Visiting neighborhoods in alphabetical order generally means jumping around, often to quite different areas. But the Hale neighborhood is due east of Fulton (where I last walked), so I experienced some definite continuity. Not that the two neighborhoods are contiguous: Lynnhurst, Tangletown, and Page intervene. But the mere fact of being equally far south implies the neighborhoods have a similar character. Both are at the southern extremity of the streetcar lines, both were developed in the latter decades of the streetcar era, and both have a similar mix of housing styles. That said, the two also have distinguishing characteristics. Fulton is influenced by its adjacency to Edina, Hale by its adjacency to Lake Nokomis. And of course there are the individual particularities that distinguish each block, each building, each bush.
Hale is bounded between Chicago Avenue on the west and Cedar Avenue on the East, extending south from Minnehaha Creek to 55th Street. As shown in the route map, I initially concentrated on the northern part, generally as far south as 52nd Street, with the remainder left for a second day. The light blue tint indicates the entire neighborhood, the dark blue line is my main loop, and the red lines are forward-and-back spurs off of it.
Starting on Chicago Avenue at 51st Street, I briefly viewed the creekside parkland and walked to the midpoint of the bridge so as to reach the neighborhood’s northern border. Then I did an about-face and walked as far south as 53rd Street before doing a second about-face and returning to 52nd Street. Of these two-plus blocks of Chicago Avenue, I was particularly interested in the storefronts in the 5200 block.
The first I saw, on the southeast corner with 52nd Street, looks much like the streetcar-corner retail strips from the 1920s that I’ve seen in other neighborhoods. What’s notable about this one is it’s small size, rendering the word “strip” inapt. Here, there is just the corner door and its associated windows, then one more door-and-window unit. The building fits the standard repeating-unit design, but without any actual repetition.
The southern end of the block has a group of four adjacent but architecturally distinct storefronts. The one on the 53rd Street corner and the one to its north stand out for their sharp signage, whereas on the most northerly of the group, my eye is drawn to the decorative parapet cap.
Turning east on 52nd Street, I first did a couple zig-zags between 52nd and 51st Streets, then settled onto 51st for the bulk of my trip to the eastern edge of the neighborhood. I passed predominantly single-family detached houses from the 1920s and 1930s, styled to look as though they were in an English village. As usual, I was as interested in the grounds as in the buildings. For example, on the northwest Corner of 52nd St. E. and 11th Ave. S., a boulevard planting included a seamless mixture of real and steel. A couple blocks further east, as the incline grew more steep, I was impressed by a retaining wall made out of sturdy rock-faced blocks of natural stone (except for the concrete cap).
Upon reaching Cedar Avenue, the route required a rather complicated succession of about-face and right-angle turns in order to cover Cedar, 18th, and 17th Avenues with their connecting streets. Eventually, though, I was headed back westward on 51st Street, ready to loop through Bloomington and 16th Avenues, then zig-zag on 15th through 12th Avenues.
On Bloomington Avenue, as earlier on Chicago and Cedar Avenues, I was able to go out over Minnehaha Creek on a bridge. The brightly lit trees reflected on the water, but ice rimmed the edges, perfectly capturing the experience of being out on a clear day as the season changes.
This Bloomington Avenue bridge also marked my one departure from city streets. Immediately adjacent to its southern end, a path leads to the east, bending slightly up the park hillside to connect with 16th Avenue at 49th Street. (In the area between Bloomington and 16th Avenues, the park normally confined to the creek banks extends south to 50th Street, notably including tennis courts.) At that corner, opposite the path’s eastern terminus, a multicolored stack of stones towered impressively on a house’s front lawn.
At the southern end of the 16th-Bloomington loop, as I turned from 52nd Street onto Bloomington Avenue, I encountered another commercial node. On the southeast corner, Hale Family Dental occupies a modern, post-streetcar building that opens out to two stories in the back, thanks to the hillside.
On the northeast corner, by contrast, I could see the building was older and more ornate even before I was abreast of its main portion, an impression that was reinforced once I could look closely at the windows and facade.
To the north, a building of intermediate age houses two Masonic lodges, Minnehaha Lodge #165 and Cateract Lodge #2. The datestone visible to the left of the entryway dates the building to 1954, which it translates as “A.L. 5954.” I learn something new every time I walk, in this case, that the Freemasons use an alternative year-numbering scheme, Anno Lucis. Like the Jewish calendar, it is intended to reflect the Biblical chronology of creation, but rather than using lunar months, it is synchronized to the ordinary Gregorian calendar with a fixed offset of 4000 years.
After returning to 50th Street on Bloomington Avenue and then walking the 5000 and 5100 blocks of 15th, 14th, and 13th Avenues, I encountered a church building on the northwest corner of 13th Avenue and 52nd Street. Historically the home of Edgewater Methodist Episcopal Church (more recently Edgewater Emmanuel United Methodist Church), it now houses New Creation Ministries Church of God in Christ (COGIC). The oldest part of the building dates from 1934, though there were later additions.
The next northward zig (or zag), on 12th Avenue, had the distinction of again ending with a bridge over Minnehaha Creek, the only one in this neighborhood that isn’t on an arterial, ex-streetcar avenue (Chicago, Bloomington, Cedar). Somewhat south of the bridge, one of the hillside houses on the east side of the avenue features a colorful mosaic lamppost. On the west side, the house on the southwest corner with 50th Street was temporary home to an artists’ boutique.
By following 50th Street along the creek and into its confluence with 51st Street, I was able to return to my starting point at 51st and Chicago. Just as I was getting there, I was surprised to see a number of large birds roosting in a tree. To my uneducated eyes, they looked like turkey vultures, but more knowledgable friends tell me that they likely were wild turkeys—turkey vultures would likely have moved south by now. I didn’t have a good sightline through the branches and wasn’t able to get a decent photo.