Yes, I know the neighborhood’s name is normally written “Kingfield” with no space. But I’m going to stubbornly stick with using names from some anonymous Minneapolis bureaucrat’s list, so “King Field” it is. Either way, it memorializes William S. King.
As shown by the blue shading in the route map, the neighborhood occupies a rectangular portion of the street grid west of Interstate 35W. In practice, that makes the eastern boundary Stevens Avenue, adjacent to the freeway. The eastern boundary is Lyndale Avenue South (named for King’s farm) and the northern and southern boundaries are 36th and 46th Streets.
This encompasses 22 miles of walking, so I divided it into three days starting with the northern portion. The blue squiggle is the main loop from 38th and Lyndale back to that point. It ought to also include the segments marked in teal, but Google Maps didn’t believe those were passable in the face of construction, so I had to add them manually. Finally, the red lines indicate back-and-forth spurs.
Even this small slice of neighborhood contains too much to record, but with winter fast approaching, a boulevard garden takes priority. The one-block spur south on Lyndale to 39th Street provided a good example, taking advantage of the extra width provided by a bumpout.
Another priority is to give some sense of how thoroughly mixed the densities of housing are, with small-scale apartment buildings scattered amid single-family houses and duplexes. This pattern dates back to the early 20th century. For example, the next two photos show buildings I passed in close succession while walking east on 37th Street: first a five-unit apartment building from 1915, then a single-family home from 1908 on the northeast corner with Blaisdell Avenue. Neither seems out of place.
Once I reached Stevens Avenue, I took a one-block spur north to 36th Street before turning south. The east side of Stevens Avenue is currently lined with a mound of earth from the adjacent freeway construction, but the west side retains its residential character including a Little Library. The inscription says that “To Read is to Fly!,” but as a practical matter reading is better done while seated. So, thoughtfully enough, the homeowner also provided a wooden bench in the boulevard area across from the library.
The main loop turns back westward at 38th Street, but I continued first one block further south on Stevens. That spur too brought a noteworthy sight, a tableau of a cat and dog inspecting a supine bird. I made a couple attempts in vain to contact the homeowners, so the scene will have to speak for itself.
As I approached the main commercial street, Nicollet Avenue, on 38th Street, I passed two murals in close succession: a comparatively small abstract by Donald Walker on the side of a dental office and then the building-spanning Twin Cities Trolley (2008) on the back of the corner building. This mural was painted by Adam May and Mike Meyer with the Lincoln Walldogs. I gratefully acknowledge permission from Adam May of Atom Graphics to use this photo.
The area surrounding the intersection of 38th and Nicollet is full of businesses, several of which I was already familiar with. (For example, I’ve been to Kyatchi enough to offer two pro tips: go at Happy Hour and order the Veggie Trio.) However, even amidst this familiarity, I spotted one sign I hadn’t previously paid attention to. The building at 3808 Nicollet Avenue houses the Aliveness Project, “a community center for and driven by people living with HIV … facilitating connection to community, offering nutrition & wellness services, and linking our members to resources to lead fulfilling & healthy lives.”
Continuing on the supplemental (teal) section of the route, I followed Nicollet Avenue to 40th Street, 40th Street to Stevens Avenue, then turned back north on Stevens Avenue to 39th Street. The portion of Stevens Avenue just south of 39th Street is occupied by the Pilgrim Lutheran School. The inscription on the school’s mural is a paraphrase of Revelation 22:1–2, “The angel showed me the river of life flowing from the throne of God in the middle of the city. On each side stood the tree of life and the leaves are for the healing of the nations.” The accompanying illustration suggests that the city in question could be Minneapolis and the nations in need of healing could be those gathered here.
A block to the northwest of there, on the southeastern corner of 1st Avenue South and 38th Street East, I was interested by the architectural layering of the building now occupied by Macedonia Baptist Church. The building has components that reflect three different time periods (1910, 1950s, and 2012) and three different functions (telephone switching office, office building, and church).
Wrapping around via 36th Street to Nicollet Avenue, I once again came to constituent installations of the public artwork Birds of a Different Feather (2016), which stretches intermittently along Nicollet Avenue all the way from 32nd Street to 40th Street. I say “once again” not only because I’ve been through this area on other occasions but also because I passed two components earlier in the walk: a bench in front of Casa de Corazón in the 3900 block, similar to those in the second photo below, and the 40th Street gateway sculpture, which I’ll include in my next walk.
For now, I’m happy to be able to show the 36th and 37th Street portions. (Observant readers will notice some out of place clouds. I didn’t get a decent photo and so returned another day.) I’m grateful for permission from Ben Janssens, Marjorie Pitz, and Lori Greene, the three artists who produced these works together with community members. In particular, students from Ramsey Middle School (now Justice Page Middle School) produced the mosaics with Greene’s guidance.
The cluster of three benches sits outside Butter Bakery Cafe, which is on the ground floor of a 2011 mixed-use building. The upper 2 floors contain 42 residential units, all part of the Nicollet Square development, which provides supportive services to young people who are transitioning out of homelessness or foster care. In that context, the bakery cafe plays an important role by providing an entry point into working life. That’s just one of several things to like about the bakery cafe from a social justice standpoint; others include equitable compensation without tips and the use of local suppliers. But none of that would matter if the food weren’t good. Which it is.
The bakery sources its namesake ingredient, butter, from Hope Creamery, so I knew to start with an item where that would shine. I opted for the cranberry crumb cake. In addition to the butter and cranberries, another strong flavor component was cardamom, so it was an all-around winner in my book.
For an arguably more healthful second course, I turned to the soup and salad plate. The soup was a dairy-free tomato soup with lots of texture and flavor, and the salad came accompanied with fresh apple. The toast? Buttered, of course.
After lunch, I wound a generally westward serpentine, alternating between 38th and 36th Streets as shown in the route map. I passed plenty of interesting businesses and houses, but the first really noteworthy cluster of buildings was at the intersection of 38th and Pleasant Avenue. That’s where the Incarnation parish formerly occupied all four corners of the intersection. The core component (though not the earliest) is the church itself on the southeast corner, a stately hybrid of Romanesque and renaissance styles from 1917. (At the far right of the photo, you can just glimpse the colonial revival rectory, which I’ll pass on my next walk.)
Across Pleasant Avenue on the southwest corner, Hiawatha College Prep—Kingfield occupies what was the main (but again, not earliest) parochial school building, Moynihan Hall, dating from 1934.
On the northeast corner, the Institute of the Incarnation, or Cleary Hall, was the original building. Built in 1910, worship services were temporarily held here until the church building was constructed. It also served from the outset as a school and retained that function even after Moynihan hall was built. Today, it houses Lake Country School, a Montessori school. That school also extends into a newer (1988) addition to the north. At the junction point between the two buildings, a steel sculpture by Alexander Tylevich, Montessori Vision, stands nicely situated in a corner rain garden. (I gratefully acknowledge Tylevich’s permission to publish my photo.) The sculpture is a memorial to Carly Vogel Fisher (1978–1995) and a tribute to the school’s role in her education, given by her parents.
Finally, the northwest corner is the Center for Performing Arts, housed in a former convent built in 1923.
Returning southward on Grand Avenue after reaching 36th Street, I enjoyed seeing an apartment building in the zigzag deco style, which is considerably less common than revival styles, such as those loosely patterned on Spanish and Moorish precedents.
At the end of that block, the intersection of 38th and Grand is a major commercial node. Rounding the northwest corner of the intersection, I passed two sides of Victor’s 1959 Cafe, with Rincón 38 diagonally opposite.
A block to the west, as I turned from 38th northward onto Harriet Avenue, I got my first view of a cluster of townhomes that lines the west side of Harriet Avenue and the east side of Garfield Avenue in the southern half of the 3700 blocks. This spurred my curiosity as to what had happened to free all that space up in the 1980s. The answer is the closure and demolition of the Aggasiz School. The townhomes were constructed by Brighton Development, a major builder of affordable neighborhood infill housing, better known for their pioneering work on the riverfront.
Only one more north-south avenue remained before returning to Lyndale: Garfield Avenue. And of the two blocks I needed to walk on Garfield, half a block was occupied by the symmetrical set of townhomes. Yet the other block and half had plenty to hold my interest. For example, take a look at the jack-o-lantern outside this bungalow. Beyond the whimsey with which it was carved, isn’t its color an uncanny match to the house’s color scheme?
Other decorative elements on this street included a waterfall, a stone bench, and the two boulevard gardens shown below: one of bright-colored castor beans, the other featuring stacked stones.
The apartment building on the southeast corner of 37th and Garfield is the same age as the one on Grand (1931) and has the same number of units (14). However, it exemplifies my comment that revival styles are more common than deco. My real reason for including it, though, is to return to my earlier comment about mixed densities. As the second photo shows, the apartment building was built directly adjacent to a single-family home, which has continued to prosper.
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 September 24, 2018. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.