Where Is the “You” In University Avenue?

August 18, 2012

10.6 miles

Cretin-Marshall signss 1

Today I set off to check out University Avenue to see what’s up in the wake of light rail construction, but first, a sign stop at Marshall and Cretin.

Helpful? directions to many places.

Helpful? directions to many places.

midwest hotel 1My first subject on University Avenue was the Midwest Hotel, just east of Cretin. The Midwest, 2144 University, well-known to University Avenue travelers, has a somewhat shady reputation. I spent about 10 minutes shooting pictures of the hotel and never saw anyone inside, enter or exit. I couldn’t find much about the Midwest Hotel on the Internet-not surprisingly it doesn’t have a website-but according to realty website http://www.loopnet.com, it has 35 ‘units’ that can be rented by the night, the week or longer term.

midwest hotel 3

The absence of any people made the Midwest Hotel look more like a set from ‘The Rockford Files” than an operating hotel.

The absence of any people made the Midwest Hotel look more like a set from ‘The Rockford Files” than an operating hotel.

As you can see, the Central Corridor light rail construction is moving along at least between Transfer Road and Prior Avenue

As you can see, the Central Corridor light rail construction is moving along at least between Transfer Road and Prior Avenue

sibling rivalry 1This bench-sculpture by Jane Frees-Kluth is titled “Sibling Rivalry.” It’s location just west of University and Prior is said to be the geographic center of the Twin Cities.

sibling rivalry 2While not about the rivalry between Saint Paul and Minneapolis, the sculpture’s location is an interesting happenstance.

sibling rivalry 3Installed in 2004, “Sibling Rivalry” is one of two public art works that serve as benches that I saw on my ride today.

A new bus shelter at University and Prior. The two cars await the green light to turn north on Prior.

A new bus shelter at University and Prior. The two cars await the green light to turn north on Prior.

A close look at the design in the shelter glass. Not only decorative and promotional, the designs reduce the chance of pedestrians walking into the shelter glass.

A close look at the design in the shelter glass. Not only decorative and promotional, the designs reduce the chance of pedestrians walking into the shelter glass.

Proponents of the hugely expensive Central Corridor rail line have told us time and again the project will stimulate business growth along University Avenue. I certainly hope that happens, but for now, two years of construction have had a demonstrably negative effect on commerce along much of the Avenue, as these shots I took in the 1900 block show.

vacant 1vacant 2vacant 3vacant 4vacant 5

The inter-meshing of art, history and industry at the intersection of University and Fairview isn’t evident when driving by but there’s a lot to experience and learn if you have some time to look around.

Marcia McEachrons’s 2002 “Out of the Woods” is the other bench art I saw today. Tucked up against the Episcopal Homes residence on the southwest corner of University and Fairview, it had to be a welcome respite from the heat and sun for this woman awaiting the bus.

Marcia McEachrons’s 2002 “Out of the Woods” is the other bench art I saw today. Tucked up against the Episcopal Homes residence on the southwest corner of University and Fairview, it had to be a welcome respite from the heat and sun for this woman awaiting the bus.

out of the woods 4

I love this bench art for the way it brings a sliver of the tropics to Saint Paul on all but the coldest winter day.

out of thewoods 2out of the woods 3

The Major Tire Company building could be mistaken for many other brick buildings on University Avenue, until you see its east-facing wall. Then you glimpse the dramatic mural, which offers a distinctive view of University Avenue. Scott Murphy was commissioned in 2007 to create this piece. mural 1

I found Scott Murphy’s email address on the mural and contacted him to set up an interview. Since Scott lives in Proctor, MN, we talked on the phone rather than face to face.

I found Scott Murphy’s email address on the mural and contacted him to set up an interview. Since Scott lives in Proctor, MN, we talked on the phone. Scott’s daughter Jennifer is the lone rider on this train.

Scott told me the mural was a, “…fun project because it was a tired corner.” However, he was at times, “nervous because it’s (the area) wild and wooly.”

Scott had to overcome some technical hurdles to create the large masterpiece on a brick wall along a busy city street. He started by drawing a small to-scale rendering of the mural.

Scott Murphy in front of a mural he did in Duluth. Photo courtesy Scott Murphy

Scott Murphy in front of a mural he did in Duluth. Photo courtesy Scott Murphy

Then he put a projector on a tall ladder, cast the drawing on the wall with the projector and traced lines with a thick marker. Even though it was night, Scott found had trouble tracing the outline on the wall. The lights of nearby businesses, street lamps and passing cars created such a bright environment that all he could see was shapes and little detail.

Scott had many visitors daily, including some who became regulars.

“One guy was out taking pictures and he badgered the mayor into coming out.”

Scott told of funny incidents that occurred during the month-plus he spent on the mural. “One guy showed up and asked if he could be in the mural. I said, ‘no but I’ll tell you what. Your Lab can be in the mural. Get me some shots.’ He came back the next day with 100 shots-8 by 10s!”

Another time, said Scott, several kids came over and started asking him questions. “I knew they were taggers and I gave them cookies and candy. I spent a fortune but I didn’t want them to paint over my mural. They made their own mural on the roof of the building next door using the same colors.”

Captain Kangaroo, 'Mr. Moose' and Bob Dylan all caught the trolley.

Captain Kangaroo, ‘Mr. Moose’ from the Captain’s show and Bob Dylan all caught the trolley.

I noticed some familiar faces on the trolley and questioned Scott about them. “Next to Mr. Moose, on the right, is Bob Dylan.  In the front of the trolley is Paul Wellstone, next to him is a community activist and I can’t remember her name, behind her is Prince.”

The late Senator Paul Wellstone, in the blue coat and fedora, a local activists, Prince and the famous Labrador.

The late Senator Paul Wellstone, in the blue coat and fedora, a local activists, Prince and the famous Labrador.

One person Scott didn’t include but now wishes he had is former Governor Jesse Ventura, “He annoyed me but I should have put him in because he helped get Light Rail in.”

Scott spent more than a month completing the mural. During that time the owner of Major Tire put him up in one of the apartments above the store.

The main entrance to the Griggs Midway Building, 1821 University Avenue.

The main entrance to the Griggs Midway Building, 1821 University Avenue.

The Griggs-Midway Building, across Fairview Avenue from the Major Tire mural, accommodates dozens of non-profits and small businesses.

griggs midway 2But at one time the facility, then known as Griggs, Cooper & Company, bustled with the organized chaos of food manufacture and distribution.

Griggs, Cooper & Company building during construction in 1924. Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Griggs, Cooper & Company building during construction in 1924. Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Griggs, Cooper & Company was founded in 1882 and moved from downtown Saint Paul to this larger building in about 1912.

Cookie making at Griggs, Cooper & Company in 1930. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Cookie making at Griggs, Cooper & Company in 1930. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Candy department panning room, Griggs, Cooper & Company, 1937. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Candy department panning room, Griggs, Cooper & Company, 1937. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

At that time it was said to be the largest cannery in the world. Later, hundreds of workers manufactured and packaged crackers, cookies, candy, coffee, spices and jelly under the ” Home Brand” and “Sanitary Products” labels.

You can see loading docks and other remnants of its industrial past along the east side of the Griggs Midway Building

You can see loading docks and other remnants of its industrial past along the east side of the Griggs Midway Building

The paint on old loading dock doors show the effects of many years of wear.

The paint on old loading dock doors show the effects of many years of wear.

Dickerman 1Edging University Avenue in front of the Griggs-Midway Building is this bus shelter and marker for Dickerman Park, almost certainly the least known of all Saint Paul’s parks. According to the marker, Griggs, Cooper & Company and the Dickerman Investment Company in 1909 donated to the City of Saint Paul a linear swath of land on the north side of University Avenue between Fairview and Aldine Street. At the time, there was some consideration to converting University to a landscaped boulevard, an idea that clearly didn’t materialize. Dickerman Park effectively suffered the same fate.

The grass in the foreground is part of Dickerman Park.

The grass in the foreground is part of Dickerman Park.

While still owned by the City, Dickerman Park land has gradually been cannibalized by businesses and organizations abutting it for parking lots, a garden and a playground.

The Twin Cities German Immersion School occupies at least part of 1745 University Avenue. Some of this land, too, belongs to Dickerman Park.

The Twin Cities German Immersion School occupies at least part of 1745 University Avenue. Some of this land, too, belongs to Dickerman Park.

The defaced sign symbolizes the status of Dickerman Park.

The defaced sign symbolizes the status of Dickerman Park.

A strong effort, including a study and design by a landscape architect, to create a true park has been on going for about 10 years. www.dickermanpark.org is a very good source for additional information about the history of and hopes for the park.

The Russian Hamburger, Piroshki and Tea House at 1758 University Avenue.

The Russian Hamburger, Piroshki and Tea House at 1758 University Avenue.

The Russian Hamburgers, Tea House and Peroshki restaurant has intrigued me for years, yet I’ve still not patronized it. The eastern European delicacies are served limited hours, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday so it wasn’t open today when I stopped.

The dining room of the Russian Hamburger restaurant.

The dining room of the Russian Hamburger restaurant.

Look! New style street signs.

Look! New style street signs.

Hamline Plaza, looking north at the statue of Bishop Hamline and Klas Center, the athletics building.

Hamline Plaza, looking north at the statue of Bishop Hamline and Klas Center, the athletics building.

Hamline University is Minnesota’s Minnesota’s oldest chartered University. The first students began classes in about 1855 in Red Wing. That facility was closed in July 1869 and Hamline reopened in its present location in 1880.

Old Main, originally University Hall, is the home of Hamline’s administration. It was built and dedicated in 1884 and is on the National Register of Historical Places. The bell atop the building still rings hourly.

Old Main, originally University Hall, is the home of Hamline’s administration. It was built and dedicated in 1884 and is on the National Register of Historical Places. The bell atop the building still rings hourly.

The entrance to Old Main

The entrance to Old Main. Note the detailed brick and stone work.

 Standing on the steps of Old Main and looking north across Hewitt Avenue to Klas Center, the athletics facility, in the background.

Standing on the steps of Old Main and looking north across Hewitt Avenue to Klas Center, in the background.

A statue of Bishop Lionidas Hamline, the University namesake, graces the Hamline Plaza

A statue of Bishop Lionidas Hamline, the University namesake, graces the Hamline Plaza

The White House, yes, but not THE White House.

The White House, yes, but not THE White House.

Hamline’s newest building is the Anderson Center at Snelling and Englewood. It opened less than a week ago, on August 12, as the University’s official welcome center. Amenities include a dining room, events spaces and offices.

Hamline’s newest building is the Anderson Center at Snelling and Englewood. It opened less than a week ago, on August 12, as the University’s official welcome center. Amenities include a dining room, events spaces and offices.

As you would expect, Anderson Center was built with the latest in energy efficient technologies.

As you would expect, Anderson Center was built with the latest in energy efficient technologies.

Riding east from Hamline to the 1200 block of Hewitt, there was what appeared to be a greenhouse in a yard.

tim & cherry 1IMG_0088

That is a greenhouse in the yard at 1243 Hewitt Avenue.

A quick climb up the hill in the front yard confirmed, yes, that sure is a greenhouse. Next move, down the alley for a better look and then back to the front.

The alley view of the greenhouse at 1243 Hewitt.

The alley view of the greenhouse at 1243 Hewitt.

A sizable greenhouse in a residential neighborhood generated a whole bunch of questions. As I was about to knock on the door, Tim Page emerged from the house. He invited me into his yard and asked his partner, Cherry Flowers, to join us for an interview.

My first question was why a greenhouse? Before answering the question Cherry explained the nuances of greenhouses. “Usually if they’re smaller, which is what you might see around town, they’re are called a hoop house, and when they’re bigger they’re called a high tunnel and when they are beefier, they’re called a greenhouse.”

This, then is a hoop house.

As to why, Tim told me, “We were both already working in urban agriculture and we had a double lot and we were doing some growing in the back by the fence. Then a friend of mine knew someone who was selling the high tunnel, and we went up and looked at it and it was just a natural progression.”

Cherry Flowers and Tim Page inside their high tunnel.

Cherry Flowers and Tim Page inside their high tunnel.

Because the structure isn’t permanent Cherry and Tim needed no permits or variances but they did discuss their plan with neighbors, especially the woman immediately next door.

The assortment of crops in the hoop house is remarkable-pumpkins, herbs, peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, melons and grapes. Cherry and Tim sell much of the produce to area restaurants.

Cherry and Tim gave credit to relatives, friends and neighbors who helped them clear the back yard of sod, put up the high tunnel and put in yards of mulch to enrich the soil.

This is Tim and Cherry’s first year with the hoop house so they learned a great deal since starting out in March. They’ve purchased a tank in which they’re intending to raise fish, perhaps koi.

Cherry and Tim sent me on my way with a some of their delicious produce. The most interesting and tasty was a handful of ground cherries-small, sweet, juicy, yellow cousins to tomatoes.

Both had so much more to say about their high tunnel and urban gardening that I will be posting a longer entry about them soon.

The last stop of the day was for this stairway at 2205 Dayton.

stairway 1

stairway 2Nothing unique here…except the stairs go to…lawn. Looks like the brickwork on either side of the stairs is relatively new.

Click below for the map of today’s ride.

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/162273234

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s