Walking All the Streets of Southern Morris Park

The Morris Park neighborhood extends as far south as any in Minneapolis, and it is among the few that includes a portion south of the Crosstown Highway (Minnesota 62). My second walk in the neighborhood started and ended in that southernmost section, which skirts around an Air Force Reserve base on the northern edge of the airport. Most of the walk was north of the highway, though south of the previous walk.

The route map shows two A–B circuits in blue connected by a purple link traversed forward and later back. Of these, the one in the far southeast encompassing a single block of 45th and 46th Avenues South is the subsidiary one; the main loop starts and ends on 43rd Avenue South, just south of the highway overpass. As usual, the red lines indicate spurs walked forward and immediately black.

I immediately crossed that overpass to the north, turned west on 57th Street East, and then circled clockwise around the first in a succession of two-block loops that extend north to 56th Street East and south to 58th. This first loop on 41st and 42nd Avenues South was typical of this neighborhood with many modest single-family homes from the middle of the 20th century. Over time, the residents have made them progressively more distinctive, sometimes with as little as a flag out front. In particular, if I ever see a spacecraft crash land and some Martians emerge and inquire where they can find consular assistance, I now know where to take them. Whoever is flying the flag of their republic on 41st Avenue will surely be glad to see them.

Martian Congressional Republic Flag, 5648 41st Ave. S.

Exactly a block east of there, on 42nd Avenue South, another house caught my eye for a feature that might be original: a small bay window composed of three very vertical sashes above a smoothly contoured protrusion in the stucco wall.

Bay Window, 5648 42nd Ave. S.

The southern edge of this loop (and the ones to follow) was on 58th Street East, which is the frontage road on the north side of the highway. Normally freeway fences aren’t particularly attractive, but this one sports what I take to be a bee house, though only a small portion of its interior is filled with bamboo tubes. Were there originally more, but some were taken by kids? Or is this a hybrid, able to serve as a bird house as well as a bee house?

Bee House, 4200 Block of 58th St. E.

This same frontage road also includes the majority of the route’s spurs. In particular, before returning to 57th Street on 41st Avenue, I continued one block further west to 40th Avenue. That gave me a close-up view of the one freeway overpass I didn’t use in this neighborhood, a pedestrian bridge old enough that it can only be accessed by stairs. I’m still able to handle those, but with a desire to end on the same side of the freeway as I started, it made sense to leave this one out. It’s not very useful in any case, as the Air Force has blocked off access to the base at its southern end. (Perhaps the Navy, which previously ran the base, was more willing to have a pedestrian-only security checkpoint.)

Pedestrian Bridge, 40th Ave. S. at MN-62

Another theme in this area is several garages with interesting overhangs, either as car ports or for more human-oriented activities. Some tie the garage to the adjoining house, others are free-standing. I chose to photograph one that is bracketed between a garage and a shed, the door of which is labeled “Witch Way” and “Aloha Hawaii 5–0.” The location seems rather far south for Minneapolis’s admittedly nebulous witch district, but given Hawaii’s lack of contiguity with the rest of the US, I suppose it makes sense for a Hawaiian witch to be noncontiguous with the rest of the witch district.

Garage for 5700 39th Ave. S., on 57th St. E.

A couple blocks further west, I stopped to photograph both a little free library and a flowering tree. I delayed long enough in writing up this walk that I find the latter kind of funny. As of today, May 19th, everything is in full, exuberant bloom and this tree wouldn’t stand out. But when I took the walk on May 7th, most trees were still bare and I was all excited over little shoots of green or—gasp—flowers!

Little Free Library, 5640 37th Ave. S.
Little Free Library, 5640 37th Ave. S.
5600 Block of 37th Ave. S.

Although most of the dwellings in this neighborhood are single-family detached houses, there’s enough of an admixture of duplexes that I didn’t generally find them particularly noteworthy. However, as I neared 58th Street on 38th Avenue, one stood out for its Dutch colonial style and asymmetrical fenestration.

5736 38th Ave. S.

Although most of this walk extended no further north than 56th Street, I did include the 5500 block of the westernmost two avenues, 35th and 34th. The underlying reason was just geeky route planning, but as it turns out, that brought me around a couple interesting corner properties.

On the northeast corner of 56th Street and 35th Avenue, a self-proclaimed “Coke Nut” had a yard full of memorabilia to prove it. (The moniker is on a license plate on the west wall.) Perhaps even a Coke Nut finds items related to the Coca-Cola brand a tad monotonous, what with the pervasive red-and-white color scheme. At any rate, they diversified the collection with a bunch of non-Coke items.

5557 35th Ave. S.

On the southeast corner of 34th Avenue and 55th Street, I was able to see how QC Pizza had cleaned up from a facade failure. The false mansard roof had fallen off the front a couple days earlier, landing on the sidewalk and steps. By the time I passed by on my walk, the way was clear again, though the building’s appearance was not restored. I found it rather more interesting to see the exposed surface, which presumably represented a progression backward in time as well as space—deeper into the layered history of the building as well as into the layering of materials. In that, it serves as a metaphor for the All of Minneapolis project as a whole, in which by walking through the city’s space, I get glimpses of the different time periods over which it was developed.

QC Pizza, 5501 34th Ave. S.

Speaking of history, I noticed something interesting in the 5600 and 5700 blocks of 34th Avenue: houses of discordant age and setback, including some that were noticeably older than the rest of the neighborhood. A look at the library’s 1940 atlas made sense of this—as well as helping explain a discontinuity I’d earlier noticed in 57th Street where it crosses 38th Avenue.

Discontinuity in 57th St. E. at 38th Ave. S.
Unplatted Area, as of 1940 Atlas
5609 34th Ave. S. (1904)
Kriesel House, 5645 34th Ave. S. (1915)
5649 34th Ave. S. (1987)
5715 34th Ave. S. (1914)
Duplexes at 5723–5733 34th Ave. S. (1950)

This stretch of 34th Avenue also led me to the overpass back over the freeway. After walking along the frontage road past the Air Force Reserve base, I finished off by looping through the few residential blocks between 42nd and 46th Avenues. They look quite like the blocks north of the freeway I had started with, which makes a lot of sense given that this area was developed before the freeway was put through.

Rather than showing more of the houses, I’ll finish off with some telecommunications infrastructure. I was surprised how exposed the equipment was at a cell tower just outside the airport fence, across 59th Street from the legacy switching center.

Cellular Equipment, 4300 Block of 59th St. E.
CenturyLink Building, 5857 43rd Ave. S., from 59th St. E.

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 May 19, 2022. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn.

All non-overhead 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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