Not all of Minneapolis’s 87 neighborhoods are neighborhoods. Three are industrial areas, a distinction of official classification that doesn’t affect my determination to walk all 87 in alphabetical order but does provide some clue what to expect as I head into Mid-City Industrial Area. (The “Mid-City” part of the name is more opaque, apparently referencing the area of the city of Minneapolis that is near the midpoint of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul dyad.)
Not all of what’s in the area is “industry” in the manufacturing sense. Warehousing is another important component, especially in the eastern portion where the closure of a gravel pit in the 1960s freed up the large area that sprawling structures need. And there are even some residences, though exclusively as adaptive reuse of formerly industrial structures.
This overview of the land use helps explain why the road network is as it is, together with the diagonal railway corridor in the southwest. And the limited road network in turn explains why my route encompasses so much more than half the area, leaving only Stinson Boulevard and a few adjoining blocks for next time. (I’m skipping New Brighton Boulevard entirely because of its pedestrian-hostile design, and likewise the bit of Broadway Street east of Industrial Boulevard. Some of the other streets aren’t great but seem worthwhile.)
The map shows the main portion of the route in blue as essentially a circumnavigation of the area with just a few extra twists and turns, together with the forward-and-back spurs shown in red.[googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps/d/embed?mid=1xWzHMqAOgG8E76JO6JPILh1aB02X2AqY&hl=en_US&w=640&h=480]
The route starts on Winter Street, which is the westernmost portion of the southern boundary. Looking west from my starting point at Garfield Street NE, I photographed Prospect Foundry, not because there’s anything photogenic about its grey mass, but because it starts the walk with a reminder that the area does include heavy industry (pouring molten iron), not just warehousing and the like.
Continuing eastward on Winter Street NE, I passed the Noiseland Industries building I photographed years earlier, mistaking it for part of the Como neighborhood. The neighborhood boundary is a bit complex in this vicinity, consisting in part of streets and in part of the railroad. For that reason, my route needed to detour briefly into Como on 15th Avenue SE and the portion of Hennepin Avenue west of the railroad.
My most detail-oriented readers will have noticed that the previous paragraph started out with a directional of NE and ended with SE. Indeed, before I temporarily crossed the Mid-City/Como boundary, I temporarily crossed another equally strange boundary, the one between Address District 2 and Address District 3, or more colloquially, between NE and SE. Generally speaking this follows Hennepin Avenue, but for unknown reasons the triangular region north of Hennepin and bounded by 14th Avenue and the railroad is also SE.
Taking the intersection of these two oddly shaped geographies southwest of the railroad, exactly one building is north of Winter (hence in Mid-City rather than Como) and east of 14th avenue (hence in SE rather than NE). And the first door I saw on that building seemed to have a remarkably high-falutin exit sign on it: “EMERGE.” As with so many things in life, this became clearer with more complete information, in this case when I saw the main sign for “Second Chance Recycling, a social enterprise of EMERGE,” which I now have learned is a workforce and community development nonprofit. This particular social enterprise recycles mattresses.
Eastbound on Hennepin Avenue East, I crossed back into the Mid-City Industrial Area just east of Stinson Boulevard NE. More specifically, the north side of Hennepin is in the industrial area. The first building I saw was indeed industrial, the brutalist headquarters of Embossing Plus, a print finishing company. But I was also interested to see a formerly industrial, now residential, building. Aside from the disappearance of the “Glidden Paint” sign, the key indicator that people now live here is the addition of balconies.
It may be easier to feel nostalgia for a 1920s red-brick building than for the slit-windowed architecture of the late 1960s or early 1970s, but I’m a great believer in appreciating each era and each building for what it is. Besides, sometimes a building has a more interesting story than one sees on the surface. Honestly, my initial attraction to the Hennepin Square office building was those lamps that look like marshmallows on multi-pronged toasting forks. But looking into the building’s history, I discovered it has an intriguing story—and indeed is another 1920s red-brick industrial building, much like the former Glidden Paint building. Despite what my photo seems to show.
Across the parking lot to the east of Hennepin Square, the next building is Nordøst Exchange, a “modern adaptive reuse commercial & retail space.”
The previously linked history of Hennepin Square mentions this building as “the Minneapolis Casket Company building” and remarks that it was “rehabilitated and sold to the YMCA” subsequent to Hennepin Square’s renovation. The exchange’s own description of the story takes the YMCA as the starting point and works forward to the present. But I’m interested by the deeper past, the building’s original occupant, the Perfection Manufacturing Company, which was listed in city directories through 1950.
The October 31, 1917, issue of Farm Implements (vol. XXXI, no. 10) has a blurb on page 16 indicating that “The Perfection Manufacturing Company, Minneapolis, manufacturers of Perfection milking machines, are building a new factory in the new industrial district at the corner of East Hennepin and Twenty-second avenues, which will provide them with much greater capacity than their present plant. They expect to take possession of the new quarters about the middle of November. The company has been working both day and night since the first of the year in order to meet the demand for milking machines, and their business has been such a splendid success that they have now increased the capital to $300,000.”
Other issues of this same periodical are chock full of ads for the milking machine and glowing editorial copy (helpfully supplied by the company) describing its transformative wonders. No wonder they needed “much greater capacity” than their previous building, a former saloon. Milking machines remained a company mainstay through the decades. However, the company did diversify, for example into breast pumps.
The next several buildings are newer concrete-block buildings faced in tan brick; they were constructed in 1959 and 1960 by Martin Capp, may his memory be a blessing. Present occupants include Steven Cabinets, Dolan Printing, and Koehler & Dramm Wholesale Florists (with their associated Institute of Floristry).
The remaining buildings west of Industrial Boulevard generally interested me more for their occupants than for their architecture—a processor of pre-cut fruit and vegetables, a coffee importer, a manufacturer of food trucks and the like, and a brewery and taproom, for example. That last one would have been particularly interesting had I not been too early for their opening. (Never fear, another taproom was later on the route.)
This focus on the businesses—very food and beverage heavy, I now notice—is not to say that there were no visual details of interest. Street numbers, for example: a stylishly fabricated metal one on the coffee roaster and a more rustic one of aged wood over the loading dock of a drapery company. The latter looks to have been hand-built by sawing 1×2 boards and nailing them up in the form of blocky numerals, and I personally find it quite lovely. Likewise, I found myself enjoying the green-and-white color scheme on the Linde Welding Gas and Equipment Center, a holdover from the Praxair branding. Normally I’m not a fan of painted brick, but this really worked for me. I hope it doesn’t lose its visual flare in a switch to Linde trade dress.
I continued past Industrial Boulevard on Hennepin Avenue in order to complete a short spur to the city line at 33rd Avenue. In fact, I even was able to turn north on that avenue for a few hundred feet before it switched over to a private road. The most interesting sight here was an electric substation on east side of the avenue, which puts it in Lauderdale—I feel guilty even mentioning it in an All of Minneapolis post.
Turning my back on such extra-territorial temptations, I returned to Industrial Boulevard and headed north. The northwest corner of Hennepin Avenue and Industrial Boulevard is occupied by Northeast College Prep, a K–8 charter school. The school has notably brightened up a 1971 building that is inherently rather dark and hulking. My photo shows on the right what seems to have been an office wing; the windowless area to the left is more typical of the bulk of the structure. From 1979 to 1999, it was the headquarters of Joe Francis’s franchise business, The Barbers, and its Cost Cutters brand. Before that, it held Frank Griswold’s coffee company.
Another nice example of an office wing on an industrial/warehouse building was just to the north, on the far side of Winter Street. The American Financial Printing, Inc. (AFPI) building’s horizontal lines include a broad band of windows and deep overhanging eaves, while the white surfaces define negative spaces around the building as well as the positive space enclosed within. The overall effect is unmistakably modernist, but with echoes of the prairie school.
Although I walked past AFPI as far as Spring Street, I then turned around so as to follow my main route onto Winter Street. The building to the west of AFPI houses Steel Sales, which has been selling steel since 1915, though not always here. This facility was constructed in 1967, as the facade suggests, and a photo in the Hennepin County Library collection shows that in the 1970s, it was occupied by Carpenter Technology.
Across on the south side of Winter Street, construction was underway on a large warehouse (82,000 square feet) that was itself just a small addition to a much larger complex extending around the bend to the west side of R Street NE, perhaps half a million square feet in total. This is the Target Sortation Center, where packages from stores throughout the metro area make brief stops on their way to home delivery. It’s the kind of facility that I could not possibly photograph—only an aerial photo could capture its scale.
As an aside, the name “R Street NE” is the last vestige of a naming system that once picked up where the presidents left off. I won’t go into all the details, but interested readers will find an 1885 map a good starting point. Oddly, this one letter of the alphabet that outlasted all the others does so only for the single block from Winter to Spring; north of there, the name was changed to Godward Street.
Continuing north on Godward, I passed between two other large facilities, Aramark Uniform Services and a UPS site only somewhat less sprawling than Target’s. Some years ago I’d been there to pick up a package and thought it enormous, but now it seems to be just one large warehouse among several.
Crossing Broadway, the built landscape shifted abruptly. Suddenly I had departed the land of gigantic warehouses and was into a mid-rise office park. (I’d be back to warehouse-land before long, once I looped through the area north of Broadway.) The Broadway East and Broadway West buildings from the 1980s straddle Godward, not twins, but recognizably siblings. The third and oldest (1979) building along this bent portion of Godward stretches my “office park” description a bit, as it is a hotel rather than an office building.
The eastward bend of Godward Street brought me back to Industrial Boulevard, where I could turn back south. But before I did so, I took a quick northward spur to the industrial area’s boundary, I-35. The self-storage facility struck me as somewhat visually interesting, exhibiting a strong sense of rhythm. Certainly more interesting than the Holiday station store. But the photo I am choosing to include is of the Minnesota Dental Association’s office. Why? Because its architecture reminds me so much of suburban dentists’ offices from the same early-21st-century period. It seems like a knowing wink to house the association in a building that could be mistaken for one of the dental practices they represent.
Upon completion of this spur, I briefly stopped into a Wendy’s for lunch, then crossed Broadway back into the land of the gigantic warehouses. And indeed, in this stretch of Industrial Boulevard between Broadway and Spring Streets, a substantial portion of the east side (across from Aramark) is occupied by the largest of all the warehouses I saw, clocking in at nearly 600,000 square feet. What could need so much space? Booze. Seeing this visual representation of our collective alcohol consumption was rather sobering. The facility primarily houses the J.J. Taylor beer distributorship, but it also has the main Minnesota office for Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits.
Earlier, when I walked north on Industrial Boulevard from Winter to Spring as a spur, I had passed Anderson Ladd Hardwood Floors, now part of H2I Group. From the front, there wasn’t anything visually arresting. But now as I turned west on Spring Street NE, I noticed the colorful maple tree in their side yard. How fitting for a company that specializes in maple flooring for gymnasia.
When I walk residential neighborhoods, church buildings are among the most common non-residential structures I see. And as older denominations have lost adherents, many of those buildings have been converted to other uses. So there is a certain symmetry in walking an industrial area to come across a 1970s warehouse-style building converted to a nondenominational church.
When I crossed Hoover Street NE, the road I was on changed names from Spring Street NE to Kennedy Street NE. If anyone knows the explanation for this change of names, I’d love to hear it. Perhaps something to do with the development of the Northwestern Terminal area?
This was also about the point where I noticed a transition back to older, smaller buildings, such as the 1917 brick building that is the northern part of the Sterling Supply complex. (Another glimpse of street names past: the first reference I find to this building has it on L Street rather than Harding Street, unsurprising given that Warren Harding was not yet president. Within a week of his inauguration, the City Council was asked to rename the street, but L it remained through the 1927 directory.)
South of Sterling Supply on Harding Street NE is another building of comparable age and construction and then something quite different—a 30,000 square foot warehouse from 1950 with a smaller office addition on the front dating from 1967. I didn’t figure out what the original industrial occupant was, but the last was a fabricator of fire-suppression equipment. Now it’s been converted into a post-industrial role as lofty office space for Livio Health.
I returned eastward to Hoover Street via Traffic Street, a block north of Hennepin Avenue. One can still see why Traffic Street was a defining feature of the industrial area: a rail line runs along it with a whole succession of spurs curving off to serve each of the warehouses or factories.
On the northwest corner of Traffic and Hoover Streets, Chowgirls Catering has a visible presence. This firm is well known in the food scene and more recently has been a founding partner of Minnesota Central Kitchen.
Remember EMERGE from the start of my walk? Immediately north of Chowgirls, I encountered another at least somewhat analogous enterprise, AccessAbility, with a mission “to provide opportunities for self-sufficiency for people with barriers to employment and community inclusion.”
Across Hoover Street from AccessAbility, another block of the much-interrupted Winter Street branches off to the east. On the north side of this tee intersection, I took note of Excel Metal Finishing. For a concrete-block building, it has some visual interest, both from the green-and-grey color scheme and from the pyramidal protrusions on some of the upper tiers of blocks. But truthfully, this isn’t a neighborhood where what piqued my sense of delight was the visual elements. Rather, it was the repeated glimpses of just how specialized the manufacturing sector is. My impression was like zooming in on the fractal structure of a coastline, constantly discovering that every cove has finer niches nested within it. Maybe I was warped for life by growing up in a city dominated by one massively integrated steel corporation that did everything from mining to ship-building—anything that contrasts with this model strikes me with a sense of wonder. In this case, the niche is defined by the industries served (primarily defense and aerospace) and the specialized kinds of painting and finishing performed, such as Chemical Agent Resistant Coating (CARC).
As mentioned earlier, Winter Street only extends a single block here before being interrupted by the Target Sortation Center. At that point, one has little choice but to turn the corner onto northbound Delano Street, also an isolated block. (In the route map, these two blocks form a forward-and-back spur.)
As I rounded the corner, though, I stopped short, already regretting my hasty pronouncement that it wasn’t the visual elements that interested me. Isn’t the screening of that corner lovely? The business inside, D & D Instruments, is in a sector—dashboard instrument cluster repair—that I didn’t even know existed until I ran across Sayo Electronics in the McKinley neighborhood, and now here I am, finding a second example in the very next neighborhood.
Back on Hoover Street, I found another business that specializes in finishing metal surfaces, albeit in a quite different way than Excel. Twin City Plating is primarily an Electroless Nickel Plating (ENP) firm, although they also provide “Anodize, Hard Coat Anodize, Electropolish, Passivation, and Hard Gold Plating services.” I had to ask one of my chemist friends for help interpreting the company’s logo. His analysis: with suitable allowance for artistic liberty, it could represent the hypophosphite ion used in ENP.
When I reached Broadway, the main part of my route called for a turn to the west, but I first needed to walk spurs beyond Broadway on Hoover and then eastward on Broadway. You’ll recall that the last time I crossed Broadway, I found myself suddenly in a mid-rise office park featuring the Broadway East and Broadway West buildings. Now on the west side of Hoover Street, I encountered the third element of Altus’s Broadway Campus, Broadway Ridge. The other two are more closely associated, being across the street from each other and of similar date (1985 and 1988) and style. This one is set apart, more recent (2000), and considerably more striking. I had described the other two as recognizably siblings, though not twins. This one makes me wonder if it might have been adopted into the family.
Turning temporarily east on Broadway, the space between Broadway Ridge and its two older siblings is occupied by a Costco Business Center. Given the no-nonsense utilitarian aesthetic of the building, I was pleasantly surprised by the landscaping of the parking lot.
Once I was headed west again, the intersection of Broadway and Harding Streets held particular interest for me, partly by serendipity, partly by advance planning. On the southwest corner, I unexpectedly encountered the second warehouse church of the walk, this time with dramatic clouds overhead. And on the southeast corner, I finally reached the brewery taproom I had been waiting for—the one I had timed my walk to reach when open. I’ve enjoyed several of Falling Knife’s more mainstream beers—their Hidden Temple and Verbal Tip IPAs and Freischütz pilsner—at restaurants, but by visiting the taproom, I was looking to try something more special. A traditional gose (sour and lightly salty) they call Laced Up fit the bill perfectly: it’s a style I really enjoy, can’t easily get, and find suited to walking. It did not disappoint. At all.
I’m conscious that this walk’s write-up has grown rather long, so I’m going to let the next three photos speak for themselves, aided only by their captions.
At Cleveland Street, I temporarily left Broadway for a big southward dip as far as Kennedy Street and then back on Arthur Street. This turns out to have been something of a mistake in my route planning: only once I was crossing Summer Street on Cleveland did I discover that the block between Summer and Kennedy Streets is a private parking area, not a public roadway. In exchange for a bit of trespassing, I was able to see more of the Bio-Techne campus. The Crave Cafe & Deli building dates from the 2001 renovation, the multi-tenant building it is attached to dates from the original Northwestern Terminal era, and the R&D Systems building is of intermediate age (1960) but clearly designed to harmonize with the original.
Just about any business or organization can be found with an internet search, but you have to know what to search for. One of the joys of walking all the streets of Minneapolis is that I encounter lots of entities I would never have thought to search for. And so it was that I learned not only of the Northern Cargo Association specifically but also of shippers’ associations more generally. I was completely unaware that non-profit cooperative enterprises exist to coalesce member companies’ shipments.
Once I reached the industrial area’s western border at I-35, I turned south on Johnson Street NE, passing the Shaw/Stewart Lumber Company, and then back east to my starting point on Winter Street NE.
The building on the northeast corner of Johnson and Winter Streets attracted my attention. I don’t have a photo of the outside, but it looks remarkably like it did in 1923, when the Mid-West Manufacturing Company located there renamed itself to the Wood-Imes Manufacturing Company. Today it seems to be used primarily for storage; peeking in a window, I was particularly taken by a dolly of wood clamps, cleverly designed with vertical boards attached to its platform so that the clamps could be clamped on.
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 November 27, 2021. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.
All photos are by the author.