In the early 1920s, the Mid-City Industrial Area’s first big wave of development centered on Stinson Boulevard. One hundred years later, that area has undergone a new wave of adaptive redevelopment, as I saw on a short but rich walk. This filled the core I had left out in my prior walk around the industrial area. As usual, the blue lines on the route map show my main loop, whereas the red lines show forward-and-back spurs.
The glorious weather made me glad to use one of the picnic tables outside Honour Cafe to enjoy a biscuit, even on November 28th. Truly it was one of the best snacks I’ve had on any of my walks. The outside was crisp and warm, the inside more caky than flaky, but some of each—light and buttery. That inside was exposed by a horizontal knife cut, providing two perfect surfaces on which to put the homemade strawberry jam, which brought the intense flavor of sun-ripened berries.
I didn’t need any research to recognize Honour’s building as a former service station (Skelly Oil, 1961), but I was interested to learn that the next-door restaurant building was also built by Skelly Oil a couple years later —apparently they were coordinating gas stations and restaurants, and not just on interstates. The current occupant, Zakia Deli, wasn’t open on a Sunday, but I’ve enjoyed their food on prior occasions.
Across Stinson Boulevard, a pair of 600-foot-long three-story brick buildings now house offices for such entities as Fairview Health Services and UCare. But when built in 1919 and (in two stages) 1919–1920, they housed the Northwestern Terminal Company, an ambitious plan to aggregate together multiple small- and mid-size manufacturing and distribution businesses, which would then likewise aggregate together their less-than-carload freight to be shunted out via the Traffic Street spur line to any of nine major railways.
I suppose a present-day business incubator might have fiber-optic lines run that would later attract a larger business to the same neighborhood. Likewise, once the Minnesota Transfer Railway was serving the Northwestern Terminal, it made sense to extend it a bit further north a few years later for Cream of Wheat’s new building, a replacement for the beautiful but obsolete factory they had near downtown. I already included a photo of the 1928 Cream of Wheat building in my prior walk (when I crossed by on Broadway), but it seems important enough include another photo here.
Across Stinson Boulevard from the CW (Cream of Wheat) Lofts, a bland single-story warehouse building from 1950 seems to have nothing in common. But then I noticed the chimney has the Nabisco logo on each face and remembered that Cream of Wheat was for a time a Nabisco product (specifically from 1962 until 2007, by which point Nabisco was part of Kraft). Signs on the warehouse itself indicate the MN Opera now makes use of it, quite a change.
Continuing now on the east side of the boulevard but crossing Broadway Street, I was back to 1922 for a single-story red brick former factory building that is now the Foundry on Stinson, a multi-tenant space. Back in the 1920s, it was the main location for Arrow Head Steel Products Company, maker of pistons and other automotive components. The largest of the present tenants seems to be Continental Clay. I can’t decide whether the most intriguing is Arms & Armor or Stomping Ground.
At 35W, the boundary of the industrial area, I crossed Stinson Boulevard and headed back south on the west side. Most of the area across from the Foundry is occupied by the two buildings of Klesk Metal Stamping. I’ve chosen to prioritize Building 2 for the photo because it is another of the Martin Capp buildings I remarked upon on in the previous installment.
Turning west on Summer Street, I came back to the Bio-Techne campus that I had partially seen on the prior walk. The stylistic harmonization of newer buildings with those from the 1920s extends even to the parking ramp. I don’t know that structured parking will ever be lovable, but it does seem essential if the density of a streetcar-era site is to be kept relatively intact. Short of miraculously convincing today’s commuters to use public transit in the same proportion as 100 years ago, the alternatives seem to be structured parking or huge swaths of surface parking. And though putting a brick facade on the vertical transport column of a concrete ramp seems artificial, it really does help tie the campus together, creating a sense of comfort. Maybe comfort is an OK alternative to lovability.
South of Summer Street, the same visual theme is repeated in the main entrance at 614 McKinley Place and then the 1925 original re-emerges at 2201 Kennedy Street, the former Land O’Lakes Creameries building. (Aside: I’m not sure how McKinley got to be a Place rather than a Street.)
Another of the buildings on Kennedy Street was originally home to the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company and the Westinghouse Lamp Company. Today it’s called the Kennedy Building. I assume it’s named after the street—though since I haven’t figured out who the street is named after, perhaps they both derive from a common source.
At risk of belaboring a point, I’ll show another parking ramp, this one on the northeast corner of Kennedy Street and Stinson Boulevard. That puts it in proximity to the Northwestern Terminal buildings, and again it is designed to harmonize with them.
Most of the redevelopment of this area was done by Hillcrest Development, so it’s fitting that their own offices are here too—in yet another building they redeveloped, in this case from a 1928 garage. Specifically it was the Terminal Garage, reflecting the Northwestern Terminal Company’s dominance. Which makes me wonder whether the relief out front is a company insignia? It looks like it might have been salvaged from a larger building. I always come away from these walks with more questions than answers.
An industrial area needs industry, and industry needs labor. So I wasn’t exactly surprised to find a union hall on the southwest corner of Kennedy and Taft Streets, rather dwarfed by everything around it. Local 63B is shown on the sign as part of the Glass Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers (GMP) union, today a council within the United Steelworkers (USW).
I’d be back to Taft Street later; this first visit was at the tip of a spur, and so I retreated to Roosevelt Street and turned south to Traffic Street. There on the corner of Roosevelt and Traffic, I made my second coffee-shop stop of the walk. Up Cafe is connected to the wholesale Up Coffee Roasters. (I ducked my head in the wholesale part and found it suitably impressive.) Once again, I took advantage of the weather to enjoy an outdoor snack, this time a leek and parmesan “bistro.” That’s a word I was not familiar with in this context, but which turns out to be a puff-pastry pocket containing creamy filling and rising above it in a crunchy lattice.
Before leaving Up, I need to say this: I don’t always take selfies in lavatory mirrors, but when I do, they are gothic.
My second encounter with Taft Street was crossing it on Traffic Street. Both sides of Taft are flanked by modern industrial buildings bearing the logo of Bepex International, manufacturer of continuous solids processing system. (That rather abstract description covers a lot of ground; the web site offers examples.) The photo shows the building on the northwest corner.
I turned north on Wilson Street, which took me back to Kennedy Street right at the back of the Summer Business Center, the perfect vantage point from which to see the row of angled loading docks on the back, which are its most distinctive feature. It belongs to a class of building that I’ve found interesting, broad and shallow with a long row of leased spaces, each of which combines a small office in the front with an equally small warehouse in the back, where the loading dock is. A tenant wanting more space can lease multiple consecutive bays and breach the partition walls between them. This accommodation of small-scale distributorships does have a certain historical continuity with the Northwestern Terminal.
One block west of there I was back to the intersection of Kennedy and Taft Streets. Kitty-corner from the union hall, the building on the northeast corner caught my eye for reasons I can’t fully place. Was it the way “601 Taft” was lettered on the corner? The limited palette of analogous colors? The strong vertical and horizontal lines of the exposed structural elements? The sweep of the roof?
Across Kennedy Street on the southeast corner with Taft, I know exactly what drew my eye. But I have no clue why it is there. Or rather, I do know why that sign is there: because someone installed it. I just find it strange that they would do so. Then again, stranger things have happened.
The sign is close to the ground at the northwest corner of the Strong Scott Building, a former factory built in 1930 for the eponymous manufacturing company. It now houses multiple tenants, with the most interesting two I noticed being at the ends. Here at the north end, Sisyphus Industries makes fascinating tables in which “a metal ball rolls silently through sand, forever creating and erasing beautiful patterns.” (Take a look at the web site.) And at the south end, Norseman Distillery makes the most of the industrial space for a cocktail room (but not on Sundays).
My faithful readers will know that I could not rest easy until I learned what the Strong Scott Manufacturing Company manufactured. And the answer is continuous solids processing systems. Sound familiar? It turns out that Strong Scott was a predecessor of Bepex, which was able to move to newer quarters without leaving this block of Taft.
I, on the other hand, did leave Taft, turning west on Hennepin Avenue, a brief overlap with my prior walk. That put me in position to finish off Stinson Boulevard walking north to my starting point. On the east side of the street, south of Honour Cafe, I passed another building occupied by Fairview Health Systems. In particular, their IT operations are apparently here. That explains why earlier, when I was walking Roosevelt Street, I saw an addition on the southeast corner of this building that had the bunker-like look of a data center. Now that I was looking at the main building from the west, I could see it is structured for people to work here, not just machines. And that could be a good way to wrap up the Mid-City Industrial Area as a whole: it’s a part of Minneapolis that doesn’t just contain warehouses full of inventory and ladles full of molten metal, but also buildings full of industrious workers.
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 December 4, 2021. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.
All photos are by the author.