My first day in the Jordan neighborhood featured churches, food, public art, a community garden, and a slipform paving machine. Spoiler alert: this time there was no slipform paving machine.
My route began at the southeastern corner of the neighborhood, the intersection of Emerson Avenue North and West Broadway Avenue. A chain-link fence surrounded a big pile of dirt, the universal signal that a new construction project is getting underway. But as the sign on the fence hints, this one isn’t just any project. It is the Skateable Art Plaza that Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA) is creating to replace an unsustainable building as part of a larger capital project. The mural in the background of the second photo is on the south side of JXTA’s main building, to which I returned at the end of the walk.
Continuing west on West Broadway into the next block, I came to Breaking Bread, which offers “real food for real people” and “fresh local global comfort foods” as a social enterprise of the nonprofit Appetite for Change. The inside seating area is a nicely decorated space, but the cool morning air made me choose the patio instead. It has its own decoration in the form of a mural and, even better, a natural canopy of tree leaves. The hot cereal of mixed grains and seeds, lightly sweetened and seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon, blew my usual oatmeal out of the water. The topping of nuts and berries was a pleasant surprise as I hadn’t seen it on the menu. I knew I’d be back for lunch.
Turning north from West Broadway onto Girard Avenue North took me around two sides of the Minneapolis Public Schools John B. Davis Education and Service Center, the district’s primary administrative building, which was completed in 2012 and named for the former superintendent who “led Minneapolis schools into desegregation and later resuscitated such prominent local institutions as Macalester College and the Minnesota Children’s Theatre.”
Once past the Davis Center and its sprawling parking lot, the next big complex was across on the west side of Girard beyond 22nd Avenue North. The Family Baptist Church has a 1920s church building and parsonage as well as a 1950s school, all built for Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church. (The photo below of the church building is actually from later in the walk, when I was headed the perpendicular direction on 22nd Avenue.) I took particular interest in the sculpture of three crosses carved out of a tree stump. I was told this reminder of Christ’s crucifixion with two thieves was fashioned with a chainsaw by a parishioner who wanted to mark his salvation after a difficult period of drug abuse.
After backtracking south on Girard, I turned west on 21st Avenue, which after crossing Irving Avenue curved seamlessly into the diagonal Hillside Avenue. This was my introduction to the refreshingly tangled geometry of the Forest Heights subdivision. Elsewhere the north-south avenues follow a regular alphabetical sequence, which includes in relevant part Irving, James, Knox, and Logan. Yet on Hillside, I didn’t cross James Avenue until long after Irving, having meanwhile crossed Ilion Avenue. And after James came Logan, with no intervening Knox. More oddities still lay in the future. For example, having crossed the seemingly parallel Ilion and James Avenues, I was surprised later in the walk to find myself at their perpendicular intersection.
At any rate, my walk on this segment of Hillside Avenue ended at its tee intersection with Logan Avenue. (I later walked another discontiguous segment.) I first walked a short spur northeast on Logan to 24th Avenue, which was notable mostly for the paving work underway at the time. (No slipform machine, though.) Then I turned back the other direction and took Logan Avenue to West Broadway, site of the West Broadway Crescent apartment building, where the public art includes two sets of bike racks and a pocket park.
I continued on West Broadway as far as James Avenue before returning to Ilion Avenue. There are a couple retail establishments near James, but the rest of the way I was walking along vacant lots, which contribute some quite pleasant extra green space, even though not technically classified as parkland.
One block up Ilion brought me to a genuine park, Cottage Park, which dates all the way back to the area’s 1883 platting. The park’s highlight is an art bench created by the SPEAK Project in 2008. SPEAK is a summer youth program of the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center. On the higher ground to the north of the park, the Garden of Gethsemane Church occupies a beautifully restored structure built in 1908 for the Forest Heights Congregational Church, earlier than the other church buildings I saw.
Three more blocks up Ilion brought me to the northern end of another, somewhat larger park, Glen Gale, named for the developer Samuel C. Gale. Its lenticular shape nestles into the space between two branches of Irving Avenue, one carrying traffic in each direction. To the east of the park, a rounded modern building (from 1968) houses the Jerry Gamble Boys and Girls Club.
Retreating to 22nd Avenue, I curved back out of Forest Heights to the east, continuing to Emerson Avenue, where I reversed course onto 23rd Avenue, curving around the east side of Glen Gale Park on Irving Avenue to continue onto 25th Avenue North. (Routes in this area aren’t so easy to explain; it may be better to look at the map.) On the northeast corner of 25th and Newton Avenues North, the former St. Mark’s Lutheran Church provides yet another example of a church building given new life by another congregation, this one initially given the apt name Jordan New Life Community Church and now New Creation Church.
Even with various twists and turns and backtracks, all shown on the map, I found myself soon thereafter heading east on 26th Avenue North, a major street complete with dedicated bicycle tail. On the northeastern corner with Knox Avenue North, the Jordan Area Community Garden is distinguished by a fabricated metal sign explaining in words and graphic symbols that “hope is the promise and opportunity of equality.” This is another product of the SPEAK project, one year after the Cottage Park Art Bench. The words and symbols were familiar to me because I had previously seen them at another SPEAK site from 2009 in the Central Neighborhood.
Turning from 26th Avenue onto James Avenue, I followed it all the way south to West Broadway. To say “south” is to simplify. My ending point on West Broadway was indeed due south of my starting point on 26th. In between, though, the bowed shape of James Avenue took me as far west as where Morgan Avenue would ordinarily run before hooking back eastward across Ilion and past Cottage Park.
In the final block between the park and West Broadway, I passed the smallest church of the walk, Christ in You Ministries, The Hope of Glory (a reference to Colassians 1:27), in a former office building. The sign out front names J.H. and Robin Riley as pastors but defers the senior pastor role to “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.”
Northbound Irving Avenue took a somewhat more direct course back to 26th Avenue, skirting around the western edge of Glen Gale Park. A bit more looping around brought me to the former North Star Community School, which lies to the west of Girard Avenue between 24th and 25th Avenues. It is now used by Minneapolis Public Schools for such district-wide purposes as providing materials to support science and special education instruction. As such, few students probably see the rather remarkable 1975-vintage architecture, which showcases the result of filtering brutalism through the space-age aesthetic. (A new addition built 1999–2001 is still in use as the Mona H. Moede Neighborhood Early Learning Center.)
Finally I had a genuinely straight shot from 26th Avenue to West Broadway on Fremont Avenue. Two highlights were both in the 2200 block. First, on the southeastern corner with 23rd Avenue, I couldn’t resist photographing a particularly well-landscaped front yard. That unintentionally also resulted in capturing a partial view of an unusual house. Although most of the single-family detached houses in this area date from roughly 1905–1935, there are exceptions in both directions, and this is one of them, dating all the way back to 1885. Just to the south of there, on the northeast corner with 22nd Avenue (and extending all the way to Emerson Avenue), the River of Life Lutheran Church resulted from the 2002 merger of Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church and Zion Lutheran Church, an interesting multi-cultural story. (I had previously seen the former Zion Lutheran Church building in the Hawthorne neighborhood. That building was meanwhile in use by its second subsequent congregation, as I later clarified.)
The final block of Fremont Avenue to West Broadway was a forward-and-back spur before finishing up on Emerson, but that was enough to let me slip back into Breaking Bread through their rear parking lot. On my way in, I got to see another mural and some interesting vegetable beds, which are embellished not merely with decorations but with functional recipes. All of which might have made me linger had I not been so eager to sit down inside and order me some lunch.
I was served by a different staff member than at breakfast, although the prior server did stop by and greet me. And so I can report on Breaking Bread’s standards of service with some authority, having sampled two different examples. That’s enough to demonstrate that the level of professionalism and courtesy I was afforded is the result of training, not just a one-off fluke of a particular individual. Given the youth-development component of the mission, this was really encouraging to see—these youth were ready for any restaurant in the city. More selfishly, it made for a pleasant dining experience. As did the dry-rub chicken, collard greens, and cornbread muffin.
After lunch, I went over to Emerson Avenue to return to my starting point. To the north of the Juxtaposition Arts building, they’ve constructed a pocket park bordered with flowers and featuring a clever bicycle carousel. This organization is clearly very active and innovative. I’ve barely scratched the surface with what I saw on this walk as well as previously in the Harrison neighborhood.
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 June 11, 2018. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.