A glance at the map shows that Midtown Phillips is quite different west of 12th Avenue South than east of that line, where I previously walked. Instead of a dense street grid accommodating primarily small-scale residences, the western half features larger spaces holding two hospitals, a park, a school, and a major mixed-use complex of offices, condos/apartments, and retail.
I started my walk by having lunch within the retail component of that Midtown Exchange complex, the Midtown Global Market. I knew from experience I could get a good meal at any of several old (and not so old) favorites, including Taqueria Los Ocampos, Moroccan Flavors, Hot Indian, and Arepa Bar. But I was in the mood to try something new—new to me, anyhow, but also comparatively new to the market, having opened in May of 2021. On the east (10th Avenue) side of the market, almost as far south as Lake Street, Soul to Soul Smokehouse’s offerings are prominently displayed.
I ordered a portion of the smoked pork with sides of collard greens and black-eyed peas. All three were expertly cooked. I opted to eat the pork without sauce so as to better appreciate the flavors of the smoke and dry rub. The juicy meat was cooked to the point of being very tender but not yet falling apart into shreds—it could still be carved with a sharp knife for serving, rather than needing to be pulled, but was easy to eat with just a plastic fork. The tasty sides were thoughtfully prepared with smoked turkey, so that they could be enjoyed by a wider audience.
I had my lunch early so as to get going on the walk during the height of the day; as a result, I had the market largely to myself. But when I stopped back later, the place was lively as a substantial number of people enjoyed their lunches while listening to singer/songwriter/guitarist Robert Everest, part of the market’s Saturday Sounds series, accompanied by percussionist Michael Bissonnette.
For the walk itself, I exited the southeast corner of the market, walked Lake Street along the southern face, and then turned north for a spur up Elliot Avenue, which runs along the western side of the complex. As the inscription over the doors makes clear, the low-rise southern portion that now houses the market was the Sears Roebuck and Company retail store. To the north, the high-rise office and residential building was originally Sears’s mail-order warehouse, which makes more sense when you remember that the Midtown Greenway trench was previously a rail line. Also, multistory warehouses were much more prevalent in the 1920s than of late.
West of Elliot Avenue, artist Melodee Strong and her team recently wrapped three sides of Hamdi Restaurant with a vivid, positive-spirited mural. I show two portions here, and you can find more on her Facebook page, but honestly you owe yourself a walk all the way around to take it all in. I appreciate her permission to photograph it, and I’m also going to take the liberty to quote a story from her Facebook page at the time of the mural’s completion in September of 2021:
I met with the occupant of the building, the owner of Hamdi, this morning. A little back story… He was a little reluctant at first for my vision of the building, but eventually warmed up to us and the girls. Even so much so to bring us food and drink almost every day. This morning he brought me to tears telling me that I have represented in this mural what the city should be like—not only visually but as a people. He said in his language I am a gift from God. My gift is blessing him and our community, our city. That means so much! Girls, we made that happen!
The neighborhood’s western border, Chicago Avenue, constituted the longest straight-line segment of the route, northbound from Lake Street to 24th Street. It also provided my first views of the two hospitals as I passed by.
Like most major hospitals, Abbott Northwestern Hospital is a conglomerate of buildings of varying ages. The photo shows the junction between the Main Hospital West building, from the 1920s, and the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, from the 1970s. (At the time, it was the Sister Kenny Institute.) In the background, if I’m not mistaken, is the Main Hospital East building from the 1940s, and before even reaching this point, I had passed the Wasie Building from the 1980s. By the time the walk was over, several other decades were also represented.
In the space between Abbott Northwestern and the next hospital north—Children’s—I was unsurprised to find a medical office building. What I found most interesting about the Midtown Doctors Building was how in this overcast light, it looked like an architect’s rendering rather than a real building.
The southern end of Children’s Minnesota—Minneapolis displays a particularly striking example of buildings of different ages connecting—notice the contrast between the portions to the left and right of the stair tower, and how the tower itself serves not to hide the contrast, but to draw attention away from it with a point of drama. Later I learned that this particular transition is also of greater organizational significance than just two portions of one hospital. The part to the right is The Mother Baby Center, poised between Abbott Northwestern and Children’s as a joint venture combining the strength of one in obstetrics and the other in neonatology.
To the left of the stair tower, the entry area of Children’s is itself something of a transition, sharing the curved form of the Mother Baby Center but with a color palette and fenestration more reminiscent of the main hospital building to its north, which I presume is less recent. A bit of helipad is visible sticking out from the roof of the main building. Seeing it, I had a vivid memory of a night back when I lived outstate, when a friend’s baby was flown here. Be glad it’s there for those who need it, and hope you are never one of them.
As I remarked at the outset, the amount of space occupied by large institutional uses in this western half of the neighborhood precludes much small-scale residential development. But that doesn’t mean there is none. And just after Children’s Hospital, before turning onto 27th Street East, I finally encountered some, including the Queen Anne style duplex, built in 1893, shown here.
The portion of the route that spans 24th through 26th Streets is particularly convoluted and rich in forward-and-back spurs, shown in red on the map. Despite being only two blocks high by four blocks wide, this area contains 12 places I need to turn either a corner or about-face. Rather than narrate the whole path, I’ll just highlight a few sights from along the way.
Already in the eastern half of the neighborhood, I’d seen (but not shown) several trash receptacles decorated with mosaics. Crossing 10th Avenue South on 25th Street East, I passed another, shown here. If I understood Greta McLain correctly, these were created by the Semilla Center for Healing and the Arts during the 2010–2014 period when she led that project. Certainly they are a welcome contribution to the streetscape for those of us passing through at a pedestrian pace.
A couple turns later, I arrived one block further south on 26th Street East. That provided a good view of the Piper Building, a 1986 component of Abbott Northwestern. What’s notable here is the more recent skyway at the right of the photo, the physical embodiment of the Mother and Baby Center’s connection to Abbott Northwestern.
After this spur, I turned north on 11th Avenue South, passing a second time by the interesting building on the northeast corner with 25th Street East. It’s now a five-unit dwelling, but its physical form also suggests a number of facts about its history—that it is old, was expanded (perhaps repeatedly), originally had a store in the ground floor front, and at some point had a dive bar or liquor store in that space. And I was subsequently able to confirm all of this. The structure was built in 1884 with additions in 1891 and 1909, and directories show grocers from 1884 to at least as late as 1950. After that the directories aren’t online, but even without a trip to the library, I can see permits issued between 1951 and 1955 for signs from Hamm’s, Glueck’s, Budweiser, and Grainbelt, all suggesting a change away from groceries to beer, just as the front windows suggest. This didn’t last long; the conversion to a 5-plex was in 1956.
In the middle of that same block, on the opposite side of 11th Avenue, another mosaic trash receptacle echoes the “peace” theme of Peaceful Patch Community Garden, which stands directly behind it. Nor is peace limited to that one spot—it recurs together with love on another trash receptacle at the 24th street end of the block.
Another point of community-art commonality across the neighborhood is the collection of decorated utility boxes, which as I indicated previously are a series of five on the theme “Healthy Connections” sponsored by the Midtown Phillips Neighborhood Association.
Turning south on 10th Avenue South, I encountered an important organization on the southwest corner with 25th Street. CornerHouse is aptly named, being a house located on a street corner that also has two wings forming a right-angled shape. But perhaps most aptly of all, it is a house where people can turn in a new direction. Once again, I found myself marveling at how many valuable nonprofits I encounter as a side effect of walking all the blocks of the city—I see their physical locations before I learn of their services. CornerHouse “work[s] in prevention, intervention, and ending abuse in families, … striv[ing] to assist families in stabilization and healing.”
Regular readers will know that I’m fond of the apartment buildings that proliferated in the 1920s, each a two-story wood-frame box plus garden level, clad in red brick veneer, and with such exotic ornamentation as red tiles and arches. (Indeed, I live in such a building, dating from 1929.) As I turned from 10th Avenue South to 28th Street East, I encountered a particularly notable example of this style.
Rather than a single rectangular box, it is formed from a pair that are connected into a courtyard-surrounding U shape. Built in 1928, it included a grocery store and a beauty parlor as well as the apartments; today, it has 10 one-bedroom apartments, 4 two-bedroom, and 4 efficiency. An inscription over the courtyard names the building “The Antonoff.” Presumably not coincidentally, the 1928 building permit was issued to Sam Antonoff.
From 28th Street, I turned back north on 12th Avenue far enough to reach the southeastern corner of Stewart Park. This brought me along the eastern side of Andersen United Middle School, which is located on the southern edge of the park. That eastern side of the school features a garden area with an accompanying mural of Las Tres Hermanas—Three Sisters. Like the larger and more well-known Juntos Crecemos on Bloomington Avenue at Lake Street, this mural combines painting with mosaic. And like that one, the lead artist was Greta McLain of GoodSpace Murals, working in 2013 on a project of the Semilla Center for Healing and the Arts. In this instance, the project was in collaboration with the school’s 8th grade science and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) programs. I appreciate McClain’s permission to photograph this and the other works she led.
More of the mosaics, dated a year earlier (2012) and likewise credited to the ASD program and Semilla, surround the school’s entrance on the south face—a space that the school’s 1976 brutalist architecture would otherwise have rendered quite cave-like.
From the school, I took 11th Avenue South back to Lake Street, where the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches Russ Ewald Center for Urban Service sits on the northeast corner with a playful school of concrete-block fishes.
At this point, I was just one block east of my starting point, and in fact a spur took me momentarily back there. Thankfully, I didn’t forget to go back the opposite direction and loop around via the 2900 block of 12th Avenue South. Had I prematurely terminated the route, I would have missed the mural on the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store.
Titled Southside (Re)Cycles, this mural was painted by the 2018 Power of Vision project of Hope Community. Lead artists were Tori Hong, Reggie LeFlore, and Olivia Levins Holden. The mural’s inscription, on the south face of the building, also includes a list of the youth muralists. Alas, the alley-side snowbank covered part of that list, so I won’t reproduce it here. However, I do want to give at least a collective shout-out to the youth participants in this and the other community arts projects I’ve highlighted. I appreciate the three lead artists’ permission to photograph a portion of the work. And I want to emphasize, it is only a portion. Please do go see the whole thing.
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 January 27, 2022. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.
All photos are by the author.