Walking All the Streets of East-Central Linden Hills

Many of Linden Hills’ most familiar sights lie close to Lake Harriet and roughly between 39th and 43rd Streets. Certainly that’s true for me as a resident of this area, but it applies even to outsiders who come for the recreational and shopping opportunities. Familiar or not, I was glad to spend a beautiful morning winding an 8.3-mile path through this area in the brief interlude before snow returned. (Photos from the earlier walk through the northern portion of the neighborhood show enough snow for one neighborhood.)

As usual, the route consisted of a main loop (shown in blue) supplemented by spurs (shown in red). The starting and ending point (A and B) for the main loop was the intersection of 43rd Street West and Sheridan and Upton Avenues South. The northwest corner of that intersection houses a 2016 building named “Linden43” with 29 apartments in its upper three stories and commercial space on the ground floor. On the southwest corner is New Gild Jewelers in a 1914 building with second-floor apartments and then, proceeding west on 43rd Street, Zumbro CafeRose Street Patisserie (recessed out of sight), and Settergren Hardware.

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4264 Upton Ave. S.

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Southwest Corner of 43rd St. W. and Upton Ave. S.

Beyond Linden43 on the north side is a smaller commercial building from 1905 containing Naviya’s Thai Brasserie and a Dunn Brothers Coffee location. And then come two buildings that started out (in 1902 and 1903) as houses but have been converted to occupancy by multiple commercial tenants. When built, they weren’t side by side: the western one was relocated from the other side of Sheridan in 1913.

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Former Houses, 2826 and 2822 43rd St. W.

The far side of those former houses is Vincent Avenue, where I turned north. First, though, I temporarily continued into the 2900 block of 43rd Street West. That forward-and-back spur brought me past the Linden Hills Library, a 1931 Tudor-revival gem recognized as a historic landmark.

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Linden Hills Library, 2900 43rd St. W.

Because the prior episode of this series focused so heavily on single-family dwellings and duplexes, I planned to generally skip over those without note this time, even though some are just as striking as their northern peers. However, I already made my first three exceptions in the 4100 block of Vincent Avenue South.

Two homeowners on the eastern side of that block seemed particularly solicitous toward my experience as a sidewalk dweller. One colorfully painted their garage door and staircase retaining wall, while the other positioned a bench so as to blur the usual dichotomy between private and public space.

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Paintings at 4137 Vincent Ave. S.

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Bench at 4105 Vincent Ave. S.

Meanwhile on the western side of that same block, an extra house is tucked behind the corner duplex on higher ground with only a narrow driveway to connect it to Vincent Avenue. This unusual situation is best appreciated with the aid of the plat map and an aerial view.

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4100 and 4106 Vincent Ave. S., Looking West Down 41st St. W.

The street grid has a discontinuity at 40th Street, the transition into the Cottage City area. North of there, I continued northward on Upton Avenue, then returned southward on Thomas Avenue. As I entered the 3900 block of Thomas, my eye was drawn to a building shaped so as to maximize windows. Built in 1914 as a four-unit apartment building on three of the narrow Cottage City lots, it now is a five-unit condo.

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Thomas Place Condominiums, 3904 Thomas Ave. S.

Upon returning to the 40th Street discontinuity, I jogged ever so slightly westward to continue south on Upton. First, though, I walked an eastward spur to Sheridan, which brought me past another of the area’s historic landmarks, the Chadwick Cottages, a pair of 1902 cottages joined in 1972 to form a larger house.

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Chadwick Cottages, 2617 40th St. W.

The 4000 block of Upton has a noteworthy little library, adorned by the contrasting combination of a relief-carved door and the surface decorations on the side panels and scallop-edged gable fascia. A plaque dedicates it “in loving memory of Dean Emanuel, self-taught American historian, astronomer, and candy connoisseur.”

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Little Library in Memory of Dean Emanuel, 4041 Upton Ave. S.

Crossing 42nd Street, the southwest corner is occupied by the Linden Hills United Church of Christ while the southeast corner has the Linden Green cluster of 15 townhouses. These townhouses occupy the broad end of the wedge formed by Upton and Sheridan Avenues. Closer to the narrower end is The Lindens, a 17-unit condo building. A concrete nameplate inscribed “Lake Harriet” memorializes the school that previously occupied the wedge.

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Linden Hills United Church of Christ, 4200 Upton Ave. S.

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Linden Green Townhouses, Southeast Corner of 42nd St. W. and Upton Ave. S.

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The Lindens, 4221 Upton Ave. S.

Turning the hairpin onto northbound Sheridan Avenue, I was confronted by other multi-unit housing that bracketed The Lindens in age. A 35-unit apartment building from 1961 is just visible at the right of the photo, whereas the main focus is a three-unit condo building from 2014.

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4255 Sheridan Ave. S.

The intersection of 42nd Street West with Sheridan Avenue South is bifurcated, with the westbound portion a few hundred feet further south than the portion that leads east to the lake. My main loop turned west, but first I continued on to the eastbound intersection, where I saw St. John’s Episcopal Church, a 1916 gothic structure of Platteville limestone with a southern wing added in 2006–2007.

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St. John‘s’ Episcopal Church, 4201 Sheridan Ave. S.

Crossing back over Upton Avenue on 42nd Street, I encountered a tree on the northwest corner who introduced herself as Mabel. This was early enough in the day that I hadn’t had anything stronger than water to drink, and in any case, I’ve got the photo to prove it.

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“I’m Mabel,” Northwest Corner of 42nd St. W. and Upton Ave. S.

Also on the north side of 42nd Street, the entire block between Washburn and Xerxes Avenues is occupied by the Third Church of Christ, Scientist.

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Third Church of Christ, Scientist, 4147 Xerxes Ave. S. (on 42nd St. W.)

Continuing across Xerxes, the south side of 42nd Street is occupied by Linden Hills Park, which I’d see more of later. For now, I walked just the first half of its northern border and turned north on York Avenue. This 4100 block of York was the first of three discontiguous blocks that my route took me through in a curlycue fashion. Its highlight was another little library, this one decorated with typographic reliefs on the side panels. Most of the letterforms appear to have been included simply as part of a visual composition, but one word on the south side stands out, despite its limited height, as a clear commandment: “READ.” (The north side has a word embedded in its cloud of letters too, literally: “WORD.”)

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Little Free Library, 4100 Block of York Ave. S.

The next of the three Xerxes/York loops, the 4300 block, had even more to see. I came away with no fewer than five photos, the majority of them from the block of 44th Street that intervenes between Xerxes and York.

First, there is a rare Minneapolis example of a “bungalow court,” which is more commonly found in southern California. (There, they more commonly are composed of detached units. This one is the attached variant.) The photo shows half the structure: one and a half of the three segments comprising a U-shaped plan. Each of the three segments has two dwelling units with entrances facing in toward the common courtyard. When constructed in 1928–1929, these six were all there was. Subsequently, a seventh unit was added in the lower level of the back segment, which lets out toward the alleyway. Today the structure is owned as seven condominiums.

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3110 44th St. W.

Second, the southeast corner of 44th and York has a building that houses both the Minneapolis Friends Meeting and Mayim Rabim Congregation.

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Minneapolis Friends Meeting and Mayim Rabim Congregation, 4401 York Ave. S.

Third, the northeast corner of that same intersection has a good example of a more common contemporary of the bungalow court: a boxy stuccoed four-plex with a bit of mediterranean flair on the facade.

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3124 44th St. W. (1929)

Fourth, while walking the 4300 block of York (and earlier the corresponding block of Xerxes), I was able to look down the diagonal, garden-flanked “trolley path” that lies along this portion of the former rail line. The history of this area centers around this line, which started as the steam-locomotive “Motor Line” and subsequently became part of the Como-Harriet-Hopkins trolley line and (east of here) the Oak-Harriet trolley line.

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Trolley Path, Looking East from York Ave. S.

And finally, once I had wrapped around to 43rd Street, I walked along the eastern half of Linden Hills Park’s southern border, which includes the Linden Hills Recreation Center.

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Linden Hills Recreation Center, 3100 43rd St. W. (1972)

Turning north on Washburn Avenue, I took note of a “Love is All You Need” pole in the 4200 block and a decorated house in the 4000 block.

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“Love is All You Need,” 4200 Block of Washburn Ave. S.

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4011 Washburn Ave. S. (1968)

Some more looping around brought me back to the intersection of Xerxes Avenue and 41st Street, from which I headed east initially to Sheridan Avenue, then past St. John’s on 42nd to the lake. The point where 42nd Street reaches Lake Harriet is a focal point for recreational facilities, including the station house serving a restored section of the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line as well as a fairy-tale-like bandshell with a windowed backdrop dramatically revealing the lake beyond. Neither was in use at the time of my walk, but from past experience I can heartily recommend both.

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Linden Hills Station, Como-Harriet Streetcar Line

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Lake Harriet Bandshell

Proceeding north from the bandshell area, I took William Berry Parkway initially as far as Queen Avenue before returning to the Lake Harriet Parkway. One highlight of this spur was passing over the restored trolley line adjacent to the now-unused Cottage-City Station.

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Cottage-City Station, Como-Harriet Streetcar Line

Once I backtracked and took the hairpin turn onto southbound Lake Harriet Parkway, I passed near an elaborate play structure. If I had a child as an excuse, I would have loved to climb on it. However, my attention was diverted to something much smaller, though closer to the road. A little sapling of a tree has a paper tag tied to one of its branches. Closer inspection showed a floral design and the intriguingly cryptic words “Mi-Tienes Ref. 343 – Pearl.” Imagine my disappointment upon using Google to decode that as simply the particular brand of art paper and its color. So there’s no cryptic message in words or numbers, but in a way, that means the tag is even more cryptic. All it has is the floral design. Why did someone fabricate this tag and hang it on this sapling?

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Intriguing Tag at Lake Harriet Park

I continued south on the parkway to 44th Street, where another hairpin turn allowed me to head back north to the intersection of Queen Avenue and Linden Hills Boulevard. That’s the point where a bridge spans the trolley right-of-way, though the restored line doesn’t actually pass under it—it ends at a car-barn there. On the trolley-free side, the former right-of-way is now an alley and parking area, adjacent to which is a red Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) that has received press attention and an award for its architectChristopher Strom.

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Accessory Dwelling Unit at 4320 West Lake Harriet Parkway

After crossing the bridge, my main loop turned right onto northbound Queen Avenue. (Northbound for me as a pedestrian, that is. For cars, it is one-way the other direction.) First, though, I walked a spur of Linden Hills Boulevard as far as 43rd Street. The photo shows the view once I had done my about-face turn, with the bridge and lake in the background. In front of that is a 1912 apartment building known as “The Dacotah” and a 1929 apartment building known as “home.” Which explains why my Less Pedestrian Half came out to join me for a bit of the walk. Although the two buildings are structurally quite different, each has 14 units.

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Being Joined at 4306 Linden Hills Blvd. with The Dacotah in Background at 4312

Many of the houses along Queen Avenue are rather large, but it was the two smallest ones that drew my attention: the two birdhouses flanking a driveway.

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Southern Birdhouse, 4268 Queen Ave. S.

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Northern Birdhouse, 4268 Queen Ave. S.

Once I reached the northern of the two intersections of Queen Avenue and Linden Hills Boulevard, I could have simply done a hairpin turn and returned back south on the Boulevard. However, that would have have ignored the streets surrounding William Berry Woods, so I had some looping around to do, plus an extra spur on Richfield Road. As always, the extra walking yielded dividends. For instance, there’s a 1906 example of the comparatively rare Swiss chalet style at the northwest corner of Richfield Road and 40th Street, and there’s the woods themselves, with their diagonal pathway.

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2504 40th St. W.

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Diagonal Path, William Berry Woods

After returning south on Linden Hills Boulevard, I just needed to round the bend on 43rd Street to be back to my starting point. That last little bit of 43rd Street is rich with commerce. Fittingly, one of the buildings was originally (in 1911) the “Lake Harriet Commercial Club.” Not being a clubman, had I lived at the time my greatest interest would have been in the public library branch that occupied space on the ground floor for the 20-year period preceding construction of the dedicated Tudor-revival building. The connection to books has meanwhile returned, thanks to the prize-winning Wild Rumpus Books. I don’t care whether you have kids or not: you need to go shop there. Be sure to look around at the physical space, which grows no less magical after you pass through either the child-sized purple door or the larger black door within which it is cleverly hung.

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Wild Rumpus Books, 2720 43rd St. W. (Former Lake Harriet Commercial Club Building)

The next building is another historic landmark, the 1914 Fire Station 28, now home to Harriet Brasserie and TEA2 Architects.

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Former Fire Station 28, 2724 43rd St. W.

Next up is another commercial building, this one from 1915 and accented by some lovely terra cotta trim. The brown awnings shade the Tilia restaurant, a regular haunt where I stopped for one of the famous fish taco tortas. The smaller green-awning portion of the ground floor is Coffee & Tea Ltd. and the upstairs is another architectural firm, Rehkamp Larson. Finally, the lighter-colored building at the corner has Linden Hills Dentistry and Root Salon. It was the perfect place for my walk to end, as I was coincidentally due for dental prophylaxis that afternoon.

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2726 43rd St. W. with 4289 Sheridan Ave. S. in Background

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 16, 2019. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.

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7 Responses to Walking All the Streets of East-Central Linden Hills

  1. Mike May 19, 2019 at 9:06 pm #

    Thanks for the comprehensive tour. It’s interesting for all the Minneapolis 2040 hate focused on Linden Hills as a low density single family enclave it actually hosts a lot of the housing styles that are aspirational in that plan- small scale multifamily, apartments, condos, ADU, bungalow court… etc…..

    • Max Hailperin
      Max Hailperin May 20, 2019 at 9:38 am #

      You’re welcome. As to your point—absolutely. My observations aren’t “comprehensive” in the sense that a statistical data analysis of the city’s property records would be, showing how the number of units is distributed and whether there are temporal changes. (For example, does it more often happen that a duplex is converted to single-family than the reverse? How about tearing down two small houses to make one big one versus tearing them down to make a small apartment building?) But the point I still hope to drive home is that there has always been diversity of housing forms and continues to be. Also, these various forms exist side by side with one another.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller May 20, 2019 at 10:02 am #

      It’s exactly because every neighborhood already has some of what will be allowed again that made the freak out over small multi-family so strange.

      Especially in Linden Hills, where small structures have been getting replaced with bigger structures at a pretty good clip. Why would anyone care if the new house has 2 or 3 units instead of just one giant unit?

      A trip down Chowen Avenues is pretty interesting. Tons of teardown McMansions, a lot of the original housing stock, and even some real honest-to-goodness apartment buildings. What are we freaking out about again?

      • Monte Castleman May 20, 2019 at 2:54 pm #

        Do we know if the people that live in Linden Hills are supportive (or at least OK with) the McMansion teardowns, or is it the case that we’re not hearing anything about those because they couldn’t do anything about those since that’s already allowed by zoning and not the topic of discussion?

        • Max Hailperin
          Max Hailperin May 20, 2019 at 2:58 pm #

          As one of the people that live in Linden Hills, the one thing I can tell you with certainty is that no generalization about the people that live in Linden Hills is true. There are people with “don’t bulldoze” signs and people with “neighbors for more neighbors” signs. There are people who object to the teardowns and people who are doing them. There are people who object to the four-plexes and bigger apartment buildings and people who applaud them.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller May 20, 2019 at 3:16 pm #

          With deference to what Max said, does it matter? You can’t stop the teardowns (or at least that proposal wasn’t on the table), so why do you care if it’s more than one unit?

          That said, I didn’t see or read many comments that were fine with multiple units as long as the allowed size was shrunk (I did see/hear many assertions that small multi-unit necessarily meant even bigger structures).

          • Monte Castleman May 20, 2019 at 5:00 pm #

            If you know you can’t stop all of something you don’t like that’s no reason to not try to stop some of it. If an owner can’t tear down a property and build a triplex there’s no guarantee that s/he’s going to tear it down and build a McMansion instead.

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