May 12, 2021
Macalester-Groveland, Summit-University (Cathedral Hill), Downtown, West End
My first blogging bike ride of 2021 filled me with excitement and a touch of apprehension. Both emotions resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited me to a single blogging ride in 2020. Obviously, interviewing people last year was out of the question, which led to the decision to bike just for the sake of biking. With COVID on the run, I was optimistic that people would again be willing to talk with me, allowing the resumption of the blog.
It didn’t take long to find someone to speak with. Bo and I met at the corner of Summit Avenue at Selby Avenue. Bo was taking a break after hiking up the steps to Summit Avenue from the bottom of the hill and I was stopped for a red light on Summit Avenue at Selby. A hello to each other was all it took to begin a very pleasant 20-minute conversation.
It turned out that Bo was on his daily walk around the Cathedral Hill neighborhood. While he didn’t reveal specifics of his routes, he stays within earshot of the Cathedral bells, which I estimate to be a nine-block circuit. Bo explained, “See how the clock rings? I can do three (laps) in 15 minutes. Now you times that an hour, that’s 12. You do that another hour, it’s another 12, then you do another six (laps), so it’s another 30 minutes after that, so it’s like two-and-a-half hours.”
Bo began walking around the Cathedral Hill neighborhood in 2012 when he weighed 350 pounds. “Started with two (laps). You gotta take your time, gradually. You go two, four and then I started getting stronger and stronger as I was doing it. It went from four to eight, eight to 12.” Since that day nine years ago, Bo said he lost 150 pounds and he’s kept the weight off.
Through his years of hiking the ‘hood, Bo has gotten to recognize many neighbors and has become a bit of a celebrity. “They always speak to me. They call me “Walkin’ Man.”
The Walkin’ Man doesn’t count steps or miles, only laps. Surprisingly to me, he doesn’t walk in the winter. “No, no, it’s too dangerous with that black ice.” Prime walking time for The Walkin’ Man: “from April all the way to maybe October. All depends on the weather. We got crazy weather here in Minnesota. You should know that; you live here.” During the winter The Walkin’ Man works out inside his residence.
The COVID pandemic sidelined The Walkin’ Man in 2020 so he is especially happy to be back on the sidewalks rather than working out at home.
I’ve ventured into parking ramps on my bike a couple of times. Depending upon the ramp and its location, there are impressive views. Unlike in a car, biking around the entrance gate is easy, causes no damage to the gate and, best of all, it’s free. This ride afforded me the chance to do some vertical exploration in the St. Joseph’s Hospital ramp at 59 West 10th Street.
The streets around St. Joe’s weren’t as busy as in the past, which reminded me that patient counts and hospital functions were drastically reduced last December. The depth of the cuts became clear as soon as I got to level three in the ramp and saw the abundance of available parking spots.
St. Joseph’s Hospital, Minnesota’s oldest, was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1853 to treat victims of a cholera outbreak. Now, M Health Fairview treats COVID-19 patients and those with mental health and addiction conditions at what was clumsily renamed M Health Fairview St. Joseph’s Campus.
I slalomed down the eight levels of St. Joe’s parking garage to 10th Street, rode west about a block and turned left. Almost everything about this two-block-long street, from the roadway itself, to its name, to most of the buildings along it, is new since 2016.
The street was renamed Dorothy Day Place because it relates to the location of the original Dorothy Day Center and the expanded Catholic Charities’ Dorothy Day campus. According to the City’s Heritage Preservation Commission Staff Report that recommended renaming Main Street, it was “not a typical ‘Main Street’ with retail and gathering spaces, and from looking at historic maps and photos, it doesn’t appear that it was ever a main street.”
The expansive Dorothy Day Campus is a new model to prevent and end homelessness, according to Catholic Charities website. A safe, comfortable emergency shelter, permanent homes and services in one place replaced Dorothy Day Center, which opened in 1981 to provide free meals. Its mission expanded to provide overnight shelter to the homeless, something the building was not designed to do.
Below are two views of Dorothy Day Residence at the corner of Old Sixth Street and Dorothy Day Place. Dorothy Day Residence has about 200 units of permanent housing for women, men and young adults 18 to 24 years old.
Tucked behind the Saint Paul Opportunity Center on Ninth is the Beaux Arts-style Reigstad Building. It was constructed in 1909 as the Ramsey County headquarters of the Junior Pioneer Association, a religious organization, and housed the University of Minnesota St. Paul Extension Center from 1963 to 1973.
A large room on the second floor, now offices, was a dance and concert venue, at which Little Richard appeared in 1956, according to Twin Cities Music Highlights website.
The current occupant of the Reigstad Building, not surprisingly, is Reigstad and Associates, a structural engineering company.
And that completed a look at a petite section of the western part of Downtown. One other note: The conversation with Bo motivated me to increase my physical activity. I’m walking more frequently and longer distances in addition to a few bike rides a week.
Except where noted, all images in the article are credited to the author.