Anyone who stuck with me through the first and second portions of the King Field neighborhood knows what is left: everything from approximately 43rd to 46th streets. The main loop (shown in blue) starts and ends at 46th Street West and Lyndale Avenue South. It is augmented by some back-and-forth spurs (shown in red) around the edges of the neighborhood.
Each time I record one of these walks with words and pictures, I leave out far more than I include. Walking through the unremarkable ordinariness of a neighborhood is part of the experience. But even the extraordinary gets short shrift. Time and again, something stands out from its surroundings, yet winds up on the cutting room floor. Take that as encouragement to go look with your own eyes.
The first photo is from the sixth block of the walk. I had already walked two blocks of 46th Street (one of them as a spur) and three blocks of Garfield Avenue before I came to this little library. I like the decorative use of wooden blocks on the side. Their sizes and placement convey a sense of syncopation, and they display the wood’s end grain, which may be unfamiliar to children. It reminds us that the wood once was a tree and grew incrementally, one year at a time. I might have noticed and appreciated that on any day. But the day of this walk, October 18, 2018, was also the day of Little Free Library creator Todd Bol’s death.
At the end of that block, I turned east on 42nd Street and two short blocks later saw another little library, this one outside Royal Grounds Coffee. Like Butter Bakery Cafe in the northern part of the neighborhood, Royal Grounds prides itself on being a socially conscious community gathering space. Both businesses have the tip-free model in common. The side of the library visible in the photo contains a Frederick Douglass quote: “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
In the next four blocks of 42nd Street, I noticed some late-season flowers, some unusual styles of houses, the outlines of trees against the blue sky. And then after crossing Blaisdell Avenue, I turned back to photograph a cleverly constructed bench. Its fusion of elegance and engineering reminds me of Siah Armajani, who is the subject of a current retrospective at Walker Art Center.
I continued across Nicollet Avenue onto 42nd Street East, past the mural-painted retaining wall of the Curran’s parking lot to where I turned south on 1st Avenue South. And there the shimmer of multi-colored tile panels caught my eye. Apartment buildings from the 1960s aren’t old enough to be quaint or new enough to be cutting edge. But they contribute to the mix of styles. Some complain that all of today’s apartment buildings look alike. My reply is that the 1920s buildings all look alike, too, with their brown brick and decorative doo-dads. And the 1960s buildings likewise all look alike, with their multi-colored panels of small tiles. A diverse city is built like a tree, incrementally over the years.
Soon after this apartment building, I came to another little library, this one distinguished by the miniature gallery diorama in its attic level.
The history of the church building on the southeast corner of 1st Avenue South and 43rd Street East surprised me. The foundation dates to a 1910 gymnasium built by the Rosedale Athletic Association. In 1921, Faith Evangelical and Reformed Church bought the property and made modest alterations and repairs to the gymnasium building to use it instead as a church. In 1930, they replaced the superstructure with the stucco church building that today houses New Beginnings Baptist Tabernacle.
Once I reached 46th Street, I first walked the spur east to Stevens Avenue, then turned west to Nicollet Avenue. A quick glance at the Bruegger’s Bagels building told me the main two-story portion had once been a fire station, but I thought the newer one-story portion on the south side might have been added in the course of the bagel-shop conversion. Luckily I could reference the inestimable resource provided by the Extra Alarm Association of the Twin Cities, which revealed the error in my thinking. The one-story portion was added in 1952 as an additional stall for Station 27.
Before turning north on Nicollet Avenue, I walked one block farther west as a spur. That brought me to the corner of Blaisdell Avenue, where across the way I could see the former Hobart Methodist Church, now home to Solomon’s Porch. I’d walk past there later, after a side trip to 43rd Street and back.
Returning to the Bruegger’s Bagels corner and heading north, I was struck by the unusual mix of two-story residential and one-story commercial buildings. Take, for example, this side-by-side pair, a two-story fourplex from 1928 and a one-story commercial/retail building from 1953. (I don’t know the current function of the latter building, but it started life as a retail store with signs for Budweiser, Hamm’s and Grainbelt.)
In the next block, Locus Architecture uses its own office and landscaping to show off its design sensibility.
About midway from 44th to 43rd Street, I was struck by the brightly colored, produce-themed bicycle racks on the west side of the street. They stand in front of a dialysis center, and my first thought was how interesting that the center went beyond the specialized technical needs of end-stage renal disease patients (for whom even nutrition is a specialized topic) to support healthy nutrition and physical activity in the general populace. But then I remembered having visited the Kingfield Farmers Market once — in the very parking lot I just walked by. So, of course, that’s what the produce-themed racks are for. Meanwhile, I continued past the racks to the equally bright-colored storefronts beyond.
Turning west on 43rd Street, I was face-to-face with an interestingly evolved building. I am a fan of additions that stand in sharp contrast to the original, rather than trying to mimic and extend it. This addition is certainly a sharp contrast. Actually, you can see three generations of the building’s evolution. The current two-story office building dates from 2013, when the metal-clad second story was added. Subtracting that, you are left with the one-story office building that existed from 2006 to 2013. And applying a little imagination to the openings, you can mentally revert back to the auto-repair shop that occupied the building from 1925 until the 2006 conversion.
I walked the same distance on Blaisdell Avenue as I had on Nicollet: three blocks from 43rd to 46th streets to balance the three I had walked from 46th to 43rd. I saw quite a few interesting sights before returning to Solomon’s Porch. But I’ll offer just one: a small pond with a lighthouse.
The signs on the side of the Solomon’s Porch building show that it shares its space with Yoga Sanctuary. I also saw that these groups were intensively gardening the limited amount of non-paved ground surrounding the building. I noticed remnants of vegetables and flowers, a raised bed and a trellis, and an area of sheet mulching complete with explanatory signs. My favorite, though, is the small strip of garden shown below, which aside from its array of colors and textures has a cute little figure hiding in it. Can you find it? (I am not referring to my own shadow!)
Before turning north on Wentworth Avenue, I continued west as far as Pillsbury Avenue. Seeing this additional block of 46th Street West turned out to be important. It gave Minneapolis a chance to stick out its tongue and tease me mercilessly. In the most recent neighborhood I visited, Kenwood, I described a boulevard cactus as being “rare” and “the first I’ve noted since Audubon Park.” So of course here I am, one neighborhood later, seeing a profusion of cacti.
Heading north on Wentworth Avenue, I passed a variety of single-family houses and duplexes. One caught my eye: The house on the southwest corner of Wentworth and 43rd Street looks like a former corner store. That, in itself, is not a rarity in residential neighborhoods old enough that people walked blocks rather than driving miles to shop. But the building permit index shows something more unusual for its era: permits issued in a woman’s name, Mrs. Ella Shurly, dating back to 1908. The city directory shows that Mrs. Shurly was a confectioner.
A block to the southwest, at the corner of Pillsbury Avenue and 44th Street, the Faith Free Lutheran Church building dates from 1918. It is a good example of how the “craftsman” style (part of the broader arts and crafts movement) found expression in churches as well as homes.
Once I got back to 46th Street, I continued the serpentine pattern by walking the block to Pleasant Avenue and the additional spur block to Grand Avenue. Unlike the Nicollet and Bryant Avenue streetcar lines, which extended this far south or farther in the 1890s, the 1907 Grand Avenue line was extended only beyond 40th Street in 1923. And so I was not surprised to see the intersection flanked by retail buildings of that age, one painted in an eye-popping modern style, the other displaying its original composition of brown and cream bricks and tiles.
Patisserie 46 was already familiar to me, and I even had gotten some first-hand history of the building from my friend Kathie McClellan Martin:
This building was called McClellan Finer Foods in the 1950s and early ’60s. It was owned by my father, Ray McClellan. It contained a full fledged butcher shop — he was his own butcher (cut off his thumb!) and the produce came from the local farmers’ market. Attached was an old-fashioned bakery, so when you shopped there you had the pleasure of all those wonderful aromas (seems like home when I walk in there now, similar smells). I don’t know what went in after my father closed due to 24/7 dairy stores (one opened where Ena’s is now) and supermarkets. It is wonderful to see that corner doing so well.
From the historical record, I can see that a laundry went in there next. But on this day in 2018, it was my lunch stop, where I ordered an avocado toast that tasted as good as it looks.
After lunch, I repaired to Pleasant Avenue and headed north. Looking at the craftsman homes, I noticed the interesting variations within a given style. Although some variations reflect remodeling since the 1920s, others were present from the start. Even houses built on essentially the same plan can have distinguishing details. Looking at the houses in the next two photos, I was reminded of children’s picture books that ask the reader to spot all the differences between two similar illustrations.
Unlike more recently developed neighborhoods, where duplexes are generally horizontally arranged, most of those I passed are stacked vertically. The two units’ doors are next to one another. One leads directly into the ground-floor unit whereas the other leads into a stairway to the upper level. In most cases, the building as a whole is a utilitarian rectangular box, but on Harriet Avenue I spotted one on an L-shaped plan with prairie-school touches, such as the wide eaves.
After Harriet Avenue, I switched from the eastward serpentine that progressed through north-south avenues to a southward serpentine that progressed through the east-west streets. The following three photos show three highlights from this phase of the walk:
- An example of the neighborhood association’s pioneering approach to wrapping utility boxes with local photographers’ work.
- A particularly unusual variation on the craftsman bungalow. I’d love to know how much of its look is original.
- One last little library, ready to deliver more joy into the hands of children as they incrementally grow.
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 30, 2018. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.