A beautiful spring day welcomed me back to the Diamond Lake neighborhood. Having walked nearly everything east of Portland Avenue on my first three days, I was able to focus on the area to the west. This avenue makes a natural dividing line because the areas to the west were platted and developed separately from those to the east. Indeed, this western portion of the neighborhood historically extended to Nicollet Avenue before the construction of Interstate 35W severed it.
Starting from the intersection of Diamond Lake Road and Clinton Avenue, I first took a short spur eastward to where I could look out over the lake. Just as on the eastern shore, I was as much listening to the birds as I was looking at the lake.
Heading south on Clinton Avenue, I could see that ground rises more steeply away from the lake on the western shore than it does elsewhere. As a result, the houses built along the avenue look out over the lake from above. The older houses seem generally to be those on the west side of the avenue, or said another way, those with their fronts toward the lake.
The grid south of 60th Street doesn’t quite match up with that to the north, so I had to take a brief spur eastward on 60th Street before turning west — otherwise I would have missed the small segment of 60th that lies between the northbound and southbound intersections with Clinton Avenue. One of the premises of the All of Minneapolis project is that walking every last little bit of every street is worthwhile because I never know where something special will turn up. This was a case in point; the inter-Clinton segment of 60th includes a particularly bittersweet little library.
Even before I looked up Claire Richards, a few things were obvious from the library itself. I could see that though she had died young, she was being remembered for her life rather than her death — why else include the smiling photo? Not just a stock smile-for-the-camera smile either; a smile full of personal energy.
Indeed, one of her obituaries describes her as “a limitless ball of positive energy,” an aspiring doctor whose top-notch intellect was matched by her charisma. It also mentions her love of Shakespeare and her network of friends. And so it was that two years after Claire Richards died, Allie O’Quigley posted to Facebook that “We worked feverishly this weekend, using all of our sad energy to make a little library — just for you! We’ll be sure to stock it with Shakespeare and Harry Potter and all of your many favorites.”
From the obituaries and a subsequent profile linked to a Mayo Clinic video, I gained a renewed appreciation for just how much is at stake with melanoma. However, I could see that she would want me to focus not only on the consequences, but also on what I could do to shift the odds of facing those consequences. And so I reviewed the prevention tips and the guide to what to look for. Even if you aren’t the kind of reader who clicks links, click those two.
South of 60th street, the houses are more closely spaced and typically date from the 1930s and 1940s. (Contrast this with the eastern part of the neighborhood, where this southern tier dates from the 1950s. Over there, the 1930s/1940s part is further north.) This is what I saw on both sides of 3rd Avenue and the one remaining side of 2nd Avenue.
As everywhere, some houses are exceptions to the norm. For example, I noticed one in the 6000 block of 2nd Avenue that has more of a second story than the others do. It turns out to date from 1926. I was also happy to see the owners expressing some joy through paint, particularly on the latticework fence.
This visit to the 6000 block of 2nd Avenue was a spur before retreating to 61st Street. Before turning back, though, I was able to see something interesting looking across 60th Street into the 5900 block. The southernmost portion of that block is displaced by an on-ramp to the interstate. However, no additional houses were razed to make room for this. Just like along the rest of the avenue, the houses on the east side were preserved and only those on the west side torn down. This was accomplished by limiting the southernmost three houses on the block (5953–5961) to pedestrian access in the front, with automobile access only from the alleyway. Once the on-ramp has angled in closer to the freeway, 2nd Avenue is able to pick back up from Chester Street north.
I took 61st Street east to Portland Avenue, which is a major through street as well as having a commercial node at 60th Street. One of the things that interested me on the avenue was the mixed ages of the dwellings. It looks as though the spaces between the widely-spaced houses of rural Richfield were filled in as Minneapolis expanded.
By coincidence, the day I was walking this area happened to be Record Store Day, so among the commercial properties I need to give a special shout-out to Know Name Records. The Star Tribune published a nice feature article about them on this occasion, which also marked their 40th anniversary.
Of all the businesses around that intersection, the standout is the Dairy Queen. Although it’s been updated some, it’s easy to see the continuity since its 1961 construction. By coincidence, the background of the photo shows an alternative approach to how a property can continue serving a function over the decades. The SuperAmerica is just the latest in a whole succession of filling stations on that lot. The first was built in 1938. It received an addition in 1944. It was replaced in 1962. Then wrecked again in 1978, when the present structure was built.
Turning south on Portland to the city line at Highway 62, I enjoyed the exuberant tree in a sedate duplex’s front yard, then turned onto Park Avenue, which allowed me to look out over Legion Lake, surely one of Minneapolis’s less-known lakes. (Regarding turning from Portland onto Park: as already observed in Armatage and Como, Minneapolis is non-Euclidean — parallel avenues can intersect.)
Once I crossed back over to the west of Portland Avenue, I took 5th Avenue south to 62nd Street, which runs along the Highway 62 sound-wall. One of the garages along 62nd Street has a detail that leaves me stumped. I’m including a photo here in the hopes that some reader will clear up the mystery for me. What might these two brackets be for?
Not far from there, in the 6100 block of 4th Avenue South, I saw a good example of a gable siding I’ve only rarely seen. A front gable can be sided many ways, of course, including with shakes, shingles, or brick veneer. But I’m thinking about houses where the siding is done with boards or a modern simulation of boards. Not uncommonly, the boards run horizontally, much as they would on any other part of the house. Frequently, they run vertically, perhaps with scalloping on the bottom. Another common variant is the “board and batten” siding, in which the joints between wide vertical boards are overlapped by narrow vertical battens. None of those approaches responds to the triangular shape of the area the way these diagonal boards do.
After the 4th Avenue Spur, I returned to 62nd Street, which continued to Clinton Avenue. At this point, reality diverged a bit from the maps, as shown in the following photo. Google Maps showed no connection between Clinton and 3rd Avenues at the 62nd Street alignment. Yet as you can see, there is actually a pedestrian path there. (I had previously seen its other end at 3rd Avenue.) The city’s map is different from Google’s, but not really any better: it shows a full, automobile-capable continuation of 62nd Street. Of these three options, the actual one is my favorite; it allows unimpeded pedestrian access between neighbors while blocking pointless through traffic.
Clinton Avenue and 60th Street brought me to Diamond Lake Lane, which initially leads north from 60th as essentially a continuation of 5th Avenue, but subsequently turns east to connect up with Portland Avenue near 59th Street. An atlas page from 1940 shows it only going as far as Chester Street and named 5th Avenue, so apparently it was renamed to Diamond Lake Lane when it was extended with the bent portion, perhaps to avoid creating another non-Euclidean intersection.
The addition of the bent portion allowed a bit more land near the lake to be developed. In the first photo below, taken from Chester Street, you can see the lake just beyond the bend in the lane. The second photo, taken from the bend, shows that there is just a small stretch of grassy parkland before the wetlands and lake.
After Diamond Lake Lane, Chester Street took me back west all the way to 2nd Avenue, just shy of the interstate on-ramp. (Recall that this is where 2nd Avenue comes back into existence as a full automotive street, having been temporarily squeezed down to just a pedestrian path.) Along the way, I passed a tree house with a carved raccoon perched on its rail looking out over some back-yard chickens.
In the far northwestern part of the neighborhood, along 2nd Avenue and Diamond Lake Road, I again started seeing a greater number of homes from the 1920s and even 1910s, as I had at the start of my walk. I’ll leave you with two examples of similar ages but differing styles. Next stop, Downtown East!
Well, yes, the first houses in South Minneapolis were farmhouses, such as the one at 44th Street and Fourth Avenue, northeast corner. One might ask which kind of people then chose to build substantial homes in undeveloped areas, and how much land they had around them. They were built on high ground, and the cabins and cottages were built on the lowest, cheapest ground, on the smallest lots. Then the postwar boom came with the catalog houses, and the builders like Tilsen grabbed the best remaining lots between older homes.
I’m curious if the oldest residents had large parcels of land that they later sold off, or just double lots. That might account for the difference from the subdivision style of developing a whole area by one builder. “Tangletown” seems to have been mostly built at the same time. Perhaps consulting old real estate atlases would reveal some of this.
These differences created some economic mix of people later on.