Southwest Minneapolis’s Linden Hills neighborhood spans from 36th to 47th Street, north to south, though the northern two blocks are largely missing, thanks to the Minikahda Club and Bde Maka Ska. In the route map, the full neighborhood is shown with a light blue tint, and the route for this first day is shown with the blue, red, and purple lines. As you can see, this route includes those limited northern blocks, extending just a bit further south to 39th Street.
The blue portions of the path are those I walked just once—a main loop starting and ending at 39th Street West and Sheridan Avenue South together with two subsidiary one-block loops from Chowen to Drew Avenue and Ewing to France Avenue, the western border of the neighborhood and city. The red portions are forward-and-back spurs. I also walked the purple connectors between the loops forward and later back, just not immediately.
I initially headed north on Sheridan Avenue, which is the easternmost avenue in the area Louis Menage platted in 1883 as Cottage City. The basic lot size is only 25 feet wide to encourage affordable cottages, though many properties span more than one lot. Nor are the larger sizes entirely a result of recent rebuilding, as illustrated by a side-by-side pair of houses I saw just north of 39th Street, one built in 2016 and the other in 1904. Each occupies a 50-foot double lot.
Further north in that block, though, I photographed an example of a house built only 18-feet wide so that it has a few feet of clearance on each side within a 25-foot lot.
Before the walk was over, I would see plenty of houses also from the 1920s and 1950s, decades that are well represented city-wide. The most distinctive aspect of this area, though, may be the number of modern houses, including two more I photographed on the 3800 block of Sheridan Avenue. Immediately afterward and to the east of there, I saw one that was more postmodern.
“Modern” does not mean recent. Although the three preceding examples are from the 21st century, and although that century accounts (together with the 1980s) for most of the modern houses I saw in the remainder of the walk, the modernist movement dates back well into the 20th century. And so I was pleased to see the other corner of Sheridan Avenue’s intersection with the parkway occupied by a striking modern house from the 1950s, a decade otherwise represented primarily by hip-roofed ranch houses and duplexes. The recently-added sunroom is unobtrusive enough to leave the original design clearly visible.
Before turning back south on Upton Avenue, I continued along the parkway in a spur as far as Vincent Avenue. The first two houses fit the mold of recently-constructed modern designs, but the third is more enigmatic—it seems to be a remodeled older structure, but the building permit index doesn’t make the original date clear. At the end of the block is a relatively recent (2000) house in a more traditional style—though I photographed it not for that reason, but to capture the footprints Bigfoot had left when cutting across the snowy lawn.
Turning south on Upton, I immediately paused to photograph another non-house view, this one less ephemeral than the footprints: a colorful bottle tree. In the second block, another house from the 1950s interested me. This one began life as one of the aforementioned hip-roofed ranch houses but gained a more modern look, as well as a partial second story, in a recent remodel.
Some more intact examples of the hip-roofed ranch-house style included an attached (“townhouse”) pair on Washburn and some single-family houses on Xerxes.
Further north on Xerxes, I spotted a more extreme example of the 25-foot “cottage” lots being subverted—not merely a double lot, but a quintuple one. (And again, this isn’t a new phenomenon but rather dates to the 1920s.)
Once I reached the northern end of this segment of Xerxes, I didn’t turn onto the parkway. (I had already walked past here on a long parkway spur from Washburn.) Instead, I turned a sharper left onto a park path that cuts diagonally through the Southwest Lake Calhoun Wetland to York Avenue. The ponds and their banks were rendered unsightly by some restoration work underway, but I still enjoyed looking back after crossing the pedestrian bridge. The still pond provided reflections of the bridge and the trees on the far side, beyond which the downtown skyline is just visible across Bde Maka Ska.
After reaching 39th Street on York, I finally got to walk the one and only full-length hairpin from 39th to 36th and back, namely Zenith and Abbott Avenues. Along the way, I continued to note houses of varying decades and styles.
The western edge of the neighborhood interested me for the number of styles of duplex represented there. For example, in addition to the typical ranch-house style that has a separate door for each unit (akin to the townhouses on Washburn), I spotted some 1950s ranch-house duplexes with a single central door. (I’m used to the single central door on 1930s cottage-style duplexes.) Nor were ranch houses the only style of duplexes in the 1950s—just down the street are some two-story duplexes of the same age.
Returning eastward on 38th Street from France Avenue to Thomas Avenue, I passed by the side of a duplex (or former duplex) on the northeastern corner with Vincent Avenue. I hadn’t paid it much attention when walking by its front face; aside from the recently refreshed exterior, it looked much like other ranch house duplexes. However, from 38th Street one can see that the southern unit is attached to a two-story addition in the back. I haven’t tracked down the relevant building permit, but while looking for it I noticed that the building was converted from a multi-unit structure to townhouses (attached single-family homes) in the early 21st century. The difference between a duplex or other multi-unit structure and attached houses is whether the separating wall extends through the attic, and in this case an extra fire wall was added there.
Because 38th Street tees at Thomas Avenue, I wasn’t able to take it all the way back to my starting point on Sheridan. Instead, I first turned north in a spur to the parkway, then south to finish the loop on 39th Street. The spur was interesting for a pair of houses set so closely together that their garages have scarcely any space between them. On the left of the photo, the house numbered as 3766 West Calhoun Parkway is one of the oldest in the area, built at some indeterminate point prior to 1899 and subsequently expanded. The gambrel-roofed house on the right of the photo is somewhat more recent, begun in 1901.
The old house has an old retaining wall. Or rather, it has a recent retaining wall (replacing a predecessor) that appears to have been constructed using stones salvaged from an old building. My curiosity was particularly piqued by the occasional recesses, such as in the second photo. I’m wondering what was set into them in the stones’ original application.
Continuing further south on Thomas Avenue, I passed a pair of more cottage-like houses from the early-20th-century. Indeed, the one on the right is situated on a regulation 25-foot lot, though the one on the left is granted a bit more elbow room through the use of a 40-foot lot. (Five of these 40-foot lots replace what would have been eight 25-foot lots.)
Across the street is a dramatic house from the 1980s, a playful postmodern combination of traditional and modern elements. For example, the three rectangular windows over the main entry are evocative of a Palladian window, and the use of pitched roofs is likewise traditional. Yet the use of strong, cleanly angular shapes is modern.
Finally, as I got ready to take the final turn onto 39th Street, I saw a different kind of combination of old and new. The house at 3841 Thomas Avenue South is one of the original generation of Cottage City cottages, dating from 1912. The facade has been modernized in a way that is respectful of the history but not beholden to it. The gracefully arced slats on the screen door are the central point of interest. Their curves are echoed in the handrail, while the spacing of the slats is echoed in the porch gable.
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 April 2, 2019. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.
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