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.
On the day before halloween, I resumed walking. As with the eastern half of the neighborhood, route planning was something of a challenge. One way to see that is through the mix of colors in the following map. The blue segments (totaling 2.7 miles) are those I was able to walk just once, whereas the red and purple segments (totaling 2.0 miles) are those I needed to walk twice (so that they contributed 4.0 miles to my 6.7 mile walk). Red segments are spurs walked forward and then immediately back, whereas purple segments are connectors walked forward and only later back.
I started near the southwest corner of the neighborhood, at the intersection of France Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, where I got the first of many views of fall’s lingering color.
These leaves weren’t the only persistent color. On the same block I also saw a few remaining flowers, the first in a succession that cropped up just often enough to keep me on my toes. Perhaps they were covered during the earlier frost.
After passing the single-family detached houses of Sunset Boulevard, West 28th Street, and France Avenue, I turned onto Cedar Lake Avenue, where I encountered the day’s first example of denser housing. The Jones-Harrison Residence is “a nonprofit senior living community offering assisted living apartments, comprehensive rehabilitation services, long term memory care and 24-hour skilled nursing care.”
A couple blocks further east on Cedar Lake Avenue, I stumbled upon a comparatively striking example of contemporary architecture. The house’s white tower with angled fins on the side reminded me of similar angled white fins on an affordable-housing high-rise building (Park Towers, formerly Park Heights Towers) in downtown Rochester, Minnesota. I was gratified to find that both were constructed the same year, 1973.
Three doors further east, the last house on the block benefits by having its yard abut one of the small triangular parks in the area, West End Triangle. The homeowners have made the most of this situation by adorning their yard with an interesting sculpture, seemingly carved from a tree stump.
Soon thereafter, my eastward traversal of Cedar Lake Avenue reached the terminus of that street, where together with Depot Street, Cedar Lake Parkway, and Sunset Boulevard it forms a complicated juncture. A small triangle of land stranded in the middle of that juncture turns out to be private property, unlike the similar triangles that are parkland. However, it has been dedicated to a similarly civic role by housing a large kinetic sculpture.
This sculpture was commissioned from Bruce Stillman in 1983 by Norman and Sanders (“Sandy”) Ackerberg. Until 1999, Sandy Ackerberg owned the apartment building at 2601 Sunset Boulevard (built in 1961), which is visible in the background of the photo. Today the triangle of land the sculpture stands on is owned by the Alan C. Ackerberg trust; Alan Ackerberg is Sandy’s son.
The portion of Sunset Boulevard that lies between this triangle and Chowen Avenue has the same form as the further west portion of the Boulevard I initially walked: a broad, divided roadway with a tree-lined grassy median. However, as similar as the form is, the function is entirely different. Rather than accommodating houses, it serves essentially like a rear alleyway, lined with the garages for the houses that front on 28th Street or Saint Paul Avenue. Even garages can be worth looking at. For example, one had its door oriented perpendicular to the boulevard, allowing the boulevard-facing side to display a rich mat of vines.
After meandering some more through this residential area, it was time for me to head along the lakeshore parkway to the northeastern portion of the neighborhood, where a few more residences are tucked between the parkland and the borders with the Bryn Mawr neighborhood and the City of Saint Louis Park. I started this scenic lakeshore walk at a public beach across from the Loch Ness kinetic sculpture.
Rather than walking on the parkway itself, I used the adjoining trail. One of the trees near the northern end of my walk seemed to have a hideous creature struggling to get out of it. (Perhaps it was working toward a goal of being loose the following night.)
The vantage point on the trail also allowed me to see a large contemporary house (built in 2008) more fully than was possible when I later was close up on the street. One of the most striking elements, the superstructure, needs some distance.
Once I left the trail, I was able to indulge my geeky side by looking at what happens where streets cross a city boundary mid-block. For example, here is a photo of West 25th Street as it crosses from Minneapolis (on the left) to Saint Louis Park (on the right). In addition to the slight color change in the pavement, there are two fire hydrants virtually side-by-side. Minneapolis firefighters can douse the westernmost Minneapolis house with Minneapolis water and Saint Louis Park firefighters can douse the easternmost Saint Louis Park house with Saint Louis Park water.
Another feature of the city border area, south of Cedar Shore Drive, is the Cedar Meadows ponds and wetlands that were created as part of a watershed improvement project.
Although blue skies generally lead to more appealing photographs, I have to admit that this day’s cloud layer had a charm of its own, particularly when reflected in the lake:
After returning to the southern part of the neighborhood, I was able to again see some denser housing. In particular, the entire strip along the railroad tracks (on the northeastern portion of Saint Paul Avenue and all of Saint Louis Avenue) is occupied by the Cedar Lake Shores townhouses.
Further southwest on Saint Paul Avenue, after it diverges from the railroad tracks, my attention was drawn to a 2-plus–story contemporary house sandwiched between a diminutive 901-square foot single-story cottage from 1900 [correction from building permit index card: 1911] and a 1-plus–story tudor revival from 1925. The house in the middle, at 3440 Saint Paul Ave, is the “NowHouse01,” rebuilt in 2004 following a design by Wynne Yelland and Paul Neseth of Locus Architecture. What makes this particular house remarkable is that most of it is sided with what appears to be translucent plastic revealing images of indoor scenes, so that one has the illusion of peering voyeuristically in into the interior of the house. In my photo these faux silhouettes show up just as a general blotchiness, but walking along the street the forms are poised right at the subliminal threshold, vivid enough to make an impression while subdued enough to not make the illusion obvious.
Nor has construction of contemporary houses ceased in this neighborhood. On Chowen Avenue, construction was underway on a house that emphasizes interlocking planes.
Further attesting to the diversity of the neighborhood’s residences, I also spotted two 1940s duplexes on 29th Street, where the rest of the structures are single-family detached houses.
Likewise, near the main commercial thoroughfare of Lake Street, Drew Avenue has two 5-unit buildings from the 1940s (one still apartments, the other condos), yet standing in front of those buildings and looking at the remainder of the block, one sees a tree-lined street of detached houses.