The Hiawatha neighborhood is part of the Longfellow Community, a natural fit given their names. As I described when walking around Lake Hiawatha, the Hiawatha name comes from Longfellow’s imaginary Indian, part of a broader “Cult of Hiawatha” that pervades this part of the city. (Oddly enough, Lake Hiawatha is not in the Hiawatha neighborhood nor even in the Longfellow Community.)
The neighborhood is bounded between the Mississippi River and Hiawatha Avenue, a major transportation corridor originally built to link Fort Snelling to Minneapolis. From north to south, it extends from 40th Street down through Minnehaha Park and the Veterans Home. As shown in the following route map, I concentrated this first day on the northernmost three blocks of the neighborhood, omitting also the portion east of 46th Avenue South, which is different in character. The blue squiggle is the main loop, while the red lines are forward-and-back spurs.
I started walking northward on 38th Avenue South from its intersection with 41st Street East. The houses on this first block were a good introduction to the neighborhood’s mix, with several different one-and-a-fraction-story and two-and-a-fraction-story styles typical of the first few decades of the 20th century.
As I neared the neighborhood’s northern border, 40th Street, I came alongside the Living Table UCC church. The 38th Avenue side of this building has a 1955 date stone, and the stone veneer style matches that era. However, when I rounded the corner onto 40th Street and saw the stucco portion of the church, I immediately wondered whether the 1955 date was merely for an addition to a 1920s core. The building permit index proves my guess right—sort of. The main stucco portion is from 1929, but there were already smaller wood-frame portions in 1903 and 1909. At any rate, sticking with the 38th Avenue side, the most interesting feature is that there are four plaques grouped around the cross, quite high on the side of the building. They were too small for my eyes to resolve from street level, but zooming in on the photo confirms my suspicion that they are the symbols of the evangelists.
Wrapping back down southward on 37th Avenue brought me to Minnehaha Communion Lutheran Church, which is across the avenue from Adams Triangle, a one-third-acre park formed where the avenue meets Minnehaha Avenue’s diagonal just south of 41st Street. From the 37th Avenue side, I could see the church’s main facade and its coordinated little library, but my favorite view was from 41st Street, where the warm sunlight illuminated the steeple and highlighed the decorative x-shaped brickwork under each set of louvers.
By the time I photographed the steeple, I was heading westward on 41st Street, returning from a brief eastward spur. I continued westward past Adams Triangle toward Hiawatha Avenue. As I crossed the last street prior to Hiawatha, Dight Avenue, the Harvest States grain elevator dominated my field of view. However, what stood out in the morning sun was the house immediately east of the elevator. When I say “immediately,” I mean that the separation between the two structures is perhaps 3 or 4 feet.
Aside from grains, another important part of the neighborhood’s industrial heritage is millwork such as windows and doors. I had previously heard of this in the past tense, so I was interested to see A&A Millwork alive and kicking. In fact, this family business relocated into the historical millwork district only about a decade ago; the Star Tribune’s Neal St. Anthony wrote about it at the time, a good read.
Just across the railroad tracks from A&A, as I continued west on 41st Street to Hiawatha Avenue, I came upon the former Lake Street Sash and Door Company property, now the Millworks Lofts. This is the historic property I had heard of; indeed, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. The lumber sheds in the foreground and the factory building in the middle ground were both built in the 1926–1928 time frame and used by the company until 1964. Renovation included stripping metal cladding off the lumber sheds so as to reveal the original clapboard siding.
Walking one block south on Hiawatha before turning back north, I got a different view of the grain elevator rising above Elevated Beer, Wine, and Spirits. This face is painted with a huge mural, most of which is unfortunately very faded. The mural was designed by Sara Rotholz Weiner and painted by John Keltgen and Dale Hanson, with the overall process extending from 1990 to 1992, as described by Judy Peacock in the Twin Cities Daily Planet. I’m grateful to Sara Rotholz Weiner for her permission to photograph what’s left of the artwork. As to the the store in front of it, I ducked in just long enough to see that they have quite a selection of craft beers.
North of 41st Street, I got a more close-up view of the Millworks Lofts which let me see how practicality and heritage were merged not only in the complex’s fundamentals but also in such details as the recessing of a modern entryway into a niche behind a barn-style door.
At the northern end of the former factory building, I was interested to see a skyway connecting it to the building to the north, which is not part of the Millworks Lofts. At the right of the photo, the residential renovation of the factory building is evident, whereas the building to the left is more plain, aside from the contrast in brick color between its first and second stories. The plainness ended, however, when I got to the corner with 40th Street and saw the moderne entryway. The National Register of Historic Places Registration Form explains that this building, though now separately owned, was also part of the Lake Street Sash and Door Company complex, built in 1927 and 1928 as a one-story warehouse and extended to a second story in 1947, at which point the connecting skyway and the moderne entry were added, the latter reflecting the building’s use for offices as well as warehousing.
Wrapping around via 40th Street to southbound Dight Avenue, I discovered that the wooden theme continued—threefold, even. Continuation one: the Hiawatha Lumber Company sells wood. Continuation two: their sign features an exhortation to “build it of wood.” And continuation three: that sign is true to its own exhortation by being painted on clapboard, giving it a distinctive striated appearance.
On the northwest corner of 42nd Street and Dight Avenue, the first building in the 42nd Street Lofts complex has been up since 2005, whereas the second building (northwest of it) was just completed in 2017 and the third is currently under construction to the north. All three are three-story condo buildings with each of the six or seven condos arranged in a vertical slice all the way from the ground level to a dedicated rooftop terrace accessed via a partial fourth story. I’d describe them as modern townhouses.
On the northeast corner of 43rd Street and Hiawatha Avenue, the south side of a building features an arctic-themed mural by the artist Limpio, who I thank for permission to use this photo. It’s joined by a bird by another artist, Atik11, as Limpio explains: “Was just to mess around with something while it was winter. And I met Atik11 at a graffiti battle that week so I asked him to join on the wall to make the penguin. I think for myself I wanted to try out painting with paint instead of spray and I had a bunch of colors that were going bad from a painting gig, so I just used them.”
Next came one of the squigglier portions of my squiggly route: north on Hiawatha Avenue to 42nd Street, east to Snelling Avenue, north to 40th Street, east to 36th Avenue, and then rounding the southern tip of a triangle to a spur back northward on Minnehaha Avenue. The triangular open space provides an unobstructed view of another mural, this one on the south side of the Visual Expressions Graphic Design and Printing shop. Co-owner Nanc Westlund explained that they commissioned the “Welcome to Longfellow” mural in conjunction with the Longfellow Community Council from a mural artist working with a group of Sanford Middle School students. Unfortunately, the only more specific information I have as of yet is the first names signed in the lower right corner with the date 7–19–08. I would welcome further leads.
Clearly I’m a fan of murals and other public art, but anyone who knows my priorities will appreciate that the real attraction of this spur was that it included a lunch stop at Dumpling, a pleasantly sun-drenched restaurant with flowers and succulent plants on the tables. I came home raving about their falafel dumplings, prompting my Less Pedestrian Half to say that she didn’t know such a thing existed. Well, neither did I, but I’m glad they do. As the first photo below indicates, the falafel are wrapped in the shumai style before being deep fried, sprinkled with parsley and salt, and served with shredded vegetables and a mint tahini sauce. However, there was another surprise in store; biting into a dumpling revealed that the falafel is so enriched with herbs that the interior is a vivid green, as shown in the second photo. The sum total of the herbs in the falafel, garnish, and sauce is incredibly bright and fresh—quite unexpected in a deep-fried dish. And just to continue the theme of brightness, when I stepped out of the restaurant, a brightly mosaic-covered trash bin awaited me on the sidewalk, poking out from the dingy snow
Next came the portion of my walk where I looped three times between 40th and 43rd Streets, using 42nd for forward progress as I advanced from each loop to the next: first 39th and 40th Avenues, then 41st and 42nd, and finally 43rd and 44th. At the start and end of the second loop (the intersection of 42nd Street East and 41st Avenue South), I passed yet another church on the northeast corner, Hiawatha Church. Although this congregation only dates to 2006, the building is from 1951, having previously housed the Minnehaha Baptist Church.
That same loop also took me past Hiawatha School’s west side as I headed north on 42nd Avenue, a “California-style” school with each classroom having a door to the outside.
A block north of the school, at the intersection with 41st Street, the four corners are occupied by commercial buildings, or at least formerly commercial buildings. This reflects the fact that a streetcar line turned the corner here, though the building on the northwest corner was built in 1931 as a filling station. (The streetcar and automotive ages overlapped.)
Across 42nd Avenue, on the northeast corner of the intersection, a visually striking residence clearly has a back story. Built in 1923, the city directories from then until at least 1931 show it to have been a drug store as well as the druggist’s residence. In contrast with its radically transformed appearance, the retail strip on the southwest corner still shows its 1926 roots.
The final loop, on 43rd and 44th Avenues, is a special case in that the 4200 block of 43rd Avenue is replaced by a pedestrian path between the school and the adjoining park, which includes a recreation center with a row of bike bike racks.
Across 44th Avenue from the park, a Little Free Library was worth stopping for. Early in the All of Minneapolis project I photographed so many little libraries that I had to pledge to henceforth stop only for really special ones. This qualifies primarily based on its wood inlay (with a sunburst on the roof) and its arched window, but I also appreciated the “dog hook” thoughtfully provided on its post so that dog walkers can free their hands to use the library.
After completing these three loops, I was almost ready to head home. First I needed to take 42nd Street the rest of the way east to the 46th Avenue dividing line, where I turned north. Even on that avenue, it was clear that the area beyond it is quite distinct. Stay tuned for more about that, probably on my third day in the Hiawatha neighborhood. For now, I’ll keep my focus on the what’s to the west of 46th Avenue.
After taking 46th Avenue to the northern border of the neighborhood, 40th Street, I used 45th Avenue to retreat one block southward to 41st Street, which I followed all the way back to my starting point. The one block of 45th Avenue from 40th to 41st Street was the only block of that avenue I included in this day’s route, unlike the other avenues I walked more extensively. As it happens, though, it was a particularly interesting block. Through some fortunate timing, I was able to meet Bruce (Darrell B.) Saice, whose creative business is Industrial Animals Welded Art. All his work is made from reclaimed parts, including the animals in his yard and the front gate he’s pictured behind. My photos don’t really do his works justice. You can presumably see their whimsey; what may be less evident is their grace.
As I headed west on 41st Street, I stopped one last time to admire a tiny stucco building, 10 by 20 feet, built in 1926 as another filling station.