My final walk in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood brought it together: Marcy and Holmes, electricity and water, flower and bee, art and industry. Less grandly, I walked around in circles looking at stuff.
My first walk had covered the downstream section between 10th and 15th Avenues SE, my second the middle section between 5th and 10th Avenues SE, so now I was left with the upstream section between Central Avenue and 5th Avenue SE. The route map shows a main blue path leading from point A, on the riverward side of the Marcy School and Holmes Park, through a circuitous route to point B, which is on the other side of those features, one block further from the river. At that point, I closed the loop by walking the pedestrian path from B back to A, an option Google Maps didn’t realize was available, so I had to draw it in by hand. As usual, there are also a bunch of forward-and-back spurs off of the main loop, shown in red.
I got a better look at the park and school later in the walk, but a note about their adjacency is in order, particularly given that I visited Marcy Park somewhere quite different on my first walk. As usual, the Park Board’s history, written by David C. Smith, sets it straight:
Today’s Holmes Park was built to be the playground for Holmes School. However, Holmes School was torn down and replaced by a new school in 1992. The new school was named Marcy Open School. This was the third location for Marcy School in the neighborhood. To complicate matters, when the second Marcy School was closed, the park board acquired the site of that school for a park in 1979, which is named Marcy Park. So Holmes Park is adjacent to Marcy Open School, which used to be Holmes School, and Marcy Park is on the site of the former Marcy School.
From my starting point at 3rd Avenue SE, I initially headed in the upstream direction on 4th Street SE as far as Central Avenue. A substantial portion of these two blocks are occupied by affordable housing, but the most visually arresting building is the Aveda Arts and Sciences Institute, which in 1926 was the East Side Masonic Temple.
A one-block riverward spur on Central Avenue took me past a parking lot notable for the Jim’s Bakery & Coffee Shop billboard. It looks like this sign previously was taller, judging by the “& lunch” at the upper edge on the left, and in addition to having been truncated was covered over with some other display, since removed. The advertised establishment was on the corner and is known to many as the setting of the movie Untamed Heart, filmed on location.
On the corner with University Avenue SE, the United Labor Centre’s anchor tenant is Union Bank & Trust “with over 85% ownership comprised of various local, district and international unions.” This is part of a broader theme of 1970s-era labor-movement development activity on this block: back on 4th Street SE, one of the affordable-housing buildings I passed was the Labor Retreat.
Returning from this spur, I walked away from the river on Central Avenue to 5th Street SE (and temporarily a bit beyond) and turned back downstream. This took me along another side of Holmes Park to what is now Marcy School for the Arts. Although the main entrance is on 4th Avenue SE, this 5th Street side is quite interesting. There’s a “path to peace” leading to a labyrinth named for an active community member, Terry Shapiro. A sign explains that the labyrinth was designed by Lisa Moriarity for problem solving through mental focus. Several of the pavers have inscriptions; I was particularly taken by one attributed to Alice Walker: “In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect.”
Downstream from the school, 5th Street SE is lined with substantial houses. I was particularly interested in one on the corner with 5th Avenue SE, which I subsequently learned is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Woodbury Fisk House, “the most elaborate and one of the most intact examples of the Italian Villa architectural style in Minneapolis.”
Turning onto 5th Avenue SE for one block away from the river, I was most struck by a late nineteen century apartment building, complete with projecting bays and entrances recessed behind archways.
Heading back upstream on 6th Street SE, the first couple blocks are residential, but then the use becomes more mixed, starting with Fire Station 11 on the corner with 3rd Avenue SE.
The fire station is followed by a connected set of one-story buildings, which in turn are connected to a two-story Telephone Building on the corner with 2nd Avenue SE, built in 1900 for Northwestern Telephone Company, predecessor several times removed of today’s Lumen/CenturyLink. The sprawling complex apparently first grew with another two-story portion behind the original just a few years later and then more recently through connection to the adjoining one-story buildings. The overall extent is best appreciated through an aerial view.
Continuing the rest of the way to Central Avenue, most of what I passed were food-service businesses belonging to chains small and large: Brasa Premium Rotisserie, Rusty Taco, and White Castle. An exception, kitty-corner from the Telephone Building, was the combination of Minuteman Press Central and Little Pepper Promotions. Appropriately enough for a business specializing in graphic identity, even their garage door stands out.
At Central Avenue, I turned about-face and retreated to 4th Avenue SE. There I did another forward-and-back spur to 7th Street SE before finally resuming my main loop with the three blocks of 4th Avenue SE from 6th Street SE to University Avenue SE. This took me back alongside the Marcy School for the Arts. In addition to seeing the main entrance, I was interested in a couple mosaic-encrusted rocks. They seem to be older than the labyrinth, but I haven’t turned up any information on their creation.
Diagonally across 4th Street SE from the school, Resurrecting Faith World Ministries occupies a 19th-century gothic-revival church building that started as the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity.
Wrapping around the block that includes this church, I came back to it on 4th Street SE, where I got a clearer view of how it is juxtaposed with a considerably more recent 26-unit apartment building.
Once back to my staring point at 3rd Avenue SE, I turned riverward all the way to Main Street SE, then returned to University Avenue SE. Taking that to Central Avenue allowed me to see the stately Beau-Arts-style building across from the United Labor Centre. Constructed as the Pillsbury Library, it is now owned as an office building by the Phillips family.
Turning riverward on Central Avenue, I was only able to continue as far as 2nd Street SE, as the portion beyond there is closed for construction. It rises up above Main Street SE and onto the bridge over the Mississippi. Had it not been closed, the longest forward-and-back spur of the route would have extended as far as the midpoint of the river’s main channel, which is the neighborhood boundary. Instead, I turned onto 2nd Street, then wound around to Main Street, where I passed the iconic Pillsbury “A” Mill.
The side of Main Street facing the river has its own industrial building, a seemingly small brick building from 1911. In reality, this is just the narrow end of a much larger building extending out into the river: the Saint Anthony Falls hydroelectric plant, now operated by Xcel Energy, lineal descendent via Northern States Power of the Minneapolis General Electric Company.
Back on the landward side of the street, the Saint Anthony Main cluster of buildings includes my lunch stop, Aster Cafe. There I enjoyed a refreshing citrus-and-berry drink called the Mirage and a strawberry-cashew salad. The noteworthy feature of the salad was that the ingredients really tasted of what they were. The chicken—advertised as Amish—tasted intensely of chicken, rather than just being “protein,” as so many menus today aptly term their options. The strawberries didn’t have an origin noted but tasted local—in other words, like strawberries.
After lunch, I looked at the long side of the hydro project from upriver, then turned away from the river on the pedestrian path that here serves as 2nd Avenue SE. I followed that avenue in its various forms all the way to its Y intersection with the diagonal course of Hennepin Avenue East. There were some big buildings along the way, but I chose to focus on some of the smaller sights.
At Hennepin, a quick spur allowed me to spot a nicely landscaped building before I zig-zagged over to Central Avenue.
The building at 700 Central Avenue NE is mostly residential but with a restaurant on the ground floor. At the other end of that block, Marvin’s Garden advertises itself as “a place for artists to grow and prosper” with “office/creative work space.” Among the tenants is the Cleanway Shop, providing services such as watch, jewelry, and shoe repair.
Beyond 8th Street SE, Central Avenue rises up into a bridge over the railroad tracks, thereby also providing an elevated vantage point to look back at the Electric Machinery Company’s plant. This is a large facility that I subsequently saw also from other angles, but this one has several items of note, including the crib of large steel components to the right of the yawning doorway. (For scale, look at the human-sized door to its left.)
This stretch of Central Avenue constitutes one side of the pointy part of the neighborhood—take a look at the route map if you don’t know what I mean. The tip is where Central Avenue and Harrison Street NE intersect—for pedestrians—at Spring Street NE. There’s no connection between the roadways, but the sidewalks of Central Avenue and Harrison Street do connect, allowing me to turn back south to Hennepin. There on the corner, Eli’s East stands just inside the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.
The streets in this area have a decidedly eclectic geometry as a result of three different street grids coming together: two oriented to different portions of the river and one oriented to true north. For the purposes of my route, the effect was that as I crossed Hennepin, I bent roughly 45 degrees from southbound Harrison Street NE to downstream 9th Street SE. Shortly thereafter, turning onto 5th Avenue SE and then Hennepin Avenue E brought me around three sides of the Minneapolis Waterworks distribution system maintenance yard, a complex comprised of 19th and 20th century components.
Thanks to the aforementioned mash-up of street grids, the route at this point entailed some non-right-angled turns before I could resume orthogonality with the turn from 2nd Avenue SE to 8th Street SE. Initially I did a one-block spur upstream on 8th Street, which took me between Hang It (a picture-framing shop) and the Electric Machinery plant. Being a curious character, I peered into the intriguing object on the corner of the Hang It property and peeked through the window of Electric Machinery. If anyone can identify the former, I’d appreciate it. As to the factory view, the bright rectangle at the far end is the large doorway I previously photographed from the outside. The yellows and blues in the photo are equipment, whereas the green, orange, and purple at the bottom center are my plaid shirt reflected in the window.
Turning back the other direction on 8th Street SE, as I crossed Hennepin Avenue E, I took a closer look at the clinic of Children’s Dental Services, an organization that since 1919 has been “dedicated to improving the oral health of children from families with low incomes by providing accessible treatment and education to our diverse community.” The building presents a welcoming facade sporting a multicolored tile panel recognizing donors. An awareness of the physical environment is reflected in the solar roof and permeable parking lot.
From there, a handful of comparatively non-circuitous blocks took me back to my starting point where Marcy School and Holmes Park come together in embodiment of the neighborhood’s hyphenated name. Fittingly, the playground is itself a joint feature of the two, having been opened in October of 2020.
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 September 2, 2021. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.