For weeks I have grieved over the devastation that the recent tornado wrought in North Minneapolis. It seemed that everything I was hearing about the Northside was sad, lacking context either past or future. This persisted until I came across a printout I had produced weeks ago that gave me hope and a sense of how to approach learning more about the great stories that long flourished in the diverse, creative and vibrant community that is North Minneapolis.
The printout of 2011 Minneapolis Summer Walking and Biking Tours produced by Preserve Minneapolis opened new possibilities – why just read about history when walking (for me) and biking (for those with fewer years and more energy) can bring it all to life. The opportunity to absorb the wisdom of those who know the stories is compelling.
At first my thoughts were focused on North Minneapolis and the stories of my neighbors and neighborhood just across the bridge – stories I frankly admit I do not know. Though the listing of walking and biking tours sponsored by Preserve Minneapolis is far more inclusive my particular interest starts closer to home but gives a flavor of what’s available throughout the city.
- On Saturday, July 16, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. there’s a walking tour of Old Highland, starting at Ascension Church, 1723 Bryant Avenue North, a unique chance to earn about the neighborhood that features many Victorian homes from the 1880’s and 1890’s. Two homes and the former North Branch Library are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The area also features a mix of 1920’s bungalows and early examples of urban renewal development. Tour guides are Brian Bushay and Tammy Lindberg. ($5)
- Sunday, August 7, offers a rare and wondrous opportunity to learn about North Side Synagogues and Neighborhood. It’s a two-part program led by Robert Roscoe and Iric Nathanson and co-sponsored by the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest.
- The first session (10:30-12:30) will focus on three neighborhood synagogues, the Emmanuel Cohen Community Center, and the Jewish Shelter Home for Children.
- The second session (1:30-3:30) highlights the architecture of some of the gathering places of the North Minneapolis Jewish community in the early and mid-20th century. ($5/session) Both sessions meet at the Mikro Kodesh Synagogue, 1000 Oliver Avenue North.
- Cross the Mississippi into Northeast for a September 8 (5:30-6:30) tour the Grain Belt Brewery,1220 Marshall St Northeast. This is a limited participation tour led by Jerry Mayberg. It’s a grand story that begins with John Orth, the city’s first German brewer in 1893 and leading up to today’s revival of the building as a magnificent arts center and city landmark. ($5) (Personal note: My recent piece re. John Orth and Grain Belt appeared in The Northeaster last month – I had a great time learning about the thriving brewery industry in the Mill City – all that grain and all that water!)
- On Thursday, September 15, you’re invited to learn more about the only inhabitated on the Mississippi. Nicollet Island, tucked on the river near the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, is described as one of the city’s “oldest and quaintest neighborhoods.” Chris Stellar who will lead the tour (6:00-7:30) will highlight the industrial, commercial and residential uses of this small plot of land, including descriptions of the many well-preserved 19th Century residents on the island’s North end.
These are just the North and Northeast possibilities. The list of walking and biking tours sponsored by Preserve Minneapolis is truly amazing. Visit the Warehouse District, the Theaters on Hennepin Avenue, the Como-Harriet trolley line, the stately residences around the lakes, Prospect Park, Loring Park and one that particularly calls my name, a “Walk with Maud”- Maud, as girls and women of every age know, is Maud Hart Lovelace who ventured beyond her Mankato roots to explore life in The City. Kathy Kullberg will lead a tour of the very street where Betsy, Tacy and Tib planned Betsy’s Wedding. It’s Tuesday, August 23, 5:30-7:00 ($5)
These are all of the Preserve Minneapolis tours are described in detail in the wonderfully informative catalog published by the nonprofit. Preserve Minneapolis is a nonprofit organization established in 2003 to preserve and tell the story of the architecture and other historic treasures of the city. Contact Preserve Minneapolis at firstname.lastname@example.org.