Having walked the western part of Elliot Park the previous day, I returned to walk everything east (or southeast) of Chicago Avenue. On the route map, the blue tint indicates the full neighborhood, the blue line indicates my main loop (starting and ending at the intersection of 9th Avenue South and 7th Street South), and the red lines are spurs off of that main loop, each walked forward and back again.
From my starting point, I walked north to 6th Street, and after initially turning one block west to Chicago Avenue, I did an about-face and walked the three blocks to 11th Avenue. Along the Elliot Park side of 6th Street, I saw a bar clearly themed to tie in with the stadium across the street, a parking lot and a parking ramp, and an energy facility.
However, the most interesting land use was at the far end of this segment, the southwest corner of 6th Street South and 11th Avenue South. From this side, I didn’t get a good view of the building as a whole. However, the doorway attracted my attention by appealing to not one but two of my obsessions.
First, from the standpoint of architectural details, there’s the eared architrave, the brackets under the nameplate, and the ornamental monogram. This was clearly the main entrance at the time, though not today.
Second, from the standpoint of history, the nameplate shows the original industrial occupant of what is now an office building. It was built in stages from 1922 to 1930 as a hosiery factory. As it happens, this particular hosiery factory is remembered not so much for the hosiery its customers wore while strutting their stuff, but rather for the major labor victory that happened there in 1935 and 1936. It was a double victory for the female workers, who needed to overcome barriers to union membership as well as fighting the anti-union management.
Backtracking a block to 10th Avenue, I initially did spurs on that avenue as far as 8th Street and on 7th Street back to my starting point at 9th Avenue. Those spurs took me along the northeast sides of the Hennepin County Medical Center campus. This portion, east of Chicago Avenue, had been the Metropolitan Medical Center until its 1991 acquisition by HCMC. (Even prior to that point, it was physically connected to the 1974-vintage HCMC to facilitate various jointly operated services.) When I later walked 8th Street (the front of the hospital), I saw more evidence of MMC’s own formation from the earlier merger of St. Barnabas and Swedish hospitals. Walking the back side did let me see one building not visible from the front: the LifeSciences Building on the southwest corner of 10th Avenue and 7th Street, which had been the Swedish Hospital Nurses’ Dormitory.
In addition to the medical center, 7th Street is remarkable for its density of church buildings. In the five-block segment I walked this day, I saw five church buildings, starting across 10th Avenue from the LifeSciences Building with a romanesque revival building from 1895. Now the Hope Community Church West, until 2003 it was the Central Evangelical Free Church (which had also been called the Swedish Free Mission and Swedish Temple). Why the “West” label? That would become clear shortly.
Across 7th Street from the church, I got to see what is now the main entry of the 1010 Building (the former Strutwear factory). The contrasting atrium enclosure is a recent addition, but the overall massing of the historic building is still apparent.
Back on the south side of 7th Street, the 11th Avenue end of the block has another church building: Hope Community Church East. Stylistically, it is quite different, gothic instead of romanesque. The color is also a contrast to the West building, notwithstanding the red additions on the front and back. But the congregation is the same. Remarkably enough, Hope Community Church outgrew the West building and so in 2013 expanded into what had been the Augustana Lutheran Church (or Swedish Lutheran Augustana Church). That building is even older; its building permit index card starts with alterations and repairs in 1895, the year the West building was constructed. The city’s building permit records go back to 1884, so the building must be earlier than that. That’s consistent with a 2012 StarTribune article, which described the building as then nearly 130 years old.
The one-block segment of 12th Avenue between 7th and 6th Streets brought me alongside an industrial or warehouse facility for Douglas Corporation, but also yet another church building, standing on the northeast corner of 7th Street and 12th Avenue. Another gothic revival, it is now home to The Wells at 7th Street but apparently was once the Scandinavian Free Mission Church or First Evangelical Free Church.
Of necessity, my walk down 7th Street ended at 13th Avenue. (Beyond that point is the automobile-only territory of freeway exits.) However, it did so at yet another church building, the fourth on this four-block section of 7th street. (And there was still a fifth to come at the end of the walk, when I looped back around to the 800 block of 7th Street.) Known today as the downtown campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church, this congregation’s historical identity is as First Swedish Baptist Church. In other words, whatever the differences might be between the various protestant denominations, all of the churches on this street once shared a common national heritage. What was apparent to me as I walked, though, was something else. Namely, unlike cases of a new congregation taking over an old building, this was a case where an old congregation had built itself a new building, with its cross displayed through a decidedly modernist window. This building replaced one from the 1880s, so at some level, the time periods as well as ethnicities coincide.
Walking one block south on 13th Avenue, I passed only the church and its attached education/office building, which are large enough to occupy the entire block on its non-freeway side. Before turning back northward, though, I had a good view across 8th Street of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority’s Elliot Twins Apartments, two 12-story towers from 1963 and 1962.
In the other direction, north of 7th Street on 13th Avenue, are two buildings labeled as the Bethlehem College and Seminary. Because the education building attached to the church is so much larger, I suspect the college and seminary share that facility as well.
Heading west on 6th Street and south on 11th Avenue, I got additional views of buildings I had already seen until I reached 8th Street. At that point, the actual Elliot Park (for which the neighborhood was named) was to the west of 11th Avenue and the East Village Apartments complex was to the east. In particular, the 11th Avenue face of the apartment complex features retail uses at ground level, such as Segue Coffee, where I stopped in.
This coffee shop is operated by a nonprofit aiming to provide “a safe, faith-based and wholesome environment for students and their community.” It may well be all of those things, but that isn’t what struck me walking in the door. (I have the privilege of taking safety and wholesomeness for granted.) Rather, what struck me is how successfully they had pulled off the trick of being simultaneously warm and bright. Warm implies lots of dark, rich colors, such as on the coffee mug and tabletop in the first picture below. Bright, on the other hand, implies not only lots of windows but also light colors, such as on the walls and buffet in the second photo below. Whoever decorated this shop did an admirable job of achieving both simultaneously through an artful combination of reclaimed materials and fresh paint. Moreover, the same two words — warm and bright — would apply as well to the barista’s attitude and to the messages on display. (For example, the buffet in the background of the second photo is chalked with “I’ll take coffee with my sunshine.”)
Before I explain what a human face is doing in my travelogue, I should acknowledge that a warm, bright atmosphere is not enough for a coffee shop. The coffee should be good too. Happily, I can report that the tasteful mug contained a tasty americano; it was properly extracted and diluted just to the point of opening up its full flavor.
I had asked Dan Collison if he might spare me a little time to share his perspective on the neighborhood, and I was glad to have his company for this coffee break. He wears several hats. When he first came, in 2009, it was to be senior pastor of First Covenant Church. (That’s the church still waiting for me, at the end of my walk.) He continues to hold that position, but he became so engaged in community organizations that they occupy more of his time than the church does. For several years he’s been executive director of the East Town Business Partnership, which spans the Downtown East and Elliot Park neighborhoods. From there, he more recently expanded into director roles with the Minneapolis Downtown Council and The 2020 Partners, broadening his geographic scope to also include Downtown West and North Loop. He described his strength as “code-switching,” helping business and community organizations understand one another by talking their respective languages.
It’s totally my own fault that I took a blurry photo of him, but my mind was still occupied processing everything he had to say. Boiling it down to a single word would be ridiculous, but I’ll do so anyhow. The word that stuck out was “balance.” My impression was that he’s looking for lots of kinds of balance, but he particularly emphasized it with regard to housing. Owner-occupied and rental housing each have important roles to play, and the same holds for varying degrees of affordability, integration with supportive services, and other distinguishing characteristics. If a neighborhood is to be vibrant, it must accommodate the young and the old, the thriving and the struggling, singles and families of all sizes. To do so, the development of additional dwelling units needs to be done with an eye to balance. In a different neighborhood that was dominated by owner-occupied housing, additional rental units, including affordable ones, would help. Whereas in Elliot Park, he was optimistic that the recent introduction of more owner-occupied and market-rate units was contributing to a healthy balance.
After leaving the western edge of the East Village Apartments complex, I walked along the southern edge of Elliot Park. The park has a broad assortment of recreational facilities, most of them similar to those in other parks. One big difference is the use of artificial turf for the soccer field, which is shared by North Central University. However, another much smaller feature also caught my eye. Maybe other parks also have swinging benches, but I don’t remember seeing them. If I lived in this neighborhood, this is where you’d find me, book in hand.
The soccer field was not the first North Central University facility I saw in Elliot Park; I had seen scattered others both the day before and earlier this day. A much larger concentration, however lay ahead. To start with, across 14th Street from the park, the T.J. Jones Library occupies a neoclassical Georgian mansion, which was built in 1914 to house the Methodist deaconesses who ran the nearby Asbury Hospital. (Various documents indicate that there was a prior deaconess home on the site, dating back to the 1880s.)
In the next block west on the south side of 14th Street, the Trask Worship Center lifts a considerably more modern (2005) spire toward heaven. Meanwhile on the north side of 14th Street is the side of the renaissance revival Miller Hall, which the corner stone indicates was Asbury Hospital in 1902. I was able to see its front once I wrapped around to Elliot Avenue. (Asbury Hospital was the predecessor to St. Louis Park’s Methodist Hospital.)
Continuing south on Elliot Avenue led me to the T intersection at 17th Street, a result of the freeway’s construction just south of there. On both sides of the avenue, large houses looked as though they were intended to be seen by more people than pass through what is now a rather isolated location. The one on the northwest corner of the intersection, a romanesque revival from 1887, is now another North Central facility, Liechty Hall.
Stopping short of a full guide to North Central’s campus, I’ll include just one more building, Carlson Hall, standing on 15th Street between Elliot and 10th Avenues. (I reached it after a bit of looping around and a couple spurs, as shown in the route map.) Normally I stick to public rights of way, but in this case I took the path along the front of the building, up the front steps and back down the other side. The photo shows why: it was my only way to avoid having a big sawn off section of tree fall on me. Sticking so close to the building makes it hard to see the form, but luckily I first took this photo from diagonally across the intersection. As a result, you can see how believable it is that this, too, was an Asbury Hospital location, designed by the architectural firm of George Bertrand and Arthur Chamberlin and built in the early 1920s.
By this point, you have surely noticed that Elliot Park is rich (historically and currently) in institutions that are religious, caring, or both. Another example would be the campus containing Augustana Apartments and Augustana Health Care Center of Minneapolis. I took the photo below, showing one of the apartment buildings, from the 11th Avenue freeway overpass. This building dates from 1984.
Following 11th Avenue north, I returned to the East Village complex, just south of where I had my coffee break. This allowed me to see one more example of the complex’s retail component, the East Village Market. (I had also previously seen the East Village Grill, just across the sculpture-accented courtyard from the coffee shop. Regrettably, I walked too early in the day to be able to visit it.)
Turning east on 15th Street, I again came into an area of peculiarities in the street grid, in this case caused both by the transition between the compass-oriented and river-oriented areas and also by the freeway construction. If you look at the route map, you’ll see that 15th Street East led me seamlessly onto 9th Street South, which in turn bent around into an isolated, tilted segment of 17th Street East, and ultimately onto 13th Avenue South, crossing back over 9th Street South.
This brought me alongside the Elliot Twins Apartments, which I had seen much earlier in the walk. However, across 13th Avenue from them, I saw something else I had not noticed on my earlier 13th Avenue spur. Namely, Professional Litho, Inc., occupies a two-part building, the older portion of which looks like it was once a rather fancy automotive garage. A bit of digging in the building permits and city directory revealed that the Johnson Livery stable had been in that location since at least 1901, and that they had augmented the earlier horse-oriented structures with a garage in 1915. Thus, this building is not merely visually interesting; it apparently is also testimony to the transition that livery businesses made to the newfangled horseless carriages. (Livery did not directly give way to lithography. The newer part of the building on the right of the photo dates from a 1950s air conditioning business.)
Turning onto 8th Street brought me along front of the older portion of HCMC, which had been MCC. One sign that this was itself a fusion of different hospitals is the number of main entrances, completely aside from the 1970s HCMC entrance to the west of Chicago Avenue. What is now the Blue Building entrance, at 9th Avenue, was the 1968 “combined facility” that physically linked St. Barnabas and Swedish hospitals and reified their commitment to shared services, which culminated three years later in their merger as MCC. (That in turn provided the template for HCMC to link to and share services with MCC soon thereafter.) But half a block to the southeast is the ornate framework of what clearly had also been a main entrance, revealed by the inscription to have been Swedish Hospital. This 1928 building (on the corner of 8th Street and 10th Avenue South) is now the Shapiro Building, named for the pioneering nephrologist Fred L. Shapiro.
The south side of 8th Street has a couple more recent medical office buildings, each a striking example of the architectural styles of their respective times. On the southwest corner with 9th Avenue, the Parkside Professional Center is a modernist tower, constructed from 1969 to 1970. This building is a good example of what can be achieved with an almost entirely vertical emphasis. A block further west, on the southwest corner with Chicago Avenue, a new Ambulatory Outpatient Specialty Center (AOSC) is nearing completion. It gains vivid color from the aluminum panels, put it also stands in contrast to the earlier buildings (whether 1920s or 1970s) through the curved glass curtain wall — nothing else has either a large expanse of glass or a curved wall, let alone both together.
At this point, I turned north one block on Chicago Avenue in order to complete my loop on 7th Street. Had I instead continued along the front of the AOSC, I would be retracing my steps from the previous day. Because it is on the west side of Chicago Avenue, the building is in that day’s portion of the neighborhood. I’m including the photo in this day’s walk based on the vantage point from which I took it.
Once back to 7th Street, I had one last church building to see, Dan Collison’s First Covenant Church. The nameplate on its front reads “Svenska Missions Tabernakle 1886.” In other words, this building is yet another example of an Swedish congregation from the 1880s. The education building on the right of the photo is of course newer and the linking section between them newer yet. Even the original church building is quite large and the overall assemblage gargantuan. Dan explained to me that this is one of the big challenges he faced: how to put all this space to use. Today it houses eight different non-profit organizations, secular as well as religious, and addressing the arts as well as human services.
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 August 26, 2017. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.