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.
The Bottineau neighborhood of northeast Minneapolis has three straightforward boundaries: the Mississippi River on the west, University Avenue NE on the east, and Lowry Avenue NE on the north. And then there is the southern boundary, which isn’t so straightforward.
As a first approximation, the southern boundary runs along 18th Avenue NE in the western part of the neighborhood and along 17th Avenue NE in the eastern part, with the two connected up by a short north-south jog along California Street NE. Except that part of the connection on California Street doesn’t connect, per se, because a railroad track cuts through it with no crossing. Also, the eastern portion of the southern border doesn’t entirely lie on 17th Avenue, as 17th Avenue itself has a slight discontinuity patched up with a tiny bit of Main Street NE.
The railroad’s interruption of California Street is part of a more pervasive division of the neighborhood. One can cross the railroad along the neighborhood’s northern border, Lowry Avenue, and at one other point within the neighborhood, 22nd Avenue. Other than those two bridges, the neighborhood is entirely severed. Taking that as my cue, I decided to walk the eastern (inland) side today and leave the western (riverfront) side for another day:
I started my walk at the corner of 19th Avenue and 2nd Street, which is the location of the Bottineau Recreation Center. This was a convenient spot to get off the northbound number 11 bus. (I boarded the southbound bus at the end of my walk one block further north, at 20th Avenue.)
As soon as I got off the bus, I realized something big was happening. Throngs of very well dressed people of Somali appearance were streaming toward the recreation center on foot, every visible parking space was taken, and more vehicles continued arriving, allowing their passengers to debark, and then heading off to park further away.
In short, I had entirely forgotten that the Eid al-Fitr would be celebrated on this day until it stared me in the face. The recreation center features a domed, air-conditioned fieldhouse constructed in 2001 which clearly was rented for the communal prayers to mark the Eid. All through my walk, I continued to pass groups headed to (or being dropped off at) the fieldhouse. The men and boys were dressed in very elegant clothes, in many cases seemingly brand new, and left a sweet scent of perfume behind them. The women and girls were dressed less ornately but still with great care. I overheard community members exchanging greetings and reflective-vested volunteers directing traffic. The atmosphere had a certain excited tension to it, happy but dignified, akin to people arriving for a wedding.
Later in my walk, I was able to see why so many participants were able to walk to the gathering: I passed the Botteneau Townhomes, Botteneau Commons, and Botteneau Lofts, which were developed at the turn of the 21st Century and are home to many New Americans from Somalia. I was curious, though, about the others who came from further away.
Why was it that there were so many private vehicles arriving, yet nobody had gotten off the bus with me? For many of the participants, there may be mundane, practical explanations for why they didn’t use public transit. However, upon doing a little online research, I see that there might also be a religious component. Apparently the prophet went to Eid prayer by one route and returned by another, and so it is proper to do the same. With the bus, that might not be possible. Could this be a reason to eschew public transit for this purpose of Eid prayer? If any of my readers is knowledgable, I’d appreciate comment.
I began my own path by heading south on 2nd Street to 17th Avenue, along the way passing a major cluster of human-services facilities consisting of the MTS Elementary School and the East Side Neighborhood Services with its Northeast Child Development Center, Menlo Park Academy, and adult Friendship Center.
Upon reaching 17th Avenue, I first probed one block to the east. It was here that I found my first clear evidence that July 6, 2016, was not only the day of Eid al-Fitr but also the day after a major storm had passed through Minneapolis:
Turning back to the west on 17th Avenue and curving around via Main Street, I came across a garden with a sign explaining that it is the East Side Community Youth Garden. Another sign asks for the respect such a garden deserves:
At this point in narrating my route, I must confess some questionable judgment. I chose to take the bicycle trail from California Street to University Avenue. What makes this questionable is that the trail doesn’t have a pedestrian lane: it really is set up for bicycle traffic only. However, at this hour there were no bicyclists, and I reasoned that I could jump out of the way quickly enough if any appeared. (I was careful to use the lane that caused me to face head-on into any traffic, rather than allowing it to come up from behind.) Whether this was a smart move or not, it turned out OK: no bicyclists, just a few other pedestrians.
I looped around via University and 17th Avenues to 3rd Street, which I followed the entire length of the neighborhood from 17th Avenue to Lowry Avenue. In the 2000 block, I encountered an exceptionally pretty planter decorated with beer bottle caps, and a few blocks later, the house number 2309 stood out on an illuminated stained-glass sign.
At the northeastern corner of the neighborhood, I encountered what might be another sign of the Eid. The Marina Grill & Deli bills itself as serving “Greek * Mediterranean * American” food but seems rather Levantine, so the fact that they set up a tent in their parking lot to substantially expand their seating might well be related to the celebration.
As I wound my way back southward, I found myself envying whatever kids live at the southeast corner of 24th Avenue and 3rd Street. They have a really nice tree house:
I continued on 24th Avenue past 2nd Street, which generally is the westernmost street before the railroad tracks, so as to reach 1st Street, which usurps that distinction for the two-block distance between 23rd and Lowry Avenues. If you look at Google Maps, such as my route map, you might think that 1st Street extends another block south to 22nd Street. However, the city’s map makes clear that this is actually an alleyway, not another block of the street. (My own observation confirms this). More generally, if you see “streets” I seem to be skipping over in the maps, those are alleys. In the particular case of 1st Street NE, the street itself is so small that it could easily pass as an alley were it not for the sign:
The key distinction is that if this were an alley, it wouldn’t have any addresses on it to designate lots, whereas at 2318 1st Street NE, I encountered Modern Heating & Air Conditioning. Another virtue of exploring this street is that I got a view across the tracks to what may be a highlight of the eastern portion of the neighborhood: the California Building, a former industrial building now housing artists’ studios. They have a nice open-studios day on the second Saturday of each month, which I’ve enjoyed in the past. Alas, although this coming Saturday is a second Saturday, I’ll be out of town — and I hope to get back to walking before the second Saturday of August.
Remember that planter decorated with beer bottle caps? Continuing the trend of lawns decorated with the by-products of drinking, a little further into my journey I encountered a tree made from rebar and wine bottles:
Another theme from early in the walk that re-emerged near the end was the storm damage. Although I had seen plenty of minor branches down, I hadn’t seen anything blocking half the roadway since 17th Avenue — until I reached the 300 block of 23rd Avenue, where an equally large limb had fallen, and this time from a greater height. Imagining the impact of that fall is a good reminder why we are to stay indoors during severe storm warnings:
My walk ended back at the recreation center and its associated Bottineau Field Park. The crowd that had gathered in the fieldhouse contrasted with the park’s other facilities, which were left eerily empty. I’m sure under more normal circumstances, the children would be glad to use these attractive play structures, pool, and skatepark: