The Mill City Farmers Market, Mill City Museum, and Mill Ruins Park were among the principal attractions for a second day in the Downtown East neighborhood, most of which I had walked on a previous visit. The map shows three loops in blue, each connected to the next by a purple segment, as well as two red spurs off of the third loop. (The connectors and spurs needed to be walked twice, once in each direction.)
Starting on Park Avenue, we followed Washington Avenue one block to Chicago Avenue, where we turned toward the river. On the right, a recent building houses the American Academy of Neurology. Among its distinctive features are the asymmetrical division of the windows.
Crossing 2nd Street, Chicago Avenue turns into a pedestrian mall running beside the Guthrie. On Saturdays in summer, it is home to the Mill City Farmers Market, which also extends into the shady train shed connected to the Mill City Museum. Even on the first day of the market’s season, it had a lot to offer.
The far end of the pedestrian mall connects to West River Parkway via a set of steps. In addition to the usual-sized steps suited for walking, there are larger steps suited for sitting on, especially with food from the market. They are labeled as a stratigraphic column. Reading up from the bottom of the photo, the first three layers are Saint Peter Sandstone, Glenwood Shale, and Platteville Limestone, which correspond to the geology of the river bluff. But what are those top couple layers poking out from behind the people? Steel and Concrete — cute!
On the river side of the parkway, a combined walking and bicycling trail is integrated into the historical mill ruins theme through the use of planking and edge rails. Similar planked walkways provide access to the tailrace area, which is also visible through the first few arches of the Stone Arch Bridge.
After crossing the tailrace near its mouth, we turned away from the river on a path that leads uphill, connecting back up with West River Parkway at the Remembrance Garden for victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse. While walking up the hill, my Less Pedestrian Half paused to pose for a photo. The rare treat of her company was made possible by the walk’s short length and the motivating power of a farmers market.
Red tulips lead into the Remembrance Garden, followed by 13 pillars, each commemorating one of the 13 individuals who died in the collapse. In the back, a wall contains the names of the survivors as well as the text “Our lives are not only defined by what happens, but by how we act in the face of it, not only by what life brings us, but by what we bring to life. Selfless actions and compassion create enduring community out of tragic events.”
On the southeast corner of West River Parkway and 11th Avenue South, the River Parkway Place office building (containing the Padilla company’s headquarters as well as other tenants) was constructed in 2001, at the leading edge of this area’s 21st-century boom.
After passing the headquarters for the Minnesota Region of the American Red Cross the parkway heads under the Interstate 35W bridge. A stripe of sky marks the otherwise invisible border where one would cross into the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, if one were not doubling back.
After retreating from the spur, we turned away from the river along 13th Avenue, past the University of Minnesota’s West Bank Office Building, the boldly striped facade of which looks about the same close up as when speeding by on 35W. It contains a disparate collection of administrative and academic units, ranging from the Controller’s Office to the Fine Theoretical Physics Institute and the Program in Human Sexuality.
Returning westward on 2nd Street, the intersection with 11th Avenue presented two points of interest. The northeast corner of the intersection has the colorful modernist home of Izzy’s Ice Cream, while the southeast corner has a surface parking lot. Why is a surface lot interesting? Because it allows an unobstructed view of the former bordello at 212 11th Avenue South. When I passed that building on my previous walk, I regretted being unable to photograph it in its present-day context. Better late than never.
Returning to West River Parkway, 11th Avenue completed the third of the route’s three loops. The northeast corner of Gold Medal Park is highlighted by another sculpture from the Walker’s collection (beyond the two included in the prior walk), Ordovician Pore by Tony Cragg (1989).
At the point where the Guthrie’s steps merge into those serving the farmers market, an unusually dramatic reading of a children’s story boomed out. Sure enough, it was a Guthrie actor providing their monthly story time at the market to a rapt audience. Overhead, the iconic Gold Medal Flour shone in the morning sun.
The shady walkway in front of the Mill City Museum has some tables and chairs, making it a lovely spot to refresh oneself with something from the museum’s Bushel & Peck café — and in this case, to wait for some final shopping. The haul included lovely produce from Prairie Hollow Farm (mmm, salad turnips!) and a porcini shiitake mushroom spread from Cherry Tree House Mushrooms.
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 May 12, 2017. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.