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 CARAG neighborhood has an unusual name, and I walked my first portion of it in an unusual way — at least, unusual for me.
Unlike neighborhoods named for schools, parks, or geographic features, CARAG is named for its neighborhood organization, the Calhoun Area Residents Action Group. Even when referring to the group, the abbreviation CARAG seems far more common than the spelled-out version. For the neighborhood, CARAG is the only name — there is no spelled-out version.
What made my walk unusual is that I was joined by two residents of the neighborhood, Jeremy Iggers and Carol Bouska, who were able to provide local perspective as well as pleasant company. Walking a neighborhood together with those who live there may not seem like a shocking innovation. Indeed, more than five years ago, Janelle Nivens created the mpls81 blog around the idea of inviting folks to give her tours of their Minneapolis neighborhoods. (More recently, she’s focused on other kinds of walks.) However, for my All of Minneapolis project, this was a first. (Incidentally, Jeremy is the publisher of Global Twin Cities, a resource I’ll be keeping an eye on.)
The CARAG neighborhood occupies a rectangular portion of street grid. From east to west, it runs from Lyndale Avenue South to Hennepin Avenue South, with all the intervening avenues being alphabetic (Aldrich, Bryant, Colfax, Dupont, Emerson, Fremont, and Girard). From north to south, it runs from West Lake Street (which would have been 30th, were it numbered) to West 36th Street. Due to schedule constraints, I limited the first day’s walk to just the southernmost two blocks.
We headed north on Hennepin from 36th, turned right on 35th, right again on Lyndale, and then worked our way back to the start with a succession of overlapping loops, done entirely with right turns. I was reminded of J. Edgar Hoover (not my usual role model), who “had forbidden all left turns on auto trips” as a safety precaution.
The majority of the housing units in CARAG are rental apartments, although in this southern portion we also saw a substantial number of single-family detached houses and duplexes. Many of the apartment buildings are characterful brown-brick structures from the first few decades of the 20th century. For example, at corner of 35th and Dupont, we passed this 26-unit building dating from 1926:
I admired the decorative use of lighter-colored bricks, but what struck me most about this building was its mixed-use character. Rather than being exclusively apartments, it incorporates a convenience store and Greek deli in the garden level on the corner:
I’m used to commercial establishments being integrated into older residential neighborhoods in the form of discrete commercial nodes. (Indeed, we subsequently saw such a node at 36th and Bryant.) By contrast, Louie’s Food and Deli represents a more intimate mingling of the residential and commercial property uses, which reminded me of the way upscale apartment buildings are currently being developed.
Continuing east on 35th, Carol paused at the alleyway between Aldrich and Bryant to draw my attention to some of her favorite utility-box art. I’ve become a bit blasé since the advent of vinyl wraps triggered such an explosion in this form of public art, but I have to agree with her that these are particularly nice. They also are somewhat unusual in being on CenturyLink telecommunications boxes rather than a city-owned traffic-light control box.
At the corner of 35th and Aldrich, I noted a stately early 20th century church (from 1912, as it turns out) that had been livened up with some more contemporary decorations:
Based on this redecoration and a glance at the signage, I surmised that a building previously occupied by a mainline protestant denomination had more recently been taken over by a non-denominational ministry. The actual story is more interesting. The Aldrich Avenue Presbyterian Church continues as a congregation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). However, in 2014 they started by inviting City of Lakes Covenant Church to share the building and then went beyond that to join together in a cooperative ministry called Resurrection MPLS.
Lyndale Avenue is a busy commercial thoroughfare, most of which will have to wait for another day. However, the Amigo Service Center stood out as we turned onto 36th Street because of their decision to plant roses between the pillars of their sign:
The intersection of 36th and Bryant is a classic commercial node with small retail buildings on all four corners. On the northeast corner, I was already familiar with Gigi’s Cafe, but Jeremy and Carol also pointed out Glenn’s Barber Shop and Bryant Hardware.
As we headed north on Bryant and then returned south on Aldrich, Carol called my attention to some of the gardens and boulevard plantings that adorn the neighborhood. Apparently the boulevard plantings are a comparatively recent phenomenon that needed to overcome some resistance.
I mentioned that in addition to apartment buildings, this neighborhood contains early-20th-century single-family and duplex homes. On Aldrich I spotted a particularly ornate duplex, which turned out to date back even into the 19th century (1900) [Correction from building permit: 1889]:
Wrapping back around to the building containing the barber shop, hardware store, and cafe, I was able to make up for an earlier omission. I had failed to photograph the environmentally-themed mural on the side painted by neighborhood youth under the aegis of the Aldrich Arts Collaborative in 2011. (In the background of the photograph, you can also see evidence that some apartment buildings are comparatively recent, presumably replacing earlier structures.)
Many of the smaller-scale brown-brick apartment (or condo) buildings contain traditional revival-style architectural details, but one on Dupont particularly stood out for its exuberance. The upper facade fits with my understanding of Tudor revival: half timbering, steep-pitched roof, diagonal brickwork, and diamond-shaped window leading. However, the entry looks more like Spanish revival: spiral columns flanking an arched doorway with some red roof tiles and an ornate balcony railing.
At the corner of Dupont and 34th, the First Universalist Church of Minneapolis now occupies the buildings that until 1993 housed Adath Jeshurun, a congregation within the Conservative movement of Judaism. The main synagogue building was constructed in 1927 and the education wing in 1954; each is a good example of its respective period.
There are two inscriptions above the entryway: one below the cornice in English and another above the cornice in Hebrew. The English one is quite easy to read from the street, if not in my photo. It quotes Deuteronomy 6:4, the first verse of the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This verse is central to Judaism and perhaps might also appeal to the Unitarian stream that historically flowed into the Unitarian-Universalist denomination now occupying the building.
The Hebrew inscription was more difficult to read, but thankfully my former colleague Dr. Marian Broida responded to my call for help. From my photo she was able to recognize the three segments of the inscription as references to the three pillars on which the world stands, according to Simon the Righteous as quoted in the Mishnah (Pirkei Avot 1:2): תורה (Torah, that is, the Bible), עבודה (avodah, that is, worship), and גמילות חסדים (g’milut khasadim, that is, acts of loving-kindness). Architecturally, these three correspond to the three bays in the facade.
Across Dupont, in the block bounded by Dupont, Colfax, 34th, and 35th, the Dupont Villa Apartments are a complex dating from 1950 that is distinguished by its outdoor common areas. As one example, the Colfax Avenue sides has a sand volleyball court with a pergola-topped seating area.
On the northeast corner of 35th and Colfax, Carol called my attention to the gardening the new owners had done, which integrated food plants into the ornamentals.
In the 3500 block of Colfax, Jeremy and Carol pointed out a five-unit apartment building dating from 1931 that they said was particularly nice inside, and then we moved on to their own house, where Carol explained that she chose the flowers along the retaining wall for their scents.
In the 3400 block of Fremont, my eye was drawn to a succession of three nearly but not quite identical brick duplexes. From the city’s property records, the southernmost was built in 1922 and the other two followed in 1923. It looks like all were built using slight variations on the same plan, achieving efficiency without monotony.
Turning back south on Emerson, the 3500 block featured both a largish apartment building from 1962 and a couple smaller revival-style apartment buildings from 1929. In particular, the entryway of 3512 is strikingly similar to the one I photographed a block east (3545 Dupont), even though this building (and its neighbor at 3516) are more purely Spanish in influence, using only red roof tiles rather than the steep pitched roof and omitting the half timbering. In the newer “Emerson Arms” building, I noticed that the rectangularly arrayed windows typical of 1960s modernism were less-typically graced by arches at the top. Was this perhaps a nod toward harmonizing with its neighbors?
Any generalization about a neighborhood’s mix of architectural styles is apt to be an oversimplification. As if to remind me of this point, our walk ended with two buildings quite unlike anything we had previously seen — one on Hennepin and the other on Girard.
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