A neighborhood’s residential core often houses its educational institutions as well. Having toured western Howe’s industrial and retail districts on my first and second days in the neighborhood, I was squarely in the residential core on this third visit. And sure enough, my path wound its way around two schools and a recreation center. I also encountered an innovative business where children have “a chance to explore — with a parent or guardian — the possibilities of science, nature, literacy, history, art, and community” while “creating something out of nothing.” Of course, in seven miles of walking, I saw a bunch of other cool stuff too. Read on to see some of it.
Starting from the intersection of 38th Street East and 46th Avenue South, I initially walked a block west to 45th Avenue South, then turned north for two blocks. Some through traffic uses 38th Street, but even within the first block off of it, I was immersed in the peaceful glory of a beautiful spring day, the English cottage style homes fronted by lush gardens.
Coming back southward on 44th Avenue South, I passed along the eastern edge of the Howe campus (3rd–5th grade) of Hiawatha Community School, then wrapped around its southern edge on 38th Street East before turning north again. I had already seen and photographed this school on my first day in the neighborhood, but walking around the property allowed me to appreciate two features in particular. A capacious bench on the southeast corner is shaped so that its four segments all face each other at least at an angle, the two longest segments directly. That seems like a great design for fostering community. And the bulk of the southern yard is given over to a vegetable garden. Large painted signs near two raised beds suggest corn and pumpkin, while a peak into others revealed that the students were growing lettuce, radishes, and peas.
After walking two blocks north on 43rd Avenue South, I turned west again and came upon two interesting sights at the intersection of 36th Street East and 42nd Avenue South. On the northwest corner of this intersection, Sanford Middle School occupies the entire block. And on the southwest corner, a house looks like a former corner store, another reminder that a streetcar used to run through here.
I turned north on 42nd Avenue, walking along the western edge of Sanford Middle School. This gave me a closer view of the mid-block transition from the original building to the recent addition. The entrance at the transition point (door 12, 3524 42nd Avenue South) embodies the linkage by wrapping a modern vestibule around the original gothic entry. Stepping into that vestibule, I could see the inscription of the original name, “Maria Sanford Junior-High School” as well as two date stones, 1925 and 2016. Seeing the full name helped me look up who Maria Sanford was. I’ve learned quite a few notable people this way. I hope others agree that a name is not just a name: it is a prompt to learn about a life.
Once I was at the northeast corner of the school, I turned west on 35th Street East, which I stayed on for six blocks. The last two of those blocks held particular significance as the southern border of Longfellow Park, but even before then, I saw interesting details such as a railing to nowhere and some more spring flowers. (Reflecting more on the railing to nowhere, I realize it’s quite practical. Not only was it much less work to fashion the wood around the railing than to rip out the steel and concrete, but it also makes the decision to close this side entrance much more reversible.)
Much of the area of Longfellow Park is occupied by four softball diamonds, situated in the southeast. Continuing along the southern border to 36th Avenue South, I also passed by the recreation center, which is in the southwest. I then wrapped around the park’s western and northern edges before heading south on a path through the middle of the park, essentially along the 37th Avenue alignment. That afforded a good view of a shady picnic area with the wading pool and one-sided 36th Avenue in the background.
After passing through the park, I continued south on 37th Avenue South to 38th Street East, then a block further east turned back north on 38th Avenue South. (This portion of my route was a gradually eastward serpentine, using successive avenues to alternate between 34th and 38th Streets East.) At the intersection of 38th Street and 38th Avenue, a small church building on the northeast corner houses the Iglesia Evangelica Apostoles y Profetas Efesios 2:20.
Regular readers of All of Minneapolis know that I’m always on the lookout for unusual Little Free Libraries, so of course I paused in the 3600 block when I spotted a combination of two colorful libraries with a bench and a “chalk box” (which looks a lot like an ammo box aside from the labeling and, presumably, the contents). The most interesting feature of these particular libraries is barely visible in the first photo, though the design on the bench provides a clue. If you look really hard, you can see an anemometer on top of the shorter, house-shaped library—but there’s no need to squint because the second photo shows it much more clearly. This isn’t just any anemometer; it features a reading figure, fitting to the context. Likewise, the other library is topped by a copper-colored weather vane holding a reading figure like the one pictured on the bench. I wasn’t able to get a decent photo of that weather vane at all, but you can see several similar ones on the WeeWeatherVanes site. The house these examples are in front of belongs to Terry Faust, the man behind Wee Weather Vanes. As Jan Willms explained in a 2014 profile in the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger, the idea stemmed from his recognition of the similarity between little libraries and weather stations. And then it took off from there.
The anemometer involves cups arranged circularly around an axis. So, generally speaking, does the front-yard structure at the northwest corner of 40th Avenue South and 38th Street East, where I started the next northward pass of the serpentine. But I’ll be darned if I can figure out what this one is for. Could the six bins be nests? But why would nests be mounted to wheels? Beyond the bins’ lining, the only thing that makes me think of nests is that I saw an unusual density of birds (of several different species) in this block. Really I’m floundering, so the real reason I include the photo here is in the hopes that someone will clue me in.
A couple blocks further north, I paused to photograph some more flowers. These were planted in the boulevard rather than the yard. I take that as a sign the homeowner specifically wanted to share their beauty with those of us who pass by on the sidewalk. Thanks!
Upon reaching 34th Street East, the serpentine called for just a single eastward block before turning back south on 41st Avenue South. However, as with my prior two times on 34th Street, I took a temporary spur one block further east. In this case, that brought me to the intersection with 42nd Avenue South, which is a major commercial node where the streetcar turned a corner. I had already seen the north side of that intersection as part of the Cooper neighborhood, including in particular Dock 6 Pottery. Here on the south side of the intersection, in Howe, I first looked across to the southeast corner, where I could see a Turtle Bread Company location patiently waiting for me—I expect to visit it on my next walk
Then I turned my about-face and before retreating from my spur took a good look at what I had passed on the southwest corner of the intersection. At first glance, it seems to be an odd hybrid of an automotive service station and a gazebo-equipped garden. And I suppose it is such a hybrid, though the main concrete-block building is no longer used for servicing automobiles. The connection to automobile repair is historical, but it is more than superficial. The service station’s legacy is present not only in the structure but also in the hands-on spirit. My alma mater’s Latin motto is mens et manus, meaning “mind and hand,” and that could also serve for Belle’s ToolBox. As I mentioned in the introduction, the point is for children to learn by actively exploring the world of nature, artifacts, and ideas by engaging not just as learners but as creators. Mind and hand indeed.
Having retreated a block westward from 42nd Avenue South to 41st, I headed south to 38th Street East, then walked a block back eastward to 42nd Avenue. Trust me, this makes sense if one wants to walk all the blocks.
At the intersection of 42nd Avenue South and 38th Street East, I had already looked at the two southern corners on my first day in Howe, so that left the two northern ones. On the northwest corner, Mother Earth Gardens was doing a surprisingly brisk business for the middle of a weekday. Apparently lots of people are attracted to “a garden center that specializes in organic gardening, sustainably grown plants, and eco-friendly products.”
Across the avenue on the northeast corner, Riverview Cafe occupies the southern part of the building, while the associated Riverview Wine Bar occupies the northern end. In addition to the outdoor seating shown here, the cafe offers a mix of tables and lounge seating and a children’s play area. (Architecturally, the key feature of a play area is that it is walled in on three sides, allowing a single adult to monitor all escape routes.) During the day, the cafe offers a small selection of simple food items such as pre-made sandwiches. The wine bar, which is only open in the evening, apparently has a more extensive menu.
After exiting the cafe, I noticed that its block of 42nd Avenue South is a case study in the clustering of small-scale multi-family housing along streetcar corridors. Consider the following photo of the west side of that block. At the left is a six-unit apartment building just north of Mother Earth Gardens. The two buildings to its right (further north) are both duplexes. So is the building clipped off at the right edge of the photo. The block also has some single-family detached houses. And then at the end of the block, on the southwest corner with 37th Street, is another small apartment building, this time with five units.
At this point, the largest remaining segments of my route were the six blocks of 36th Street East from 42nd to 36th Avenue South and the twelve blocks of 37th Street East from 35th to 47th Avenue South. Hook those up with the necessary connections and you could largely reconstruct my route even without looking at the map. I’ll spare you most of the details and instead focus on a few of the more unusual housing types I saw along the way.
First, as I was nearing 37th Street’s intersection with 40th Avenue, I spotted my second Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) of the neighborhood. Like the one I saw on day two, this one was built above a garage.
Given the preponderance of English cottage style houses and arts and crafts bungalows, it’s worth pointing out that the scattered inclusion of a few larger homes in other styles is not a new phenomenon. The two shown here date from 1928 and 1931.
Lastly, I offer you the anomaly of Glabe Lane, which connects 47th Avenue to 46th. As you can see in the photo, the houses on its north side were built with attached garages in the mid 1970s, long after the rest of the neighborhood. So too the houses around the corner on the east side of 46th Avenue between Glabe Lane and 36th Street. (I walked that portion of 46th as a spur before returning to my starting point.) Something must have held this half block out of development. The 1940 atlas provides the answer: it was an unplatted area containing an orphanage. Larry Millett’s AIA Guide to the Twin Cities, page 161, identifies it as “the Lutheran Children’s Friend Society Orphanage, constructed in 1924 and razed in 1968.” (However the building permit index suggests the latter date should be 1970.) By the end, its mission may have shifted: it is listed in “Resources for the Mentally Retarded in Minnesota 1965.” The Minnesota Historical Society has a photo from the early days. As to Glabe Lane itself, it is named for the Rev. Edwin Buckley Glabe (1899–1969), Executive Secretary, Lutheran Children’s Friends Society.