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 Bryant neighborhood, within south Minneapolis’s Powderhorn community, extends from 38th Street East to 42nd Street East and from Chicago Avenue South to Interstate 35W. This is a compact enough area that I could plausibly have walked it all in a single day, but with an Excessive Heat Warning in effect for this afternoon, I erred on the side of caution and limited myself to approximately half the neighborhood, starting and ending at the corner of 38th and Chicago:
This was the same bus stop I had used for the western half of Bancroft, and indeed the initial leg of today’s walk was along Chicago Avenue, which I had seen before because it forms the boundary between the two neighborhoods. However, I previously limited myself to attractions on the western side of the avenue, whereas this time I found several points of interest on the eastern side.
The first of those was Phelps Field Park, which lies between 39th and 40th Streets and between Park and Chicago Avenues. (Columbus Avenue, which would cut through the middle of the park, is interrupted.) Already the sign at the corner of 39th and Chicago alerted me that the community center in this park is an interesting private/public partnership between the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities and the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board:
The official history of the park explains that already in the park’s original 1917 plan, it was slated to have a two-story field house, but that for various reasons this was repeatedly scaled back or postponed, until in 1993–94 the gym was added to the recreation center as part of a park renovation. “The funds for the project came from many sources and led to a new operating agreement with the Boys and Girls Club. The McKnight Foundation and Minneapolis Foundation were major contributors to the project and surrounding neighborhoods contributed $750,000 in Neighborhood Revitalization Program funds. A half-million dollars of city bonds also helped finance the improvements. The Boys and Girls Club also contributed to the cost as a part of their agreement with the park board to operate programs from the new facility.”
A block further south on Chicago, at the park’s southeast corner, there is a sculptural gateway over one of the paths:
According to the city’s official list of public art , this gateway is associated with both the Bancroft and the Bryant neighborhoods and was created by Michael Bigger in 2000 “inspired by the theme of togetherness.” I needed to take a second photo with the sun hitting one of the pillars to show that they are covered with bronze castings of individual clay tiles that area residents incised or built up:
The largest category of houses I saw, not only on Chicago Avenue but also elsewhere, consisted of one-and-a-half-story houses. However, I would estimate that they were only a plurality and not a majority because of the considerable number of one-, two-, and two-and-a-half-story houses, as well as the smattering of small apartment buildings. As always, a few houses stood out from their neighbors, such as this one at 4036 Chicago Avenue South. Age may account for its architectural distinctiveness, as it dates from 1900 while its neighbors are 16–18 years younger.
At the corner with 41st Street, a storefront building houses Z Puppets Rosenschnoz, and the window display is keyed to the forthcoming show Cellula, “a glow-in-the-dark performance of mitosis through the lens of mother and child.”
However, a closer look at the window display reveals that more is going on here than merely the announcement of an upcoming puppet show: there is a specific invitation to “talk to the smallest part of you.” Sure enough, on the corner of the building, there is a phone mounted into the wall with a sign urging passers by to “call the CELL phone.” I couldn’t resist and picked up the handset. There was no need to key in the phone number indicated; simply lifting the handset caused the phone to auto-dial. I was connected to a system that uses a combination of voice and menu options to interact. There’s no need for me to describe it in detail because you can try it out yourself: just call (612) 587–2002.
Turning the corner onto 41st, the rear of the building (736 41st Street East) houses the People’s Movement Center, and then the parking-lot fence displays a painted canvas full of child-like joy:
After wrapping around the most southeasterly block in the neighborhood and exploring 42nd Street as far as Oakland Avenue, I followed Park Avenue all the way from 42nd Street to 38th Street. Given that this is a major artery that flows one-way in the direction of downtown and I was walking during prime morning commute time, I shouldn’t have been surprised that it was carrying quite a flow of vehicle and bicycle traffic. In the 3800 block I saw a parked minivan with an interesting paint job:
Whoever “the book worm” is, their painted sentiments are all on-topic:
- “A book is like traveling without going anywhere.”
- “Why can’t people just sit and read books and be nice to each other?
- “Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world. — Napoleon”
I continued to wind my way through my route, keeping my eyes open for anything of interest. For example, near the corner of Portland Avenue and 42nd Street, I was struck by the silhouette of one tree, which looks as though it may have lost its top and so grown only outward from what had been the middle:
Speaking of trees, as I turned the next corner from Portland onto 41st Street, I saw an example of the conflict that ensues when a boulevard tree grows large. In the initial battle between tree and street, the tree may win, as this one did. But then the street pushed back: the tree’s roots were trimmed back to allow the curb and gutter to be rebuilt. (Note the lighter colored concrete.) In this case, it looks like the push-back was quite restrained; the roots were trimmed just the bare minimum necessary to accommodate the curb. However, I would wager that the long-term outcome of this conflict is that the street will outlast the tree.
Returning to the theme of art — indeed, more specifically, to garage-door art, which I commented on in the adjacent Bancroft neighborhood — I spotted up an alleyway from 39th Street a garage associated with 3848 Oakland Avenue South. Beyond the unusually vivid street number and stripes, It contains a cartoon-like image of a smiling, rotund man hoisting a Dagwood sandwich. This is the sort of image I’m used to seeing advertising a diner or sandwich shop, not decorating a residential garage. But then again, the usual place for Campbell’s soup cans would be in a grocery ad.
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