Walking All the Streets of Western Minnehaha

Weeks after I walked the eastern half of the Minnehaha neighborhood, another nice Sunday came along — this time with the added bonus of a newly opening bakery. The route map shows the path I planned to take through the western half of the neighborhood. To keep the travelogue simple, I’m going to pretend I actually followed this route.

Starting out southbound in the 5000 block of 35th Avenue South, I quickly came to Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church on the northwestern corner with 51st Street. I prefer this side view of the church to the main facade; in particular, I love the texture of the brick wall behind the cross.

Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3430 51st St. E., from 35th Ave. S.

Sometimes it is the little things that make a difference. This neighborhood has plenty of houses styled in imitation of rustic English cottages—they were popular in the 1920s. There are even a decent number where the front door has been painted in an eye-catching color such as turquoise. But how many then echo that color in the interior of a little free library?

5322 35th Ave. S.

Upon reaching the neighborhood’s southern border at 54th Street, I wrapped around to 34th Avenue and temporarily walked as far north as 52nd Street. That was far enough to see one of the long-established businesses on the 34th Avenue commercial corridor, Nokomis Hardware, which has been there since 1993.

Nokomis Hardware, 5155 34th Ave. S.

Retreating from this spur back to 53rd Street, I followed the serpentine main route east to 40th Avenue, then north to 52nd. The 5200 block of 40th Avenue South includes the front of Trinity Lutheran Church of Minnehaha Falls. Unlike the boxy rear section included in the prior walk, the main sanctuary is all about triangles, another common theme in modernist churches. Presumably it is a reference to the Trinity.

Trinity Lutheran Church of Minnehaha Falls, 5212 41st Ave. S., from 40th Ave. S.

Once back on 34th Avenue, the main route passed the previously pictured hardware store as well as a tailor shoppost office, residences and a gas station, all in the 5100 block. But the subsequent spur onto the 5200 block was even more eventful.

The southernmost business on this block is Oxendale’s Market, where a Girl Scout hawked cookies to the sparse stream of supermarket shoppers. The somewhat heavier traffic on the sidewalk provided a hint that something more exciting was further north, but for the time being, my attention focused on the mosaic trash receptacle.

Oxendale’s Market, 5025 34th Ave. S.
Mosaic Trash Receptacle Outside Oxendale’s Market

Only after passing by Town Hall Lanes did I recognize that the sidewalk traffic was just a small tributary flowing into the much larger queue that had accumulated in the parking lot between Town Hall Lanes and the next business north, Asa’s Bakery. A sign in the window explained that this was their opening day, partly accounting for the enthusiasm. Of course, the other factor was the quality of the merchandise, which I had already sampled at a previous location earlier in the All of Minneapolis project. Specifically, I had written of “the best bagel in the twin cities” after sampling one in the Longfellow neighborhood at a time when the bakery’s only outlet was the Midtown Farmer’s Market. In between that time and their move to 34th Avenue, they had a shop in the Corcoran neighborhood, where Vittles Catering and Deli had been at the time of my walk through that area.

Asa’s Bakery, 5011 34th Ave. S.

I walked the rest of this block, ending in front of Casa Maria, and then returned to take my place in the parking lot queue. Fifty-seven minutes later, I emerged victorious with two bagels to munch on while walking. First, though, I posed them in a boulevard bush. Bagels like these don’t grow on trees.

Sesame and Plain Bagels from Asa’s Bakery

The next east/west zigzag was east on 51st Street to 40th Avenue, then back west on 50th Street to 34th Avenue. Although the retail is now all concentrated on 34th Avenue, you can see that the building on the southwest corner of 50th Street and 40th Avenue originally housed a grocer.

3925 50th St. E.

The 4900 block of 34th Avenue is rich with both businesses and residences, but I chose to highlight the little free library outside Nokomis Tattoo and an unusual duplex. The library falls within the genre of those that imitate the building they are in front of. However, it is also distinguished by its rear shed having a side door for dog treats. As to the duplex, it apparently started out in 1941 as an ordinary bilaterally symmetric structure like the two to its north, but then received a distinct addition a decade later.

Nokomis Tattoo Little Free Library, 4933 34th Ave. S.
4923–4925 34th Ave. S.

The next west-to-east segment of the main route ended differently from the earlier ones because of Minnehaha Creek, which curves through the northeastern portion of the neighborhood. Walking a spur northward along the creek in the 4800 block of 39th Avenue South, I saw a hockey practice to the east and some atypically contemporary architecture to the west.

Hockey on Minnehaha Creek, 4800 Block of 39th Ave. S.
4818 and 4812 39th Ave. S. (2018 and 2012)

Turning around to head south, I only needed to enter the next block to be firmly back in the Queen-Anne-turreted 19th century.

4901 39th Ave. S.
4901 39th Ave. S.

Of late, towers are more commonly found on church buildings. And there is a particularly striking one on the northeast corner of 38th Avenue South and 54th Street East, home since 1992 of St. Herman’s Orthodox Church but with a cornerstone reading “Resurrection Church 1956.”

Tower of St. Herman’s Orthodox Church, 5355 38th Ave. S., from 54th St. E.
St. Herman’s Orthodox Church, 5355 38th Ave. S.

By this point, the route had switched from an east/west serpentine gradually making its way northward to a north/south serpentine progressing westward. In particular, having taken 39th Avenue south as far as 54th Street, I now returned on 38th Avenue north to Minnehaha Parkway.

Once at the parkway, an eastward spur extended up over the southbound lanes of Hiawatha Avenue to Longfellow Gardens. At least, I stopped as best I could guess to directly above the middle of Hiawatha Avenue. That’s the boundary between the Minnehaha and Hiawatha neighborhoods. In the photo of snowy gardens, I’m pretty sure the foreground is in Minnehaha, although the background is in Hiawatha.

Longfellow Gardens, 3933 Minnehaha Pkwy. E.

Back to the main route, the next southbound segment, 37th Avenue, passed by the fourth church of the walk, Minnehaha United Methodist Church. Clearly they are a tech-savvy congregation, judging not only by the photovoltaic installation but also by their having nabbed a prime domain name (minnehaha.org) before anyone else. As at the first church (Faith), the brickwork of the sanctuary wall expresses a grid; here, though, it is punctuated with a half-drop pattern of small cruciform windows.

Minnehaha United Methodist Church, 3701 50th St. E., from 37th Ave. S.

I’m always on the lookout for households that have expressed a sense of whimsy, at whatever scale. Three examples from consecutive avenues would be the Moai on 37th Avenue dressed for St. Patrick’s day, which was later in the week; the “Reading Railroad” library on 36th; and the incorporation of aqua-tinted glass blocks in a fence, handrail and vestibule on 35th. (Regarding the railroad, it occurs to me with some sadness that young people may not understand the pun. I have the advantage not only of mature years, but also of a childhood in Pennsylvania.)

Pre St. Patrick’s Day Moai, 5134 37th Ave. S.

Reading Railroad, 5225 36th Ave. S.
4821 35th Ave. S.

Returning to the walk’s start, the entire block bounded by 50th and 51st Streets East and 35th and 36th Avenues South is occupied by Nokomis Square Cooperative, a senior living community on the site of the former Nokomis Junior High School. I was just on time for dinner with an old friend who lives there. Or at least, that was the plan. Having spent so long in line for bagels, I needed to take a shortcut here, then return later to finish up the rest of the planned route. But you didn’t need to know that.

Nokomis Square Cooperative, 5015 35th Ave. S.

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 April 2, 2022. 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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