Minneapolis’s Kenwood neighborhood is intimately associated with the Lake of the Isles, more so than the other three neighborhoods that ring the lake, even the two that have “Isles” in their names (Cedar-Isles-Dean and East Isles). As shown in the route map, it nestles into the recesses of the northwestern shoreline. That makes a view such as the first photo typical: a glimpse of the lake at the end of a residential street. Because of the hilly terrain and curved streets, the view isn’t always literally present, but when I couldn’t see it, I could sense it waiting around the next bend.
Turning south from 24th Street onto West Lake of the Isles Parkway, I could see that this area has some large single-family detached dwellings, both from the 20th century and more recent. (Elsewhere in the neighborhood, I subsequently encountered a few from the 19th century as well.) The next photo shows examples from 1927 and 1916, whereas the photo after it shows one from 2008 constructed on two adjoining lots. The double-lot structure is designed to resemble two separate houses so that its sprawling mass blends in better with the rest of the block. It replaced two previous houses, one of which had been destroyed by fire.
The stairway in the preceding photo looks like it might lead to the double-lot structure, but that’s an illusion—it actually leads to 2516, outside the frame at the right. In reality, the modern black-and-white house turns out to have a modern black staircase with noteworthy landscaping.
Immediately after this house, I turned up Sheridan Avenue for a northwestward spur, continuing onto the Burham Road bridge over the Kennilworth Trail and railway to the neighborhood boundary, where I did an about-face. That brought me back to West Lake of the Isles Parkway, where I appreciated both a prairie-style house and the impressive mix of deciduous and evergreen trees visible from in front of it, looking back toward the Sheridan Avenue intersection.
To actually reach the southern border of the neighborhood, I had to temporarily follow the parkway all the way to the midpoint of its bridge over the Kennilworth Channel, the connection between Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake. However, I soon retreated to the de-facto southern border, Kennilworth Place, which runs along the northern bank of the channel. From there, another short spur took me north on Thomas Avenue South to its intersection with Upton Avenue South. Short though that spur was, it provided a rich opportunity for seeing how stylistically varied Kenwood’s smaller houses are. Being a fan of diversity within neighborhoods as well as between them, I was glad to see that although Kenwood skews toward large houses, it also has a significant fraction of smaller ones.
Although the photos show individual houses, my interest during this early part of the walk was more in the collective ensemble of styles, ages, and sizes than in the specifics of any one house. That changed once I had followed Upton Avenue back to Sheridan Avenue, continued north on Sheridan to 22nd Street, and there turned west, back toward Lake of the Isles.
One of the houses on the south side of 22nd Street stands out, even in a neighborhood with plenty to look at. I was not at all surprised to learn the city has designated it as a historic landmark. That designation dates the house to 1915 and describes it as a “marriage of the Midwestern Prairie Style and California houses of the period.” Yep, I can see that. Agreeing with the experts always feels good—as though I were one too. But being humbled is more educational. When I turned to Larry Millet’s AIA Guide to the Minneapolis Lake District, I found he describes this house as “a rare local example of the Viennese Secession style.” The what?? I’ve read about a lot of variants of modernism, but this one was new to me. Hastily looking up a photo of the secession building, yeah, I could see some relationship. And reading about these Viennese artists was certainly educational. Almost as much fun as looking at a distinctive house on a fall day.
Just after this house, 22nd Street merges into Kenwood Parkway. The main loop of my route headed north on the parkway, which would have required a sharp left had I not given precedence to a spur south, turning north only once I reached Peavey Fountain. The fountain stands at the intersection of Kenwood and Lake of the Isles Parkways and according to the plaque was “given to the people of Minneapolis in 1891 by F. H. Peavey as a drinking fountain for horses. This monument was rededicated as a memorial to the horses of the 151st Field Artillery, Minnesota National Guard, killed in action in the First World War, 1917–1918.” I’m curious as to the plaque’s date, which surely must be decades later, given the reference to the “First World War.”
Turning north on the curved Kenwood Parkway brought me eventually to Kenwood Park, initially at the intersection with Douglas Avenue, where the park juts out to the west of Oliver Avenue. I then retreated to Penn Avenue, from which I immediately detoured onto another spur to the park, this time on Summit Avenue. (Street signs indicate Summit Avenue also has the commemorative name “Scott Avenue.” Does anyone have more information about that?) Finally, I continued south on Penn to its intersection with Oliver and Franklin Avenues at the southwest corner of the park, where the playground is. That’s where I started a counterclockwise circumnavigation of the whole park border, interrupted only by a westward spur on Douglas Avenue.
Across Franklin Avenue from the playground is the 1981 addition to the Kenwood Community School and the contemporaneous, connected Kenwood Community Center, operated by the Park Board. Continuing west on Franklin, I saw the park’s playing fields, tennis courts, and wooded yet grassy slopes, all of which I also saw looking west and south from Logan and Douglas Avenues. The view north from Douglas Avenue was more novel, looking up through a pollinator-friendly area to the landmark Kenwood Water Tower.
After the Douglas Avenue spur, I took Morgan Avenue north in order to rejoin Kenwood Parkway near the neighborhood’s northeastern limit. Rounding that corner, I was struck anew by what a nice job the Park Board has done of landscaping some park signs, such as this one. Behind the sign, you can catch a glimpse of the “Kenwood Crest” townhouses that line the north side of this portion of the parkway. The next photo shows a closer view. The main portion of that photo is occupied by a clear example of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, complete with arched “eyebrows” of contrasting masonry over the windows and the integration of rounded turrets. But this is an exercise in nostalgia: these townhouses date from the 21st century, not the 19th.
After passing just southeast of the water tower, I rounded the sharp corner to Douglas and then proceeded south on Oliver Avenue along the western edge of the park. Once I was back to the playground that had started my loop, I continuing south onto Penn Avenue, which brought me alongside the Kenwood School. Unlike the view from Franklin Avenue, which only revealed the 1981 addition, I could now see also the earlier portions, dating to 1908 and 1923.
The southern side of the school property faces 21st Street West, and there across from the school lies the neighborhood’s retail node. Starting from Penn Avenue and working east, the tenants in the strip are the Bockley Gallery, ARTrageous Adventures, The Kenwood Restaurant, and Birchbark Books and Native Arts. The gallery is just to the right of my photo’s frame; because they were currently featuring a video installation, their windows were papered over. At the other end, Birchbark is barely visible in the distance, but I looped back around to it later in the walk. For now, my focus was on the restaurant. True, I would need to detour off my route by the width of two storefronts to visit it now, rather than when looping back by later. But I was ready for brunch.
The Kenwood’s menu tempted me with several good looking salads. Unable to decide between them, I got mussels and fries instead. (Something about a morning spent walking makes me less fastidious about eating healthy.) Mussels and fries are a classic Belgian combination, so I finished off the theme with a Duvel. To my surprise, it was served not in a standard Duvel glass but in one of the artist-designed collector’s glasses, in this case the one from 2011 by Arne Quinze. Because Quinze is Belgian, that provided an unexpected fourth element to the theme. And although I’m not so sure stirring pistou into the mussels’ broth is really a Belgian flavoring, it’s very tasty, so who cares.
After lunch, I resumed my southward traversal of Penn Avenue, one more long block to Lake of the Isles Parkway. As it happens, the two most interesting sights on that block were both on its eastern side. First came the second of the two buildings that comprise Kenwood’s retail node. It immediately adjoins the restaurant-containing strip but faces in the perpendicular direction. And then, a few doors further south, a 1915 apartment building sits between a duplex from 1948 and a single-family house from 1955. I’d seen other duplexes scattered among the single-family detached dwellings, but this structure with its four two-bedroom units seems to be unique in the neighborhood.
After a return visit to the Peavey Fountain, I walked the hairpin portion of Lake of the Isles Parkway that surrounds the peninsula projecting into the northern part of the lake. In addition to several more large houses, this stretch includes Lake of the Isles Lutheran Church, a gothic building from 1925.
Faithful readers of this blog will know that I keep an eye on the boulevard strips between sidewalk and street and perk up with interest when those strips contain something more than mown grass—flowers or tall prairie grass, for example. Perhaps these notes have become repetitive. If so, I’ve got something less common for you. Newton Avenue south of 21st Street features a rare boulevard cactus, the first I’ve noted since Audubon Park.
From Newton Avenue, I returned to 21st Street via Oliver Avenue. Although all of the houses make good impressions, one particularly brought joy to the walk through its use of variety—not just the obvious variety of colors in its brightly painted trim, but also the more subtle variety of texture, shape, and color contributed by the plants.
After the side-trip down Newton and Oliver Avenues, there was scarcely any distance left on 21st Street before returning to Birchbark Books and Native Arts, the neighbor of my lunch stop. Given how many miles I still needed to walk, I reluctantly tore myself aware with only a small greeting card by Carly Bordeau (a White Earth Ojibwe), which fit in my coat pocket. But if you’re willing to carry books, I guarantee you’ll find some here to interest you—maybe fiction or poetry by a local and/or native author, maybe non-fiction about the vicinity or the universe, there’s something for everyone. (And everything for some of us. I’m one of the eclectic readers.)
Continuing west on 21st Street and crossing Kenwood Parkway, I got a second look at the 19th-century Queen Anne style house on the southwest corner, this time from an angle better suited to photography. To me, it was worth including as a good example of its period. Once I got home and did the research, I learned that for my peers who grew up in households with TV, it’s famous from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I guess my walks are making up for what I missed.
Although I did some northward jaunts to see more of Queen, Sheridan, and Thomas Avenues, the primary thrust of my walk was westward on 21st Street all the way to where it curls into a cul-de-sac of Upton Avenue between the Kenilworth Trail and rail corridor and Cedar Lake. There are a few houses on the east side of Upton, but the west side is parkland accented by late-season flowers such as those in the photo.
Returning to the corner with 21st Street, I entered East Cedar Lake Beach (according to the sign) or Cedar Lake East Beach (according to the web site) or Hidden Beach (according to legend), passed the fungus-encrusted tree, and scanned the mostly deserted beach and entirely deserted mudhole. That’s the “Andrew J. Foss Memorial Mudhole,” according to the sign—another story waiting to be told. The sign made me sad, as I knew exactly who I’d ask to tell me the story—and he died last year. But I still want the story, even if from someone else. Will someone please step forward?
If I had spent less time pondering the mudhole, I might have felt the vibrations of an approaching train sooner, but as it was, my timing was perfect: I got to the crossing just in time to see every single car pass: the pulling locomotive, all the hopper cars, and the pushing locomotive.
Once my way was clear, I wrapped up the last bit of the route back to my starting point. The spur along 22nd Street to Sheridan gave me another side view of another 19th-century Queen Anne house, this one considerably deeper. The unusual depth was my only clue that it had been recently extended—stylistically, the addition is quite in keeping with the original. To see how much smaller the house used to be, compare with a 1911 photograph by William G. Wallof, brother of Edward G. Wallof, who owned the house.
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 October 10, 2018. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.