Big houses, bigger apartment buildings, really big churches. Even though there is no direct cause-and-effect linkage, it makes sense that a neighborhood with some dense housing also has a cathedral, a basilica, and four other churches that are of similar grandeur. I saw half those churches on my first of two days walking the Loring Park neighborhood, together with the park itself, some of the housing, and various odds and ends.
My companion and I started at the northwest corner of one of those churches, Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church—that’s point A on the map, the corner of Groveland and Hennepin Avenues. We walked south on Hennepin past the church and took our first spur (shown in red), which led under the freeway ramps. I spotted a touching note on one of the pillars: “I love and miss you [name redacted] with all my heart. [name redacted]” I don’t want to infringe on these individuals’ privacy, but I do want to acknowledge that this is a space where serious emotions have come to rest.
Backtracking as far as the off-ramp from westbound I-94, we turned east along that ramp. Turning onto a freeway off-ramp may seem like an odd choice for pedestrians, but this particular one has a sidewalk along it as far as Dell Place, and indeed the street sign at Dell Place indicates the off-ramp has a dual identity as a portion of Summit Avenue. (There’s no street sign at Hennepin and the city maps are silent.) Aside from its role in our main meandering path (shown in blue), this bit of Summit Avenue allowed me to photograph the church from the south, emphasizing how the modern addition fits in with the gothic portions.
The northern end of Dell Place connects with Groveland Avenue just across from the twin towers of Summit House, constructed between 1966 and 1969. Anyone who has looked toward Loring Park over the ensuing half century—even if from a substantial distance—knows these icons of the skyline. However, a closer look reveals some of techniques architect Paul Pink used to given their rhythmic facades an usual dynamism. Notice the asymmetric placement of the balconies and windows on the left side of the photo contrasting with the symmetric placement on the right. The skewed orientation of the balconies and the interplay between horizontal and vertical stripes of varying width and color value also add considerable energy.
Long before large apartment building came to the neighborhood, large houses did. The socioeconomic class for which those houses were constructed generally moved further out, so many of the houses that haven’t been torn down have been repurposed. Curving around from Groveland onto Clifton Avenue, three examples are the Nancy Page Residence (short-term mental health stabilization), Eugene J. Carpenter House (bed-and-breakfast), and Elbert L. Carpenter House (offices).
Not that higher-density housing waited until the 1960s, mind you. As in most of Minneapolis, the 1920s were a boom decade for construction, and in the Loring Park neighborhood, this boom came with increased density. We got to see a prominent example as we returned to the corner of Groveland and Hennepin Avenues. The 1927 renaissance revival building at 510 Groveland was originally an “apartment hotel.” As I remarked in a prior neighborhood, apartment hotels were “for middle-class people who wanted private quarters (furnished or unfurnished) but without the trouble of a private kitchen. Not exactly a boarding house, nor an apartment building or hotel, it was a distinct class of residence.” Today the co-op building’s units have their own kitchens, but the shared dining space remains in the form of the P.S. Steak restaurant.
Proceeding north on Hennepin, we passed a second large, gothic church—St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral—followed by Loring Park itself. On this side of the park, the most visually striking feature is the bridge allowing pedestrians and bicyclists to cross over to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Alas, I didn’t manage to take a decent photo of this recently restored Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge, a 1988 design by Siah Armajani. You can find photos on the web, but an in-person visit is your best option for appreciating just how elegant it is.
North of the park, the wedge-shaped area between Hennepin Avenue and Harmon Place is occupied by Loring Corners, the former Fawkes Building, a 1911 epicenter for Minneapolis’s entry into the automotive age. (Really it is more an attached group of buildings than a single building.) We first walked the Hennepin Avenue side as a spur, seeing a miscellaneous assortment of businesses including HiFi Hair and Records, which is visually highlighted by a tall aperture, presumably a former garage door.
Backtracking to the Harmon Place side of the wedge, we got a good view into the alley between the Loring Corners building and the next pair of attached buildings. This entire block of Harmon Place is occupied by eateries—Café and Bar Lurcat to the left of alley, The Bird and 4 Bells to the right. We stopped at the last of these for brunch. I enjoyed the Oysters Foch, and my companion spoke highly of the Crab-Cake Benedict. For those not in the know, Oysters Foch are a creation of Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans: toast points smeared with liver pâté, topped with fried oysters, and bathed in Sauce Colbert, which is a marriage of demi-glace and hollandaise. Chef Scott Pampuch explained to me that they aim for a 50–50 balance between the two constituent sauces not only because that is classic but also because it produces a sauce that accents the dish rather than overwhelming it. Antoine’s, by contrast, leans so far toward the demi-glace that their sauce is nicknamed “chocolate.” I haven’t done a comparison tasting, but I can say that the flavors at 4 Bells are indeed well balanced.
This segment of Harmon Place ends after 4 Bells, so we turned onto Maple Street South and (after crossing Hennepin Avenue) 16th Street North. These brought us past Minneapolis Community & Technical College and the Basilica of St. Mary, both of which I’m leaving for the second walk. However, I did turn on the far side of the Basilica to photograph the associated Basilica School, a 1913 building now housing Child Garden Montessori.
If we had followed 16th Street under I-394, we would have left the neighborhood, so we instead turned east onto Hawthorne Avenue. The most interesting block of this avenue is the one that no longer exists for autos, having been reduced to just a sidewalk through the intrusion of an I-394 off-ramp. This is the 1200 block, and we walked it as a spur beyond our 13th-street turning point. On the corner with 13th, the Swinford Apartments are an 1897 historic landmark, paired with the adjoining 1886 Swinford Townhouses in the middle of the block. Needless to say, these stately residences were not sited to look out over a freeway. The region between Hawthorn and Linden Avenues and 12th and 13th Streets was instead Wilson Park.
Thirteenth Street and Yale Place brought us back to Loring Park at the corner with Willow Street. (The intervening sights are again on hold until the second walk, which overlaps in this area.) The corner of Yale and Willow is home to Booth Manor, a 21-story apartment tower for seniors built in 1977. The lower flag at the bottom of the photo bears the Salvation Army’s motto, “Blood and Fire.”
Continuing southeast on Willow Street, the park side of the street is highlighted by the Berger Fountain, named for its donor—part of “the strangest origin story,” in Bill Lindeke’s words. The dandelion-shaped fountain is a replica of Robert Woodward’s El Alamein Memorial Fountain in Sydney Australia, which Ben Berger saw on his travels. Many people have posed in front of the Berger Fountain for photos. At the time of my visit, the artist Dangerous Linda was in the middle of a shoot, which I appreciate her permission to crash.
Willow Street bends to a due south orientation, after which we were slated to turn east on Grant Street. First, however, we continued on Willow another block to 14th Street. This let us see two of the area’s more recent apartment buildings, the mid-rise Eitel Apartments and, looming behind it from beyond Spruce Place, the 2014 high-rise LPM Apartments. With its 36-story height and distinctive lenticular shape, the LPM has eclipsed Summit House as the neighborhood’s long-distance landmark. We’d get closer to it later in the walk, but this view from a block away better captures its omnipresent stature.
A bit further down the block, we could see what is so special about the Eitel Apartments. Completed in 2008, they extend off from the 1911 core of the Doctors Memorial Hospital, some later portions of the hospital having meanwhile been demolished. The hospital’s founder, Dr. George G. Eitel, surely can be remembered for many positive accomplishments, but it is sobering to read of his role in the eugenics movement, including performing the first 150 surgical sterilizations of persons institutionalized in Faribault.
Returning to Grant Street, we only got one block further east before it was time for another southward spur, this one three blocks long on Spruce Place. After passing between the Eitel and LPM apartments, we crossed 14th Street and came to the Emerson Spanish Immersion Learning Center. This 1925 building is currently being extended to the east, toward LaSalle Avenue. From Spruce Place, the building looks much as it always must have, though the colorful mosaics are presumably new.
A block further south, as we crossed 15th Street, we got sight of another historic rowhouse structure the same age as the Swinford. This one was designed by noted architect Adam Lansing Dorr. I’ve photographed a bunch of his buildings in other neighborhoods, sometimes without mentioning his name.
Continuing on Spruce Place to its tee intersection with Oak Grove Street let us see more apartment buildings with one little house tucked in amongst them, but I’ll spare you the photos. Returning to Grant Street, we walked another block east, then turned south on LaSalle. At the corner of LaSalle and 14th, we stopped into Lakes & Legends Brewing Company, one of the ground-floor tenants within the boxy five-story pedestal that sits under the LPM Apartments’ sleek tower. Among the more unusual items on the menu board was a shandy made with orange mango juice, which my companion enjoyed. Outside on 14th Street, we encountered a yarn bomb.
Two blocks west on 14th Street brought us back to the park with a tee intersection at Willow Street. That’s the spot where our spur in front of the Eitel Apartments had ended. Now we were ready to proceed another block south on Willow Street to where it ends at 15th Street. This 1400 block of Willow Street includes another building attributed to Dr. George G. Eitel, the Loring Medical Building, constructed in 1926. Although the outermost, metal portion of the entry is presumably newer, the original renaissance revival facade is still quite visible.
At 15th Street, we first took a long westward spur to Oak Grove Street, then reversed course on 15th Street to LaSalle, which took us to the eastern end of Oak Grove for a complete westward traversal of that street. Taken as a whole, this portion of the route allowed us to see the strip between 15th and Oak Grove from both sides, a logical combination given that several of the properties extend the full depth of this strip. One example would be the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis, which faces Oak Grove Street. I was interested to see that the rear of the building on 15th Street is just as ornate.
Back on Spruce Place, I had remarked on one small house tucked in amongst apartment buildings. Another example of this pattern recurred on 15th Street, and this time I decided it was worth a photo. This 24×40 cottage was constructed in 1898 and within the next couple decades became bracketed between the apartment building in the background and another that is just out of the photo to the right.
Several of the larger apartment buildings have U-shaped plans so as to provide space for more windows. On Oak Grove Street we saw one of these (built in 1920) that has a one-story lobby projecting through the central space so as to partition it into two cozy little courtyards on each side, rather than a single large one. This building is still known as the “Oak Grove Apartment Hotel,” reflecting its historical membership in that class of residences.
Although some of the high-rise towers date from the 1960s and 1970s, the low- or mid-rise apartment buildings are largely clustered in either the early 20th century or the early 21st century. Therefore, I was particularly interested to see one from 1967, essentially the mid-point of the gap. The facade is dominated by a grid of balconies recessed into niches, which reminds me of a doll house. I’m more accustomed to seeing this style in the suburbs.
After that 1967 building, the next two are the 1893 Dunn Mansion and the 2012 Vue Apartment Homes—quite a contrast. (Summit House is visible in the background to further diversify the mix.) The mansion, an example of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, is now used for offices. It was built for Dr. James Dunn, a prominent surgeon (specializing in genito-urinary diseases) who benefited from European post-graduate studies. I was interested to see from a newspaper clipping that surgery was more dangerous in the pre-antibiotic age for the surgeon as well as the patient: Dr. Dunn contracted blood poisoning via a finger while performing an operation.
The wedge-shaped lot where Oak Grove and 15th Streets merge is occupied by a particularly elegant beaux arts building, four stories tall around the outside, although the central portion is only two-stories high, an arrangement allowing more natural illumination. Built in 1924 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, it moved in the opposite direction from the Dunn Mansion: from office use to residential. Originally the home office of the Northwestern National Life Insurance Company, it now has apartments.
From there back to Hennepin Avenue was just a short distance further, where I caught my bus home on the far side of the avenue. I would be back the next day to walk the area east of LaSalle Avenue as well as to fill in the gaps north of the park.