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 Cedar-Isles-Dean neighborhood has a difficult to describe shape, primarily nestled between Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, and Lake Calhoun (as Bde Maka Ska was regrettably renamed). It also extends up a portion of the western shore of Cedar Lake. Only its western and southern borders are relatively straight, corresponding approximately to France Avenue and Lake Street.
The layout of streets is also far from a regular grid. While some neighborhoods leave me feeling like an ox plodding back and forth to plow a field, this walk can only be described as a ramble. That’s especially true in the eastern half of the neighborhood, which I walked on my first day. In the following map, the red segments are those I walked as spurs, forward and immediately back again, whereas the two purple segments are the connectors between the three blue loops. I walked these connectors forward and back also, but not in immediate succession.
I started and ended at the southwestern corner of this area, the intersection of West Lake Street and Market Plaza. I chose this corner in part for its number 17 bus stop, but mostly for the presence of Rustica Bakery in the strip mall located there. The sign above the door advertises coffee, pastries, breads, and desserts, but on my pre-walk visit, I opted for a savory lunch instead. (Those alert to foreshadowing will notice the phrase “on my pre-walk visit.”)
Arriving just after 11am on a Saturday, I found the shop thronged. However, a large and efficient staff kept the line moving. I ordered one of the soups of the day, a bowl of short-rib chili served with slices of baguette. The chili was mild but richly flavored with chocolate and sweet spices. Fleshy pieces of the chili peppers, perhaps an inch square, floated in the tomatoey broth. A light sprinkle of finely grated Gruyère cheese provided an unconventional finish.
Leaving the strip mall, I turned east on West Lake Street. After passing an apartment building under construction and another recently opened, I encountered an office building from 1953 that stands out because of the 1995 addition of Guy Baldwin’s Fish Carousel sculpture.
Until I returned to this area, I was now essentially done with the commercial portions of Cedar-Isles-Dean; the rest was purely residential, with one small exception. After I turned left onto Dean Parkway and left again onto 28th Street, I encountered a small, 1930s vintage retail cluster. At any rate, the underlying architecture looks like a retail cluster, although this one, across the street from Park Siding Park, is dedicated to residential and studio uses. For example, the storefront at 3112 West 28th Street is now home to the Hearts & Ivy Collection, which recently transitioned from producing Christmas ornaments to “more personal endeavors in the visual arts.”
Park Siding Park itself brings together within its compact footprint the essentials of a neighborhood park: playground equipment, shade trees, attractive gardens, and some lawn. From its current idyllic configuration, one would never guess the history underlying its peculiar name. When the Park Board initially acquired this property, it was not as a park, but rather as a railway siding for construction materials for the parkways.
From the park, I walked along Dean Court, which loops to the south of the park through the Calhoun Isles Condos. This 1983 development consists of a spread-winged 11- or 12-story residential tower (about which more later) and a coordinated set of two-story townhouses.
Venturing back out from the condo community into the neighborhood at large, I was struck once again by the diversity of housing. Cedar-Isles-Dean has single-family detached houses, duplexes, small two-story apartment buildings, and giant residential towers. Stylistically, the range includes traditional or revival styles, several varieties of modernism, and a few contemporary designs.
Consider, for example, the 2800 block of Xerxes Avenue South. On the west side of the street, one sees an 11-unit, two-story apartment building in a revival style from 1931:
Across the street on the east, a mirror-symmetry pair of duplexes were built only five years later (1936) but instead of looking backward to past grandeur, they strive forward to the Streamline Moderne:
I encountered another building from 1936 with elements of Streamline Moderne architecture once I had crossed the tracks and walked most of Park Lane. The V.M.S. Kaufmann House is registered as a historic landmark for its architectural distinctiveness. My eye was drawn first, however, to the flowering plants in front of it.
Two doors down, on the cul-de-sac portion of Park Lane, a house caught my eye because of its unusual combination of recent construction and Prairie Style architecture. I could see that it was recently built (in 2000, as it turns out), but rather than reflecting the architectural trends of the time, it fits in with at least one of the trends from the period when the surrounding neighborhood was developed. I admire the humility implicit in this choice. The design is by Charles R. Stinson Architects.
Park Lane forms a jug handle off of Burnham Road. At the northern junction, a contemporary house on the far side of Burnham Road stands out from its older neighbors. Because of its contrasting surface materials, prominent garage, and three-dimensional form, I would never mistake it for another Prairie School throwback. And yet, notice the roof protruding outward at its apex. I was soon to see a quite similar roof on a Frank Lloyd Wright home nearby.
One detail of this house also made me grin: its door peeks out from its recess with a monster face. I suspect this is not a design fixture but rather reflects my walk having been on October 8th, within a month of Halloween. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Just north of this junction, Burnham Road crosses over the tranquil channel that connects Cedar Lake with Lake of the Isles.
The northernmost lot in the eastern Cedar-Isles-Dean neighborhood conceals the Henry Neils House, a 1951 gem designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The wooded property adjoins parkland and Cedar Lake. In the photo below, some of the specks of blue visible through the trees are the lake rather than the sky. A casual glance at the photo may suggest that the house is hidden behind the landscaping, with only the carport protruding at the left. However, if you zoom in and look closely, you’ll see that rather little of the house is actually obscured. It simply is so harmonious with its surrounding that it disappears like a leopard into the African bush.
I took a second photo showing the end wall of the carport in greater detail to emphasize the unusual multicolored arrangement of “cull” marble. Larry Millet provides an interesting explanation of this wall covering in the AIA Guide to the Minneapolis Lake District.
After finishing this portion of the neighborhood that lies north of the channel, I returned back over the bridge and noticed that across the street from the monster-doored house, the corner of Park Lane and Burnham Road features some particularly attractive landscaping:
Returning to the main loop of my route and winding my way through Benton Boulevard, Upton Avenue, and 28th Street, I then followed Dean Parkway back to the Cedar-Isles Channel, which it parallels to the juncture with the Lake of the Isles Parkway. This part of the neighborhood was rich with picture postcard views.
One of the houses on Lake of the Isles Parkway has a horse sculpture that reminded me, from a distance, of Deborah Butterfield’s Woodrow, which is ordinarily displayed at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. (The sculpture garden is currently closed for construction.) I didn’t get to look at this one close up and don’t know if it is also by Butterfield.
I followed the parkway along the southern shore of the Lake of the Isles, past a soccer field and a dog park, to where it crosses the Calhoun-Isles channel and reaches the neighborhood’s eastern border. A canoe rack sits at that corner, as well as a rock bearing a plaque installed by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1934. I was surprised to see this Fort Snelling marker so far from today’s Fort Snelling, but learned that the fort’s original borders were much larger. I remain puzzled why the DAR chose this one specific point on those original borders, and why they chose to do so at that time, five years before the centenary of the surveying.
Walking back westward along Lake Street toward my starting point, I passed several large apartment buildings, as well as the Lake Point Condos on Dean Parkway, which at 20 stories is the tallest building around.
Finally I was back to Rustica Bakery, where my walk had begun. I had no choice but to go back in: my less pedestrian half had instructed me to bring home a loaf of bread, and I hadn’t wanted to carry it with me the whole way. I chose a miche, a dense, crusty, tangy round loaf with a substantial proportion of rye. Once I was home, it paired beautifully with Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese.
Rustica strategically displays their sweets in front of the breads. Plenty looked tempting, but there was really only one choice for me, which was to revisit the kouign amann, made from laminated dough with a salty caramel crust. I first discovered this delicacy at Rustica a half dozen years before, and for a time this one item from one bakery was all I craved. Over the intervening years my cravings have diversified; I’ve found good kouign amann elsewhere, and I’ve learned to enjoy other sweets. (My most common go-to of late is canelé.) But like an ex-smoker catching a whiff of tobacco smoke, I just needed to step back into Rustica to remember how I longed for their kouign amann. So of course I got one.
Waiting for my bus home, I looked back over the strip mall and realized I could finally take a photo of the Calhoun Isles Condos, which had exceeded my camera’s field of view when I was up close to them. The wing on the right of my photo, with four bulges, had a prior life as a grain elevator from 1928. On the far left of my photo, you can see the southern end of another wing (extending away from this vantage point, into the plane of the photo), which was similarly constructed from an even earlier (1915) grain elevator. The architect Robert Brantingham, who also worked on modernizing the Calhoun Beach Club, had the idea to transform these disused grain elevators into condos by cutting the concrete to make way for the patios, windows. and doors, and by connecting the two wings with a newly constructed portion (to the left of my photo’s center).
This article was published October 13, 2016, on the author’s All of Minneapolis blog. The original version is available there.
What a great neighborhood. We used to live in a Xerxes Avenue apartment overlooking Cedar Lake until our then-2 year old and some miserable neighbors conspired to send us house hunting elsewhere (while there is a very accessible mix of housing styles for renters, alas Cedar Isles Dean does not have a budget option when it comes to single family homes). Despite being just a mile from uptown and a short hop from downtown, I jokingly referred to our apartment as our lake house. Between the lakes, the bike trails, and the streets that don’t really go anywhere, it does feel almost like a resort town in the city.