Walking All the Streets of Northwestern Howe

Industry and arts, community and commerce were again much in evidence in the Howe neighborhood—and signs of spring, even more pronounced that on my first visit five days earlier. Having stayed south of 38th Street East on that prior visit, I did the reverse this time. To keep the walk manageable, I took 36th Avenue South as the eastern limit. (Howe is a big neighborhood; I’ll be back twice more.) Because different land uses are concentrated in particular parts of the neighborhood, no one walk is representative of the neighborhood as a whole—but they are all interesting.

I began and ended at the intersection of 38th Street and Hiawatha Avenue, the 38th Street Station. As a result, I walked the 3700 block of Hiawatha Avenue at the start of the walk and again at the end. This one-block segment, shown in purple on the route map, provided access to the main blue loop from point A (Hiawatha at 37th Street) back to point B (37th Street at Hiawatha). Along the way, I also walked some forward-and-back spurs, shown in red.

That initial 3700 block of Hiawatha Avenue is the one running alongside ADM’s Atkinson flour mill. On the prior day, I showed the view from the south, but now I was able to see the broader western side of the mill. What stands out in this view is that the mill was built for humans, not just for machines. Look at all those doors and windows. The mill has six stories corresponding to the milling process’s six stages.

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ADM Atkinson Mill, 3700 Block of Hiawatha Ave.

After crossing 37th Street East, I didn’t encounter another intersection with Hiawatha until 35th. However, I could still see where 36th Street would have been. Adjacent to Hiawatha, its ghost forms the gap between a Simply Self Storage warehouse and another ADM flour mill, the Nokomis mill. Through that gap one can see an elevated blue passageway supported by steel trestles; it links two portions of General Mills Elevator T, one on each side of where 36th Street would be. These lie further east, between the railroad tracks and Dight Avenue. Watching a Minnesota Commercial Railway locomotive shuttle back and forth, I was struck how dwarfed it was by the elevator. With my perspective thus altered, I had the eerie sense that I was watching a model railroad layout.

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ADM Nokomis Mill, 3500 Block of Hiawatha Ave.

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Minnesota Commercial Locomotive in Front of General Mills Elevator T

Before turning east on 35th Street East, I temporarily continued into the 3400 block of Hiawatha. The highlight of this block is right on the northeast corner with 35th Street, Big River Timberworks. In addition to the usual vehicles, their lot features stacks of live-edge slabs and a timber frame. If you zoom in on the frame, you can see the pegged mortise and tenon joints. And then there’s the branch affixed to the apex—just for pretty, I assume.

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Big River Timberworks, 3445 Hiawatha Ave.

Crossing the tracks provides a good view of the former Minneapolis Seed Company facility and feed mill, which lie between those tracks and the 3400 block of Dight Avenue. I could tell it was the Minneapolis Seed Company from the ghost sign, but only from the cultural resources inventory did I learn that this was a Cargill subsidiary. As to the site’s current use, that was apparent a bit later in the walk when I passed the Dight Avenue side and saw the signs for Tandem Products, Inc., makers of Rhino Hyde products.

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Western Face of Former Minneapolis Seed Company, Looking North from 35th St. E.

I didn’t turn immediately onto Dight Avenue from 35th Street, though. Instead, I continued a bit further to Snelling Avenue, where I turned north and wrapped around to Dight Avenue via 34th Street. The 3400 block of Snelling is primarily residential, but there is one concrete-block building lying between it and Dight Avenue, divided into four sections each with office space facing Snelling and garage space facing Dight. The southernmost bay particularly caught my eye thanks to the murals on the Dight Avenue face and on the southern wall adjacent to the Snelling Avenue face. These murals were painted by Jessica Barnd and they are shown here with her kind permission. The facility they adorn is Squirrel Haus Arts, a fascinating arts and community space. Of the other tenants, I particularly noted Paddle North, a maker of stand-up paddle boards.

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Squirrel Haus Arts, 3450 Snelling Ave. (Dight Ave. Face with Mural by Jessica Barnd)

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Squirrel Haus Arts, 3450 Snelling Ave. (Mural by Jessica Barnd)

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Paddle North, 3438 Dight Ave.

Continuing south on Dight Avenue past 35th Street, I passed a variety of smaller, primarily automotive-related businesses as well as the garages associated with Snelling Avenue residences. However, my attention was drawn back to the General Mills Elevator T, which I could now see from much closer up. Although it is a historic structure, that doesn’t mean it has been frozen in time. In fact, a mechanical contractor was at work on the site as I passed, installing new equipment. Even some of what was already in place was relatively new: based on the label visible in the second photo, the device shown here was made by Mac Process subsequent to its 2011 acquisition by the Schenck Process Group.

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General Mills Elevator T, 3500 Block of Dight Ave.

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General Mills Elevator T, 3500 Block of Dight Ave.

After walking Dight Avenue southbound, I used 38th Street East to loop back to northbound Snelling Avenue. The north side of this block of 38th Street is home to the Longfellow garden of Community Hops. The signs on the poles recognize their donors, while those on the ground indicate not only the donors but also the varieties: Hallertauer, Williamette, Mount Hood, Centennial, Chinook, and Cascade, as well as wild hops.

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Longfellow Community Hops, 38th St. E. Between Dight and Snelling Aves.

On the northeast corner of 38th Street and Snelling Avenue, I spotted Snelling Manor, one of a pair of five-story apartment buildings from 1966 operated by the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority. The following photos show it and its mate, 37th Street Manor. The latter name gives away what I found interesting about these two. Not that they are identical twins—that’s common enough for public housing—but that they are discontiguous, standing on opposite ends of the 3700 block of Snelling. In between are several houses and, in the middle of the block, an unrelated apartment building. I’ve never seen that pattern of development before.

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Snelling Manor, 3755 Snelling Ave.

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37th Street Manor, 3205 37th St. E. (from Snelling Ave.)

A block north of there and on the western side of the avenue is the building occupied by St. James A.M.E. Church since 1958—sixty years now, but a comparative blink of an eye for a congregation that dates back to 1863. Thanks to the angled street layout, the lot has extra room on the corner of 36th Street East and Dight Avenue, providing the church a pleasant space for outdoor fellowship.

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St. James A.M.E. Church, 3600 Snelling Ave.

The 3500 block of Snelling is primarily commercial on the west side and residential on the east side. (Some of the commercial buildings extend to Dight Avenue, so I had already seen them from that side.) In the middle of the block, the John’s Welding Service building caught my attention, as it had caught Andy Sturdevant’s six years earlier.

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John’s Welding Service, 3528 Snelling Ave.

The 3500 block of Snelling completed my Snelling/Dight loop by bringing me back to 35th Street, where I turned eastward again. However, not for long—a single block further east on 35th, I started another loop, this one a triangular loop formed from Minnehaha and 31st Avenues together with a single block of 34th Street East.

Already at the intersection of 35th and Minnehaha, I was reminded that Minnehaha Avenue differs from the parallel Hiawatha, Dight, and Snelling Avenues by being oriented more to retail. It’s fun to see a 1920s retail (and residential) building decorated with tile across the street from a 1950s automotive building decorated with chrome.

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Northwest Corner of 35th St. E. and Minnehaha Ave.

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Northeast Corner of 35th St. E. and Minnehaha Ave.

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Southeast Corner of 35th St. E. and Minnehaha Ave.

Rather than immediately taking the sharp turn onto 31st Avenue at the southern vertex of the triangle, I temporarily continued south on Minnehaha Avenue to the intersection with 36th Street East. This extra half-block spur rewarded me with a second encounter with an anonymous sidewalk graffitist. I had previously noticed their work in the 4400 block of Minnehaha Avenue. Now here they were again, nine blocks further north. (I don’t take this message so personally. I am not wasting time. I am using it.)

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Sidewalk Graffiti, 3500 Block of Minnehaha Ave.

Even without a human hand, a sidewalk can offer visual interest. At the northeastern vertex of the same triangular loop, as I prepared to do a one-block eastward spur on 34th Street East, I paused to preserve what the rain had created. (OK, not just the rain: the rain and an overhanging tree.)

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Sidewalk After Rain, Southwest Corner of 31st Ave. S. and 34th St. E.

Shortly thereafter, I was back to the intersection of Minnehaha Avenue and 35th Street East. However, this time I was coming into the intersection southbound on Minnehaha, so I saw it from a new perspective. Now I could see that the two-story building with the Minnesota Business Services Corp. (MBSC) and All Star TV-Audio-VCR Service signs continues into a group of single-story shop fronts: Reverb Piano Service, Strange Boutique, and Heroic Goods & Games.

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3454–3464 Minnehaha Ave.

This group of storefronts is interesting not only for the businesses they house but also as a physical place. Note in particular the connection between the Heroic shopfront and the house behind it. From the building permits, the dwelling was built in 1909 and the stores were subsequently grafted onto it either in 1915 or in 1911–1912. I’ve seen this pattern before in other early 20th century neighborhoods: a distinct yet connected store sprouts out of from the front of a house. However, in all the other cases I can remember, the store portion has in the meantime been converted to additional residential space. This example on Minnehaha Avenue is noteworthy for remaining in retail use.

Innovative structures continue to the present. A few blocks further east on 35th Street East, on the northwest corner with 33rd Avenue South, I came across a recent Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) above a garage behind the 1920s duplex. It was built in 2017, at which point the owner also needed an adjustment to the legal status of the duplex itself, which had been grandfathered in on a lot later zoned for only single-unit residences.

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Accessory Dwelling Unit on 35th St. E. Behind 3454 33rd Ave. S.

Now that I was in the residential portion of the neighborhood, most buildings didn’t jump out at me as much. However, there was still plenty to see. For example, I continued to revel in the May flowers that the April blizzard had brought.

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33rd Ave. S.

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3200 Block of 34th St. E.

Shortly after taking those photos, my serpentine path brought me back to Minnehaha Avenue. Heading south on 32nd Avenue South to its tee intersection with 36th Street East, I just needed to jog over a bit westward to resume heading south (more or less), now on Minnehaha. A block further south, on the northeast corner with 37th Street, I spotted The Howe Daily Kitchen & Bar, where I stopped for lunch.

As the name suggests, this is a bar that has a kitchen. However, the menu extends beyond classic bar food. In particular, I had a Thai curry bowl that combined a colorful array of vegetables (red and green peppers, brussels sprouts, kale, and carrot) in a rich coconut sauce over rice. I chose to include tofu; chicken is the other option. This dish was well matched to a pint of Bells Two-Hearted Ale, one of the many choices on the extensive tap list. Unusually for a location outside the historic liquor-control limits, the Howe is a full bar, not limited to beer and wine.

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The Howe Daily Kitchen & Bar, 3675 Minnehaha Ave. S.

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Thai Curry Bowl at The Howe Daily Kitchen & Bar

Continuing into the 3700 block of Minnehaha Avenue after lunch, buildings on the east side include a recently-renovated office building from 1927 (originally a store and dwelling combination) and American Legion Post 234, named in memory of Vincent L. Giantvalley. Among the tenants in the office building, I was interested to see the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN). I’m no bicyclist, but I guess I’d qualify as an ally. Meanwhile on the west side, the Tapestry Folkdance Center stood out.

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3745 and 3751 Minnehaha Ave.

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Tapestry Folkdance Center, 3748 Minnehaha Ave.

Once at 38th Street East, I needed to make one more serpentine swing through the residential area on 34th and 35th Avenues South and then return to Hiawatha Avenue on 37th Street East. The sporadic rain showers started back up, but I didn’t let that stop me from taking one last picture of May flowers.

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3400 Block of 34th Ave. S.

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 May 11, 2018. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.

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