Follow the Red Brick Roads

These bricks were probably laid in the late 1910s or early 1920s.

Mac-Groveland and Desnoyer Park

NOTE: While I did this ride on August 4, 2011, I didn’t complete the post until March 28, 2012.  Sorry for the delay.

7 miles

South bound on Mt. Curve Boulevard in Macalester-Groveland and the black top roadway suddenly gave way to red brick, a teeth-jarring reminder of how much better today’s road materials are for bikes and their riders.  Still, the bricks of yesteryear certainly look good.

That may explain why neighbors along Goodrich Avenue between Cleveland and Mississippi River Boulevard requested the city, as the coup de grace of the 2009 street reconstruction, resurface the street with new bricks rather than black top.

    In 2009 these new brick pavers we put down on a two block stretch of Goodrich Avenue.

In 2009 these new brick pavers were put down on a two block stretch of Goodrich Avenue.

The project’s total cost was nearly $487,300, about $258,000 more expensive than asphalt by according to the Villager newspaper.  The City assessed Goodrich Avenue residents 25% of the resurfacing project.  The problem is that the other 75% of the cost, almost $383,500, was born by taxpayers in the rest of Saint Paul, which raised hackles all across the city.

Granite Memorial to Saint Paul and Ramsey County World War I dead. Built in 1922 by Daughters of the American Revolution. Beaux Arts style Magnus Jemne, architect.

It wasn’t long before the thoughts of the controversial brick roadway evaporated as I rode into a park on Summit Avenue and River Road. There, a monument to Saint Paul and Ramsey County soldiers who perished in World War I grabbed my attention.

A close up of the plaque on the World War I Memorial

The Mississippi River and Minneapolis as seen from the park at Summit and Mississippi River Parkway.

A mile or so north, at 176 North Mississippi River Boulevard, is Eastcliff, the home of the University of Minnesota’s president Robert Bruininks.  Nowhere on this magnificent home and grounds is it written that it belongs to the U but there are clues…

Flowers of Eastcliff

Maroon and gold flowers are one tip-off that this stately manor belongs to the University of Minnesota.

Eastcliff was donated to the U of M in 1958 by the widow of a lumber baron and has been home to University presidents since 1960.  Eastcliff was at the center of a controversy in the late 1980s. The condensed version of the story is that renovation of the house and grounds cost nearly twice the initial estimate of $670,000. Some of the expenses, such as the $41,000 fence, were perceived as wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars and caused a backlash against the U and ultimately forced then-president Ken Keller to resign.

Eastcliff fence

The $41,000 fence

 

Check out Eastcliff's five car garage!

Check out Eastcliff’s five car garage!

unicycleistContinuing north on Mississippi River Boulevard (often simply called  “The River Road”) under the Marshall Avenue-Lake Street Bridge, past mansions, some grand, others elegant and even imposing, I got to the border of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.  Although I had biked this way many times, I had never noticed the path down toward the river.

The path from Mississippi River Boulevard to the Meeker Island Lock and Dam Historic Site.

A sign indicated that the Meeker Island Lock and Dam Historic Site was what I would find at the end of the path.

Even with the high river level, I easily found remnants of the Meeker Island Lock and Dam.

A 1908 postcard of the Meeker Island Lock and Dam. Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

The Meeker Island Lock and Dam was constructed in 1907 to allow river traffic to move from Saint Paul to Minneapolis. According to the National Park Service, this was the first lock and dam ever built on the Mississippi River.  Meeker Island Lock and Dam was only five years old when it was replaced by another lock and dam farther downstream in Saint Paul.  This picturesque park is worth a visit for the historical value it offers and for its peaceful seclusion.  For what it’s worth, City Pages newspaper named the Meeker Island Historic Site “2010 Best Picnic Spot.”

After biking back up from the river, drawn by a tall radio antenna, I moved east through Desnoyer Park.  At the corner of St. Anthony Avenue and Frontenac Place (611 Frontenac to be exact) in the midst of a neighborhood otherwise comprised of single-family homes, is this building with a radio tower in the backyard.

PHP

611 Frontenac is home to Prairie Home Productions but it’s difficult to know that by looking at the building. You won’t see a Garrison Keillor statue, a map of Lake Wobegon or even a box of Powdermilk Biscuits anywhere.

The building is unlabeled aside from the address so I ventured to the internet to learn that Prairie Home Productions, producer of the Minnesota Public Radio show “A Prairie Home Companion,” is located here.

A block east on St. Anthony was the final blog-worthy stop of the ride. The Red River Ox Cart Trail, or more accurately, a Ramsey County Historical Society marker commemorating the Trail, sits partially obscured by trees and a flower garden at the angular intersection where St. Anthony and Beverly Road meet.

The flower garden at St. Anthony and Beverly, and in the background, the sign commemorating the Red River Ox Cart Trail.

A closer look at the Ramsey County Historical Society marker recognizing The Red River Ox Cart Trail.

This evening’s ride was only about 7 miles in length but it touched on people, places and things over more than 100 years of history.  Not bad for a couple of hours on a nice summer evening.

The route on August 4, 2011.

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