Sidewalk Art at Liberty Community Church

Walking All the Streets of Western McKinley

Visiting Minneapolis neighborhoods alphabetically generally prevents geographic continuity, but every once in a while the next neighborhood turns out to be adjacent. That happened moving from Marshall Terrace to McKinley, though the border down the middle of the Mississippi is traversable only on the Lowry Avenue bridge. I didn’t start with the adjacent part of McKinley; instead, I started with the region west of Lyndale Avenue North, as shown in the route map. The blue lines indicate the main path from A back to B, and the red lines are spurs off of it.

On Lowry, each of the two spurs extended beyond where I would turn. I walked two blocks, retreated one, and then turned. In particular, starting from Dupont Avenue North, I initially headed two blocks east to Bryant Avenue North, then backed up to Colfax Avenue North and turned north. Already in the first block of Lowry, I got an introduction to one of the recurrent themes of the walk: the colorful flowers that brighten an early autumn day.

Flowers, 1000 Block of Lowry Ave. N.

This portion of the neighborhood consists almost entirely of single-family detached houses with a smattering of duplexes and triplexes mixed in. I won’t show many examples, but in the 3400 block of Colfax, one house stood out not only for its cheerful color scheme but also for the Little Free Library out front.

3407 Colfax Ave. N. with Little Free Library

With early voting already underway, I saw lots of lawn signs for local candidates and ballot questions. More interesting was a “Free Fenster” sign urging to “#BringDannyHome” in order to “Protect The Press.”

Free Fenster Sign, 3600 Block of Colfax Ave. N.

In the last block of Colfax before reaching the neighborhood’s northern boundary, I finally saw why it’s called the McKinley neighborhood. Or at least the ghost of the reason. The neighborhood is named not directly for William McKinley, but rather for the William McKinley school. And I saw the ghost of the school. (The ghost of the president might be in Buffalo, New York, where he was assassinated the year before the school opened.) So what, you may ask, does the ghost of a school look like? I’d already learned this lesson in other neighborhoods, and the next two photos provide this neighborhood’s example.

These photos illustrate the striking contrast in age between the west and east sides of that block. On the west, the house from 1920 looks similar to others throughout the neighborhood, which was developed in the early decades of the 20th century. On the east, the house from 1982 is visibly much newer. Nor is it an isolated exception. (After all, I saw individual houses scattered throughout the neighborhood built as recently as 2021.) Instead, nearly the entire length of the 3700 block is from the early 1980s on both the east side of Colfax and the west side of Bryant. Showing houses facing each other on Colfax would have made my point clearer, but the sun was too low in the sky for the east side to photograph well. I wasn’t absolutely sure a block-spanning school was involved until I saw the pattern continued on Bryant.

3755 Colfax Ave. N. (1920)
The Ghost of the McKinley School, 3709 Bryant Ave. N. (1982)

The northeast corner of Bryant and 37th Avenues North is occupied by the Liberty Community Church, “the first and only African American led Presbyterian congregation in Minnesota.” The 1959 building previously housed Calvary Presbyterian. I got a closer look at it later when I walked 37th Avenue. Faithful readers who remember my walk in South(east)ern Hawthorne will recall that Liberty Community Church also has a facility there, the Northside Healing Space.

Liberty Community Church, 3700 Bryant Ave. N.

Another reprise from earlier walks is the Green Homes North project, in which the City of Minneapolis works with funding and development partners to create energy-efficient homes and construction job opportunities while revitalizing neighborhoods. In the particular case of the brand-new house at 3642 Bryant Avenue North, the funding partner was Land Bank Twin Cities and the development partner was United Developers.

3642 Bryant Ave. N. (Green Homes North, 2021)

One block farther south, I stopped to look toward another house that happened to also be for sale. But in this case, what drew my eye was not the house but the trees. This fall hasn’t been very good for leaf peeping, and the warm color showing over the roofline was a welcome exception.

Fall Color Visible from 3500 Block of Bryant Ave. N.

Back on Lowry Avenue North, a cluster of commercial buildings lines the southern edge of the neighborhood. The first two photos show the grocery and automotive shops between Bryant and Aldrich Avenues North, while the third photo is from the point where I had just done my about-face at Lyndale. It primarily features the gateway structure, but you can also see at the right a commercial building with streamlined trim down its front between the two stories. Its occupant is the A-Sign and Screen Printing Company.

Star Foods, 818 Lowry Ave. N.
A&J Motors and Auto Body, 808 Lowry Ave. N.
Gateway, Lowry Ave. N. at Northwest Corner with Lyndale Ave. N.

In the second block of Aldrich, one house (triplex, actually) stood out not for its haunted-house decor (routine at this time of year) but for its age. Just from the size and style I could see it was older than the low-slung houses that predominated from the 1920s through 1950s. And indeed the property record shows initial construction in 1892, with additions thereafter.

3330 Aldrich Ave. N. (1892)

At the outset, I remarked on flower-filled nature of this walk. And indeed, I’ll offer photos of more examples soon. For now, I’ll simply remark that flowers don’t need to be purely ornamental: they can occur also in a vegetable garden, as with this squash blossom on Aldrich.

Squash Blossom and Leaf, 3400 Block of Aldrich Ave. N.

Although the Liberty Community Church was the only church building I encountered on this walk, I did encounter an outpost of another church, St. Bridget. (Their main building is just northwest of the McKinley neighborhood.) When I call it an outpost, that’s unintentionally literal: It’s a post. Attached to the post are two mailboxes and a sign indicating that they can be used to leave prayer requests; a QR code provides a digital alternative.

Prayer Boxes, 3400 Block of Aldrich Ave. N.

Prayer can take many forms. Back at Liberty Community Church, the sidewalk art contains a four-lobed motif calling on viewers to listen to one another, think about each other, protect one another, and respect one another. I’m reminded that in the Ten Commandments, although those regarding the relationship between human and God come first, the majority concern the relationships between human and human. And indeed that pattern recurs throughout the Bible. So maybe this sidewalk art is a prayer for human relationships true to God’s will.

Liberty Community Church, 3700 Bryant Ave. N., on 37th Ave N.

Although present-day retail appears only on the neighborhood’s arterial streets, I saw several houses at interior intersections that looked to be former corner stores—visible reminders that the city’s pattern of development once was scaled for pedestrians. I’ve illustrated this phenomenon enough times in other neighborhoods that I won’t belabor the point with multiple example photos here. However, I do need to show you the former store on the southwest corner of Colfax and 37th Avenues North, for reasons that will become clear momentarily.

3659 Colfax Ave. N. (Former Store, 1917)

A block farther west, my traversal of 37th Avenue ended at Dupont, where I first walked a northward spur to Dowling (38th), then turned south to resume my zig-zagging route on 36th, east to Lyndale. I stopped to photograph some flowers, but then look what I saw on the corner of 36th and Lyndale: a still-operating corner store that bears a strong resemblance to the former store on Colfax.

Flowers, 3600 Block of Dupont Ave. N.
North Side Food Market, 3559 Lyndale Ave. N. (1915)
Flowers, 3500 Block of Lyndale Ave. N.

I saw plenty of houses and gardens that showed the mark of their owners’ attention and personality. A good example would be this house on Dupont; even without the signs designating it as a pollinator habitat and wildlife habitat, you can see the owner has taken care to make the grounds something other than a lawn.

Pollinator and Wildlife Habitat, 3500 Block of Dupont Ave. N.

My final return to Lyndale Avenue—for this day, anyhow—covered the 3300 block. Most of that block is residential, but a couple structures near or at the corner with 33rd Avenue stood out. The present occupant of the flat-roofed building at 3306 isn’t immediately obvious, although a little digging online suggests it is a home healthcare agency. I was more interested, though, in the original use . The windows reminded me of 1950s dental clinics, and sure enough, the building permit index confirms that’s exactly what this was.

3306 Lyndale Ave. N. (Former Dental Clinic, 1955)

On the northeast corner with 33rd Avenue, the McKinley Community is the nonprofit neighborhood association. The space has also been used as a community gift shop and (as the window signage suggests) a coffee shop.

McKinley Community, 3300 Lyndale Ave. N. (1921)

After that, I just needed to pass one last time through the neighborhood on 33rd Avenue before finishing up with the 3300 block of Dupont. Fittingly enough, the last thing I saw on this walk was some flowering plantings—supplemented, though, by a pole-mounted birdhouse. Or perhaps it is a house-shaped bird feeder, not actually a house for birds. In any case, birds were on both the surrounding platform and in flight nearby.

Plants, 3300 Block of Dupont Ave. N.
Plants, Birdhouse, and Birds, 3200 Block of Dupont Ave. N.

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 October 10, 2021. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.

All photos are by the author.

Max Hailperin

About Max Hailperin

Max Hailperin's personal project is allofminneapolis.com. Minneapolis has 87 neighborhoods, including the three industrial areas. Some he knows well, others he has not yet entered. However, he has committed to explore all of them on foot: every block of every street in every neighborhood. He is working through the neighborhoods alphabetically, from Armatage to Windom Park, so as to focus in one area, then hop to somewhere else.

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