The East Harriet neighborhood is named for its position relative to Lake Harriet, and Lake Harriet is of course named for Harriet, but who is Harriet?
I’m grateful to the Frontier Army Museum for making available the image of an oil painting, believed to be by John Wesley Jarvis circa 1815, from which I extracted this detail. Certainly I can imagine those eyes conveying the intelligence, courage, and compassion that Maud Sutherland, Jr., ascribes to Harriet in her brief biography. More than that, and in particular anything aside from her role as Henry Leavenworth’s wife, is alas hard to find.
Sutherland’s biography, for its part, is colorful but not authoritative. One particular difficulty for our purposes is that it has the Leavenworths heading directly from Prairie Du Chien (in present-day Wisconsin) to a more southerly point, which I take to be Fort Gibson (in present-day Oklahoma). That skips over their time at what would become Fort Snelling, during which the lake was named. (It also skips over the Arikara War and the construction of Fort Leavenworth, and it conflates the move to Fort Gibson with the expedition west from there, during which General Leavenworth died in the Cross Timbers area.)
At any rate, what little I find regarding Harriet suggests that this lake is associated with a finer character than the lake immediately to the north. That’s not to minimize that this too was a renaming rather than a naming — the Dakota did not wait for the Leavenworths’ arrival to begin speaking of the lake. As such, it serves as another reminder that victors write cartography as well as history. (See also Brian Friel’s Translations.) However, the motivation for this renaming, as well as its honoree, seems more innocent.
Naming a lake for the Secretary of War was clearly a career-driven move in an age when the Army operated more on personal patronage than on professional merit. Admittedly, if Lake Harriet’s name was suggested by a subordinate rather than by Colonel Leavenworth himself, it too might have had an element of toadyism. However, even a subordinate would have had cause for genuine esteem of Mrs. Leavenworth. As the resident wife of a 19th-century commanding officer, she would have played an important role in the lives of the officers and men, acting as a combination of mother, nurse, and chaplain.
So that is the woman for whom the lake was named, for which the neighborhood was named, within which I walked. To the east of Lake Harriet, the neighborhood extends as far as Lyndale Avenue South between 36th and 46th Streets West. On my first day, I walked the southern half of this, 41st to 46th Streets. (Day two will also include the portion of the neighborhood that lies north of the lake.) In the map below, red segments are the spurs that I walked back and forth, whereas the circuitous blue path is the main loop.
This southern part of the neighborhood is primarily residential, but the nature of the residences varies quite a bit. In general, the number of units per building is lower nearer the lake and the number of square feet per unit higher. (Bryant Avenue, which had a streetcar line, has the densest housing.) In keeping with this trend, as I headed away from the lake on 43rd Street, the corners of the first avenue I crossed, Fremont Avenue, were occupied by large single-family houses. On the southeast, the large lot provided space for a curved entry walk terminating in a landscaped area at the corner.
Two blocks further east, at Colfax Avenue, the northeast corner is occupied by the Clara Barton Open School, a K–8 magnet school. Most of what is visible on this side (all but the upper level in the center) dates from the original 1915 construction. Newer additions are visible from the other sides.
Aside from the school, which continues all the way to Bryant Avenue, the other three corners with Bryant are occupied by commercial buildings. On the southwest, the Tenant restaurant stands out for the kitchen garden lining the sidewalk. On the southeast, a two-story mixed-use building from 1921 is an even clearer sign that Bryant Avenue was home to a streetcar line. And on the northeast, Keljik’s oriental rug business is distinguished by its signage, such as the painted rug (by “Fucci,” Peter Bue) that I photographed from the 43rd Street side.
Upon reaching Lyndale Avenue, I initially turned a block south to 44th Street before returning to the north. That provided a view of an example of the multifamily housing available away from the lake: a 1916 building containing four two-bedroom apartments.
Walking north on Lyndale, the 4300 and 4200 blocks are occupied by single-family and duplex residences, but the entire northern half of the 4100 block is the campus for Bethlehem Lutheran Church.
Heading back toward the lake on 42nd Street, I spotted some attractive flowers in the first block — far from the only ones on the walk, so take this photo as representative of a broader phenomenon.
Many of the apartment buildings built along Bryant Avenue for streetcar riders face the avenue, but the one on the northwest corner of 42nd Street and Bryant faces 42nd, so that I walked along its front at this point.
Ultimately I would turn south from 42nd Street onto Fremont Avenue, but first I took it all the way to the parkway, which entailed walking alongside the Lyndale Park Rose Garden. The trees in the background of the photo are part of the Roberts Bird Sanctuary.
As had been apparent when I first crossed it, Fremont Avenue tends toward large single-family houses. In some cases, the recent remodeling is quite evident. In other cases, even recently built homes are hard to distinguish from their early 20th-century neighbors. In particular, the colonial Georgian below is from 2004, but near duplicates from 1918 and 1919 are nearby.
When Fremont Avenue brought me to the southern border of the neighborhood at 46th Street, I initially walked one block west to the parkway, then turned back eastward as far as Bryant Avenue. Just west of Bryant, I passed the Weinstein Gallery, which occupies an easily overlooked one-story commercial building from 1925, but which definitely should not be overlooked, as it has quite the track record for hosting noteworthy exhibitions. Peeking in the windows of the closed gallery, I was still able to see the recently ended B.C., by Ruben Nusz.
Technically my route called for an about-face at Byrant, but I went a fraction of a block beyond it so that I could make my first stop for refreshment at Studio 2 Cafe. Their web page states an ambition “to feel like a cozy space where you rest and relax, surrounded by the trees of South Mpls and some local art,” and it was exactly that. I was particularly happy that when I ordered a decaf iced americano, I was asked whether it was for here or to go. Many coffee shops serve such drinks exclusively in disposable cups. I’ve also run into others that will use a re-usable mug or glass, but only if I initiate the request. It’s a little thing, but I appreciate being extended the offer. I settled into a comfortable, shady sidewalk table just outside one of the open garage doors, which provided an interesting view when I looked up. I left knowing that I would be back later in the walk.
Backtracking on 46th Street as far as Colfax Avenue, I passed alongside St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, which occupies the corner of Colfax and 46th. The 46th Street side of the church building is home to Sunshine Montessori School, where the students have identified garden plots with wooden spoons bearing their names, as in the photo below.
The same block of Colfax Avenue is home to another church, Lynnhurst Congregational UCC. Also, just across 45th Street from the UCC, a tree on the corner provides shelter for an insectiform artwork.
At the northern edge of this day’s portion of the neighborhood, I took 41st Street one block west to Dupont Avenue, which I took back to 46th Street. This portion of Dupont is a parkway under the name King’s Highway, commemorating William S. King. The lushness of the parkway’s broad boulevards and median are accentuated in the 4100 block by the fact that it runs alongside Lyndale Park.
From Dupont, I headed west on 45th Street, but not before exploring the extra block to 46th Street. That allowed me to see the attractive results of a sprinkler system on hairy leaves.
From Dupont, I took 45th Street all the way to Lyndale, then backtracked to Aldrich Avenue, which I took from 46th to 41st Street. One block on 41st brought me to Bryant Avenue, where I had a good opportunity to photograph a “typical” street scene, to the extent any such thing exists. Beyond the mix of residences, what I find representative of the neighborhood is the non-grass front yard. Not that such yards outnumbered the grass ones, but they were noticeably more common than in many other neighborhoods.
After crossing 43rd Street on Bryant, I came to a group of four nearly identical multi-family buildings, constructed in 1922 as apartments but converted into condos in 2006–2007. Each of the buildings has 8–9 units. Elsewhere on the avenue, I came across other clusters of buildings that have remained rental apartments.
From Bryant Avenue, I turned east onto Lyndale, which provided the opportunity for a return to Studio 2. By this point the sun was high enough in the sky to justify a pint of beer and a cup of soup. The beer, Oskar Blues Fugli, had a zesty, refreshing fruitiness that made it a good IPA to have on a summer walk. The soup, an African peanut soup, was rich from the inclusion of of plenty of vegetables (including kale and sweet potatoes) as well as from the coconut milk base.
From 46th Street, I turned north onto Lyndale Avenue, which I followed as far as 44th Street. (I had already walked the portion between 41st and 44th.) In the 4500 block, a building that visibly shows its history as Visitation Catholic Church and School now houses Stonebridge World School, an International Baccalaureate charter school for grades K–6.
In the next block, I was stopped short by a flag fluttering in the breeze. This being July 4th, I had seen plenty of red, white, and blue already. However, here the form was unusual in two regards. First, the overall shape was not rectangular; it was cut into a swallowtail by a V in the fly edge, like the guidons carried by the US cavalry. Second, the stars were not a grid of 50, nor any other number for that matter. Instead, there were four stars in the corners of the blue canton, and then two concentric rings with 19 stars in the outer ring and 12 in the inner. That totals to 35, which dates the design to 1863, when West Virginia was admitted to the union. In short, this flag was inspired by an 1863 US cavalry guidon.
All that was left at this point was turn return to the lakeside parkway via 44th Street, and then walk along the parkway as far as Roseway Road. (Beyond that point belongs to day two.) Crossing Aldrich Avenue on 44th Street, I noticed an interesting sculpture on the northeast corner that I had somehow overlooked when walking Aldrich. (Seeing most corner properties twice is a help, not a redundancy.) And, having started with a picture of Harriet, the woman, I ended with Harriet, the lake.
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 6, 2017. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.
“but who is Harriet?”
Have to admit, I was fearing the worst.
Always assumed Lake Harriet was either named after Harriet Bishop or Harriet Scott, guess I was wrong.
Always wondered about that name. My area was more around Lake Calhoun which name always wondered about also. Never realized there were so many beautiful places in that area.