Marshall Terrace is a substantially industrial neighborhood in Northeast Minneapolis, but from an era when living where one worked was considered normal. Its northern and southern borders are St. Anthony Parkway and Lowry Avenue NE; more consequentially, the neighborhood spans from BNSF’s Northtown (rail) Yard to the Mississippi River.
My route started and ended at the southeastern corner of the neighborhood, the intersection of University and Lowry Avenues NE. That’s marked A and B for the start and end of the little blue loop that encompasses just a few blocks. I interrupted that loop by taking the segment of Lowry marked in purple to the other A/B point, the start and end of the other much larger blue circuit that winds through the rest of the neighborhood. When that was complete, I took the purple connector back to the southeast loop and finished it off. Aside from the purple connector, I walked a number of other segments (shown in red) twice, but those were immediate forward-and-back spurs.
With nearly 10 miles to walk, I wanted to start well fueled, so I visited Stanley’s Northeast Bar Room for brunch, a vegetarian variant on eggs Benedict they call “Rio,” featuring poblano pepper augmented by mushrooms and spinach. The name initially puzzled me, given that Rio de Janeiro is considerably further from Puebla, Mexico, than Minneapolis is. My best guess is that it references the forthcoming movie Rio, which stars an actor named Benedict. At any rate, I enjoyed it with sweet potato hash on the super dog-friendly “pawtio,” which features the only dog menu I’ve seen.
Heading west from Stanley’s on Lowry, I took a brief spur northward on 3rd Street NE. That was emblematic of the neighborhood in that it was lined with residences (largely single-family detached houses) but ended at the blank concrete-block wall of an industrial building. When I later passed the front of that building, I learned it houses Hard Chrome, a metal plating firm.
On Lowry itself, I passed a variety of residential and commercial buildings, as well as one religious and educational facility, the Dar Al-Qalam Cultural Center. For much of its lifetime, this building housed Park Printing, whose newer, larger building I’d see later in the walk.
From Lowry, I turned north onto Marshall Street NE. (To completely cover the neighborhood, I ought to have continued out onto the bridge as a spur. But I already did that in the adjoining Bottineau neighborhood.) On the west side of Marshall Street, Tony Jaros River Garden looks like it ought to be in a row of similar buildings, whereas on the east, Betty Danger’s draws attention with its Ferris wheel. Neither was open at this hour, and in any case, I’ve missed my chance: I deeply regret not having visited the River Garden in the days when Bitsy Jaros was in the kitchen frying up pork tenderloin sandwiches.
Immediately north of the River Garden is the headquarters of the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO), a joint-powers entity formed by many of the local governments in the metro area. Rather than just being an office building, the site also includes a stormwater park and learning center. I wasn’t able to go in, but I did see some of the exterior features—not just those involving plants and water, but also a collection box for the inter-species postal service. At the southeastern corner of the site, the organization is announced through Jim Brenner’s sculptural steel-and-glass version of the MWMO logo, which would have been more striking had I been walking at night.
North of the MWMO is Siwek Lumber and Millwork and then Marshall Concrete Products. Two things about the latter business caught my eye. One is that their largest sign is pointed toward the river, not the street. The other is that they have a wall of decorative concrete blocks that differs from the norm by having the end exposed, revealing how the illusion of a stone wall is created using much larger concrete blocks. Even when walking past conventionally installed walls, I’ve been aware of the illusion, but there’s something jarring about having it so openly exposed—it’s like the Wizard of Oz’s curtain has been pulled back.
I’ve remarked before on Marshall Terrace’s juxtaposition of industrial and residential land uses on a scale unlike modern zoning. Sure enough, immediately to the north of the concrete facility is a duplex and then an apartment building. Even having the duplex—originally a 1901 single-family house—next to a 66-unit apartment building from 1968 is a notable degree of diversity.
Although Marshall Terrace does include a substantial portion of houses, I’m not showing many in this post—they simply aren’t the most interesting part of the neighborhood mix. However, I can’t resist showing my favorite house of the whole walk, located in Marshall Terrace Park. My first thought was that families coming to play here must remember to bring some mail with them to give the kids something to deliver into and retrieve from the mailbox. But then I remembered that kids are perfectly capable of playing endlessly with mail made out of thin air and imagination.
The remainder of the riverside from the park to St. Anthony Parkway is occupied by Xcel Energy’s sprawling Riverside Generating Plant and its even more sprawling grounds. (Indeed, Xcel also owns land to the east of Marshall Street, which they’ve made available for community purposes as I’ll describe subsequently.) The plant was originally coal-fired, with the oldest of its units dating to 1911. However, in 2009, it was completely converted to natural gas as explained in Power Technology and POWER. None of the photos I took of the site really do it justice, so I’ll allow one of the associated transmission towers to stand in for it visually.
I initially continued north on Marshall Street NE only as far as the tee intersection with 29th Avenue NE. Then I backed up a block and looped back around to 29th and Marshall via 28th Avenue NE, California Street NE, and 29th Avenue NE. In particular, this allowed me to see the 2800 block of California Street, where the west side has modest single-family houses and the east is occupied by Park Printing’s current facility, with 66,669 square feet of ground-floor space extending almost to the BNSF tracks. Even the parking lot is large, as the photo suggests, but it is less than half the size of the building.
On 29th Avenue NE, I saw a connected group of Catholic facilities: RiverVillage East (an assisted-living apartment building), the 1989 addition to St. Hedwig’s Catholic Church (single-story grey concrete block with decorative details), and the original 1919 part (two-story brown brick veneer). I’m sufficiently irreligious that the name Hedwig primarily brings to mind Hedwig and the Angry Inch, but Wikipedia informs me of the saint’s association with Silesia, which suggests a good guess as to the ethnicity of the church’s founders. I might have seen a silver replica of her skull at Kloster Andechs, though I was more focused on the beer brewed there.
Turning back onto northbound Marshall Street NE, I once again found myself between the Xcel plant on the west side and Xcel-owned property on the east. In the 2900 block, as in the 2800, this Xcel-owned property is largely vacant. However, the 3000 and 3100 blocks (or wedges, really) have been turned into parks with the lenticular Marshall Terrace Gardens, an interpretive kiosk of historical information, a picnic pavilion, and the Rod Carew All Star Field.
Upon reaching the northern border of the neighborhood at St. Anthony Parkway, I was again presented with a conflict between strict adherence to my every-block-of-every-neighborhood slogan and practicality. As at the Lowry Avenue southern border, I should have continued briefly west from Marshall Street in order to go all the way to the neighborhood’s western border. But once again, that spur would have added nothing new, as I had walked the same segment as part of a previous neighborhood, in this case Columbia Park. And with Marshall Terrace already providing plenty of walking for one day but too little to split into two, I opted to turn east instead.
How far east? For purposes of the main loop shown in blue on the route map, just around the outfield of the ball field to Columbia Avenue NE. But a red spur continued from there one more block to California Street NE. This block slopes upward to the bridge over the railyard and so provided an elevated vantage point from which to see the industrial/warehouse buildings to its south, which include a roll-paper distributor, a logistics company, a manufacturer of room dividers, and a dealer in surplus and used electrical equipment.
Back on the main loop and headed south on Columbia Avenue NE, I was interested to see that Midwest Northern Nut Company was merged into St. Paul’s We Are Nuts and is advertising being open to the public for retail—alas, not on a Saturday, when I was walking.
On the south side of 31st Avenue NE, the corner building sported cheery yellow trim and an inviting chalk-board sign, “welcome, now open.” No indication, though, as to what business it was. So I opened the front door, went in, and was again greeted with a welcome, this time delivered in person. Excuse me, I said, I just saw you were open and was wondering what business you’re in? A salon, I was told, with a gesture toward the chairs that ought to have tipped me off. Ah, thanks, I replied, sorry to have bothered you, as I backed toward the exit as quickly as politeness allowed. No trouble, she replied—we do a lot of men’s hair too! Yes, but I have so little it wouldn’t be worth it, I demurred. By this point, she could tell I wasn’t a customer and let me go with good grace. I hadn’t the heart to tell her I had just cut my hair that very morning before setting out on the walk. In retrospect, I rather think she could tell that and was offering to clean up the mess I’d made of it, without coming right out and saying as much. That must be what she meant by her remark that some guys have her take them the rest of the way to fully bald.
The salon is part of a larger cluster of buildings, the most interesting of which (for my purposes) is a brewery, to which I would return later in the walk. For now I continued south to 30th Avenue NE. (This is a spot I’d been at earlier while walking Marshall Street—it and Columbia Avenue form a Y here.) Turning east, I saw that Xcel Energy owns some more land between Columbia Avenue and Randolph Street, in this case permitting its use for a community garden.
A block east of Randolph, I turned south on Grand Street NE to begin a large rectangle formed from Grand Street, 26th Avenue, Randolph Street, and 31st Avenue, with a few spurs along the way. Most of what I saw were older homes, but a few had been recently remodeled or rebuilt, and one stood out for its boxy shape that suggested both a modernist aesthetic and a modular construction. I also spotted two more spiritual or religious institutions, the Shambhala Meditation Center and the Mill City Church’s Commons.
The 31st Avenue portion of this rectangular circuit was eastbound, but first I took a westward spur on that avenue as far as Marshall Street. Aside from filling in a segment I would otherwise have missed, this had the great advantage of returning me to 56 Brewing after their noon opening time. I settled in at the lovely wooden bar with a glass of beer. Which one? Given that when I’m neither walking nor drinking, I help people vote, there really was no choice but the hazy IPA named VOTE!, complete with the exclamation point. Presumably the brewers are expressing their enthusiasm for voting; I, in turn was enthusiastic about the refreshing beer.
Outside the taproom, the Northern Girl food truck crew was setting up. I kept an eagle eye on them and pounced the moment they were open for business, scoring the first burger-and-fries combination of the day. Boy, was it ever worth waiting for. I’m generally not much of a burger fan, but this one was truly exceptional, with a perfect combination of a charred exterior and juicy interior, the intensely beefy flavor ingeniously heightened by a hickory-smoke aioli and some homemade pickles. The fries were great with just the salt on them, but the supplied chimichurri aioli was a good choice too.
After lunch, I wound through the rest of the area west of the railyard, which includes a mix of residences, workshops for craftspersons, and other small-scale industry. There’s no way to illustrate the diversity with just a couple photos, but I’ll offer up one of the Viterra mustard plant recently profiled by Karen Kraco in the Northeaster and another showing “thoughtfully sourced vintage and modern rentals for your wedding, event, and creative exploration.”
Coming back to St. Anthony Parkway at its bridge over the BNSF railroad’s Northtown Yards, my eye was drawn to the relationship between the structural steel elements exhibited at the adjoining historical interpretive plaza and those constituting the bridge’s truss. This is no coincidence: the former are taken from the previous bridge, which the current bridge was designed to evoke. The replacement project had been ongoing when I was walking Columbia Park. I recommend both clicking through the link and visiting the plaza, where you can read the informative signs.
Perhaps I had become jaded by the diversity of industry I’d seen, but when in the southeast corner of the neighborhood, I saw everything from plastic bulk container recycling and larger-scale beer brewing to metal plating and heat treating, it was a human touch that made the biggest impression. Outside the Thiele packaging-technology building on 27th Avenue NE, a birch tree stands next to a sundial, the engraved stone base of which explains that “this tree is dedicated in living memory of” the people listed—each of whom, I assume, had been associated with the company.
This near-final portion of the walk also took me back to California Street NE for the three blocks I had not already walked, those between 28th and Lowry Avenues.
The east side of the 2700 block is occupied by Spero Academy, a K–6 charter school that “provides individualized educational programs designed to benefit students with disabilities.” From the outside, I was impressed by how the architects had cleverly used surface details to liven up what could otherwise have been a very utilitarian box. Reading up on it afterward, I learned that HDR’s design was even more thoughtful on the inside, as described also in Education Snapshots and on the Center for Health Design’s site.
A block and a half further south, a rather nondescript building was revealed by a parking-lot sign to be yet another house of worship, in this case a Hindu temple. It really is remarkable how many faiths are represented in this one compact area.
Retracing the route map’s purple segment of Lowry Avenue—eastbound this time—I finally was poised to finish up the little southeastern loop I had left off at the very beginning of the walk. I had expected to see more of the same, but as so often in this All of Minneapolis project, I not only saw something new, I learned something new. In this case, I learned about Clare Housing, an organization that “provides a continuum of affordable and supportive housing options that create healing communities and optimize the health of people living with HIV/AIDS.” In this instance, they provide Marshall Flats, the sunny yellow proclaiming a message of hope.
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 24, 2021. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.
All photos are by the author.