Downtown West, Day 2

Part of Minneapolis’s Downtown West neighborhood could as aptly be grouped into the warehouse district. Day 2 contained that part as well as some more of the central downtown area and was divided into three segments, as shown on the route map below. (As on day 1, the blue tint indicates the full extent of the neighborhood. Also as on day 1, I’ll describe directions as riverward, landward, upstream, and downstream.)

The route starts and ends on Hennepin Avenue at 7th and 8th Streets, marked A and B. These are connected by the blue path extending as far downstream as 5th Avenue South and meandering back between 6th and 8th Streets. (As usual, there are a couple supplemental back-and-forth spurs shown in red.) This portion of the walk is the most downtown-like in character.

Before I walked that portion, however, I headed the opposite direction on 7th Street in order to walk the two loops that lie on the upstream side of Hennepin. The connecting portion of 7th Street that I walked from the starting point to the first (landward) loop and later back again is shown in purple, as is the connector that I used to branch off from the landward loop to the riverward loop and later return. The landward loop includes such large facilities as Mayo Clinic Square, Target Center, Target Field, and the Salvation Army, while the riverward loop retains more of the historic warehouse buildings.

Mayo Clinic Square occupies the block between Hennepin and 1st Avenue North and between 6th and 7th Streets. Although it includes the 22-story Loews Minneapolis Hotel, the bulk of the construction is horizontal, fitting both the current name as a Square and the previous name as a Block, Block E. (Phillip Koski described the transformation from Block to Square as “way above a new paint job yet way below wholesale wrecking.”)

Mayo Clinic Square, Hennepin Ave. at 7th St. N.

Upstream from Mayo Clinic Square, 7th Street skirts around Target Center, which was crawling with construction workers carrying out a renovation. Next, 7th Street passes along the landward side of Target Field. Because of the neighborhood boundary, I left 7th Street before the end of the field, turning landward on Twins Way, a renamed section of 3rd Avenue North. This provided a view of a large, colorful tile mural on the side of the A parking ramp.

Target Field, Looking Riverward from 7th Street

Tile Mural, Looking Downstream from Twins Way

From Twins Way, I took 10th Street downstream to Hawthorne Avenue, then returned back upstream to Glenwood Avenue via 11th and 12th Streets, with a side trip onto Currie Avenue. This allowed me to see three different Salvation Army buildings grouped into that area: HOPE Harbor (“a 96-unit supportive housing complex … for low-income single adults and the chronically homeless”), the Harbor Light Center (“a safe place for people to stabilize their lives and begin the process of healing [with] Minnesota’s largest homeless adult outreach facility [which] includes a clinical treatment program for men working to beat chemical dependency”), and the associated Worship and Service Center. Of these, the first and third look purpose-built, but the Harbor Light Center’s 1922 building was previously a Dayton’s Warehouse.

Salvation Army HOPE Harbor, 53 Glenwood Ave.

Salvation Army Harbor Light Center, 1010 Currie Ave.

Salvation Army Harbor Light Worship and Service Center, 1000 Currie Ave.

Glenwood Avenue leads onto 2nd Avenue North, a block of which is designated as Rod Carew Drive. Simply by staying on 2nd Avenue North, I temporarily departed from the landward loop of my route map, entering the riverward loop via the connecting segment mapped in purple.

Between 5th and 4th Streets, the upstream side of 2nd Avenue North is lined with a skyway linking two of the municipal parking ramps, those designated B and C. Underneath that skyway, adjacent to one of its supporting piers, I was interested to see a demarcated area containing sawn sections of log, some of them with the grain running vertically, others horizontally. My best guess is that it is intended for informal groups to gather. Perhaps smokers can take a load off their feet.

Seating for Cigarette Breaks?

In this area, older buildings predominate. For example, the Brown & Haywood Glass Building on the riverward, downstream corner of 2nd Avenue North and Third Street dates from 1890. The first detail of that building to catch my eye was the street signage integrated into its corner. Also, in keeping with the Richardsonian Romanesque influence, many of the building’s windows are accented with arches, including the one I photographed where a fire escape terminates. (The remains of a sign warn “Do Not Use; Fire Escape Not ….”)

Brown & Haywood Glass Building, 2nd Ave. N. & 3rd St. (1890)

Fire Escape and Window Arch, Brown & Haywood Glass Building (1890)

On the same block of 3rd Street, but at the landward corner with 1st Avenue, the Langdon Building (300 1st Avenue North) from 1887 shows more exuberant use of terra cotta decoration. The city’s Warehouse District Inventory from 2009 remarks that the building was long home to the wholesale grocer George R. Newell and Company, predecessor to today’s SuperValu.

Langdon Building, 300 1st Ave. N. (1887)

Diagonally across the intersection of 3rd Street and 1st Avenue North, the McKesson Building stands out largely by virtue of its spiral fire escape. (I’ll return to this building on day 3, when I walk its block of 3rd Street.)

McKesson Building, 251 1st Ave. N. (1892)

On the other (upstream) side of the 200 block of 1st Avenue North, the firm of First & First, specialists in historical real estate, have made 244–254 1st Avenue North stand out through the simple expedient of painting each entryway with a different color.

244–254 1st Ave. N.

Returning to 2nd Avenue North by way of Washington Avenue, I came to a building less interesting for its exterior than for what it contains: the Red Rabbit restaurant. I sat at the bar, the best spot in the house. Nothing beats a view of exposed brick fronted by many, many bottles, including in particular a really outstanding selection of amari. (Maybe that’ll be my next “all of” project after I finish Minneapolis.)

One of those amari found its way into the Knight Rider cocktail I ordered, a Manhattan variant containing Bernheim wheat whiskey, Amaro Montenegro, and Punt e Mes. The amaro and vermouth provide a complex harmony of bitter herbal and fruity notes, in context of which I didn’t miss in the slightest the zippier rye whiskey I more typically use as a base. The profound depths of the drink were set off perfectly by bright oils from a strip of lemon zest.

Before leaving the cocktail topic, allow me to also put on record my pleasure that Red Rabbit is one of those all-too-rare places that has a real bartender on duty at lunchtime, rather than just someone who can pour beer and wine. As Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett sang, “It’s only half-past twelve but I don’t care / It’s five o’clock somewhere.” (I did them one better by not caring at 11:15 AM.)

Man does not live by cocktails alone, so I also ordered the grain salad. Yes, the main ingredient was a grain, farro, but what really made this salad stunning was the mixture of herbs, which combined with the lemon vinaigrette to give it a ton of flavor. (The bits of rutabaga and the pine nuts were more important texturally.) The dish was also a real looker, as the photo shows. In addition to the greens and purples that topped the salad, the plate contained a smear of crème fraîche sprinkled with crushed chili.

Grain Salad at Red Rabbit

After lunch, I completed my riverward loop: Washington Avenue, 3rd Avenue North, 5th Street, 1st Avenue North, and finally 4th Street back to 2nd Avenue North. One standout in this area is the Wyman Building at the corner of 1st Avenue North and 4th Street. (A 1917 building at 5th Street has the same name. Both housed Wyman, Partridge, and Company, a dry-goods wholesaler.) I was particularly struck by the intricacy of the 1896 building’s horizontal bands.

Wyman Building, 400 1st Ave. N. (1896)

Intricate Bands on the Wyman Building (1896)

At the upstream end of the same block of 4th Street, the Textile Building provides another good example of Renaissance Revival terra cotta detailing, this time in a warm golden hue. The most obvious tenant today is a non-textile one, Pizza Lucé, but the abbreviated name “TEXTILE BLDG.” is still painted on one side of the 4th Street facade. The sign painter was fastidious enough to include the period at the end of the abbreviation, even though its position underneath the G in the vertical column of letters looks rather odd.

Textile Building, 119 5th St. N. (1891)

Turning onto 2nd Avenue North at the Textile Building also marked a turning point in my route: time to connect back to the more landward of the two loops, where I finished my long-paused circumnavigation of Target Center on 6th Street and 1st Avenue North. I then exited back to Hennepin Avenue (where I had started my walk) via 7th Street.

The corner of 1st Avenue North and 7th street is famous for the eponymous nightclub, which is decorated with stars containing the names of some of the artists who have performed there. When I’ve been asked for directions to “First Avenue,” I’ve assumed the destination was the club, not the avenue. I can’t really go wrong with that approach, because directing someone to the club also directs them to the avenue. Thankfully, 1st Avenue South was renamed Marquette Avenue in 1913, so there’s no risk of sending someone to the wrong side of Hennepin.

First Avenue, 701 1st Ave. N.

Speaking of the other (downstream) side of Hennepin, that’s where I headed next, in order to follow 7th Street to 5th Avenue South, then wind my way back upstream between 6th and 8th Streets. Already in the first block of 7th Street past Hennepin I spotted something interesting, the tiny Candyland store squeezed between two much larger buildings in what looks like it ought to have been an alleyway. I was initially excited to realize that the position is where LaSalle Avenue would reach 7th Street if 8th Street weren’t as close to the river as it gets. However, even on as old a map as 1885, LaSalle Avenue (then called Mary Place) stopped at 8th Street, with a building, not a street or alley, at 7th. So Candyland ultimately stands as a reminder not to jump to assumptions.

Candyland, 27 7th St. S.

Crossing the Nicollet Mall and looking into its 700 block, the Crystal Court shopping area in IDS Center is notable for the tiered white frames of its skylight.

Crystal Court, 700 block of Nicollet Mall

Between Marquette and 2nd Avenues South, the block on the riverward side of 7th Street is occupied by Northstar Center, which in 1963 ushered in the modern age of downtown Minneapolis development. In particular, it is known as the “birthplace of the Minneapolis skyway system.” In the context of today’s controversies, that sounds like a plan to drain all pedestrian activity off the streets. However, walking past the center gave me a more nuanced understanding of its designer’s goals of avoiding conflict between pedestrian and vehicular traffic while maintaining contact between pedestrians and retailers. They clearly were trying to achieve those goals even for pedestrians who stuck to the sidewalks. How else to explain the recessed pedestrian arcade tucked beneath the parking garage’s ramp, so that vehicles using the ramp don’t menace pedestrians on the sidewalk? I’ve seen similar ramp arrangements elsewhere, but generally the pedestrians walk under the ramp along a blank wall, good for nothing but urination. At the Northstar Center, by contrast, glass-fronted retail locations welcome the downtown lunchers, just like up on the skyway level.

Northstar Center Pedestrian Arcade on 7th St. (1963)

Contrasting with this 1960s modernity, across 7th Street at 2nd Avenue South, the Baker Building shows the more ornate neo-gothic stone and terra-cotta facade that was in vogue in 1926. I’ll limit the photo here to the upper floors, waiting for the 2nd Avenue side to show the street level, as that side has less impact from a 1950s modernization.

Baker Building, 706 2nd Ave. S., Viewed from 7th Street (1926)

A couple blocks further, between 3rd and 4th Avenues South, the plaza on the south side of the Hennepin County Government Center held the Downtown Market, as it does every Thursday in season. The vendor in the foreground of this photo is offering smile-worthy “homegrown and no spray fresh produce” such as rhubarb and green onions, while the most visible sign in the background advertises “local honey.”

Downtown Market, 300 Block of 7th St. S.

Upon reaching the downstream boundary of the neighborhood at 5th Avenue South, I turned back upstream, taking 8th Street for the initial block to 4th Avenue South. On the riverward side of that block, the Greater Twin Cities United Way occupies the neoclassical Citizens Aid Building.

Citizens Aid Building, 8th St. at 4th Ave. S.

Looking riverward on 4th Avenue provided a good view of the Hennepin County Government Center, while turning to face upstream revealed skyscrapers ranging from the obelisk-like Foshay Tower to the haloed Capella Tower.

Hennepin County Government Center

Skyline, Foshay Through Star Tribune Buildings

Star Tribune Building and Capella Tower

Once I had used 6th Street to advance to 3rd Avenue South, I was able to see the Star Tribune building at ground level and observe through the lobby’s glass curtain wall that an exhibition of some sort was ongoing. As a subscriber, I knew that this very day (May 25th) was their 150th anniversary, so I went in to see what was up.

Star Tribune Building, 650 3rd Ave. S.

The answer is that they had unveiled a restored six-foot globe from 1951, together with an exhibit of photos and documents that explained its history. The globe completes a day’s worth of rotation in approximately 15 minutes, while clocks and labels underneath allow viewers to keep track of the time and principal cities in each time zone.

The Star Tribune’s Terrestrial Globe

Time Zone Base for Star Tribune’s Globe

I found lots of interesting tidbits in the accompanying exhibit as well. For example, I saw that the 1951 and 2017 installations were accomplished the same way, by removing plate glass windows. Also, I learned that the newspaper had an artist update the political geography in 1978, but in the 2017 restoration, they decided to stick with that 1978 version, rather than updating to 2017 or reverting to 1951. All in all, this exhibit is as educational as it is impressive; I would definitely advise anyone in the downtown area to stop in.

Next up for me was 8th Street between 3rd and 2nd Avenues South, which meant walking past the modern blocks of stone and glass that are Saint Olaf Catholic Church.

Saint Olaf Catholic Church (1955)

Turning riverward on 2nd Avenue South allowed me to see again the Baker Building, and in particular how its neogothic terra-cotta from the 1920s was retrofitted with modern exposed metal in the 1950s.

Baker Building, 706 2nd Ave. S.: 1920s Neogothic Meets 1950s Modern

A couple blocks later, at 6th Street and Marquette Avenue, I saw another more thorough and arguably more successful blend of styles. The Westin Hotel occupies the former Farmer and Mechanics Savings Bank. The low-rise moderne portion was the banking hall, built in 1942, whereas the high-rise international-style portion was added as office space in 1963. The two are quite clearly distinct, yet they are integrated, with the new surface materials (enameled aluminum panels alternating in aluminum frames with glass) bracketed between new instances of the original surface material (limestone veneer). The building also has some interesting street-level details, which I’ll show when I walk past them on day 3.

Farmers and Mechanics Savings Bank (now Westin Hotel), 88 6th St. S. (1942 and 1963)

Walking past the IDS Center’s Crystal Court on Nicollet Mall, I was finally able to see something other than the tiered skylight, namely a sculpture in the form of a Sierpinski tetrahedron, although carried only through two levels of the conceptually infinite process of recursive subdivision.

Sierpinski Tetrahedron at Crystal Court, Nicollet Mall

Across the mall is the renaissance revival building that previously housed Dayton’s department store and more recently Macy’s. If one were to survey downtown Minneapolis with a nostalgia meter, one likely would get the highest readings on this site. I hope something good will come from its next rebirth.

Former Dayton’s Department Store, 700 Nicollet Mall (1902)

Nostalgia is hard to turn into a viable business at the scale of a department store, somewhat less so at the scale of a restaurant, particularly if served with well-liked food and drink. In the final block of 6th Street before Hennepin Avenue, Murray’s is gamely working at it, trading on steaks that won the “prestigious silver butter knife award” in the 1950s. Claire Stanford published a great profile of their “lifer” meat cutter, Boyd Freeman, which provides a lot of perspective on what’s stayed the same and what’s changed.

Murray’s Restaurant, 26 6th St. S.

Before turning from 6th Street onto Hennepin Avenue, I paused to take a photo of the Masonic Temple building in all its Romanesque glory. I’ll be walking past it on day 3, but this was a good vantage point to get most of the facade in a single shot. Even without the onion dome that originally capped the corner tower (and its mate in the background), this is a spectacular example of what was possible in 1889. Recall, this was the decade when Minneapolis’s population shot up by 250%, and the financial panic of 1893 was still in the future, so a no-holds-barred strategy of investment in grand new construction made complete sense.

Masonic Temple (now Hennepin Center for the Arts), 528 Hennepin Ave. (1889)

Upon reaching my end-point at 8th Street and Hennepin, I still had one little block-long spur to walk, extending as far as LaSalle Avenue. Loyal readers of this blog will know I’m a firm believer that any given block is apt to contain some unexpected surprise, meriting its walking even as a back-and-forth double traversal. Sure enough, if I had just caught my bus home from Hennepin without exploring that block of 8th Street, I would have missed an intriguing sculpture, “a discovery of Minneapolis’ past in stone and steel,” by Zoran Mojsilov. It oozes through an opening in the side wall next to the low-key entrance of the Shea Design firm, abutting the alleyway. Janet Moore reported in the Star Tribune that “the sculpture is crafted from two carved pieces of stone salvaged from the Metropolitan building, a downtown Minneapolis icon that was torn down in the 1960s, as well as Kasota stone salvaged from demolished railroad underpasses at what is now Target Field.” [Added 2017–12–02: I appreciate Mojsilov’s permission to post this photo.]

Shea Sculpture by Zoran Mojsilov, 10 8th St. S. (2012)

Returning to Hennepin, I crossed the street in order to catch my bus and looked back across Hennepin at the downstream side I had just been on. One last interesting sight jumped out at me, the Teener Building, currently the Brave New Workshop Student Union. Like the Candyland shop, it is a narrow building between two larger neighbors. (Early in the 20th century, downtown was full of buildings this width.) Unlike Candyland, though, this one contrasts in style just as much as in size, especially with the building to its left. The colorful, ornate terra cotta of the Teener Building couldn’t be more different from the brutalist concrete of its neighbor. Paradoxically, this combination of a monotone facade with an ornate one is more varied than a whole block of ornate facades would be. Even blandness can contribute to variety.

Teener Building, 727 Hennepin Ave. (1923)

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 31, 2017. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.

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