I already remarked that the Longfellow neighborhood is diverse, encompassing residences and industry, art and history, churches and schools, food and drink, and much else—signs on utility poles, for instance. So it came as no surprise that I saw some of those same elements south of Lake Street too. But diversity being what it is, this walk wasn’t a repeat of the first one either.
The area south of Lake Street was actually too much for a single walk, so this one focused on the portion west of 32nd Avenue. The main loop started and ended where 31st Avenue South intersects Lake Street, points A and B on the map. The red segments are forward-and-back spurs off of that twisty loop.
Heading south on 31st Avenue, my companion and I quickly left behind Lake Street’s commercial area (an auto service shop) and entered a residential area. As on the prior day, I didn’t take many photos of residences, but I did make one exception in the very first block. This duplex cottage from 1929 stood out because of the usual way its stucco finish is given large-scale texture through the use of color, rather than merely through troweling.
In the next block of 31st Avenue, we passed the western side of Longfellow Alternative High School, “A school designated for pregnant and parenting teens.” The main facade on is on 31st Street, so I’ll hold off on a photo until passing that way at the end of the walk. However, the side view did interest me for the romanesque details of the main building and even more so for what lies behind that building. Namely, there are two modular structures labeled “Teen Parent Service Center” and then a large play area clearly designed for young children, not high schoolers. I’m happy to see that the school district is taking this multi-generational approach of co-locating an early learning center with the high school.
After walking a portion of 34th Street—the southern border of the neighborhood—we turned back north on 30th Avenue. On the northeast corner with 33rd Street, the Akina Community Church occupies a structure that was built in 1914 as Vanderburgh Presbyterian Church.
Once back at Lake Street, we crossed to the north side for a block, notwithstanding a route specifically designed to obviate any crossings. Obviously there was something worth crossing for. First, we were able to get a closer view of the former East Lake Library (1924–1976), now home to Northern Sun, selling “products for progressives since 1979.” Second—and more significantly—we got close enough to Himalayan Restaurant to not just see it but go in and sample the lunch buffet’s offerings. Of the items shown, the ram-toria-aaloo (fried okra and potatoes seasoned with Nepalese spices) at the top left of the plate was my favorite.
As we resumed our walk southbound on 29th Avenue, we walked beside a notable building that is kitty-corner from the Himalayan on the southwest corner of Lake Street and 29th Avenue. A two-story structure with a footprint over 5000 square feet, it now holds a Residential Reentry Center operated by Volunteers of America. I would have guessed it started life as a 1920s apartment building, and the permit index shows that to be at least partially true.
A permit in May of 1928 describes the foundation as being for a “concrete store and apartment building,” and the main construction permit a few weeks later was for “garage and apartments 44×118.” But within days the permits start mentioning “funeral home” (later “mortuary”)—initially in combination with “apartment,” later alone. And indeed the 1929 city directory lists 2825 and 2827 East Lake as the business and residential address of the undertaker Melancthon H. McDivitt, as well as the residence of a variety of other people—most, but not all, of whom either had the last name McDivitt or were employed at the McDivitt establishment. I suspect this history explains the prominent side entrance with its barrel-vaulted porch.
Unlike 31st and 30th Avenues, 29th Avenue South ends at 33rd Street East. That’s because the angled course of Minnehaha Avenue cuts through 33rd Street just to the west. We turned that direction initially for a spur to (and subsequently onto) Hiawatha Avenue before returning eastward for the main loop.
After we crossed Minnehaha Avenue, the building on the corner revealed an interesting sign to supplement the more visible markings of the Peace Coffee shop. As with signs noted on the prior day, this is Phil Vandervaart’s handiwork, the first of a succession that lead down the street and around the back corner of the building to where a newer concrete-block addition houses Trylon Cinema, operated by the nonprofit Take-Up Productions.
To the west of the Trylon, the area turns industrial. The most visually striking building (again thanks to Phil Vandervaart) is the “Castle Building & Remodeling World Headquarters,” or what their web site more prosaically refers to as the production warehouse and company headquarters as opposed to the four design selection studios. Given that one of the four is in St. Paul, the expansion from Minneapolis to the world is well underway.
Backtracking on 33rd Street East into the residential part of the neighborhood and passing Akina Community Church again, we soon reached the eastern border of this day’s walk at 32nd Avenue South. There we encountered a sign for Night Owl Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) out front of one of their pickup locations (“Paul’s front porch”). Once we rounded the corner onto 32nd Street East to head back west, we saw some actual agriculture—or a gorgeous strawberry patch, at any rate. Also, please help spread the word about Chewy.
Although we walked 32nd Street all the way to Hiawatha, we did take one spur off of it on 28th Avenue South. This is a one-block segment, its southern end delimited by Minnehaha Avenue’s diagonal intersection with 32nd Street and its northern end by the 31st Street campus of Trinity Apartments and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. The church moved here in 1923 from a location north of Lake Street and developed the apartments in 1978 to provide 120 units of affordable housing. In addition to this campus, the 28th Avenue spur provided a view of the Bradshaw funeral home, built in 1961 where the avenue forms a wedge with Minnehaha Avenue.
Resuming out westward traversal of 32nd Street beyond Minnehaha Avenue, we encountered some evidence of the industrial area’s evolution at Snelling Avenue. On the southwest corner of the intersection, Overproof Screen Printing brings a 21st-century aesthetic to a 1917 industrial building (once part of the Minneapolis-Moline complex), while on the northwest corner, Du Nord Craft Spirits advertises their cocktail room (sadly closed at this hour).
The building on the northeast corner with Hiawatha Avenue, on the other hand, is still serving a more longstanding industrial role—at least for the moment. “Founded in 1906” (yes, they really used “founded”), Acme Foundry casts iron at this site, but it was just recently listed for sale with particular mention of its redevelopment potential.
The pedestrian trail on the east side of Hiawatha Avenue is currently under construction, so we needed to detour out of the neighborhood to the west side before re-entering on Lake Street. Across Minnehaha Avenue from the police station I photographed on the prior walk, Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits (also known as Minnehaha Liquors) is a highly visible landmark with a streamlined curve.
A block further west, the Coliseum Building on the northeast corner is the former Freeman’s Department Store (1917–1975), the subject of the ghost sign I saw on the prior walk. This is the same intersection that has the Odd Fellows building on the southeast corner. Just beyond that is Town Talk Diner & Gastropub. Indeed although the 1946 diner portion is just beyond the Odd Fellows building, the main portion of the restaurant extends into the Odd Fellows building, at the right of the photo.
Further down the block, the East Lake Library is significant both as a community institution and as a site of public art, including sculptor Zoran Mojsilov’s 2007 Zoomorphy. I appreciate his permission to photograph this work.
Viewing the sculpture required entering the courtyard area between the library and Trinity on Lake Apartments, at right in the following photo. A pedestrian trail runs through there on the 28th Avenue alignment to the 31st Street Trinity campus I previously photographed. The gateway at the entrance to that trail—shown here looking north toward Lake Street—is labeled “Holy Trinity Lutheran Church” and sports a three-dimensional cross.
After retreating on Lake Street as far as Snelling Avenue, we turned south. Much of the area north of 32nd Street is occupied by Boker’s, Inc., “stamping & washer specialists since 1919,” which is headquartered in a cluster of buildings on the west side of the avenue and has recently expanded into substantial additional space on the east side. As we walked by, the rhythmic sound of their production came out through open garage doors. The large gear that is half buried to the right of the administrative entrance presumably reflects some of their history, but this being the centennial year, they’ve provided much more for history geeks like me: a history brochure available in PDF form. (Thanks!)
Crossing 32nd Street, we passed Overproof Screen Printing again and then immediately afterward, another building in the same 1917 factory complex, this one serving as home base for the Big Bell Ice Cream trucks that provide mobile retailing of frozen treats.
As it turns out, in this neighborhood one doesn’t need to wait for the sound of an ice cream truck. Taking 34th Street over to Minnehaha Avenue in order to head back north, we found ourselves wrapping around the colorful Minnehaha Scoop, which stands on the northwest corner of 34th Street and Minnehaha.
Upon returning to Peace Coffee, we went in to get some cooling drinks and admire the interior decorations. Afterward, we paid a quick visit to Ricardo Levins Morales’s art studio and store next door. Although I didn’t buy anything on this visit, I was reminded of why I’ve bought from him in the past: he really has quite a talent for bringing powerful statements into visual form.
In the next block north, across the avenue from the Bradshaw funeral home, the Minnehaha Avenue Community Garden featured such exuberant growth that the sign was scarcely visible. It’s fun to compare this photo with Janelle Nivens’s from three years earlier, part of her remarkable Minneapolis Saunter.
From Minnehaha, the route’s main loop turned east on 31st Street. First, though, we needed to do a very short spur further north on Minnehaha in order to meet up with the prior day’s walk where it turned the hairpin corner from Minnehaha to 27th Avenue. That brought us past the local post office, where someone had set up a clever trio of rain barrels painted with a reminder to “bee the change.”
The eastward passage on 31st Street, which essentially wrapped up the walk, took us past such sights as Glass Endeavors (a studio and supply store), the Longfellow school, and the old infantorium. The what? From 1905 to 1912, when this area was on the edge of the city, 20 now-residential acres were occupied by Wonderland Amusement Park. Most of the amusement park’s structures were sufficiently specialized that they needed to be taken down—in some cases to be later re-used in Excelsior. But one building remains—an apartment building today, but the Infant Incubator Institute then, an exhibition of neonatal care. As the Minnesota Historical Society describes it,
One key attraction was the place known as the Infant Incubator Institute or Infantorium, where, for a small fee, the public could see premature babies in incubators. At the time, incubators were a new technology and most premature babies died within a few days of birth. The exhibit worked both to promote incubator technology and save lives. The price of admission paid for the staff, and parents owed the park nothing for the care of their baby. The incubators kept the babies warm, and nurses made sure that the newborns received regular feedings from wet-nurses. The babies remained anonymous during their time at Wonderland, though local newspapers covered their progress at the unit by giving them nicknames. Nearly all of the babies sent to the Incubator Institute survived. While such displays would seem strange today, at the time, incubator displays had been a part of the recent World’s Fair in Paris in 1900 and at Coney Island.
Of course, this is far from an exhaustive enumeration of everything we saw on the walk. Correspondingly, there would be more for you to see if you were to pay your own visit. For example, you could watch scrap metal being transferred or challenge yourself to locate the inconspicuous shop of organ builder Geoff Hunt. Or you could tour the trash cans of Minnehaha Avenue. They’re a public art project.
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 July 4, 2019. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.