The Lyndale neighborhood is named for the Lyndale School, which in turn was named for Lyndale Avenue. The original school was immediately east of the avenue, where Painter Park now is. The avenue was in turn named for William S. King’s Lyndale Farm, but that was to the west of the avenue. The neighborhood runs east from Lyndale Avenue to Interstate 35W and south from Lake Street to 36th Street.
I started and ended at the present-day Lyndale Community School for my first walk in the neighborhood. The school lies between the points marked A and B on the map, to the west of them. Specifically, I began at point B, the intersection of 34th Street West and Pleasant Avenue South. From there, I walked north to point A along a pedestrian path next to the school; that path isn’t known to Google Maps and so I added it manually as a blue line from B to A. From there, the route’s main loop continues as the blue path winding from A eventually back to B. A number of red spurs branch off from that main loop, each walked forward and immediately back.
The school building, constructed in 1968, is largely circular in plan, so most of the exterior walls are convex. However, the eastern side of the building has two protrusions that have concave walls, one of which is covered by a mural. That mural resulted in 2016 from an extensive Lyndale Mural Project, under the leadership of artist Greta McLain, which engaged partners from the school and numerous community organizations. I gratefully acknowledge McLain’s permission to photograph the mural.
North of the school, I turned west on 33rd Street and a block later encountered two more murals on the Uptown Market, which stands on the northeast corner of 33rd and Grand Avenue. As the first photo shows, the market is also of some architectural interest, being a 1923 addition to an 1893 house (converted to a duplex in 1954); the addition also provides a rooftop patio. The murals were painted in 2015. On the 33rd Street face, Brookita Corazón celebrates Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun). Her frame of painted vines continues around the corner to the east face, where they give way to real vines. On the Grand Avenue face, Jessse Quam’s affectionate tribute to Minneapolis combines historic and contemporary elements. I gratefully acknowledge these artists’ permission as well.
A block and a half further west, I encountered an unusually long and thin brick-faced building with a blank east wall (one of the narrow ends) and factory-like windows along the south wall. The west end (not shown here) has the doorway with a lintel inscribed “M.G.E. CO.” That was my sign that this had been an electric substation of the Minneapolis General Electric Company, a predecessor of Northern States Power and hence Xcel Energy. However, that same entrance also has another sign: “GARFIELD AQUARIUM EST. 1996.” A Southwest Journal article provides the explanation, although the article is focused on the building’s development potential.
After crossing Garfield, the final block of 33rd Street before reaching the neighborhood’s edge at Lyndale Avenue runs along the northern side of Painter Park. I also turned south on Lyndale for a one-block spur along the western side of the park, which provided a view of the recreation center.
After returning north on Lyndale Avenue to 33rd Street, I continued to 32nd Street and temporarily even as far as 31st. Two of the businesses I passed in the 3200 block had renovated their facades, the one in an older building opting for a traditional style and the one in a more recent building for a modern style. And in the 3100 block, Redeemer Health and Rehab Center had also done some freshening up—at least on the side facing 31st Street. On the Lyndale Avenue side, I was more interested in the combination of occupants than the building: Grandma’s House Children’s Center integrates child-care into an intergenerational setting.
After retreating south to 32nd Street, I turned east, following that street all the way to the other edge of the neighborhood at Stevens Avenue. In the block between Pleasant and Pillsbury Avenues I encountered another example of a storefront addition to a residence—really quite a glorious one, especially when one includes the gardening. The storefront houses a hair salon.
Two blocks further east, I passed along the southern edge of Metro Transit’s Nicollet Garage, a utilitarian concrete-block structure from 1991. Next came a discontinuity in 32nd Street as it crosses Nicollet Avenue; the street jogs a bit to the north. (Why? I don’t know. In this area, only 32nd and 33rd do this.) Also, this is where the street’s directional designation changes from West to East and the numbers change from descending to ascending.
On the east side of Nicollet, 32nd Street only runs two more blocks before its tee intersection with Stevens Avenue. (In the days before Interstate 35W, it continued beyond that point.) In the first block, the most interesting sight was Valerie’s Taqueria on the north side. I wasn’t ready for lunch without some more walking first, but I’d like to check this place out sometime. In the second block, the entire south side is occupied by MN Adult & Teen Challenge. That facility is composed of interconnected buildings of varying ages. In particular, the oldest of them is on the southeast corner of 1st Avenue South and 32nd Street East, and it is old enough to make me wonder what institution it originally housed. The answer is that it was the Home for Children & Aged Women starting in 1885.
The most architecturally noteworthy building was at the end of this block on the north side: the New Oil Christian Center occupies the building that was originally the Stewart Memorial Presbyterian Church, constructed in 1909 in a prairie school design by Purcell and Feick. A nationally registered historic landmark, it followed closely on the heels of Frank Lloyd Wright’s pathbreaking Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois.
As the church photo indicates, construction underway on Stevens Avenue included the sidewalk. However, I managed to stick with my route, returning east on 33rd Street. Where that street crosses Nicollet Avenue, the northwest corner has a convenience store (Casablanca Foods) in what looks like a 1970s gas station, but the southwest corner has a much older structure, seven townhomes from 1891.
The next block contains apartment buildings of varying ages, but its highlight unquestionably occurs at the northwestern end, where Zion Lutheran Church stands on the corner with Pillsbury Avenue.
Kitty-corner from the church, an otherwise typical 1889 house is rendered distinctive by the use of bicycle wheels to screen the porch. Another house on the block from the same decade is even more dramatically transformed by the enclosure of its corner porch. Not that enclosing porches is uncommon—I see it all the time on older houses. But this is the first I recall seeing that uses an A-frame-style extension of the main roof.
At the end of that block, I was back to Pleasant Avenue, where I had begun my loop through 33rd and 32nd Streets. So I turned north toward Lake Street. Two of the sights along the way were St. Francis Liberal Catholic Church and a 1961 6-unit apartment building. The former is noteworthy for its unique contribution to the city’s diversity of religious institutions, the latter for exemplifying how simple manipulations of facade elements can make a building stand out in a way unequaled by its contemporaries.
At Lake Street, I turned west for a one-block spur. The retail establishments on this block included two offering food—Wiilo Coffee, with a Somali menu, and Los Andes Restaurant, with an Ecuadorian and Peruvian menu. I lunched at the latter, ordering a bowl of encebollado ·with a side of patacones. (The other option would have been rice.) Encebollado is an Ecuadorian soup with a name that refers to its use of onions, but its major ingredients also include tuna and yuca. It was tasty and nourishing, but honestly the highlight of the meal was the one part left unnamed—the table sauce that I applied to the patacones (fried green plantains). A small bowl of it was on the table even before I ordered. I’m pretty sure it is ají de tomate de arbol, a chili-pepper sauce made with the pulp of tamarillo (or tree tomato) fruit. I gather this sauce is commonly referred to as just ají, but since the fruit contributed so much to the character of this sauce, I don’t want to neglect it.
After lunch, I retraced my steps on Lake Street as far as Pleasant Avenue, then continued eastward beyond my turning point, Pillsbury Avenue, into another block-long spur to Blaisdell Avenue. At the far end of this spur, a New Horizon Academy location stands out visually from the neutral-colored mixed-use buildings. In one of those buildings, a ground-floor retail tenant caught my eye for its combination of ethnicities: Ainu Shams Halal Foods & Dollar Store also lists the “productos Mexicanos” of Los Compadres Market.
Turning south on Pillsbury Avenue, I finally got a close-up view of a trio of brutalist public-housing towers from 1971 that had been visible much of the walk. (One of the three is obscured in the photo.) It seems they were originally known as the Charles Horn Towers, but the sign indicates that two are now Horn Terrace, with one remaining Horn Tower. If anyone knows the story behind this, I’d appreciate learning it. The area’s affordable housing also includes the Albright Townhomes across 31st Street from the towers.
The next block of Pillsbury Avenue includes the side entrance of Zion Lutheran Church; I had previously passed the front on 33rd Street. Parking lots only rarely attract my attention on these walks, and this is one of those rare cases. To avoid a spoiler, all I can say is to read the sign.
In the southern half of the next block, I walked along the eastern edge of the Lyndale Community School property. This has quite a bit of open space —a grass field as well as a structured playground, swimming pool, wild prairie garden, and a vegetable garden. Perhaps this spaciousness reflects the original idea of combining park and school in one location, before the park board opted for the separate Painter Park. My photo shows the vegetable garden—the Lyndale Community School Garden—which a sign indicates is used to grow food for the school lunches.
I continued to enjoy the sights as I finished walking south on Pillsbury Avenue to 36th Street: a mostly transparent little free library, some raised garden beds, and brightly painted house trim, for example. I’ll show here just one sight that stood out, a butterfly-adorned duplex on a thoughtfully landscaped property. (It also features a mystery. Can anyone explain the chain hanging from the eaves?)
I walked three blocks of 36th Street—two of them as back-and-forth spurs—and then turned north on Blaisdell Avenue. There were interesting sights throughout this area, including a landmark prairie-school house on 36th. To keep the number of photos manageable, I’ll skip ahead to the bold Blaisdell YMCA, renovated and expanded in 2008 by LSE Architects, and from there to a couple pockets of flowering plants.
At the northern edge of the neighborhood, as Blaisdell neared Lake Street, I saw the southern side of Intown on Lake, a 1992 mixed-use building with condos above retail/medical space. This is the side facing a parking lot, as opposed to the north side, which is “on Lake” as the name indicates. Once I turned onto Lake Street, I could see signs directing pedestrians to the parking lot entrances.
Heading south from Lake Street on Nicollet Avenue, I first passed a full-block shopping center on the east side of the street. From Lake and Nicollet, the two large tenants are visually dominant: an Office Depot and a Dollar Tree. However, looking more closely I could see a busy laundromat, a beauty supply store, a Chinese restaurant, and a Mexican bakery, among others.
Two of the other corners of 31st and Nicollet have boxy modern buildings, a Wells Fargo branch and the 5th Precinct police station. (The remaining corner is the bus garage.) Beyond the police station, that block continues with Twin City Tatoo, a couple houses, and then Valerie’s Carniceria (Meat Market). The carniceria is around the corner from the taqueria I saw earlier, as indicated by the sharply painted sign on the southern stucco wall. It also is graced by one of the Birds of a Different Feather—see my walk in northern King Field for more regarding that.
Continuing south on Nicollet, I saw more residential and retail buildings and one quite striking “vacant” lot, as shown in the photo. The lot is vacant only in the sense of having no building on it, not in the sense of being empty. The northern half is a garden, and the southern half (abutting the corner of Nicollet Avenue and 34th Street) is “a pollinator friendly sporting turf (specifically designed as a pitch for the lawn game of Kubb)”, overseen by “Fluffy the Dragon,” painted by Mr. HBAK. I thank Devin Hogan for filling in these details for me. He and Josh Dibley developed the lot. He also explained that the dragon began elsewhere, and at four times the size—six more humps are in storage. It started as reinforcement for the bollards that were ineffectually buffering the bike lane on Blaisdell. As to the garden, his hope is that it will eventually feed into the Lyndale Community Meals.
Nearing 36th Street, I passed the Lyndale Neighborhood Association office (home to yet more Birds of a Different Feather) and then a U-Haul location with a facade that serves as a time capsule from 1967. It’s neither as old as the Stewart Memorial Church nor as stately, and there are surely others like it elsewhere. But fewer and fewer every year, I’d imagine. It meets my prime criterion for historical preservation, which is that it immediately calls to mind the time period of its creation.
Back on 36th Street, my serpentine main route took me one block east, to 1st Avenue, but again I extended beyond this with a spur—this time even further than Stevens Avenue, as I was able to continue out onto the bridge over 35W to the midway point of the freeway, which is the true neighborhood boundary. The view of freeway construction was interesting—I could see how much of the work revolves around providing stormwater somewhere to go, as opposed to directly supporting the vehicle lanes. This is a recurrent truth for the whole city. Minneapolis is largely a drained wetland, and keeping it that way requires a lot of engineering.
After returning to 1st Avenue and turning north, I only walked two blocks north—my route was winding down. The second of those two blocks held a special treat, though. By pre-arrangement, I was stopping in at a private residence–something that has only happened once before in the preceding 116 walks of the All of Minneapolis series.
More specifically, I was dropping in on the tail end of a “solar brunch” Luther Krueger was holding for friends and family. To say he is serious about solar cookers is a gross understatement. He gave me a list of the 51 that he knows he owns—he hasn’t gotten around yet to hauling his entire collection out for a physical inventory to catch the ones he forgot to list. The photo shows him surrounded by the minority he was using that day, presenting the freshly baked soda bread, one component of a lengthy menu. I appreciate his hospitality.
At the end of his block, I turned west on 34th Street and completed my circuit back to my starting point at Pleasant Avenue. As I crossed Nicollet Avenue, I passed Ramen Kazama kitty-corner from the kubb pitch and admired the chalk work on their sidewalk sign board. The board advertises a special—but the word special could apply to the sign itself as well. The whole walk had been chock full of specialness—I was glad I was saving the other half of the neighborhood for another day.
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 October 9, 2019. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.