Having previously walked the northern part of the neighborhood, I set out the next day to walk everything from 48th Street to Minnehaha Creek. The start and end of my main loop were at 48th and Chicago. As usual, I also had to take some forward-and-back spurs, shown in red.
Recall that Chicago Avenue in the vicinity of 48th Street is lined with storefronts, including The Turtle Bread Company, where I got a caramel pecan cinnamon roll the first day. Starting out now in the perpendicular direction, west on 48th Street, I could see that like any true commercial node, this one is two-dimensional, extending at least half a block down the side street rather than being limited to the main thoroughfare. In particular, a single building contains a diverse assortment of businesses: Afternoon Printing, Sum Dem Korean Barbecue, and Valentine Wood Antique and Home.
The previous day, I noted that the neighborhood primarily consists of single-family detached houses. That remained true on day two, but I did notice more exceptions, starting with a two-story duplex on Columbus Avenue.
Columbus Avenue was my first point of contact with East Minnehaha Parkway. The parkway is remarkably complex in structure, having variously one, two, or three approximately parallel roadways on one or both of the creek’s banks. Only the roadways on the north bank are in the Field neighborhood, which contributed somewhat to the number of spurs I needed to walk. For the first of those, I walked west from Columbus Avenue to Park Avenue, then bore left at a fork in order to continue westward on the more southerly of two roadways on the north bank, continuing to the mid-point of a bridge over the creek. (After that bridge, the roadway in question becomes the more northerly of two on the south bank.) Just east of that bridge, at the point where Oakland Avenue tees into the more northerly roadway, a pedestrian path connects the two. At this complicated confluence of pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile routes, a streetlight leaps out from its paved setting with a profusion of orange, green, and purple. Whoever had the bright idea to replace a little square of grass with these flowers, I approve!
Once I was back from this spur, again at the point where Columbus Avenue reaches the parkway, I continued east along the parkway to Chicago Avenue, then turned north. Here I saw residential densities even beyond duplexes, such as the two four-unit buildings from the early 1930s shown here. The one occupying most of the photo was converted to condos, while the one on the right remains apartments.
The building on the northwest corner of 49th Street and Chicago Avenue is another duplex, but in this case what caught my eye was not the structure, but the rabbit-eared sculptures out front.
After viewing the 5000 and 4900 blocks of Chicago Avenue, I turned west on 50th Street to Park Avenue. I needed to do a very short southward spur on Park Avenue to connect up with my earlier spur along the parkway. (In this very compressed space, 50th Street and two different Minnehaha Parkway roads all intersect Park Avenue.) Soon, though, I was headed north on Park Avenue, once again admiring the fall flowers.
One block further north, my attention was drawn to a multicolored banner flying outside a house. Rather than being an ordinary rainbow, with stripes of color running in a single direction, parallel to one another, this banner features two perpendicular sets of colored strips, interwoven with each other as warp and weft. I don’t know what the intention was of its creator or displayer, but for me, it serves as a nice symbol for intersectionality, the idea that one should not think in isolation about such aspects of identity (and the attendant privilege and oppression) as gender, race, and class, but rather should consider how they interact.
After turning via 48th Street onto Oakland Avenue southbound, I arrived back at Minnehaha Parkway, but this time the more northerly (and non-bridge-crossing) roadway. I needed to temporarily backtrack to the fork at Park Avenue before I could head back westward. On such a glorious day in early autumn, I experienced no iota of resentment for this extra walking. It gave me time for such luxuries as tipping my head back, looking not at the road ahead but rather the sky above.
Soon I was again headed north, this time on Portland Avenue, where I was struck by two consecutive houses having decorative brickwork in their entryway gables.
Portland Avenue provides one opportunity for cars to cross over the creek to the broader, busier version of the parkway that is on the south bank. The next opportunity is 50th Street, between 4th and 5th Avenues. Each of these renders the northern part of the parkway, which I followed, progressively more a quiet backwater. (And for those cars that have reason to stay north of the creek, 50th Street is the through road.) Any remaining cars would be tempted to turn north onto 3rd Avenue because the parkway narrows further at that point and jogs a little closer to the creek; proceeding “straight” along the parkway would be an unnatural act. (Of course, I did just that.)
Before proceeding into this least-traveled part of the parkway, I paused to consider the stairs leading down the embankment, with a pedestrian bridge over the creek barely visible amid the foliage. It really looked tempting at a purely visceral level. So long as I have the ability to negotiate stairs, I will always be tempted by those that promise a semi-hidden bower. But rationally I knew that this path lead out of the Field neighborhood, so I left it for another day.
The last little bit of parkway soon turned a corner and became 2nd Avenue. (Before the construction of 35W, it continued on, connecting up with Elmwood Place, Luverne Avenue, and Nicollet Avenue.) This corner of the parkway and avenue is not on any logical route from anywhere to anywhere, so is very “quiet” in the traffic sense. I would imagine a child playing in the street would have little to fear. Yet what the freeway gives in one sense of “quiet,” it takes away in another — despite the sound wall, there is a steady drone of traffic noise. The sound wall also interested me visually, both for the plantings along it, such as the sumac pictured here, and for the intriguing little hatch hanging open.
Apparently Field-dwellers really like flowers. The previous day, I had seen them not only in gardens and on a fence, but in mosaics. This day, I added a garage mural to the list.
Soon it would be time for me to take a straight shot east on 49th Street from 4th Avenue to Chicago Avenue — the penultimate leg of my route. First, though, as I looped via 50th Street from Clinton Avenue to 4th Avenue, I took the opportunity to make a small additional spur on 50th Street to the midpoint of its bridge over Minnehaha Creek. On the one hand, I did that just out of fastidiousness. On the other hand, it paid off in an interesting view: I could see that the northern bank of the creek is held in place with a concrete wall, while the southern bank is left free. I never would have guessed this asymmetry.
At the corner of 49th and Portland Avenue, I got a closer view of St. James Lutheran Church, which I had previously passed while walking on the far side of Portland. It interests me primarily because of how much it reflects the architectural styles of its neighborhood. Most churches stand apart, looking nothing like the houses around them. Whereas here, the half-timbered stucco from the 1920s and the stone from the 1940s fit right in with the modest bungalows. In keeping with the generally subdued character of the church, there’s a scarcely visible cross worked into the stone facade above the rose window and entry — it’s almost a Where’s Waldo puzzle.
Once back to Chicago Avenue, I needed only to walk the 4900 block to return to my starting point. However, even that single block has two distinct areas of interest. The southern half has apartment buildings in a variety of revival styles, three of which are shown here.
The northern half of the block, in contrast, has retail and entertainment businesses. Pepito’s Restaurant has been a fixture in the neighborhood since the early 1970s; the same family also runs The Parkway Theater next door. The Town Hall Tap is a comparative newcomer to the neighborhood (2010), but its open garage doors and promise of fresh, local beer made it an inviting stop at the end of my walk. I enjoyed the Parkway Java Porter, with rich chocolatey and coffee flavors topped by a creamy head from the nitro tap.
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 October 4, 2017. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.
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