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 used days one and two to visit the portions of Bryn Mawr that are south of Interstate 394, today I turned my attention to the areas north of that dividing line, and more specifically to approximately the eastern half of this northern region. This constitutes Areas 3–5 in the Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association’s subdivision of the neighborhood into seven areas.
I was able to do most of the walk by following a winding path (shown in blue) from the intersection of Penn Avenue South and Chestnut Avenue West to the intersection of Sheridan Avenue South and Laurel Avenue West. (Happily, these are both stops on the number 9 bus.) As always, I had to supplement this main route with some spurs (shown in red) that I walked back and forth.
Immediately upon getting off the bus, I had the opportunity to view Bryn Mawr’s northern boundary from the elevated vantage point of Penn Avenue’s bridge over Bassett Creek. In addition to the creek, the same corridor also carries rail and electric lines:
The first houses I saw on Penn Avenue were in the one-story bungalow style popular immediately after World War II. This stood in contrast to the more recent styles I had seen in the southern portions of the neighborhood.
However, as I continued walking, I saw that these northern areas actually have quite a diverse range of ages and styles of homes. Really the only common denominator is that nearly all were single-family detached houses, with just a few duplexes sprinkled in.
As the earlier route map shows, the street layout is heavily influenced by a diagonal street, Cedar Lake Road. This forms triangles of varying sizes. Following Hawthorn east from Penn, I encountered the smallest of these, bounded by Hawthorn and Newton Avenues as well as Cedar Lake Road:
At the northeast of the neighborhood, Cedar Lake Road crosses another bridge over Bassett Creek. I was surprised how different it looked after such a short interval. Whereas the creek at Penn was placid, here the glimpses through foliage revealed a much more turbulent flow:
The easternmost portion of the neighborhood consists of Bryn Mawr Meadows Park, bounded between Morgan Avenue and two rail lines (with the creek and freeway just beyond). Much of the park’s substantial area (51.56 acres) is occupied by playing fields, though it also has a playground and wading pool.
At one of the houses across Morgan Avenue from the park, I was interested to see a visually arresting “Jill!” lawn sign that was cleverly designed to reveal its former life as a “Bernie” sign. This told a much clearer story than the other houses where Bernie signs had simply been left up.
Laurel and Newton Avenues took me back to Cedar Lake Road, which I followed southwest to Oliver Avenue, where it forms a slightly larger triangle. This one actually is a named park, Laurel Triangle:
In addition to this triangular park, the adjacent lots all have angled sides. In particular, the northeast side of Oliver and Cedar Lake is home to the attractive Sparks restaurant:
The entire side along Cedar Lake Road has transparent garage doors that allow a clear view from the interior to the attractive sidewalk patio, or they can be opened in suitable weather. After I finished my walk, I came back here with my Less Pedestrian Half for a meal. We shared a pair of pork bulgogi tacos, a truffle and egg pizza, and a lamb burger. (Pro tip: this is too much food for two people.)
The interior of restaurant is nicely appointed and the service was exceptionally good, with several people working together as a coordinated team. Each taco was a fun, flavorful snack, whereas the other two items were more substantial. The pizza had a thin crust, crisp from the wood-fired oven without any trace of scorching. The sunny-side-up eggs had yolks of a well-calibrated softness. The lamb burger was done medium and served on a rich, brioche-like bun with toppings that were flavorful without being overpowering.
Looping south via Oliver and Newton, I paused for the first of several photos of flowers:
Once I had looped back to Cedar Lake Road, I took it westward to what one might call “downtown Bryn Mawr,” the commercial node where Cedar Lake intersects Penn Avenue and, nearby, Laurel Avenue. In the photo below, a well-landscaped auto service station is in the foreground, a community gathering space sponsored by Uptown Plumbing Heating Cooling in the right rear, and Cuppa Java in the left rear. Regarding the latter two establishments, I was interested to see that they both have the street number 400. (One is numbered on Cedar Lake Road and the other on Penn Avenue, although both are situated symmetrically with front doors on the corner.)
I was glad to stop in at Cuppa Java, as they’ve got a good antidote for hot weather: an iced, decaffeinated caffè americano. Indeed, I found this to be so helpful that I stopped back for another one on a later pass through the intersection. By stopping in more than once, I was able to see that throughout the morning, the shop remained a busy community gathering place. I wasn’t the only solo drinker, but most people were clustered in animated conversation.
Several other businesses are nearby. I was particularly interested by the property a short ways south on Penn Avenue occupied by Bassett Creek Arts and Natural Step Tai Chi, because they’ve devoted the area in front of their shops to a “community garden” with umbrella-shaded tables at which all are welcome to sit and enjoy the space, perhaps with a brought lunch. The space also includes a little free library.
Mount View Avenue has a particularly odd, discontinuous alignment, influenced by Cedar Lake Road’s diagonal course. Today’s walk through Areas 3–5 included only the portion from Oliver through Sheridan Avenues, which provides access to some otherwise rather isolated territory near the freeway. One one of those freeway-bounded dead ends, Russell Avenue, I made my second stop for a flower:
After winding my way back up to the northern edge of the neighborhood, I found that Bassett Creek provides the setting not only for Bassett’s Creek Park, but also for a light industrial building (the only one I saw all day), which houses Accent Signage.
After winding through the residential areas some more, I returned to the central business district by way of Laurel Avenue. Where this street merges into Cedar Lake Road, the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church has used their triangular lot to provide a “Garden of Hope and Healing — A place to pause, reflect, and remember” in conjunction with the Neighborhood Association, The UPS Foundation, and the family of Keith Basinski.
After pausing there, I finished my walk on a cheerful note along Sheridan Avenue, where I saw a characterful tree and more flowers.
Of course, I’ve still got more flowers coming. In particular, the remaining portion of the Bryn Mawr neighborhood contains the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary. I’m looking forward to it.
This article was published August 3, 2016, on the author’s All of Minneapolis blog. The original version is available there.
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