In Minneapolis it is a sad fact that most of the street names are logical, but boring. Still, there are exceptions. Streets in Southwest Minneapolis, for example, still bear the names of prominent citizens who built the city. Some neighborhood street names are just plain quirky, often the remnants of the original landowners. Northeast stands out as the most patriotic of all neighborhoods. The Presidents’ Streets are legendary, an inspiration to most and a conundrum to those who aren’t up to speed on American history.
Writing in The Northeaster in 1988 Penny Jacobson describes in detail the story of how “many early settlers’ names disappeared from streets for the sake of uniformity.” It’s a great story of how Northeast streets got their historic names.
Though street names have changed more than once over time, the “permanent” names of today’s Northeast neighborhood streets reflect a burst of Americanism surrounding World War I and welcoming the wave of immigrants coming to the community. One way to learn the Presidents’ names was to walk the neighborhood itself.
Jacobson reminds residents that Tyler Street Northeast was once known as Clayton; Polk Street was Wilkin; Taylor Street used to be Cummings; Fillmore was known as Eastwood; Pierce was Brott; Buchanan was Wells; Lincoln was Maryland and Johnson was East. The previous names, with the exception of Maryland and East, were those of property owners in the early era of Northeast development.
And so the street names of Northeast continue, Ulysses (as in Grant) through McKinley, until it comes to Stinson Parkway. James Stinson donated the land for Stinson Boulevard in 1885; naming rights for the Parkway are the responsibility of Minneapolis Parks and Recreation.
Sometime in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s the city fathers continued the re-naming of Northeast streets. The Committee on Roads and Bridges recommended and the City Council approved, changing the name of “L” Street to Harding, “M” street to Coolidge, “O” Street to Hoover Street, and “P” Street to Delano. Delano slipped in because there was already a Roosevelt Street and a Franklin Avenue. (Delano, by the way, is just North of Hennepin and in proper historic sequence.)
All this comes to mind as Northeasters prepare for the fifth annual We Love Our President’s Walk scheduled for Saturday, February 16. It’s a tradition!
Participants, walkers, bikers, even pets will gather at 10:00 a.m. at Edison High School (between Washington and Monroe). The Northeast Urban 4-H Club will lead walkers up Central; along the way they will stop at designated points to share trivia about the presidents.
After a stop for hoc chocolate at the Eastside Food Coop walkers will head East on 29th for a hot lunch and program featuring a trivia contest, drawing, prizes and a brief presentation.
What’s new this year at the President’s Walk will be some intrepid bikers and a focus on presidential pets. There will also be presentation of the coveted 2013 Northeast Presidential Seal to the group with the most participants. A shuttle bus will transport talkers back to the start of the Walk.
For more information or to volunteer to help with the Walk, contact David Warnest with Minneapolis Public Schools Community Education. Reach him at 612 668 1515 or David.firstname.lastname@example.org.