A month after walking the northwest corner of Lynnhurst, I returned for the northeast. I again stayed north of 50th Street, a busy through-road one doesn’t lightly cross. This time I wound my way from Fremont Avenue to the neighborhood’s eastern boundary at Lyndale Avenue, then returned with a perpendicularly-oriented serpentine.
Already from the prior day’s walk, I knew that the neighborhood, although almost entirely residential, is not uniform in the size or age of its houses. Now as I started this second walk northbound in the 4600 block of Fremont Avenue, the first houses I saw were toward the larger end of the size range, including a couple that I later verified were from the late 19th century.
After turning east on 46th Street (the neighborhood’s northern border), I initially walked the two blocks to Dupont Avenue before retreating to Emerson Avenue for the first southward pass. (On the route map, the forward-and-back spur from Emerson to Dupont is shown in red.)
One payoff of going as far as Dupont Avenue was that I could see the house on the corner from its 46th Street side, rather than only (later) from its main Dupont Avenue face. I’ve always admired the practicality of a porte cochère, particularly in the days before attached garages, and this was a particularly striking example.
Walking the four blocks south on Emerson Avenue, my overall impression was that the houses tended to get smaller and not as old as I neared 50th Street. Contrast, for example, the first house I saw—a four-square on the southwest corner with 46th Street—with a craftsman bungalow from the final block.
Trying to discern broad trends can be distracting, though. What I really like to do is keep my eyes open for whatever I come across, however idiosyncratic. For example, as I headed back north on Dupont Avenue, I hadn’t prepared any mental categories into which I could slot a wooden garage door glowing in the sun or a blue-and-white creature placidly grazing in a front yard. But there they were.
Southbound on Colfax Avenue, I continued to spot odd little things such as a front-yard sculpture or a lone duplex standing amidst single-family houses. But this avenue also included some noteworthy architecture, such as the two houses shown in the photos. The first represents an unusual transition between craftsman style and early modernism, while the second is a prairie-school design by the noted firm of Purcell, Feick, and Elmslie. The ornamentation over its entry is particularly worth zooming in on. Larry Millett’s AIA Guide to the Minneapolis Lake District has helpful information about these and other houses in the area.
At the northeast corner with 50th Street, I encountered another example of how the rich sun-dappled tones of a fall morning can accentuate what is already an accent item, in this case a front-yard fountain.
Turning onto 50th Street, the scene dramatically changed. That’s because the previously shown corner house is the last residential property before entering the commercial node extending outward from Bryant Avenue on 50th Street, nearly a block in each direction. In the block between Colfax and Bryant, that includes Wood and Stone Designs, Ideas that Kick, and LaMac Cleaners.
In theory, I was saving the block between Bryant and Aldrich Avenues for a future walk. However, before turning north on Bryant Avenue I cheated a bit by crossing the avenue and visiting the first two storefronts on the north side of 50th Street. On the corner, Zinnia Folk Arts was closed, but I was able to peak in the window at some of the “gifts handmade in Mexico.” I’ve bought a couple nice items there on prior occasions.
The next shop to the east was my lunch stop, Whole Sum Kitchen. The interior has a bright, airy ambiance, which several people were using as a comfortable coffee shop to hang out in and work. I had not been here before and had mentally pegged it as a juice and smoothie place, but I was pleased to see that the menu offered far more. Apparently I’m not the only one with this misconception—on my way out, I spotted a sign on the sidewalk announcing “way more than juice and smoothies—amazing food too!”
The particular amazing food I ordered started with a cup of vegan minestrone, its richly simmered vegetables and beans accented by a brighter sprinkling of green onions. Then I had one of the grain bowls, the “dragon bowl,” opting for the wild-rice blend rather than quinoa. I was pleasantly surprised by what the wild-rice had been blended with—it included an aromatic red rice. On top of that base, this particular bowl included an appealing range of textures, flavors, and colors: roasted broccoli, carrots, kale, pickled mushrooms, and edamame, topped with sesame seeds and a ginger vinaigrette. One can also add a choice of protein; I’d intended to order the bowl plain but accidentally wound up with the chicken. (They offered to remake it, but that seemed a needless waste.) Honestly, I’d have to say that the menu’s characterization of the chicken as “protein” was on-target: it added more to the bowl’s nutritional content than to its flavor.
Turning north on Bryant Avenue, I immediately saw that it has a different mix of residential densities. Recall that elsewhere, I had seen almost entirely single-family detached homes with just a very sparse sprinkling of duplexes. But here on Bryant, the very first building on the west side is a five-unit building, constructed in 1928 as apartments and now owned as condos. Likewise, I could see any number of duplexes within eyesight as I looked north up the avenue. (Later, I also saw two more apartment buildings.) This higher density reflects the fact that Bryant Avenue had a streetcar line. Indeed, for a time the corner of 50th and Bryant was the southern terminus of this line, before it was extended.
Despite my interest in these denser housing options, one single-family home caught my eye because of its chamfered front, like one half of an octagon. This was built in 1911 from a 1910 design by George Elmslie of the well-known Purcell, Feick, and Elmslie firm. It served initially not as a house but as the studio for the landscape architect Paul Mueller. (The basement-level garage tucked into the hillside was a later addition.)
Many of the duplexes on Bryant Avenue are two-story structures with a single entry door serving both units. However, I photographed two that deviated from this norm. The first is a rather radical departure and was constructed in 1940, later than most of the neighborhood. True, it still has a shared entry door, but instead of having two levels, it has two wings and only a partial upper level. I was particularly interested to see that each wing has its own enclosed porch, a nice amenity on such a compact structure. The second duplex I photographed (from 1923) is more like the other two-level duplexes, but with a pair of entrances.
In the 4600 block, there are apartment buildings on both sides of the avenue, each one lot away from the 46th Street corner. The one on the east is another five-unit structure, but the one on the west is larger, containing 10 one-bedroom units, 6 two-bedroom units, and an efficiency unit. I photographed it to illustrate that even a rather bland cream-colored building from the 1950s can have interesting details. Note the gleaming ribbed fascia on the entry porch roof, the metal awnings over select windows, and the pilaster-like vertical features worked into the brick veneer.
The southwest corner of Bryant Avenue South and 50th Street West is home to a pair of stores that allow neighbors to shop for essentials close to home. Guse Hardware is the longer-standing one, having “been a landmark on Bryant Ave since the streetcars.” The more recent companion is the corner Guse Green Grocer, opened by the same family in 2010 as a deliberate throwback to early-20th-century corner-store values, rather than a modern convenience store.
As before, I turned onto 46th Street for a single eastward block of the serpentine plus an additional eastward spur bock walked forward and then back. That took me to the neighborhood’s northeast corner at Lyndale Avenue, where the homeowners had erected a pair of seasonally dressed mannequins. Actually, the word “erected” may be misleading: I’ve seen mannequins there for years with varying clothing and props, and my friend Kathie Martin, whose father’s store was a few blocks away, writes that they are “a 60+ year tradition.” Wow!
Backtracking to Aldrich Avenue for a final southward pass to 50th Street, I took particular note of one house on the eastern hillside. At the time I wasn’t aware that it was back-to-back with the chamfered Paul Mueller studio I had noted on Bryant Avenue. But indeed it is and was designed by Mueller himself as his home. Larry Millet provides an appreciative description of this unusual timber-framed house.
On the northeast corner of Aldrich and 50th Street, Rakhma’s Peace Home is a rather typical duplex devoted to the decidedly atypical mission of caring for individuals with memory loss in a home setting. The small bus parked in the driveway testifies to their commitment to outings, again a rare feature for memory care.
From there, I looped via Lyndale Avenue into the return serpentine on 49th, 48th, and 47th Streets. Lyndale Avenue itself is interesting as an arterial road that didn’t have streetcar service; the housing is a blend of what I saw on the other avenues, combining a reasonably high proportion of duplexes with some larger single-family homes.
Because I was now cutting across the avenues I had previously walked, I didn’t see much new and will limit myself to two more photos, coincidentally both taken at the intersection of 49th and Colfax. The house on the southeast corner caught my attention for two reasons. First, it is a mid-century modern in a neighborhood without many of those. Second, one of the second-story windows has a trapezoidal shape to conform with the roofline under it—that’s no trick of perspective. Across the street, I was delighted to see small niches built into a stone retaining wall, perfect for a child walking past to use for leaving and rediscovering treasures.
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 December 3, 2019. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.