Walking All the Streets of Western Harrison

The Harrison neighborhood in Minneapolis’s Near North community is shown with light blue tint in the route map. My route for the first day started at the intersection of Glenwood and Morgan Avenues (point A) and ended three blocks north of there at Olson Memorial Highway and Morgan Avenue (point B). How could I end other than where I started? I came in on the number 9 bus and left on the number 19. The blue line indicates the route I took between those points; the red lines are spurs. I went beyond my “every block” slogan by including a path through Theodore Wirth Park at the western edge of the neighborhood (and city) as well as, unintentionally, one block of an alley—more on that in due time.

Glenwood Avenue is the retail corridor in this neighborhood, and I started at a particularly interesting establishment: Venture North, which offers “coffee and bikes made to order.” (I only tested half of this proposition.) The coffee-shop portion is set up to be a community hub, not just a place to quickly dash through for a cup to go. That much is clear from the seating, reading material, and the hi-fi, complete with a wide range of LPs. However, the consumer experience only tells the smaller part of the story. After all, plenty of coffee shops strive to be places to spend time. What makes Venture North special is that it is owned by Redeemer Center for Life, a highly successful community development outgrowth of Redeemer Lutheran Church, and so the shop has a broader community-development mission that includes cultivating entrepreneurship, youth leadership, and health. Venture North turns out to have been the perfect introduction to the neighborhood because I saw other signs of Redeemer’s work across both days of walking.

Venture North, 1830 Glenwood Ave.

Proceeding east on Glenwood, I only walked a single block before turning north on Logan Avenue, the dividing line I had established between the two days’ routes. That one block brought me past the front of Redeemer Lutheran itself, which includes a modern (1966) education wing harmonized with the gothic style of the 1929 church building.

Redeemer Lutheran Church, 1800 Glewood Ave. (Viewed from Logan Ave. N.)

One block north on Logan, I turned west on 4th Avenue North, which I would walk all the way to its tee intersection with Russell Avenue. The back side of the Redeemer complex had plenty of points of interest, but for me the real standout was a community oven.

Harrison Community Oven

The first few blocks only gave me a limited view of the neighborhood’s housing, but the pattern of diversity I initially observed would continue unabated. That is, residences from different decades, in different sizes, shapes, and styles, accommodating different numbers of dwelling units, stand next to one another—not in discrete zones or gradated trends, but building by building. Nearly all are from the 20th century, but that’s as far as I’d generalize. As Jane Jacobs recognized, this is the kind of neighborhood you get when money has flowed only gradually, rather than in a great cataclysmic gush.

Interestingly enough, the same diversity also carries over to the church buildings. Just a couple blocks from the 1929 gothic Redeemer Lutheran, a modern building from 1960 houses the Minneapolis Central Church of Christ on the northeast corner of 4th and Newton Avenues. The building permit index card shows the original occupant was the Finish Apostolic Lutheran Church, a fact that would gain additional significance in the context of my second day’s walk—stay tuned.

Minneapolis Central Church of Christ, 1922 4th Ave. N.

At Russell Avenue, I turned first a block south to Glenwood, then proceeded north to the frontage road on the south side of Olson Memorial Highway. One of the first things I saw on Russell was a Little Free Library thoughtfully accompanied by a step stool to make it more accessible for short people. Other highlights reflected the particular day on which I was walking: a sunny day in late November, when the boulevard milkweed, the birch trees, and even the houses themselves glowed in the morning light.

Little Free Library with Stool, Russell Ave. N. near 4th Ave. N.

Boulevard Milkweed, 400 Block of Russell Ave. N.

Northwest Corner of Russell Ave. N. and 5th Ave. N.

The frontage road and highway together make for a broad open area, through which the westerly wind blew with sufficiently enhanced force that I flipped my hood up before following the frontage road east to Queen Avenue, then west to where it curves into Thomas Avenue. As I rounded that corner, I counted my blessings for having experienced the openness of the highway corridor, because it enhanced my appreciation of transition into the sheltered coziness of the northwestern residential enclave, which has a stepped outline formed as Thomas Avenue, Heaner Terrace, Sheridan Avenue, and 5th Avenue accommodate the adjoining bends in Bassett Creek.

Bassett Creek Bend near Sheridan and 5th Aves. N.

After looping through that corner of the neighborhood, I was ready for another long, straight shot, this time following 5th Avenue North all the way east from Sheridan back to Logan. Among the landmarks along the way was another church, Joint Heirs with Christ Faith International on the northeast corner with Newton Avenue. The building was constructed in 1897 as the Apostolic Lutheran Church.

Joint Heirs with Christ Faith International, 500 Newton Ave. N.

I used Logan Avenue and the frontage road to loop back to Morgan Avenue for a north-to-south segment, all the way from Olson Memorial Highway to 1st-and-1/2 Avenue North, two and a half blocks beyond my starting point on Glenwood. Indeed, I would ultimately follow Morgan all the way to where the creek causes it to end at Chestnut Avenue West, though only after a bit of a side trip. Early on, in the northernmost block of Morgan, I saw one of the neighborhood’s numerous community gardens.

Morgan Greens, 500 Block of Morgan Ave. N.

South of 4th Avenue, another community garden lies behind Venture North and connects with the community oven; like those two entities, it is a project of the Redeemer Center. And then I saw—no, was startled by—the western wall of Venture North. I had naively assumed it would be plain red, like the first two faces I had seen. That red was vibrant, but this mural is remarkably dynamic; the fascia at the top of the wall seems to be clamping down on the images, preventing them from bursting loose like snakes from a nut can. (My photo only shows a portion of the mural.)

Venture North Mural (Northern Portion), Morgan Ave. N. at Glenwood Ave.

On the south side of Glenwood, a retail strip contains a food market, a cell-phone dealer, and (at the corner) the Elite Catering shop, which at the time of my walk was temporarily housing Sammy’s Avenue Eatery. I’d return there later for lunch, but for now I continued south on Morgan, which allowed me to see the mural on the western wall. In contrast to the Venture North mural, it projected a sense of calm, with several of its discrete regions occupied by realistic portraits of heroic faces, neatly lettered text, and national flags. From the text, two of the themes are “Northside Pride” and “Serving the Community.” Those certainly connect with the broader values encapsulated in a sidewalk-level panel of handsigns: love, strength, and peace.

Detail from Elite Catering Mural, Morgan Ave. N. at Glenwood Ave.

The Elite Catering mural is labeled “Juxtaposition Community Mural Project 2003” with the names Jermiah, Kevin, Tyrell, Jonah, Jerret, Alex, Jovan, Hermes, DeRoyce, Ernest, Josh, Peyton, and Roger. That caused me to reach out to Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA)’s artistic director, Roger Cummings. He confirmed that the mural was a product of this nonprofit organization, as was the Venture North mural, despite its different style. He was the Roger at the end of the list of names; in fact, the handsigns were his personal contribution.

But more significant than this information about the murals, and Cummings’s permission to use the photos, was what he shared with me about the post-mural lives of the people behind the other names: “Jeremiah is the new city council person and he was in our program since he was 7 years old, Kevin just graduated from Oberlin, Tyrell went to the Navy and is back living over north performing under the name Rello, Jonah went to Harvard and interned for Puma and now lives in Portland working for Nike, Alex designs apparel for Rhymesayers, DeRoyce is a local clothing designer, Ernest is getting his MFA at Yale, and Josh does graffiti murals in bars.” (Ryan Williams-Virden published a profile in the Twin Cities Daily Planet that expands on what Cummings wrote about Jeremiah.)

At the end of that block, on the northeast corner with 2nd Avenue North, another church building features another square tower, this one capped with a conical spire. The current congregation is the Spanish-language Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, but historically this had been another Finnish-heritage church, Morgan Avenue Lutheran. It was built in 1928, essentially contemporaneous with Redeemer Lutheran.

Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, 240 Morgan Ave. N.

After a half-block spur south from the church and a one-block spur east on 2nd Avenue North, I continued westward on 2nd Avenue as far as Penn Avenue, where I turned south to the midpoint of the bridge over the creek. I had already photographed the view to the west when I visited the bridge as the northern border of Bryn Mawr, so this time I looked east. That way you can also connect this view to where I had just been: look for the church spire.

Bassett’s Creek Park, Looking East from Penn Ave. Bridge

After some looping around, I walked 3rd Avenue North from Logan to Penn and then used Newton Avenue to return to Glenwood. There was lots to see along the way, but I’ll share just two examples. On 3rd Avenue, one front yard was adorned with a pair of oxidized-steel pineapple-shaped planters and a bench crafted from a massive stone slab. And a half block west of there, on the northwest corner of Newton and 3rd Avenues, an eight-unit apartment building from 1924 serves as a reminder that this has long been a mixed-density neighborhood.

Planters and Bench, 1900 Block of 3rd Ave. N.

301 Newton Ave. N. (8 1BR Units, 1924)

The southeast corner of Newton and Glenwood is home to another convenience store; together with the one I saw at Morgan and the one I’d subsequently see at Penn, there are three at consecutive intersections. On the other hand, the northeast corner (offset a bit further east) has something more unique: the office of the City of Lakes Community Land Trust (CLCLT). It caught my eye as occupying a 19th-century building, but the trust itself is more noteworthy. It is “a non-profit organization interested in building community by providing sustainable homeownership through a community land trust model.” That is, they help people affordably become homeowners, remain homeowners, and eventually sell to new owners who will enjoy the same advantages. One key mechanism making this possible is the land trust, which retains ownership of the land.

City of Lakes Community Land Trust, 1930 Glenwood Ave.

From there, I took a spur east on Glenwood to Morgan. If you’re keeping score, that marks my third visit to the intersection of Glenwood and Morgan (in by bus and out to the east; in from the north and out to the south; and now this spur in and out from the west). Completely aside from the mathematical details of how I cover every block, this was critical to get me back to Sammy’s Avenue Eatery (in its temporary home) when I was ready for lunch. Along the way, I passed another notable mural on the western side of the building on the northwest corner of Glenwood and Morgan; you can glimpse it sticking out a bit beyond the CLCLT building. There’s also a Harrison Neighborhood mural on the eastern (Morgan Avenue) face of the same building. I’m not featuring photos of these murals because I was unable to identify their artists—not a rule I always adhere to, but one I generally strive to.

OK, enough delay, what about the lunch? Here’s my pro tip: do as I did and have dessert first. I ate a slice of the navy-bean pie while my sandwich was being made. It has a family resemblance to a sweet-potato pie or even a pumpkin pie, with a rich, creamy filling that keeps your mouth happy while your nose is enjoying the spices. In this case, the spicing was practically sparkling with a bright zippiness, like what you get when you freshly grate the nutmeg. Or it might have been good, fresh mace. Either way, it made it a pie to remember. The sandwich was fine too, including pickled jalapeno slices, which I enjoy, but there’s no way that eating it first would have improved the pie.

After lunch, I walked north on Newton to the frontage road, then turned back south on Oliver. At the turning point, I got a good view of Floyd B. Olson’s backside, but I’ll leave him until I come around to his front near the end of the walk. And then there’s that alley—an oversight in my route planning. On Google Map, it looked like I could take Oliver Avenue from the frontage road to a tee intersection at Glenwood. Sure, there was a bit of a jog in Oliver at 4th Avenue, but that’s nothing unusual. But when I actually got there, I discovered that Oliver actually tees at 4th, with the apparent continuation being instead an alleyway. Normally I avoid alleys on my walks because they intrude too much into semi-private space; it doesn’t seem respectful to the neighborhood residents. But in this case I made an exception and followed my route as planned.

South of Glenwood, I followed Penn Avenue back to 2nd Avenue. That brought me along the east side of the Ripley Gardens complex. This is a particularly fascinating residential development for two reasons. First, it blends repurposed historical buildings and newly constructed buildings. Second, the historical part is not merely old; it is historical in the sense of having an important story to tell. It was the maternity hospital that Dr. Martha G. Ripley founded in 1887 to serve women who were “without mean[s] or suitable abode” or who “have been led astray”—the impoverished, homeless, and unmarried. The photo below shows the former Baby’s Bungalow, “built in 1910 as an intensive care and isolation unit for sick infants.”

Baby’s Bungalow, Ripley Gardens, 300 Block of Penn Ave. N.

South of Ripley Gardens, Penn Avenue, 2nd Avenue, and Queen Avenue wrap around three sides of a 1968 nursing home, the Villa at Bryn Mawr. Queen Avenue also provides another vantage point on Ripley Gardens, as well as the eastern end of Inglewood Avenue, which I walked to its western end at Thomas Avenue. That’s where a recently redeveloped (and still redeveloping) business campus occupies the former Glenwood/Inglewood water company’s property and that of the Fruen Mill. And among the businesses located there, Utepils Brewing particularly commanded my attention.

Although Utepils has branched out some with a Belgian-American ale and an Irish-style dry stout, the heart of their offerings are classic German-style beers, and that’s where I focused my tasting. I started with the Copacetic, which they identify as in the Kölsch style. Although it has more pronounced malt and hops than some examples of the style, they remain clean, bright, and in balance. I was reminded a bit of a lightly toasted english muffin with a very thin layer of orange marmalade.

I then moved on to a side-by-side comparison of their ordinary filtered Pils and their unfiltered Kellerpils. It’s kind of like listening to the same musical recording first through one set of loudspeakers, then another. The Pils is a crisp, dry beer with a sharper bitterness than the Copacetic and more minerality. The unfiltered Kellerpils version has a more lush mouthfeel as well as a more muted flavor, with the minerality dialed back some.

Next up was the most visually beautiful beer of the afternoon, shown in the photo below. It also happens to be an old favorite of mine, an Altbier. Utepils calls theirs Alt 1848. This traditional ale has a very nice balance between bitterness and rich malt flavor with notes of toffee and dates. More people ought to appreciate this style.

Utepils Alt 1848

For my fifth and final beer (and no, I wasn’t drinking full pours), I switched back to something lighter, a Bavarian Hefeweizen called Ewald the Golden. When I lived in Munich, this was the kind of beer one would drink early in the day or to freshen up after exercise. By now it was after 2pm, which would not count as early in the day by Munich standards (too late for Weisswurst!), but was arguably so in Minnesota. And I had been walking. So I was indeed very happy to have the extra refreshment that comes from a slightly tart edge and the zing of clove-like flavor. (The two flavors noted in Hefeweizen are cloves and bananas; I was happy this one leaned more toward the cloves.)

In case you were wondering whether I would sample five beers just in the interest of science, as a service to my readers, the answer is no. It was all good beer. I fully enjoyed my time at Utepils, and it seemed fitting as I left that the complex was bathed in warm light.


Fruen Mill and Glenwood/Inglewood Complex

The stretch of Glenwood Avenue from Basset Creek to the city line at Xerxes Avenue has Bryn Mawr houses on its south side and a portion of Theodore Wirth Regional Park on its north. I had already seen the Bryn Mawr part, so I veered away from the avenue onto a park path. From there, I saw yet another community garden, this one distinguished by its painted seats. Once I was past it and could look back from the west, the sign informed me that this is the J.D. Rivers Children’s Garden, affiliated with the Edible Schoolyard Project.

J.D. Rivers Children’s Garden

J.D. Rivers Children’s Garden Sign

Just about at the city boundary, I turned onto another path leading northeast and crossing Basset Creek on a footbridge. The glassy water and low sun made for perfect reflections. The same low sun also brought out the full texture of the thistles drying near the creek.

Basset Creek in Theodore Wirth Park

Drying Thistles, Theodore Wirth Park

Had I stayed on the main path, I would have crossed under a Glenwood Avenue bridge along with the railroad tracks. However, that would have taken me out of the neighborhood, so I branched off onto a side trail that climbed up to Glenwood just west of this bridge. Crossing over the bridge, I was back into the same area that I had first explored on the frontage road near Thomas Avenue. Back then, I remarked on the broad, windy open area. Now I documented this in a photograph; the frontage road is at right, the highway at left. I also noted the silhouettes of the bare trees.

Olson Memorial Highway and South Frontage Road

Trees near Olson Memorial Highway

A U-shaped detour away from the highway on Queen, Glenwood, and Penn Avenues brought me past the north side of the Ripley Gardens complex. On the right of the photo, one of the newer buildings is just visible. The building in the middle is the main maternity hospital, constructed in 1916. (The inscription over the door identifies it as the “Ripley Memorial Hospital,” Dr. Ripley having died in 1912.) And on the left, the Emily Paddock Cottage was built in 1910 as housing for nurses and named for the former matron of the hospital.

Ripley Gardens, Viewed from Glenwood Ave.

As I neared Olson Memorial Highway heading north on Penn Avenue, I passed out through the neighborhood gateway pillars that flank the avenue. The bronze figures on the pillars, sculpted in 1994 by Jane Frees-Kluth, are of two playing children, Antoinette and James, each bearing a banner with the neighborhood name and a sun or moon. The pillar bases are decorated with brightly colored steel tiles she made from drawings contributed by community members.

And then, just before catching my bus home, I got to pay my respects to Floyd B. Olson, former governor of the state of Minnesota and hero of the Farmer-Labor party, the “FL” in today’s DFL (Democratic Farmer-Labor Party). Also, not coincidentally, the Olson memorialized by the Olson Memorial Highway. Andy Sturdevant has written a nice comparison of this sculpture and its near twin at the State Capitol.

Floyd B. Olson, Olson Memorial Highway at Oliver Ave. N.

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 December 2, 2017. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.

Max Hailperin

About Max Hailperin

Max Hailperin's personal project is allofminneapolis.com. Minneapolis has 87 neighborhoods, including the three industrial areas. Some he knows well, others he has not yet entered. However, he has committed to explore all of them on foot: every block of every street in every neighborhood. He is working through the neighborhoods alphabetically, from Armatage to Windom Park, so as to focus in one area, then hop to somewhere else.

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