Today I’m bringing you a conversation with Christian Huelsman, a public space preservationist who has, for years, been an advocate for alleys, public spaces, and urban history in Cincinnati Ohio and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Alleys are not always places that get a lot of love in the United States, especially in cities that have a legacy of downtown poverty like Cincinnati or Minneapolis, and many people see alleys as places to avoid.
But for Huelsman, alleys are public treasures hiding in plain sight. We chatted about his work resurrecting the alleys of Cincinnati, where he lived for years and started a non-profit organization aimed at restoring and maintaining alleys throughout the city. Now Hulesman is working again on public space and place making in Saint Paul and Minneapolis. One of his hobbies is leading tours of alleys in historic parts of downtown Minneapolis, in a collaboration with the Preserve Minneapolis group. I talked him about his work and research into how Minneapolis’ endangered alleys got their shape and form. It’s a topic I personally adore, and we had a great chat about the most obscure and misunderstood spaces in old midwestern cities. I hope you enjoy the conversation.
If you like this podcast, check out my new coffee table book on Twin Cities history, Minneapolis / Saint Paul: Then and Now. The book features over 140 pages of old and new photographs of interesting sites in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Edina, South Saint Paul, and the Fort Snelling Unorganized Territory. The historic photos range from the 1870s to the 1970s, and the new photos were taken last summer by a professional photographer who matched the scenes, angles, and aspect rations nearly flawlessly. It’s a great read and makes a great gift