures at allofminneapolis.com and we’re sharing them here at streets.mn, at a pace of one or two walks per week.
Having scanned essentially the entire Audubon Park neighborhood on my first day there by using the east-west avenues, I focused my second day on filling in everything I had missed east of (and including) Johnson Street NE:
My itinerary started and ended at the intersection of 29th Avenue and Johnson Street, which is the commercial heart of the neighborhood. Somewhat at odds with its present centrality, it also marks the boundary between the 1883 portion of the neighborhood and the 1887 portion: everything east of Johnson Street and everything north of 29th Avenue was annexed in 1887. Johnson Street also is the last of the presidential streets that was named in the great 1873 renaming, which makes sense in light of Andrew Johnson’s status as the latest former president then existent. (Ulysses S. Grant was in office, but presumably memorializing someone still serving is a bit unseemly.) I’d be curious when the other presidential streets I traversed today got their names, and in particular whether they were all done in a much later batch together with those further east, which go all the way up through Coolidge.
Out of all these commercial establishments, the only one I visited (later in the morning) was The Coffee Shop Northeast, visible in the preceding photo primarily through the tables on the sidewalk outside it. I found this to be a very pleasant spot for refreshment, and it clearly is well integrated into the life of the neighborhood, hosting events as well as doing a thriving business. One nice design element is that it is divided into two rooms of contrasting characters. The front room is bustling whereas the back room is quiet. However you like to spend your time in a coffee shop, there’s a room for you. I snacked on the deli salad of the day, which was a “fiesta salad” contrasting silky ripe avocados with crunchy corn and also containing black beans, cherry tomatoes, chicken, and cilantro. I drank an iced decaf americano. Both were just the relaxing refreshment I was looking for.
In addition to the currently-active commercial establishments such as I showed in the two photos above, the 2800 block of Johnson Street has as one of its principal landmarks the old Hollywood Theater (dating to 1935), which is currently undergoing renovation:
As soon as one crosses 28th Avenue, the character of the street changes from commercial to almost entirely residential. One of the few non-residential buildings on the 2700 block is Fire Station 15, at the northeast corner with 27th Avenue. In my photo, you may not be able to see what follows “M.F.D. STATION” over the doorway; a zoomed-in detail shows that it is a separately applied 15. That must reflect the renumbering of the station from 29 to 15 in 1945. (The building itself dates to 1915, as shown in the photo. Fire stations were built to last!)
I needed to head all the way east on 27th Avenue, a repeat from my first day, in order that I could pick up the one block of Stinson Parkway that I had missed and then begin winding my way back westward. I’m glad to have gone back for the 2600 block of Stinson, because I saw an interesting house sandwiched between two others that were much more typical:
According to the city’s property database, the house at 2622 Stinson Parkway NE dates from 1925, whereas its neighbors at 2618 (foreground) and 2626 (background) are from 1946 and 1950, respectively. The black color of the house is tar paper; apparently I caught it in the midst of re-siding. I’m happy to see that someone is taking care of this historic structure.
After finishing off that one block, I was able to begin the main body of my walk with the easternmost of the neighborhood’s presidential streets, McKinley. That was also where I saw the first of the many interesting gardens that would be a theme throughout the walk. I’m not going to bore you with photos of all of them, but I took note of this one because of its incorporation of decorative stones, including stacks thereof:
One factor that may be related to the prevalence of interesting gardens was the engagement of MetroBlooms in fostering “rain gardens” throughout the neighborhood to take advantage of storm water. I’m not sure, but I think this boulevard garden corresponds to one of the locations indicated on their map:
Or perhaps the map marker was for this other interesting boulevard garden next door, which has a stone-walled depression for absorption:
Incidentally, you may have noticed that by mentioning Benjamin Street, I’ve given away one of the answers to a trivia question: “With which presidents of the United States is Northeast Minneapolis on a first-name basis?”
What I found most interesting about eastern Audubon Park is how much its layout is affected by Brighton Avenue, which cuts diagonally across the grid. As with the gardens, I noted more of the resulting quirks than anyone else is likely to find interesting. But I can’t help but mention a couple. For example, there’s the question of what happens when Brighton Avenue and Garfield Street both reach 26th Avenue (from the north) at nearby locations. According to Google Maps, each of the two crosses 26th Avenue and then they meet slightly further south, creating a small triangle:
However, the official neighborhood map from the city’s GIS department shows a different configuration, with both of them reaching 26th Avenue together and only one of them (Brighton Avenue) continuing to the south of it:
This is one reason why I go out in person, rather than exploring neighborhoods only from my armchair. There’s nothing like the “ground truth” to resolve a conflict such as this. The city of Minneapolis got this one right; Brighton and Garfield come together at the north side of 26th with an angle just wide enough for a utility poll; only Brighton proceeds south:
Aside from Brighton Avenue, another departure from the grid is Saint Anthony Parkway. And as with the diagonal avenue, the sinuous parkway produces some peculiar intersections and near-intersections. For example, my route called for me to walk along 29th Avenue from St. Anthony Parkway to Arthur Street. And sure enough, I did — in a single stride. Here’s the selfie to prove it, sort of:
Heading south along Arthur Street, I came across a particularly unusual boulevard garden in the 2800 block. As readers will have discerned, I’m not very good at identifying plants, but I’m pretty sure this mix includes cacti:
Recall from my prior discussion of the diagonal Brighton Avenue that at 26th Avenue, it cuts off Garfield Avenue, such that Garfield does not continue to the south of 26th. However, it turns out there is a 2500 block of Garfield, just not contiguous. Instead it is oriented diagonally to the grid so as to parallel Brighton. (The two are connected by the perpendicular, and so also non-grid-aligned, 25 1/2th Avenue.) And to return temporarily to my other obsessions, I saw some pretty flowers on that diagonal portion of Garfield:
Historically Brighton Avenue must have been a major through-road connecting Minneapolis to (New) Brighton, as the current New Brighton Boulevard (Highway 88) does. Now, however, it leads from nowhere to nowhere, and in particular doesn’t quite connect up with Lowry Avenue, instead ending within spitting distance of it at a sharply angled intersection with Hayes Street. The street signs, however, suggest an intersection with Lowry:
I rounded the angle and headed north on Hayes Street. If you’re keeping score, that means that I had skipped over the main part of Garfield Street and was going to have to loop back around for it — one of the complications to route planning caused by the diagonal. Hayes Street, like the little diagonal portion of Garfield that I did walk, was home to some pretty flowers:
At the northern end of Hayes Street, my route called for me to duck down the 2900 block and back. Looking ahead into that block, I noticed that the houses across from the middle school were dominated by the crown of a particularly large tree:
However, once I had walked far enough down the block to look between two houses at the tree’s trunk, I noticed that it was marked in orange paint with “E2” (the 2 seemingly a subscript on the E) and a horizontal band. I didn’t like the look of that — although I had no idea what “E2” encoded, the horizontal band looked way too much like a “cut here” signal:
However, the Internet is a wonderful thing for relieving one’s worries. I was able to dig out a document on the US Forest Service’s site that explains that for a “leave tree marking” (indicating a tree not to cut down), “a horizontal band of orange paint at least 2 inches wide must encircle the tree between 5 and 7 feet off the ground.” Moreover, the “E2” designation indicates a tree that is “less desirable” than an “E1” tree would have been, but still suitable to be left. Phew.
I made it down Garfield Street to its semi-terminus at 26th Street and most of the way back up Ulysses Street without any further scares. But then at the northeastern corner of Ulysses and 28th, I initially thought I saw a violation of the city’s chicken ordinance, which allows chicken coops in back yards (subject to numerous conditions), but not in front yards. Because this coop was so readily visible from the street, I initially jumped to the assumption that it was in front of the house. However, on more careful analysis, the house actually fronts onto 28th Avenue, such that this position on Ulysses is definitely not in front of the house — if anything, it is on the side. However, within the side, it is to the back of the house. Given how close the back of the house is to the property line, this positioning is about as “in back of the house” as one could get.
I continued the rest of the way north on Ulysses to Saint Anthony Parkway and then turn back southward on Johnson Street as far as my starting point on 29th Avenue. I had covered a lot of ground in the course of my morning’s walk, but given that it was all nearly horizontal, none of it was as challenging as the much shorter distance this young woman was covering on a tree-mounted rope: