Jordan is a mid-sized neighborhood, about 25 miles of walking, and I had already toured the western and southeastern thirds. One more segment let me see the rest of the places where folks live, study, work, and enjoy nature. I began at the corner of Fremont and Lowry Avenues North and wound my way back to that point as shown by the blue path on the route map. The red lines are supplemental forward-and-back spurs.
Walking south on Fremont Avenue North, the western side of the avenue was lined with single-family detached houses and duplexes, the dominant structures throughout the area. The same was largely true of the east side as well, though as I approached 29th Avenue, I passed behind the St. Olaf Community Campus, which includes St. Olaf Lutheran Church, an associated classroom and office building, and two residential facilities, the St. Olaf Residence (a nursing home) and North Oaks on Emerson (assisted living), which closed in 2015 and 2018, respectively.
After looping via 26th and Emerson Avenues, I walked 27th Avenue as far as Newton Avenue. This was a more typical introduction to the quiet residential character of the neighborhood than Fremont Avenue had been. Fremont is a through street carrying quite a bit of automotive traffic, whereas through traffic on 27th Avenue is prevented by diagonal diverters. Several other avenues also have those diverters, Irving Avenue has a one-block pedestrian-only section, and Humboldt and Logan Avenues have one-block discontinuities caused by a school and a pond. All in all, I was glad to be a pedestrian.
Although I was able to exchange nods and greetings with occasional residents, in most cases my only contact was indirect—I could appreciate the results of their earlier gardening labors. In some cases, the gardening extended beyond the yard to a beautification of the street-side boulevard, as with a cluster of consecutive houses on Morgan Avenue North.
Morgan Avenue was my route back northward, all the way to Lowry. Once there, I explored three blocks of the Lowry Avenue retail corridor (from Newton to Knox) before re-entering the residential core on Logan Avenue.
Referring to Lowry as a retail corridor is a simplification. Even some of the buildings that historically housed storefronts have diversified in function. For example, New Rules describes itself as “a playground for creatives.” More pragmatically, it expands upon the co-working concept by providing the small businesses, organizations, and individual entrepreneurs who are its members a place not only to work but also to hold events and sell their products and services. I didn’t trace back the whole history of these buildings, but in 1931 Graschberger’s grocery store, Blanchette’s meat market, and Gerick’s electrical shop were here.
At Logan Avenue’s tee intersection with 29th Avenue, I was able to look south over Logan Pond. (I had previously been on its southern shore at 27th Avenue, but that angle wasn’t as well suited to photography.) A one block section of Logan Avenue was vacated together with the lots on both sides in order to construct a stormwater basin. As with stormwater basins I’ve seen in a some other neighborhoods, it is ringed with pathways for recreational use. However, rather than being surrounded by groomed lawn, it is landscaped in a much more natural fashion, befitting a proper pond. A group of ducklings started out clustered around their mother but soon were trying out some greater independence, as shown in the embedded video.
One notable feature of this neighborhood is the range of different ages, sizes, and styles of houses. There are plenty of 1.5-story houses in English cottage and craftsman bungalow styles, but there are also more recent 1-story ramblers and older 2 or 2.5-story Victorians. The first example below is straight across 29th Avenue from the pond and the second example is two blocks further west and almost half a century earlier. It’s a bit of a special case in that it belonged to the Holiness Methodist Church, which was located on the south side of 29th. (I photographed the present-day successor of that church previously.) However, I saw other equally large houses elsewhere, for example on Fremont Avenue.
After the 2900 block of Newton Avenue, I headed east again, initially as far as Girard Avenue. As always, I was interested in sights both small and large. Conveniently, I have examples that bracket this segment of the walk. A block from the western end, the tiny crevice where a retaining wall met the sidewalk was space enough for some more flowers. And the Hmong International Academy at Jordan Park School sprawls all the way from Irving Avenue to Girard Avenue; it doesn’t even fit in the photo.
After reaching Girard Avenue, I backtracked to Humboldt and walked one block north to Lowry. There I repeated the spur to Girard, then turned west to James Avenue. As before, most of the buildings on Lowry Avenue house retail establishments, selling everything from appliances to hair extensions. However, I was most interested by a small-scale apartment building from the 1920s—a four-plex from 1924, as it turns out. I’ve seen plenty of buildings like this in other neighborhoods, but here in Jordan, it seems to be more unusual. Part of the character of a neighborhood comes from its pervasive background texture of whatever is typical, but part also comes from the occasional atypical elements sprinkled in, like parsley on a plate of noodles.
Speaking of standouts, I returned to the school. Actually, I walked the pedestrian portion of Irving Avenue between the school and Jordan Park, which gave me a good close-up view of some of the details of each.
Returning northbound on James Avenue, south again on Knox, and finally turning east on 29th Avenue all provided me more views of the residential core of the neighborhood, as well as the southern side of the school building. The biggest novelty was in the final block of 29th Avenue, between Fremont and Emerson Avenues. The north side of that block is lined by the broad sides of the classroom building and main church building for St. Olaf Lutheran. The classroom building is of the same mid-1960s vintage as the adjoining nursing home but stands out by virtue of the relief worked into its brick veneer. Unlike many religious buildings of this time, the relief contrasts in color as well as texture.
To the north of the church and the nursing home, the newer assisted living building is nicely situated amidst trees and a garden. I also continued temporarily into the final block of Emerson before Lowry, which is home to the So Low Grocery Outlet. The parking lot there is dressed up with a colorful mural, but the store itself has a more stripped-down, neutral appearance, fitting its business model.
Returning to 30th Avenue, I was able to wrap around the Girard Avenue side and Lowry Avenue front of the North Regional Library before returning to my starting point. Architecturally, I found the side view more interesting. Whereas the front is designed for pedestrians, the side reveals a parking area that lets directly into a rear door. (How many libraries have more than one entrance? I can’t think of any others. [Updated 2018–11–18: I’m embarrassed not to have thought of the Minneapolis Central Library.]) Moreover, a second-floor protrusion from the library building bridges above the parking area and connects to a service garage.
That’s it for the exteriors I saw. However, I did go into the library, and there in the central area between the front and back doors encountered a quite significant piece of public art. The landscape architect and three-dimensional artist Marjorie Pitz created Turning Leaves in 2006: a collection of “seven-foot-long leaves of walnut, cherry, and maple, carved into sculptural seats.” Follow the link to see—or better yet, pay the library a visit and interact with the sculpture in real life.
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 15, 2018. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.