Minneapolis’s East Calhoun (ECCO) neighborhood is small enough to walk in a single outing, as shown in the map below. It spans the six-block distance from Lake Street to 36th Street and the 4–6 blocks from Hennepin Avenue to the lake. The red lines on the route map are spurs walked back and forth off of the main path, which is shown in blue. The main path starts at 35th and Hennepin (A), and after winding through the full neighborhood, it ends a block north of there (B).
Most of the neighborhood is residential, with the exception of Hennepin Avenue, Lake Street, and (to a lesser extent) 31st Street. I didn’t take many photos of the buildings, as other subjects struck my eye more, such as the flora and fauna. The residences vary from single-family to low- and medium-density multi-family buildings, mostly from the first half of the 20th century.
Right off the bat, as I headed south on Hennepin from 35th to 36th street, I passed one of the more interesting residential buildings. The former Fire Station 23 (active from 1906 to 1946) was converted in 1991 to four condo units.
After taking Holmes Avenue all the way from 36th Street to Lake Street, I retreated to 31st Street. To the east of Holmes Avenue, 31st Street is straddled by two contrasting examples of the area’s multifamily housing. On the south, the 28-unit Holmes Apartments have been in place since 1922, whereas on the north, a new building is going up to hold 9 luxury condos and some ground-floor retail.
I then walked 31st Street west to the parkway, then took Knox Avenue up to Lake Street, where I was able to view some of the recreational facilities associated with the lake. For example, in the following photo, to the right of center, you’ll notice a group of small sailboats. This is not a trick of perspective; the boats really are small (8 foot), as are the student sailors (7–11 years of age). They are a Beginning Optimist class of the Lake Calhoun Sailing School.
In the same area, the mast of the USS Minneapolis stands as a memorial, the meaning of which is made more clear by the accompanying plaques. One is “in memory of the Minnesota men who lost their lives while serving in the Marine Corps during the World War, 1917 to 1918.” It includes a list of the mens’ names. The other is “in memory of the boys of our Navy who fought during the Great War, 1914–1918.” I suspect there were too many of them to list.
South of this area, the parkway runs on high ground above the lake, with occasional stairways leading down to the lakeshore pedestrian and bicycle trails. Further south, in the 3300 block, a sloping path connects to the trail and the sidewalk along the parkway goes away. Shortly before this transition, I stopped to photograph a large 1907 Tudor-style house that interested me for the mix of trees and tall grasses that screen it from the road. As with the neighborhood in general, no one photo can tell the story of the parkway, as it too has a mix of densities and ages of dwellings.
Just north of 36th Street, I encountered another plaque-bearing boulder, this one attesting to one aspect of the complicated relationship that played out on this site between the Dakota and Euro-Americans. It says that “on the hill above was erected the first dwelling in Minneapolis by Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond, missionaries to the Indians, June, 1834.” In addition to applying the name “Minneapolis” anachronistically, the plaque is ambiguous. I’m inclined to read it as making a claim that the Pond brothers’ dwelling was the first dwelling in the area, rather than merely that this was the first place in this area that the Pond brothers dwelled. If so, it seems to discount the dwellings of the “Indians” (Dakota). The Pond brothers were joining the agricultural village of Heyate Otunwe, which was settled by Mahpiya Wicast (Cloud Man) and his followers. The most notable outcome of this encounter was a system for writing the Dakota language in the Roman alphabet.
Before heading back north from 36th to Lake Street along Humboldt Avenue, I explored the 3500 blocks of James and Irving Streets. (This portion of James Street is half a block further east than the normal alignment and bends to meet Irving somewhat south of 35th.) Most notably, this gave me a good view of St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church.
Just south of there, a 1933 Tudor-style duplex caught my eye because of the way two contrasting colors of brick veneer were used to create a “picturesque” effect presumably intended to suggest a building falling to ruin. The aesthetic interest in ruins is of course difficult to translate into a structure fit for occupancy, so some sleight of hand is inevitably necessary. However, elsewhere I’ve seen this done using stucco for the light-colored ground; this is the first example I can recall using all brick veneer.
At the northwest corner of 36th and Humboldt, the flowers stood out in particular for the subtle shading from blue to violet.
Two and a half blocks north of there, I had the pleasure of being joined by Jeremy Iggers, who locked his bike to a post and accompanied me for a short portion of the walk. Short by distance, that is; we spent quite a while chatting, notably over a couple glasses of Indeed Wooden Soul #9, a raspberry sour beer. The strongest flavor is the raspberry, but the sour and funky aspects are tuned in just right to complement it — sour enough without being harshly acidic, and with more complexity to the funk than a lot of US “wild” beers have. By the time you read this, they may be out of it at Lake & Irving, but no doubt they’ll have something else interesting; we found it a pleasant place to relax.
After leaving Lake & Irving, we walked east on Lake Street to Hennepin Avenue and then south on Hennepin. This took us through the prime retail section of the neighborhood, part of the broader Uptown district. Here too, there is a mix of new and old, with the national brands in particular more inclined to gleaming contemporary storefronts.
The photo below helped me put this trend in context. On the right, the Apple Store has been designed every bit as carefully as the products within it to contribute to the overall experience. The store is not a neutral setting in which to buy devices that neutrally present media “content” (streaming videos, say). Rather, the consumers are intended to notice, and value, the device that is streaming the video, and the store within which they buy that device; they pay for the combination of all three. Meanwhile, on the left of the photo is the former Granada Theater, which in 1927 reflected the exact same business proposition. Movie goers were expected to notice and value the theater as much as the movie. Rather than just sitting in a completely darkened, neutral box with the movie occupying their entire attention, they were to notice and value the starlit Spanish sky above them, and the Churriqueresque facade through which they had entered that atmospheric space, and to pay for the combined experience. The more things change, the more they stay the same. (And yet they change. In 1954, the theater changed names to “Suburban World,” presumably representing a new fantasy destination for city dwellers.)
A few doors further south, at 3038 Hennepin Avenue South, we passed Magers & Quinn Booksellers, which I know well from many an enjoyable (and fruitful) visit. This is not just a treasure for those who seek out local, independent booksellers. It is a treasure for anyone who is literate. Of particular relevance to this blog, they have sections on local history, architecture, and landscape. However, I’ve also shopped there for poetry, cookbooks, biography, and more. I’ve bought and sold used books there. And I’ve attended a few of the many author events they host. Just go.
A block further south, as I was photographing an art deco facade, Jeremy was noticing the ice cream cone hanging out front. And so we entered La La Homemade Ice Cream, where I enjoyed a kiddie cup of raspberry fennel sorbet. (Apparently, raspberry was the theme for this walk.) The flavor combination is a good one, with the anise-like notes of the fennel adding depth to the brightness of the raspberry.
After walking Hennepin as far as 33rd Street, we returned to 32nd and headed west. Jeremy peeled off at Humboldt, while I continued to the parkway. I briefly went down to the lakeside trails, where a playground was getting good use, though I opted to photograph flowers rather than children playing. I then climbed the steps back to the parkway and backtracked along 32nd to the next cross street, James Avenue.
The 3000 block of James Avenue is home to another of the neighborhood’s designated historic landmarks, the Moorish Mansion Apartments. Built just two years after the Granada Theater, its facade incorporates similar architectural details into a particularly strong example of this period’s “revival” trend of putting such exotic faces on apartment buildings.
I was even more interested by another building across the street, just one year younger but featuring a quite different style — zigzag deco, if I’m not mistaken.
After reaching Lake Street, I used Irving Avenue and 33rd Street to return to Hennepin Avenue, where a Moai (Easter Island head) awaited me. Along the way, I saw lots more flowers, this being June.
I passed through my endpoint at 34th and Hennepin and continued south to 35th Street, which happened to be where I’d begun. I knew I’d be back to 34th once I had looped around via Irving Avenue. Overshooting the endpoint is a price for not missing anything, part and parcel of taking such a long way around to wind up one block from where I started. And not missing anything is indeed valuable. For example, in the 3400 block of Hennepin I saw a striking cluster of Sempervivum growing in a rock, and on 34th Street between Humboldt and Holmes Avenues, I saw a bird nesting in the porch eaves of a 1916 house.
Finally, I was back to 34th and Hennepin, where I was able to refresh myself with a decaf iced americano from Dunn Brothers while waiting for my bus. This location even has added color to their sidewalk seating with planters, a fitting conclusion to a walk through the floral East Calhoun neighborhood.
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 July 1, 2017. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.
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