Walking All the Streets of Southern Lowry Hill

The Lowry Hill neighborhood is named for the “devil’s backbone” ridge that runs through it, approximately on the dividing line between my two walks. Thomas Lowry and his 19th-century peers lived on the north side of the hill, whereas this first walk concentrated on the more grid-like area to the south, largely developed in the 20th century.

I began at point A on the map, the intersection of Hennepin and Franklin Avenues, where the Burch Building has stood since 1910. I took particular interest in the two former doorways, each now converted to windows. On the corner, there is a recessed area with a supporting column in front of it; this is where the entrance to Burch Pharmacy was. The middle of the block had the ornately framed entry to the offices. Because a streetlamp obscured the ornamentation, I also took a closeup.

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Burch Building, 1934 Hennepin Ave.

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Burch Building Former Doorway

My initial northward back-and-forth spur on Hennepin (shown in red on the map) took me through that block and the next, which contains the Second Church of Christ, Scientist and the Kenwood retirement high-rise. (Not shown in my photo is Alex Cook’s 2018 You are Loved mural.)

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Second Church of Christ, Scientist, 1822 Hennepin Ave.

As I backtracked southward, I noticed something interesting about the first four buildings south of Lincoln Avenue. These are generally set back from Hennepin and are oriented with their fronts due north-south, rather than parallel to the diagonally-oriented Hennepin. It’s as though they were oriented to Bryant Avenue, which doesn’t go through here. But the really interesting part is the exception, a small concrete-block storefront building currently occupied by a psychology clinic. What hadn’t penetrated my consciousness on my initial northward pass is that this building is a later trapezoidal addition to a house that fits the pattern of being set back on the compass grid. The house was built in 1900 and the store added in 1953.

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1910 and 1912 Hennepin Ave., the Former an Addition to the Latter

After passing through my starting point I entered the block of Hennepin south of Franklin, thereby starting the main portion of my route, shown in blue. However, I had scarcely done so when it was time to pause for a second breakfast at The Lowry. I don’t know who Joe is, but I figured that anyone special enough to have a breakfast special named after them must be special enough that their special would be a very special special. And indeed the combination of scrambled eggs, ground turkey sausage, spinach, mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes, hashbrowns, and toast was quite satisfying, if rather much to walk on.

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The Lowry, 2112 Hennepin Ave.

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Joe’s Special at the Lowry

After breakfast, I turned west on 22nd Street West. This is very nearly a three-way intersection, as Dupont Avenue South enters from the north quite nearby. I’d be back that way at the end of my walk to catch my bus home at point B. Meanwhile I admired the Lowry Rose Building on the northwest corner, an 1893 house converted to offices. I was interested to see “tea room” in the building permit index, and indeed the 1935 city directory shows a restaurant as well as the residences of the owner and a couple of waitresses. It looks like a lovely site for the purpose.

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Lowry Rose Building, 2124 Dupont Ave. S.

Away from Hennepin Avenue, this is a residential area. Turning north on Emerson Avenue, I quickly saw a sign of the area’s neighborliness—a sign in the literal sense. At the time of my walk, the block party was coming up that very night. (You can see that I’ve procrastinated my write-up.) I also saw many dwellings. The townhouse cluster from the 1970s caught my eye as an example of denser housing intermingled with the dominant single-family detached houses. As to the latter, they vary in age and style, but many are like the two I show here, which bracket the turn of the century. They are reasonably large and ornate without going so far as to be mansions, and the lots are only slightly wider than the houses. To my eye, these attributes suggest this southern part of the neighborhood was developed mainly for the upper middle-class.

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Block Party Sign on Little Library, 2100 Emerson Ave. S.

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Manor Homes of Lowry Hills, 1900 Block of Emerson Ave. S. (1976)

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1906 Emerson Ave. S. (1901)

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1808 Emerson Ave. S. (1895)

Winding through Fremont Avenue and onto Girard, I continued to see a broadly similar mix of housing. Two dwellings on Girard stood out in part for their ages—one older than most, the other younger. The 1889 house is also unusual for its stone and brick construction, including a dramatic romanesque entry arch not commonly seen on a house this size. The 1959 building is a hip-roofed single-story duplex, a style that would stand out less if it were five miles further south.

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1912 Girard Ave. S. (1889)

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1790–1788 Girard Ave. S. (1959)

In addition to looking at the houses as I wound my way gradually westward, I also paid attention to the gardening. The sloped terrain provides lots of opportunity, as in this example from the block of 22nd Street between Irving and James Avenues, which I walked as a spur.

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1616 22nd St. W.

Because James Avenue jogs a bit at Franklin Avenue rather than going straight through, I took that point as the end of my initial westward meander. Turning east, I followed Franklin all the way back to my starting point at Hennepin Avenue. On the northwestern corner of Franklin and Emerson Avenues, an apartment complex named “The Gables” interested me for way two buildings face inward to a common courtyard spanned by a central arcade. There are any number of arrangements of apartment buildings around courtyards, but this particular style strikes me more than most as a forerunner of bungalow courts.

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The Gables, 1208–1200 Franklin Ave. W. (1908)

By far the most dramatic structure on Franklin Avenue is a block further east, on the southeast corner with Dupont. However, I couldn’t get a good photo of the Scottish Rite Temple when I was so close to it, so you’ll need to wait until the end of the walk, when I was on Dupont.

Between the temple and Hennepin Avenue, the south side of Franklin Avenue is occupied by a retail node, which extends around the corner onto Hennepin. The most important shop in this cluster (for me) is Sebastian Joe’s Ice Cream, where I enjoyed a scoop of the mango sorbet. Across Hennepin on the north side are the Belmont Apartments, constructed in 1920 as the Belmont Hotel. With its substantial size (87 units) and a location visible from, but not directly on, Hennepin Avenue, this building is definitely a neighborhood landmark.

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The Belmont Apartments, 1000 Franklin Ave. W.

Turning between the Belmont and Burch buildings on Colfax Avenue, I continued north as far as Thomas Lowry Park, which lies between Douglas and Mt. Curve Avenues. As at the beginning of the walk, some newer townhouses are mixed in with the older apartments and detached houses.

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Townhomes, 1800 Block of Colfax Ave. S. (1987)

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Thomas Lowry Park

Curving around the park on Mt. Curve Avenue brought me past the southern, uphill side of the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis. Rather than show a photo here, I’ll wait for the northern, downhill side on Groveland Terrace in the next walk.

Beyond the park, Douglas Avenue is lined by apartment buildings. A particularly interesting cluster of three, the Lowry Hill Apartments, spans the southwestern corner of Douglas and Hennepin Avenues. Lovingly profiled by Thomas Regnier, they date from 1904 and have addresses of 715 Douglas Avenue and 1760 and 1770 Hennepin Avenue. As a pedestrian walking by, I noted the striking facades and the retention of garden-level retail spaces. The three buildings combined have a similar number of units to the Belmont.

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Lowry Hill Apartments, 715 Douglas Ave. (1904)

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Antiques Bel Air, 1758 Hennepin Ave., in the Lowry Hill Apartments, 1760 Hennepin Ave.

From Hennepin Avenue, I took Summit Avenue to the western edge of the neighborhood, Logan Avenue. Two highlights there are an unusual condo building and St. Paul’s Church on Lake of the Isles. If you zoom in on the church photo in the area of the steeple spire, you’ll see more clearly the hawk (or bird, anyhow) that was perched until a moment earlier on the spire’s cross. You’ll also see a shadowy version of the same bird a bit closer to the cross and with its wings positioned a half-stroke earlier. That’s an artifact of the camera’s High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode, which combines multiple images taken in close succession at different exposures.

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1819–1821 Logan Ave. S. (1914)

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St. Paul’s Church on Lake of the Isles, 1917 Logan Ave. S.

After finishing up the various western streets (Logan, Knox, and James Avenues and Lake of the Isles Parkway), I returned east on Lincoln Avenue to Bryant Avenue, then curled around past the remaining side of Thomas Lowry Park to Dupont Avenue. As you can tell, I’m skipping over a lot in this retelling. Compressing a 7.8-mile walk down to a reasonable-sized summary will do that. Some of the photos I’ve left on the proverbial cutting-room floor pain me. But I hope you will appreciate those I chose.

In particular, I’ve chosen two from Dupont Avenue South. One is a house that impressed me for its decorative touches—in particular the gothic arches on the porch and dormer windows and the scrollwork fascia over the entry. And the other is the Scottish Rite Temple, about which more anon.

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1812 Dupont Ave. S. (1900)

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Minneapolis Scottish Rite Temple, 2011 Dupont Ave. S. (Across Franklin Ave.)

The temple was built as the Fowler Methodist Church in 1894. However, as best I understand the progression, none of the impressive Franklin Avenue facade shown in my photo dates from this point. Rather, the southernmost portion of the Dupont Avenue face is all there was then. I didn’t get a good photo, but if you look at Google’s street view, you can see the differences between the two portions. The major expansion was in 1906, but that seems to have been something of a strategic error—within a handful of years the congregation merged with Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church and soon thereafter began building the yet-larger structure I saw in the Loring Park neighborhood. This obsoleted the practically brand-new Franklin Avenue structure so far as the methodists were concerned, and “On October 2, 1913, the members of Minneapolis Valley Scottish Rite voted unanimously to take over the Fowler Methodist Church property, beginning on January 1, 1915.”

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 August 22, 2019. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.

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