Walking All the Streets of Hiawatha‘s Minnehaha Falls Area

Minnehaha Regional Park is well known; the adjacent Veterans Home ought to be as well. Both are in the southernmost part of the Hiawatha neighorhood, where Minnehaha Creek flows into the Mississippi River. Like the rest of the neighborhood, they lie between Hiawatha Avenue and the river. Unlike my first three walks, they lie south of Nawadaha Boulevard. However, this final walk also included a bit of the area north of that boulevard simply to balance out the lengths of the walks.

The blue tint in the route map shows the full extent of the neighborhood, while the colored lines indicate this fourth walk. The route required considerable extra backtracking because the 1908 bridge providing one of two connections to the Veterans Home was closed for repairs. Therefore, I entered and exited via the one remaining connection, the extension of 46th Avenue South from Godfrey Parkway shown in purple. This connected between the two loops shown in blue. I started and ended on the loop in the northwest corner of the route, branching off from it to the Veterans Home loop in the southeast. Each of the two loops also has various forward-and-back spurs shown in red.

I began at the corner of 46th Street East and Snelling Avenue, initially taking a short spur north and west. This is the same area I walked on a prior day, so I’ll omit any description. After this spur, I began the main loop by heading west on 46th Street, then southeast on Hiawatha. On the south side of 46th Street, an apartment complex with small-format grocery store is under construction. Along Hiawatha, I passed a Holiday Stationstore and a Burger King, then deviated slightly from the avenue itself to walk past a strip mall accessed via Nawadaha Boulevard. Just past the end of this mall, a former Embers restaurant was converted into Som Taste, regrettably closed.

At the corner of Nawadaha and Minnehaha, a subtle name change indicates the transition into the park. North of Nawadaha Boulevard lies Minnehaha Avenue, to which I’d return at the end of the walk. Whereas to the south, I continued into the park on Minnehaha Park Drive South. Just outside the park on the northwest corner of this intersection, a brightly colored Dairy Queen taps into the flow of recreational visitors.

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Dairy Queen, 4740 Minnehaha Ave.

Just south of this intersection, a roundabout provides access to Godfrey Parkway to the east and Minnehaha Parkway to the west. The latter crosses Hiawatha Avenue on a land bridge that also accommodates the Longfellow Gardens portion of the park. The gardens themselves weren’t much in evidence the week after a record-breaking April blizzard, but the Longfellow House (a replica of the original in Cambridge, Massachusetts) provided a visible reminder of the rather convoluted history of this area.

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Longfellow House, 4800 Minnehaha Park Dr. S.

Continuing further south on Minnehaha Park Drive, I passed two more historic structures in close succession: first the 1875 Minnehaha Depot in the narrow strip between the drive and the Hiawatha Avenue sound wall, then the John H. Stevens House on the other side, between the drive and the creek. The latter was built in 1850 in what would become downtown Minneapolis; at the time, the St. Anthony community on the east bank of the Mississippi was just starting to branch out to the west bank. It was moved adjacent to the park in 1896 and into the park in 1982.

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Minnehaha Depot, Minnehaha Park Dr. S.

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John H. Stevens House, 4901 Minnehaha Park Dr. S.

In the same area as these two historic structures, a gap in the sound wall provides access to the 50th Street / Minnehaha Park Metro Station. As I passed by there a second time on my northbound return from the spur, a visitor from Texas asked me the way to the falls. (How nice, using public transit to see the city. Nice Ride bicycles too, I learned later in our conversation.) Conveniently enough, I was headed there myself, I replied. And indeed, before long we were able to see the remarkable sight of freely falling water side by side with frozen water.

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Minnehaha Falls

In order to see that view, it was necessary to first cross the footbridge at the top of the falls. That was in any case the next portion of my blue loop as I cut across a corner of the park to Godfrey Parkway. And that was an important corner to cut, as it contained my lunch stop, Sea Salt Eatery.

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Sea Salt Eatery, 4825 Minnehaha Park Dr. S.

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Grilled Mahi Tacos, Sea Salt Eatery

The park was certainly nice enough, but like many Minneapolitans, I’d seen it before. Whereas somehow I’d never gone the additional fraction of a mile to see the magnificent campus of the Minnesota Veterans Home — Minneapolis, designed by the pioneering landscape architect Horace Cleveland and perched on high ground overlooking the Minnesota River gorge and the valley of the Minnehaha. Starting with some recent buildings, I took the campus’s ring road clockwise, which brought me between the river and some of the historic buildings.

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Minnesota Veterans Home — Minneapolis Buildings 19 and 17

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Lock and Dam Number 1, from the Veterans Home

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Island Below Lock and Dam Number 1, from the Veterans Home

Looking away from the river, my view juxtaposed one of the historic buildings with the very newest—Building 22 just opened on March 22, 2018. (The recent building spurt was none too soon. The waiting list for admission had grown to approximately the same size as the total number of beds.) In the foreground at the right of the photo, Building 6 was built in 1905 as the Women’s Residence, designed by A.F. Gauger. According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination, “The Women’s Building originally housed married couples, widows, and mothers.”

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Minnesota Veterans Home — Minneapolis Buildings 22 and 6

An obelisk-shaped memorial “to the youthful soldier of the Civil War” stands just south of Building 10 (about which more later). The inscription on the north side provides statistics on just how youthful “the boys in blue” were and indicates that the obelisk was “erected and dedicated in honor of the Grand Army of the Republic by its auxiliary, the Woman’s Relief Corps, Department of Minnesota” in 1936. The south side, shown in the photo, contains two quotes from Lincoln and one from Grant. From Lincoln’s remarks after Maryland’s adoption of its 1864 constitution, “God bless the soldiers and seamen with all their brave commanders,” and from his 1863 Gettysburg Address, the resolution that they not die in vain but rather “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” From Grant’s 1868 presidential campaign, “Let us have peace.” The memorial also encapsulates its point in a single line: “lest we forget.”

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Civil War Memorial Outside Building 10

Continuing past the monument revealed the first view of Building 4 as well as a more complete view of Building 10. Both are among the original buildings designed by W.B. Dunnell, dating from 1891 and 1892 respectively.

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Minnesota Veterans Home — Minneapolis Building 4

Building 10 is the original administration building. Among the many architectural details mentioned in the the National Register of Historic Places nomination, “A large, semicircular stone arch marks the main entrance … which is surmounted by a wide panel of delicately carved stone tracery within which are figures depicting a cannon, admiral’s hat, and a peg leg.” See if you can find those in the third photo.

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Minnesota Veterans Home — Minneapolis Building 10

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East Entry, Minnesota Veterans Home — Minneapolis Building 10

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East Entry, Minnesota Veterans Home — Minneapolis Building 10

Entering the core of the campus, I was also able to appreciate the entire facade of Building 6 rather than just seeing where the corner porticoes curved toward the back. “The facade is dominated by three prominent, two-story colossal order porticoes composed of wood Ionic columns and balustrades, dentils, and modillions. Two of these porticoes, at the northwest and southwest corners, are semicircular in plan.”

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Minnesota Veterans Home — Minneapolis Building 6

Between Buildings 10 and 6, Building 2 is another of the Dunnell originals, in this case from 1888. (The roof over the second-story balcony is of later date.)

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Minnesota Veterans Home — Minneapolis Building 2

As I walked back past Building 4, I saw a turkey, the first of a handful I’d see on the grounds. This one appeared to be headed for the Adult Day Center that is now housed in the building—one of very few such centers for veterans nationwide. (Note: the center is for veterans. Veterans are not turkeys. Someone will need to explain this to the turkey.)

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Turkey at Building 4 (Adult Day Center)

Continuing around the campus’s ring road, as I neared the presently closed bridge to Minnehaha Park Drive I spotted a nice midpoint between the older and newer buildings: the 1962 Building 15. In the first photo, the brick-faced portion on the right is an auditorium, while the limestone-faced portion on the left is a chapel. (The limestone is mostly hidden behind a brick vestibule, which looks like it might be a more recent addition.) I gleaned this from the National Register of Historic Places nomination after the walk, but the chapel was already evident at the time of the walk based on its painted windows. The second photo shows one example I particularly appreciated, a dove perched among olive branches. I hope the former warriors find some personal peace amongst these symbols. (Coincidentally, the olive branch is also part of the All of Minneapolis logo.)

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Minnesota Veterans Home — Minneapolis Building 15

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Dove Window, Minnesota Veterans Home — Minneapolis Building 15

Arriving back at my starting point on the ring road, I began retracing my steps to Godfrey Parkway. In the transitional area between the Veterans Home and the main part of the park, the Wabun Picnic Area provides half a dozen covered picnic shelters as well as other recreational facilities.

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Wabun Picnic Area

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 April 23, 2018. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.

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