One look at the route map below makes clear that the southeast quadrant of the Fulton neighborhood is heavily influenced by Minnehaha Creek, unlike the northwest and northeast portions I walked previously. Not that this accounts for all I saw. For example, this quadrant also turns out to be the land of the former gas stations. As usual, the red lines on the map indicate forward-and-back spurs off of the main loop.
My starting point at 50th Street West and Xerxes Avenue South is a major commercial node, as I noted on the previous day. Heading initially east on 50th Street, the businesses I saw included Loft Antiques on the northeast corner and Gallery 360 just off the southeast corner. The latter combines exhibit space for collectible art with a shop selling hand-crafted items at price points more suited for gift giving. I bought something quite nice for my Less Pedestrian Half, but I can’t tell you what it is because I’m saving it for later.
Just east of the gallery, on the southwest corner with Washburn Avenue, Southwest Montessori School stands out for the multicolored swirls that trim it. Around the windows and door they are less vivid than on the two stripes across the top of each facade. I suspect the vivid stripes may be painted onto the porcelain fascia mentioned in a 1957 building permit. The building was constructed in 1948 as a gas station, with additions in 1953 and 1957.
Washburn Avenue dead-ends south of 53rd Street, just short of the creek. Looking past the guardrail, I was interested to see a chute descending to the creek, apparently intended to channel stormwater.
Backtracking out of the Washburn Avenue cul-de-sac, I turned onto 53rd Street—initially west just to Xerxes Avenue, then east to Upton Avenue. Upon reaching Upton, a casual look at the map might suggest I could cross over to the east side of the avenue and continue into a dead-end segment of 53rd Street. In reality, though, this cul-de-sac has its own name and character: it is the suitably tree-lined Red Cedar Lane. Richard L. Kronick provides a fascinating history of the lane and its surrounding area. Beyond the history, architectural interest, and tranquility of the lane, another reason why I recommend strolling down it is that the house at the end has an interesting sculpture in its yard, which I decided not to photograph without permission.
After Red Cedar Lane, I turned onto Upton Avenue. The next major segment of my route was to traverse the full length of Forest Dale, an arc surrounding Red Cedar Lane, from its northern connection with Upton to its southern one.
However, before heading north to the start of this arc, I first walked a short spur south on Upton to the point where Brookwood Terrace tees into the opposite side. I’d be approaching that same tee intersection from the south once I completed the Forest Dale arc. But taking the spur from the north gave me more opportunity to appreciate the area’s beauty. Indeed, I saw beauty of two kinds: a beautiful human spirit as well as a beautiful tree. The human in question had left a disassembled Ikea TV storage unit on the side of the road with a “free” sign. So far, rather normal. But in this case, the unit was accompanied with a sign indicating that it was complete, a bag of all the hardware, another bag with the instructions (protected from the weather), and further signs warning of the sharp nails. The level of care taken with giving something away attracted my admiration. As did the tree.
Turning north on Upton, I initially walked all the way to 52nd Street, then returned to the northern entry of Forrest Dale. The initial eastward part of this street ends at a steep hillside, whereas the southern part runs along the creek, with the slope on the opposite bank. The houses are in a mix of modern and traditional styles, generally surrounded by many trees. The cloud cover from earlier in the morning had thinned out so that by the time I arrived back at Upton Avenue and its bridge over the creek, the stonework was bathed in a warm glow.
Brookwood Terrace is yet another street that exists because of the creek and terrain, not least so that the houses along its south side have delightful views in their back yards. However, the homeowners haven’t neglected their front yards either. I paused to admire the flowers on one property and noticed that some accident had recently severed one, leaving it to float on the sidewalk like a water lily on a pond.
After completing Brookwood Terrace, I followed Vincent Avenue north to 50th Street. As I crossed 51st Street, a utility pole on the northwest corner told me “don’t conform to the norm.” I haven’t actually communicated with enough of the other folks who have walked Minneapolis to know what the norm is, so I’ll just have to hope that my way of doing it isn’t the normal way.
Before heading back south on Upton to 52nd Street (which I had previously reached from the south), I needed to walk the intervening block of 50th Street. Apparently I picked a good time to do so, as the fire station on the north side was lit just perfectly.
At this point, the route got a little complicated. Two blocks of Upton, a one-block eastward spur on 52nd Street, and then three blocks westward brought me back to Xerxes Avenue. I make it a point to appreciate every stretch of road for its own attributes; in the case of Xerxes from 52nd to 54th, that meant looking at the mix of housing. However, I confess that walking next to a busy street with no intervening boulevard did prime me to be extra appreciative once I reached the creekside portion of 54th Street. As I got there, I was interested to see that the Xerxes Avenue bridge over the creek has street signs on each side, presumably for canoeists and kayakers, and that the eastern side also has what looks like an ultrasonic depth gauge.
Even once the creek diverged from 54th Street east of Upton Avenue, the north (Fulton) side of 54th continued offering interesting views. One example would be the intricate skeleton of a bare tree just east of Russell Avenue. Another would be the dental clinic on the corner with Penn Avenue, occupying a building constructed in 1957 as a gas station. I was impressed by the care that went into developing its site, including dentally themed bike racks and a pair of adirondack chairs between the trees on the lawn, facing toward the clinic building. I could imagine dropping a child off for a prophylaxis and checkup and saying “I’ll be out here when you’re done.”
The diagonal course of the creek from Upton Avenue at 54th Street to Penn Avenue south of 52nd Street divides this area into two approximately triangular sections. As previously noted, the one on the northwest is filled in by the Upton-to-Upton arc of Forrest Dale and its accompanying Red Cedar Lane. (There’s also Russell Court, still ahead in my walk.) Similarly, the one on the southwest is filled in primarily by a Penn-to-Penn hairpin composed out of Cromwell Drive, a segment of Russell Avenue, and a segment of 53rd Street. This hairpin is augmented by additional blocks of Russell and Queen Avenues and by Cromwell Court.
The block of Russell Avenue between 54th Street and the Cromwell Drive hairpin is perhaps most notable for the little library in front of one of the houses, a playful storybook composition of shapes and colors.
Moving into the bend of the hairpin, I photographed a side-by-side pair of houses in part to illustrate the mix of old and new that is characteristic of the area. In fact, the “new” house in this pair is itself a mix. It was not built from scratch in 2009, but rather was extensively remodeled at that point, including the addition of a new second floor, a screen porch and deck, and an enclosed entry where the front stoop had been. (Admittedly, even the original part of this house might count as “new” compared with the other: 1955 vs. 1927.) The older, Tudor-style house is also significant to Minnesota art history, and to my personal interests, in that the sculptor Paul Granlund had his studio and his family’s home there in the 1960s.
These houses and the ones on the north side of 53rd Street leading to Penn Avenue are clearly situated to look out over the creek in the back. Indeed, some of the ones on 53rd have little more than a garage at street level, with the main part of the house extending down the hillside toward the creek. However, the combined effects of the structures and the trees prevented me from actually getting a clear view of the creek until I crossed it on Penn Avenue.
On the north side of the creek, I took a one-block westward spur on 52nd Street, then temporarily continued past my eventual turning point, 51st Street, so as to also see the 5000 block of Penn Avenue. That block has another notable little library, not for the shape or color of the library box itself this time, but rather for how its base is decorated. At the northern end of the block, Broders’ Pasta Bar occupies a building constructed in 1957 as a gas station.
At this point, the essence of my remaining route consisted of taking 51st Street back to Xerxes and then heading one block north to the starting point. However, there were several digressions away from 51st. The first was upon reaching Russell Avenue, I looped north on Russell to 50th, then south on Queen to 52nd. Before completing the loop by taking Russell from 52nd back to 51st, I ventured south into Russell Court.
On this first loop, I was amused by the vulture roosting above a door on the southeast corner of Queen Avenue and 51st Street. I’d seen plenty of pre-Halloween decorations throughout the neighborhood, but this one was a standout for its clever integration with the house’s architecture. The fact that the head swung from side to side in the breeze added to the impact.
At the southern end of the loop, I walked two forward-and-back spurs. One was just another additional block of 52nd Street, but the other was more interesting. Russell Court is mentioned in Kronick’s history of Red Cedar Lane, which I linked earlier. As he said, it contains four mid-century modern houses. They certainly were worth looking at, but geek that I am, I also looked down at the street in the middle of the cul-de-sac, where five seams in the asphalt paving converged on a access cover. I’ve never noticed that pattern before.
Once back on 51st Street, I continued to one final loop, on Thomas and Sheridan Avenues, before I could head the rest of the way to Xerxes in a straight shot. (I had already walked Upton, Vincent, and Washburn Avenues.) The 5000 block of Sheridan Avenue stands out because of two structures from the 1980s, an otherwise poorly represented decade. On the northwest corner with 51st Street, a single-family detached house is constructed to maximize the natural light entering its southern exposure. On the southwest corner with 50th Street, a five-unit townhouse breaks the norm of duplex and single-family houses.
On the north side of the last block I walked on 51st Street, the one from Washburn to Xerxes Avenue, two items on opposite sides of the alley stood in jarring juxtaposition, surely unintentionally.
On the east, another pre-Halloween decoration followed the vulture’s example of capitalizing on the available structure. In this case, the play fort was used to hang a skeleton, dolled up with sunglasses, clothing, and a lantern, and swinging in the breeze. It really was quite effective.
The display on the west side of the alley was considerably more sober. This alley is where Justine Damond, née Ruszczyk, heard what sounded like a sexual assault and attempted to come to the aid of the victim, only to herself fall victim to a fatal shooting by a police officer she had summoned. The assembled items, including candles, plants, and stacked rocks, memorialize Damond’s life, while the adjacent sign responds to her death with a call for justice.
That provides some perspective. Any one person is more important than all the buildings that I saw.
And yet I still needed to finish off one last block of Xerxes, the 5000 block, before I could catch my bus home. So, yes, I did what I do and looked at some more buildings. This block transitions from residential at the south end to the 50th-and-Xerxes commercial node at the north end. The shops include the Linden Hills Laundry, notwithstanding being three and a half blocks south of the neighborhood boundary. I’ve always said that the official neighborhood designations are nothing but a bureaucratic fiction, albeit a convenient one for organizing my walks.
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 29, 2017. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.
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