Walking All the Streets in Northern Folwell

The day after I walked the southern half of Folwell neighborhood, I returned for the northern half. The following map shows my route, consisting of a main loop (shown in blue) starting and ending at Penn and 36th Avenues North, supplemented by some forward-and-back spurs (shown in red).

Starting out eastbound on 36th Avenue North from Penn Avenue North, I immediately saw another of the neighborhood’s community gardens. (I had seen Story Garden the previous day.) The southeast corner of this intersection is occupied by the “Grow on Penn” garden, the name of which is inscribed in a bench.

From there, I followed 36th Avenue clear across the neighborhood to Dupont Avenue. The middle of this straightaway passed along the southern border of Folwell Park, the large (27 acre) park in the north-central portion of the neighborhood. (To gain some appreciation for the size of the park, compare it on the route map above with Cleveland Park, just west of the neighborhood’s southwest corner.) The more-developed features of the park, such as playing fields and the recreation center, are grouped in the northern part of the park, leaving the southern part as a wooded expanse of gently rolling terrain, suitable for low-key, informal recreation. The trees vary substantially in age, another legacy of the 2011 tornado.

Folwell Park from 36th Ave. N.

Once I reached Dupont, I looped via Dupont and Emerson onto 37th Avenue westbound. The stretch of 37th Avenue between Emerson and Fremont Avenues interests me because it has a cluster of what seem to have historically been storefront buildings. Normally I see that kind of retail cluster in conjunction with streetcar lines. So far as I can tell, there was a line on Fremont Avenue, but not on 37th. True, there are storefront buildings on Fremont as well, and true, retail clusters do often extend perpendicularly away from streetcar lines down side streets, but those factors don’t entirely explain why this area developed as it did. The development continues through the whole block, not just half a block as would be more common, and includes even major buildings facing the corner of 37th and Emerson, away from the streetcar line. So clearly this was a major community hub, the “downtown” of the neighborhood, not just a streetcar stop. Today, the buildings seem to be predominantly used for community-service organizations, including in particular the Camden Neighborhood Center of Pillsbury United Communities.

Camden Neighborhood Center, 1210 37th Ave. N.

Mural, Camden Neighborhood Center, 1210 37th Ave. N.

Once I had looped north from 37th to Dowling on Girard and was headed back southbound on Fremont, I was able to see the Fremont Avenue portion of the 37th and Fremont node, in particular another community garden, the Camden Community Urban Oasis.

Camden Community Urban Oasis, 3646 Fremont Ave. N.

Camden Community Urban Oasis, 3646 Fremont Ave. N.

Corner-facing retail buildings on streetcar corridors were frequently built in the 1920s. Sometimes they are hard to recognize today due to extensive remodeling. The building on the southwest corner of 35th and Fremont Avenues, now occupied by the Rise and Shine Early Learning Center, is an example.

Rise and Shine Early Learning Center, 3457 Fremont Ave. N. (1925)

After the loop through Emerson and Fremont Avenues, I was ready to head west on 37th Avenue again. This time it lead me to, and indeed into, Folwell Park itself. (Although the part within the park wasn’t really 37th Avenue, it was a path along essentially the same alignment.)

37th Ave. N. Looking West to Folwell Park

Folwell Park Wading Pool Sculpture

Mountain Ash in Folwell Park

I exited the park (for now) on Irving Avenue, south to 35th Avenue, then back north on Humboldt Avenue along the eastern edge of the park to Dowling Avenue, which took me along the northern edge. From there I was able to see the recreation center, built in 1970. The windows look very much of that time, but on the other hand the roof seems to be an echo of the exposed rafter tails on the craftsman-style houses from the 19-teens and 1920s that are common in the neighborhood.

Folwell Recreation Center

Folwell Recreation Center

On the west side of the park, across Knox Avenue, one house stood out from its neighbors through the choice to grow something more like a prairie than a mown lawn. Long-time readers will know that always appeals to me.

Front Yard Prairie, 3600 Block of Knox Ave. N.

Speaking of tall grasses, I saw some more of those once I had looped from Knox to James Avenue, back through the park, and out its west side westbound on the 37th Avenue Greenway. The greenway, built in 2011, combines a path for pedestrians and bicyclists with stormwater-control features, including rain-garden plantings as well as underground basins. It made a very pleasant change from walking the sidewalks of ordinary streets.

37th Ave. N. Greenway

After a loop on Morgan and Logan Avenues, I resumed following 37th Avenue all the way to the neighborhood’s western boundary at Penn Avenue, then retreated to Oliver Avenue. Before turning south on Oliver, I took a one block spur to the north, which brought me past a Little Free Library. Actually, I had already passed several of them earlier in the walk. But my faithful readers will know that I have sworn a pledge to stop photographing them all; they had become just too much of a preoccupation. Instead, I was going to strictly limit myself to only particularly interesting ones. This one qualifies. In the 28 neighborhoods I’ve walked thus far, this is the first library I’ve seen made out of an old stovetop oven. In common with several of the non-oven libraries, it has a sign indicating that it is a memorial. I find it touching how many people see fit to remember their friends’ generous spirits by sharing the gift of reading.

Stovetop Oven Little Free Library, 3727 Oliver Ave. N.

Once I turned around and headed south, Oliver took me to 35th. I then took Newton north to Dowling, which brought me to the northwestern corner of the neighborhood. From there, I had a straight shot south on Penn Avenue back to my starting point. I always have to remind myself not to stop looking for interesting details when I’m in the final stretch. This time, I had no sooner turned onto Penn than I saw a good example of how colorful boulevard plantings can be based on foliage as well as flowers.

Boulevard Planting, 3700 Block of Penn Ave. N.

The 3600 block of Penn Avenue is quite unusual in that the entire eastern (Folwell) side of the street was redeveloped in tandem. This isn’t a case where a block-sized structure such as a school was replaced by new development. Rather, all the individual buildings along this block-long stretch of the avenue were razed and replaced (in 1982 and 1983) with a collection of five buildings of townhouses and one of condos. (The northernmost of the townhouses, shown here, is actually on 37th Avenue North.) Together with the associated garages and grounds, these six buildings occupy all the space between Penn and the alleyway. On the other side of the alley, the buildings on Oliver Avenue remain intact.

Townhouses, SE Corner of Penn and 37th Aves. N. (1982)

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 15, 2017. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.

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