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.
Because I previously walked the portion of the Bottineau neighborhood to the east of the railroad tracks, my focus this time was on the portion to the west of the tracks, along the Mississippi River:
I got off the number 11 bus, which runs along 2nd Street NE, at 22nd Avenue NE and headed west to cross the tracks. Immediately on the other side I encountered the southeast corner of the California Building, where the Mojo Coffee Gallery occupies the low-rise portion of the formerly industrial site:
I ducked inside long enough to see that the space is suitably decorated for a coffee shop inside a building of artists’ galleries and also to see that at 9:20 on a Saturday morning, quite a few people thought it was a good time to wait in line for coffee. I might have agreed with them were I not eager to get my walk underway.
Continuing west on 22nd Avenue, I spotted a particularly nice Little Free Library and had an enjoyable chat with its owner, who indicated her pleasure in the use the library receives and the little poems people write using the Magnetic Poetry words she has stuck to the galvanized steel cabinet. I was captivated by how actively I was able to engage with those words even without rearranging them. I had to decide where to see words as grouped together and how to imagine them as punctuated:
The inside of the library has a welcoming note indicating that one can take a book even without leaving one, and it has a substantial and well-organized collection. It’s owner clearly takes care in managing it. She made a mental note that the children’s books were running low, and before I could take my picture, she needed to tidy up its already tidy shelves, like a parent combing a child’s hair before a photo. (And then I chose to feature the outside. Oh well.)
Turning left (south) from 22nd Avenue onto Marshall Street, I encountered three places that draw outsiders to the neighborhood arrayed consecutively on the western (river) side of the street. First, there is The Sample Room, an inviting looking restaurant and bar that recently marked its 14th anniversary since replacing the Polish Palace in the building, which dates from 1883. Even the patio looked inviting, despite the sunny weather:
They weren’t going to be open for brunch for another hour, but never fear: my route would bring me back to the corner of 22nd Avenue and Marshall in about that amount of time. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, I continued to another point of interest on the riverside, immediately to the south of The Sample Room. Gluek Park is named for the former Gluek brewery and mansion that occupied the site. One can enjoy a gazebo, stroll among the trees, and look out over the river.
Continuing southward along the riverside, I came next to Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge, a well-known tiki bar that also has been operating since the early 21st century. More than once I’ve encountered incredulity that I’ve never been to Psycho Suzi’s. I’m looking forward to one day finding out if their Mai Tais are as good as reputed. This, however, was once again not that day. They were within 20 minutes of opening for brunch — I could already smell the bacon and sausage cooking — and I’m not above ordering a Mai Tai at 10 AM. But I was itching to keep walking.
Having turned onto Marshall Street from 22nd Avenue, there was nowhere to turn back off of it until I reached the southern border of the neighborhood at 18th Avenue. That’s because on the eastern side of the street the enormous Packaging Corporation of America plant sprawls for what would otherwise be several blocks. (I’ve got a picture from the Grand Street side later.)
Where 18th Avenue ends just short of the railroad tracks, I turned south into a short cul-de-sac segment of California Street, which also forms a portion of the neighborhood boundary. (Recall from the prior day that on the other side of the tracks, the southern boundary is on 17th Avenue.) Here too there is no railroad crossing — at least not officially, though it looks like some pedestrians or bicyclists choose otherwise:
Having explored this bit of California Street south of 18th Avenue, I turned back and found myself a little confused. Based on Google Maps, I thought there was another longer cul-de-sac of California Street running north from 18th Avenue. However, that turned out to be the private property of Siwek Lumber and Millwork:
Had I paid more attention to the official city map of the neighborhood, I would have known this. Anyhow, I explained to the helpful neighbor that I wasn’t really looking for anything, I was just looking, and I went on my way back westward on 18th Avenue to Grand Street. I’ve already modified my route map to not show me as going up the non-existent portion of the street, and depending on when you look, maybe that portion isn’t even shown at all any more — I reported the problem to Google, so their map may be fixed.
If I were looking for a lumberyard in Northeast Minneapolis, I’d definitely be inclined to give Siwek a try just based on the nice plantings they put on the outside of their fence facing the Grand Street sidewalk:
After the lumber yard, I came across a rather distinguished building labeled “Sinclair” at 1901 Grand Street NE:
The current occupant of this building is Preferred Antiques, and indeed I was able to browse their open antique shop, though no other humans were in evidence. In addition to the antique business, they operate an events venue under the Sinclair Depot name. My guess is that it was a distribution point for the Sinclair Oil Company. If so, perhaps it served some other function before that, because the Hennepin County property records show it as constructed in 1905, which seems early relative to Sinclair Oil’s timeline.
Another connection to Sinclair Oil was apparent behind the main building, where a garage has a “Sinclair Gasoline” sign. (On the other hand, perhaps that was simply put there by the antique dealer.) There seems to be some ghost sign of paint residue as well, but I wasn’t able to make that out:
Meanwhile on the western side of Grand Street, the Packaging Corporation of America plant continued to sprawl. I was particularly interested in the huge garage door into which the railroad spur ran. Rather than just running in as one set of tracks, it split and ran in as two parallel sets. Is it possible that inside the plant the track loops, so that the trains don’t have to back out?
Longtime readers of my adventures will know that I have a thing for interesting street number signs. I spotted another one on a garage on Grand Street, though the number 44 on it corresponds to the associated corner property, 44 Lowry Avenue NE.
Speaking of turning the corner onto Lowry, I did exactly that. After walking the block to Marshall, I was face-to-face with the Lowry Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi. From this perspective, you can clearly see that its tied arches are tipped toward one another in what is known as a basket handle configuration:
I also spotted an interesting concrete area set diagonally on the southwest corner of the intersection of Marshall and Lowry. Apparently the diagonal orientation dates from when it held a gas station, but the current concrete plaza is the top of a stormwater filter.
The bridge borders four different neighborhoods. Given my desire to stay within Bottineau, I was careful to use the southern pedestrian walkway, and I went only as far as the midpoint of the river. Looking south, I got a good view of the downtown skyline:
Returning to land and turning south on Marshall Street, I was able to explore another of the riverside parks that belongs to the same chain as Gluek Park. Edgewater Park has a helpful collection of interpretive signs regarding historical land use, ecology, and the park’s sustainable landscape design. Beyond the commitment to sustainability, the design is distinguished by having paths that replicate the bend of the Mississippi where the Minnesota River flows into it:
There is also a combination amphitheater/overlook area that is intended to evoke the wheels of the ox carts that used to pass through here on the Red River Trails:
From the overlook, I got another view of the Lowry Avenue Bridge, this time with kayakers passing under it:
After the 2300 block of Marshall Street, which is where Edgewater Park is located, my main route called for turning east onto 23rd Avenue. First, though, I needed to make a quick side trip down the 2200 block and back, so as not to omit that block. (And to sample the Sample Room, I was actually going to go a couple hundred feet further.)
Nor was that block without interest. At 2210 Marshall Street, a small, originally commercial, building dating to 1906 houses Orange Crush Arts, the studio of Greg DeGrace. On the northern face of the building, he’s vividly restored an advertisement for Ward’s Orange Crush
The woman I spoke with confirmed that DeGrace did not paint this from scratch but rather restored a ghost ad that dated back to the building’s days as a shop. She said that the hardest part, because the remnants were so indistinct, was the bottle, for which DeGrace turned to online sources to learn what the trademark “Krinkly Bottle” looked like. I later found a picture of the pre-restoration ghost sign.
The southern face of the building also seems to have a ghost sign, though I wasn’t able to make it out:
After this, I returned to The Sample Room, and my timing was almost perfect. I had literally one minute to kill before their 10:30 opening time. That was just enough to walk through their parking lot to the rear of the property so as to take a look at the Sample Docks, where boaters can tie up to come in for a drink:
From the brunch menu I chose the “Sample Room’s Own Corned Beef Hash,” which was described as “red pepper, onion, potatoes and grass-fed corned beef topped with two poached eggs and hollandaise.” The grass-fed character of the corned beef was my first sign that the right way to parse the title of the dish was that they corned the beef themselves (as opposed to merely the hash being their own). Sure enough, the corned beef was quite out of the ordinary. Whereas the flavor balance for most corned beef leans heavily toward the corned side, this one was every bit as beefy as it was corned. Given how lean it was, I was surprised that it was also melt-in-the-mouth tender. I suspect they used some magic like sous vide. The other components of the dish were also good. For example, the hollandaise sauce had a nice fresh lemony taste, as though the juice was squeezed just for my order.
After brunch, I returned to 23rd Avenue and took it until it dead ends just east of California Street. Looking north from that vantage point, I was able to see one of the narrow sides of the 2-by-4 array of abandoned grain silos at 2301 California Street NE. Graffiti near the top center reads “no more prison.” In the foreground, the former Mulberry Junction community garden still shows signs of its cultivation, even as it takes on a wilder character due to its lease not having been renewed this year. That in turn is because the silos are to be demolished and the site redeveloped.
Returning to California Street, the 2200 block is dominated by the California Building. Like most tall structures with repetitive elements, I find it looks best looking up at a steep angle:
Backtracking to the 2300 block, I was able to see the silos from the broad side and appreciate that someone had painted them with “UFO”:
The other side of the street is lined with residences, and in the front yard of one of them I encountered an older gentleman who mischievously shared with me his theory that the inscription was intended to signal UFOs where they ought to land. He promised to call me if they did.
Continuing up California Street, I turned right onto Lowry Avenue, which brought me to my destination bus stop. Because the railroad tracks define this neighborhood just as much as the river does, I took one last look down them as I crossed on Lowry, seeing the silos and California building in relationship to the downtown skyline:
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