On my first day in the Cooper neighborhood, I had covered everything south of Lake Street aside from a small area along the river. To finish up the remainder, I started at the intersection of Lake Street and West River Parkway (marked A on the map) and took the circuitous blue route to end at Lake Street and 39th Avenue (point B). Along the way, I did some back-and-forth spurs (shown in red), including in particular a long one to the south on West River Parkway as far as the neighborhood’s southern border, where 34th Street East would intersect the parkway, if it did.
The northwest corner of Lake Street and the parkway contains a 21st-century mixed-use development, West River Commons, which includes apartments in the upper floors and retail at sidewalk level: pizza, gifts, coffee, and a restaurant extending out onto the plaza. That restaurant, Longfellow Grill, gave me the chance to fuel up before starting my walk.
On a beautiful day in March, nothing is quite so welcome as dining on a patio, and indeed I had a very pleasant experience. To start with, I knew the server, Josh Kaeding, was my kind of guy as soon as I saw that he had a substantial portion of Pascal’s triangle tattooed on his right arm. More importantly, he helped me locate Surly’s Xtra-Citra on their substantial tap-list, a bright, refreshing ale perfectly suited to my needs. Observing his interactions with the other patio patrons, I saw that he gave each what they wanted: a quick exit for one, a chance to linger for another; more of the same for one, a replacement for another — all delivered with a steady stream of upbeat affirmations. For myself, I opted for the quick exit; it was just as beautiful an afternoon for walking as for lolling on a patio. Not that I wasn’t tempted.
South of Lake Street, the view to the east from West River Parkway extends out over the Mississippi River toward St. Paul. This part of the river runs through a gorge formed by the retreat of the St. Anthony Falls. Both the bluff and the bottomland are wooded. An early view through the trees, looking north, revealed the Lake Street bridge and its reflection.
Just before I did my about-face turn at the 34th Street alignment, I spotted a steep stone staircase curving downward. It wasn’t on my route map, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me, especially when I glimpsed a mysterious little post sticking out of the ground near the foot of the stairs, right about where the neighborhood border would be. Going down to it allowed me to capture a more detailed photo, though I’m still as clueless as ever what purpose it served. A barely visible trail leads through the bottomland: something to explore another day.
Returning toward Lake Street I was impressed by the the Danish American Center’s elongated form in the narrow area between 48th Avenue and the parkway. The center’s self-description as “a center for Danish cultural exchange and Danish hygge” uses one of the contenders for 2016’s word of the year.
Before starting this walk, I promised myself that I’d take a break from focusing on decorative details and duplexes. So, naturally enough I’d barely begun when I saw a duplex with decorative details simply too good to pass up, especially the tiles, which you may need to zoom to see. This building from 1929 is located on 48th Avenue just west of the Danish American Center.
Essentially all of the commercial activity in the neighborhood is of a walk-in character: retail shops, medical clinics, restaurants, repair shops, etc. The 4600 block has the one exception: Infinite Graphics has since 1969 been making the extremely detailed patterns used to manufacture semiconductor chips and related products including, more recently, three-dimensional nano-structures.
I then followed Lake Street onto the bridge as far as the city line. Looking northwest, the Minneapolis Rowing Club’s boathouse with its hyperbolic paraboloid roof is visible below West River Parkway.
North of the bridge, West River Parkway follows the curve of the river to the northwest. The Short Line railroad bridge marks the northernmost point in the neighborhood because the Midtown Greenway, which follows the railroad track west of the bridge, serves as the northern border. As a pedestrian, I had the option of ascending to the greenway using a staircase at Dorman Avenue. Instead I returned to the ramp at the parkway. Once up on the berm holding the greenway and railroad, I encountered a particularly helpful interpretive sign explaining the history of the area and how it was influenced by the construction of the two bridges.
Until the original Lake Street bridge was built in 1887–1888, and indeed until the bridge was widened and strengthened to carry streetcars in 1905–1906, residential development in this area attracted little interest and dairy farms remained next to the railroad tracks. Once the intercity line was in place, though, development boomed, primarily in the bungalow style. That bridge continued to carry a large volume of traffic until the construction of Interstate 94. (The National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record provides a history of the bridge.)
To truly stay within the neighborhood, I would have needed to leap down from the greenway as it passes over a pedestrian/bicycle segment of 38th Avenue in Brackett Field Park. Instead, I took a ramp down to the park just a bit further west, in the Longfellow neighborhood. The Cooper portion of the park includes impressive facilities such as a child-thronged playground and the Brackett Recreation Center.
Before returning to the east on 28th Street, I ventured one block south on 38th Avenue. I’m glad I did, as one of the houses has a particularly spectacularly painted door. Yes, another decorative detail, but appreciating details is part of the joy of a walking pace.
Decorative details aren’t the only ones that interest me, though. I also like to learn about the infrastructure — the sort of thing that lets me count on natural gas to burn in my stove and not in my street. That’s the function of the green pedestal box I spotted on 28th Street as I neared 41st Avenue. It contains a cathodic protection rectifier made by Universal Rectifiers, which converts the normal 120-volt alternating current into 40-volt direct current. Any gas pipeline installed since July 31, 1971, must have this kind of current to counteract the natural electrochemical process of corrosion anywhere the pipe’s protective coating is breached. All of which makes complete sense, now that it’s been explained to me, but leaves me wondering why I’ve never seen such a rectifier before. My only guess is that this one, and the one a block south, were installed in a brief period between the institution of this requirement and the development of a less conspicuous way to mount the rectifiers.
The numbered streets and avenues in this neighborhood are aligned to the cardinal compass directions, whereas Dorman Avenue and West River Parkway are both aligned to the river. The result is a succession of angular intersections where the numbered streets and avenues reach Dorman.
The duplex on the southwest corner of 44th and Dorman Avenues is oriented orthogonal to 44th Avenue but with its front facing onto Dorman (at an angle). The only wall parallel to Dorman is a little clipped corner, which looks like it might have been necessitated by a setback requirement.
Before I could see more of the architectural quirks provoked by Dorman Avenue’s angled intersections, I needed to follow my route south to Lake Street on 43rd Avenue and then back north on 44th. This took me past Dragon City Cafe, a Chinese-American restaurant that has been run by the same family since 1977, as described in a lovely blog post by Steve Date.
Returning to Dorman Avenue, the acute angle formed with 46th Avenue gave rise to a more substantial architectural response than just a clipped corner. Translating the building permit card’s abbreviations, it is a “52.4 by 41.7 by 8 and 16 foot two-story (in part) frame single dwelling with attached garage” — in other words, a creative variant of an 1950s rambler, in which footprint area lost to the triangular shape of the lot is compensated for by bumping part of house up to a second story.
After twisting around a little through 45th and 46th Avenues, I headed back west on 29th Street. A building at the corner with 39th Avenue holds the Procesos en Cristo church plant, one of the North Central Conference of Free Methodist Churches. The sign in the lawn has the church’s name together with a red heart augmented with an EKG trace. Meanwhile, the sign over the door welcomes with “Bienvenidos” and the bench on the corner is inscribed with an English translation of Matthew 11:28, Jesus’s offer of rest for the weary.
One block further west, a larger church building holds The Bread of Life Deaf Lutheran Church (BOLD), a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). This is the second church I’ve come across for the Deaf community; in Beltrami I encountered the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church. Once I get walking the whole city, I’ll have a comprehensive list of all the denominations with Deaf congregations, among many other all-inclusive lists.
A block south on 38th Avenue and a block east on Lake Street brought me to Blue Moon Coffee Cafe, where “Everyone [is] welcome.” Indeed, that may have been the most significant observation of my time there. There were a considerable number of customers, differing in every aspect of their personal appearance, and yet they all had one feature in common: they all looked comfortable in the cafe. Of course, comfort alone doesn’t make a coffee shop: I also got a well-made decaf iced americano. The Blue Moon doubles as an art gallery, featuring in particular the art of Lisa Arnold (Xola Arts and Objects), whose flickr photostream includes a photo of an earlier installation in the Blue Moon window that gives some sense of the current effect, though the specific pieces are different.
Turning north on 39th Avenue, I was stunned to see a badly burned house in the first block. Two thoughts came in quick succession: I hope no one was in there, and how remarkable that the houses a few feet to each side appear untouched. Looking at the neighboring houses, the one to the south seems to have some soot on the underside of the northern eaves, but that’s all. Alas, news reports show that my first hope was not realized.
A block north, I encountered a property noteworthy for the fences in the front yard. Actually, fences at all are a rarity in this neighborhood, but these fences would be noteworthy even in more fence-prone neighborhoods because they are made from bicycle wheels.
Continuing north on 40th Avenue brought me back to Dorman for some final encounters with its non-perpendicular intersections. Some of the effects I had previously noticed were rather direct; by contrast, this time I noticed what at first glance seemed to be one house towering over another, with no particular connection to the geometry of the platting. However, the impression is in part an optical illusion. Although the two houses both are facing squarely toward 42nd Avenue, the one on the right is actually on Dorman Avenue, constrained within a trapezoidal lot. As a result, it is set back further and so perspective makes it look smaller. (Admittedly, the one on the left also was built larger and then grew more in recent remodeling.)
The final leg of my walk was south on 39th Avenue back to the Blue Moon on Lake, where I’d catch the number 21 bus. Across from Brackett Field Park, in the 2700 block, a front walk caught my eye with its interesting pattern of bricks in contrasting colors.
Finally, on the sidewalk to the east of the Blue Moon, I stopped to admire a poetry box. This is the second I’ve encountered; the first was in Audubon Park. In essence it is a variant on the little library theme, but specialized to poetry and encouraging a more active participation. In this case the inscription on the shelf says “take one, leave one, write ….” In addition to poetry books, the box encloses a spiral-bound notebook for writing in.
Editor’s Note: Max Hailperin is walking each of Minneapolis’ 87 neighborhoods, in alphabetical order. He chronicles his adventures at allofminneapolis.com, where the original version of this article was published March 30, 2017. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.