Walking All the Streets of Northwest Lynnhurst

Some parkland, a school, a church, a restaurant, and a whole bunch of single-family homes. That’s what I saw on my first day walking the Lynnhurst neighborhood. But also some fall colors, a statue, a solar-powered Little Free Library, and a whole bunch of pumpkins.

The neighborhood is bounded by 46th and 54th Streets and Penn and Lyndale Avenues: a perfect square mile aside from a one-block nick out of the northwest corner—or what would be a block, were it not in Lake Harriet. This first day, I went only as far south as 50th Street and as far east as Fremont Avenue. In the route map, blue lines indicate the main loop and red lines the forward-and-back spurs off of it.

The intersection of West Lake Harriet Parkway and Penn Avenue South is the top of a steep stairway I had climbed two years earlier as part of the adjacent Fulton neighborhood. This time I turned my back on both the lakeside stairs and the Fulton neighborhood and faced the southeast corner of the intersection, where I began walking past the large houses that overlook the lake.

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4897 West Lake Harriet Pkwy. (1935)

The southeast side of Lake Harriet has an outlet feeding a tributary of Minnehaha Creek flanked on both sides by roadways. The photo taken from the footbridge at 49th Street shows there is also a pedestrian trail close to the creek’s high water.

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Pedestrian Trail, 49th St. W. & West Minnehaha Pkwy.

After turning south from 49th Street onto Fremont Avenue South, I was interested to see a house—more recent than many in the area—that atypically pointed one of its corners towards the avenue, rather than presenting a flat facade. Actually this was a corner of a small living area over the garage, with the facade of the house’s main portion set further back, out of easy sight.

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4932 Fremont Ave. S. (1993)

From Fremont Avenue, I looped via 50th Street onto northbound Girard Avenue. In the 4900 and 4800 blocks, the west side of this avenue has the backs of houses that front onto West Minnehaha Parkway. I was interested to see each garage labeled with two street numbers, one corresponding to the front door’s location on the parkway and the other to the garage’s own location on Girard. Elsewhere, even when I’ve seen garages accessed from an adjoining street rather than an alley, they’ve shared the main street number.

Most of the houses in this area are in traditional styles, but there’s one very striking house on the east side of the 4700 block that presents a modernist composition of rectangular and cylindrical shapes. It reminded me of Reyner Banham’s book, A Concrete Atlantis: U.S. Industrial Building and European Modern Architecture, 1900–1925. Banham’s thesis is that the European progenitors of the modernist international style were influenced by the rectangular grids and cylindrical towers of US factory buildings and grain elevators, respectively. Given the date range in the book’s subtitle, we can conclude these forms took several decades more to make their way back to this 1959 house, not far from the ancestral grain elevators.

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4745 Girard Ave. S. (Benjamin Gingold, 1959)

At 47th Street, I walked a one-block spur westward as far as Humboldt Avenue. I could have continued a block further to East Lake Harriet Parkway, but I absentmindedly turned back, leaving the second block for a separate one-block spur later on. Perhaps my navigational concentration was compromised by spotting something interesting in one of the backyards: a companion pair of statutes carved from trees, one of St. Francis with a bird on his shoulder, the other a fawn standing nearby and looking at him.

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St. Francis on 47th St. W. Behind 4700 Girard Ave. S.

Returning eastward on 47th Street, I turned south for another block of Fremont Avenue before turning onto westbound 48th Street. At the corner of Fremont and 48th, I photographed both an example of one of the older homes (1907) and a bit of the glorious fall color.

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4754 Fremont Ave. S. (1907)

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1300 Block of 48th St. W.

Where 48th Street reaches West Minnehaha Parkway, it does so at essentially the same point as Humboldt Avenue, so that I was able to turn directly onto the latter. When crossing 47th Street on Humboldt, I filled in the previously omitted spur block to the parkway. I was a bit annoyed at myself for needing to do so, but my mood quickly recovered when I realized this let me see the front and back sides of a house in immediate succession.

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4649 East Lake Harriet Pkwy. (1926)

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Rear of 4649 East Lake Harriet Pkwy. on Humboldt Ave. S.

Aside from the driveway gate, the front and back of that house are stylistically consistent. Not so with the next house to the north. The Humboldt Avenue rear looks quite contemporary, whereas the front on the parkway has a much more traditional, Mediterranean-influenced style.

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Rear of 4637 East Lake Harriet Pkwy. on Humboldt Ave. S.

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4637 East Lake Harriet Pkwy. (1923)

Once I was back to the intersection of the Lake Harriet and Minnehaha Parkways, I turned back away from the lake, this time along the creek’s eastern bank. Rounding the corner of Lynnhurst Park from Minnehaha Parkway to 50th Street, I first saw the recreation center across 50th, then the Burroughs Community School and the main part of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church’s Minneapolis campus.

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Burroughs Community School (1601 50th St. W., 2003) and Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church (5025 Knox Ave. S., 1946)

On the north side of 50th, where I was walking, Mount Olivet has a smaller and somewhat older “1700 Chapel,” named for its address. My assumption was that this was previously Mount Olivet’s home. That turns out to be true, but Mount Olivet didn’t retain it upon building the larger facility across the street. Instead they sold it to the Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist, and in 2011 bought it back. The purposes to which it is now put include hosting a large “pumpkin patch” sale to raise funds for the Cathedral Choir.

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Mt. Olivet 1700 Chapel with Cathedral Choir Pumpkin Patch, 1700 50th St. W. (1939)

Looping through the portion of the neighborhood west of the creek and north of 50th Street, I saw houses largely from the middle half of the 20th century. I happened to photograph an atypically recent one because it was the backdrop for some lovely fall color. A block further south on Knox Avenue, I photographed a more typical group of English country cottage style houses from the 1930s. (The fact that they are set so closely together, in contrast with some of the other blocks, illustrates the range of densities with which Lynnhurst was platted.) I also admired a Little Free Library with LED lighting powered by photovoltaic cells at the far end of the attached bench—the wires run along the bottom of the bench and into the pillar.

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Fall Color on 49th St. Side of 4843 Knox Ave. S.

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4900 Block of Knox Ave. S.

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Solar Bench and Little Free Library, 4900 Block of Knox Ave. S.

Where Knox Avenue reaches the lake, I needed to essentially retrace my much earlier steps along Lake Harriet Parkway as far as Morgan Avenue. However, rather than literally doing so, I took advantage of the parallel pedestrian trail along the lakeshore.

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Lake Harriet Pedestrian Trail at Knox Ave. S.

The intersection of Morgan Avenue South and East Lake Harriet Parkway—or perhaps West Lake Harriet Parkway, depending on which source I consult—is splayed into a triangle with large houses on each side. The one on the west dates from 1927 and is a fine example of the traditional styles that dominate the lakeshore. But I was more interested in the far more recent (2003) one on the east, which is all about orthogonal planes serving to suggest exterior negative spaces as much as to enclose interior positive spaces.

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4855 East Lake Harriet Pkwy., Viewed from Morgan Ave. S. (2003)

Continuing to curl around through this portion of the neighborhood on my way back to Penn Avenue, I had the leisure to observe many intriguing little details. For example, I was intrigued by the interaction of curved arches and rectangular grid on the facade of one house on 49th Street—particularly around the door to the screened porch.

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2116 49th St. W. (1909)

Before wrapping up, a spur south on Penn Avenue to 50th Street brought me to the one commercial building in the area of this day’s walk. Its north half is currently vacant and the south holds Tinto Kitchen, where I stopped for a refreshing lunch of mahi mahi ceviche and plantain chips. Usually I aim for a lunch stop near the middle of the walk, but better late than never.

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Tinto Kitchen, 4959 Penn Ave. S.

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Mahi Mahi Ceviche at Tinto Kitchen

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Plantain Chips at Tinto Kitchen

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 November 2, 2019. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.

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