Central Central

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 walked the western portion of the Central neighborhood on Friday, I returned on Saturday to the central portion of the neighborhood, everything between 4th and Oakland Avenues. I started at the point marked A on the map (the corner of Lake Street and Portland Avenue), where I got off the number 21 bus. A couple hours later I’d get back on the bus a block away, at the point marked B.

To be more precise, my walk ended with my second visit to point B (the corner of Lake Street and 5th Avenue). For my first visit, I took a much more modest detour. To get a block west on Lake, I initially headed one block east instead (to Oakland Avenue), then a block south (to 31st Street), three blocks west (to 4th Avenue), back to Lake, and finally one more eastward block to 5th Avenue. Along this little loop, I paused the first time for a photo at the corner of 31st Street and 4th Avenue, where a reclining reader decorates the side of one of the buildings used by Urban Ventures.

Mural on 3029 4th Ave. S.

Urban Ventures occupies a number of buildings in the area. Another that caught my eye was the Urban Hub on the the other side of 4th Avenue. Even with some cars parked in front, you can tell what and where this is.

Urban Hub, 3016 4th Ave. S.

Most of what I saw on Lake Street was similar to the day before, but I saw a real gem at the southwest corner of Lake Street and Portland Avenue. (Yes, across the street from my starting point; I made a full loop before heading south on Portland.) The building currently occupied by El Primo International Auto Sales had been a service station constructed in 1940. I’m a complete font geek, and the “SERVICE” sign facing Portland Avenue would have been enough to make my day even if the walk ended there.

El Primo International Auto Sales, 519 E. Lake St. (1940)

At the northeast corner of Portland Avenue and 32nd Street, I encountered a lot used for gardening, a sight repeated several places in the neighborhood. That would be mildly interesting in itself, but in this case a sign showed that more was at foot: this particular garden is part of the Youth Farm program, which grows (in their words) leaders, food, community, and progress.

Youth Farm at Portland Ave. S. and E. 32nd St.

My next little loop, via 33rd and 32nd Streets, brought me past a garage in the 400 block of E 32nd Street painted “PAGAN PRO-TECTION SPIRITS! PROACTIVE CHANGE IN THIS WORLD OF HERS.” Clearly there is a story to tell here. As it turns out, the story of “The Witches Next Door” has already been told by another blogger. (One correction, though: I’m pretty sure the house in question is on the corner with 5th Avenue, not 4th.)

Garage of “The Witches Next Door”

My third little loop, via 35th and 34th Streets, brought me past the main entrance of the Richard M. Green Central Park School on 4th Avenue. (On the prior day, I had only seen the other sides of the school.) The inscription over the entrance, “THE COMMONWEALTH REQVIRES THE EDVCATION OF THE PEOPLE AS THE SAFE-GVARD OF ORDER AND LIBERTY,” is taken from the Boston Public Library’s McKim Building, where it is dated 1888. By speaking to order as well as liberty, it addresses fears as well as aspirations — themes that were still relevant at the time of the school’s construction, roughly a century after the McKim Building. Indeed, they are still relevant today.

Richard M. Green Central Park School, 3416 4th Ave. S.

Richard M. Green Central Park School, 3416 4th Ave. S. (Detail)

Further along that same loop, I took note of the fence along the south side of 34th Street just west of its corner with Oakland Avenue. Good fences may make good neighbors, but they also sometimes make good canvases.

Painted Fence at 3400 Oakland Ave. S.

Back on Portland Avenue, I noted three essentially identical four-unit apartment buildings in the 3500 block, all dating from 1917. The one at 3530 differs from its otherwise similar neighbors by proudly flying an Ecuadorian flag on the balcony. Viva Ecuador! I shouldn’t be surprised that there are Ecuadorians in the neighborhood, given the presence of the Panaderia El Sabor Ecuatoriana on Lake Street.

3534 and 3530 Portland Ave. S. (1917)

On my final little loop (37th and 36th streets), I finally got close to a landmark I had been seeing from a distance: the Purity Bakery Building at 500 East 36th Street (1920). Today it holds a mixture of apartments, light industrial uses, and in all likelihood artists’ studios. I find it a good reminder that industrial work sites were more plausibly integrable into residential neighborhoods when they were modest in size. (From what I’ve seen, industrial bakeries are now far larger, serving multi-state regions.)

Purity Bakery Building, 500 E. 36th St. (1920)

My traversal of Portland Avenue ended at 38th Street, the southern boundary of the neighborhood. However, I had one important stop to make as the avenue neared that corner: Mama Sheila’s Soulfood Kitchen in Portland Market. I helped myself to a paper serving boat of the collard greens, adding a chicken drumstick mostly so that the greens wouldn’t look so lonely. (I never get as excited over chicken as over greens.) Then I went outside to one of the picnic tables to sample the wares.

Collard Greens and Chicken from Mama Sheila’s Soulfood Kitchen

Mama Sheila’s Soulfood Kitchen is Located at Portland Market, 3751 Portland Ave. S.

The greens did not disappoint. No, not at all. Mama Sheila knows the two key points about collard greens: how to cook them and how to season them. As to the cooking, they had received the low and slow moist cooking that renders them velvety, melt-in-the-mouth tender without bringing out any sulfurous off notes. The seasoning is a matter of balance: the garlic and hot pepper are in balance with each other and with the salty richness of the meat. (A vegetarian version is also on offer.) So far, two out of two days in the Central neighborhood have provided tasty eating. Here’s hoping I’ll have the same luck on day three.

This article was published November 27, 2016, on the author’s All of Minneapolis blog. The original version is available there.

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