I’m Out of Saint Paul!

August 28, 2012

17.6 miles Edyth Bush 1

Cleveland Avenue, Highland Park. The routine look of this Tudor style building at 690 Cleveland Avenue South belies its noteworthy origin. Opened in 1940 as the Edyth Bush Little Theater, the building was a gift to Edyth from her husband Archibald Bush, a 3M executive.

Edyth Bush poses during construction in front of the theater that will bear her name.

Edyth Bush poses during construction in front of the theater that will bear her name.

The main entrance to the Edyth Bush Building nee the Edyth Bush Theater.

The main entrance to the Edyth Bush Building nee the Edyth Bush Theater.

For the next quarter century the playhouse, at Edyth Bush’s direction, put on new community productions as frequently as monthly. The facility was donated to Hamline University in 1964, sold to the Chimera Theater in 1975 and converted to offices in the late ‘70s. Now known as the Edyth Bush Building, it remains an office building.

The Highland Theater from the west side of Cleveland Avenue

The Highland Theater from the west side of Cleveland Avenue

At the same time as the Edyth Bush Theater was under construction, a movie house opened about a block south on Cleveland Avenue. The Moderne style Highland Theater premiered its first movie in 1939. The interior was remodeled at least once, in the ‘70s, which included the addition of a second screen. However the exterior still displays many original decorative flourishes.

The box office features a chrome and stone exterior.

The box office features a chrome and stone exterior.

The Highland Theater marquee features some Moderne (Art Deco) cues.

The Highland Theater marquee features some Moderne (Art Deco) cues.

OK, I left Highland Park and then I left Saint Paul for this ride. It’s the first time I’ve left the city while riding for this blog but I had to do it. Cutting through Mendota Heights is the shortest way to the southwestern corner of Cherokee Heights, which was my next stop.

I’m trying really hard to get back into Saint Paul but the Construction Gods have made it difficult.

I’m trying really hard to get back into Saint Paul but the Construction Gods have made it difficult.

My destination was Bruce Vento’s View overlook (named in honor of the late congressman and environmentalist) and Lilydale Regional Park.

I locked my bike to this chain link fence just out of the picture.

I locked my bike to this chain link fence just out of the picture.

The trail winds though brush on the bluff high above the Mississippi River, providing dramatic views.

That’s downtown Minneapolis in the distant haze.

That’s downtown Minneapolis in the distant haze.

The three water towers are on the western edge of the Highland National Golf Course along South Snelling Avenue.

The three water towers are on the western edge of the Highland National Golf Course along South Snelling Avenue.

The view of Vento’s View.

The view of Vento’s View.

A shady place to sit near Vento’s View. Reclaimed limestone from the old Saint Paul City Hall, demolished more than 80 years ago, was used to build the viewing site, according to Watchable Wildlife Inc.,a non-profit that played a role in the construction of Vento’s View.

A shady place to sit near Vento’s View. Reclaimed limestone from the old Saint Paul City Hall demolished more than 80 years ago, was used to build the viewing site, according to Watchable Wildlife Inc., a non-profit that played a role in the construction of Vento’s View.

The Vento trail and some defaced stones.

The Vento trail and some defaced stones.

From Vento’s View I retraced my steps for about a fifth of a mile but instead of returning to my bike, I hung a left on the gravel path called the Brickyard Trail that went down the bluff. Twin Cities Brick Company used the trail to haul bricks that were made here to construction sites. According to the National Park Service, the company was founded in 1894 and made bricks here until sometime in the 1970s.

Hiking down the trail I met Monica and Mark McCleary, a couple who live nearby and frequent Lilydale Park. Monica grew up in Saint Paul less than a mile from the brickyard, “We didn’t really come here,” she said, “because it was still a functioning brick yard.  But we went to Cherokee Park a lot. And when you went across the High Bridge you could see the big stacks of bricks.”

Monica and Mark McCleary, Lilydale Park hikers and guides for my trek.

Monica and Mark McCleary, Lilydale Park hikers and guides for my trek.

Monica and Mark are quite knowledgeable about Lilydale Park, its layout and history. They turned their excursion into a guided tour and showed me assorted Brickyard artifacts.

brickyard 2

Support structures are the graffiti-covered remains of what was part of the Twin Cities Brick Company.

Support structures are the graffiti-covered remains of what was part of the Twin Cities Brick Company.

Relics of one of the Twin Cities Brick Company's brick ovens.

Relics of one of the Twin Cities Brick Company’s brick ovens.

Bricks, both whole

Bricks, both whole

and remnants are everywhere. My shoe gives you an idea of the size of the bricks.

and in pieces, are everywhere. My shoe gives you an idea of the size of the bricks.

Echo Cave, from which sand was mined for bricks. Now, the cave is the winter home to hundreds, if not thousands, of big brown bats. The steel keeps curious and destructive visitors out but allow bats to come and go at will.

Echo Cave, from which sand was mined for bricks. Now, the cave is the winter home to hundreds, if not thousands, of big brown bats. The steel keeps curious and destructive visitors out but allows bats to come and go at will.

Another brick oven.

Another brick kiln.

A rail from a long-gone narrow gauge railroad.

A rail from a long-gone narrow gauge railroad.

Looking down from the top of hardened clay that was once used in the manufacture of bricks.

Looking down from the top of hardened clay that was once used in the manufacture of bricks.

Mark brought up the unusual topography of the Brickyard, “You come down here in spring or late fall then you will see things like terrain that just doesn’t make sense in any other way than that a human did that with trucks but it clearly is not its natural landscape.”

Fossils are plentiful here and may legally be collected but a permit from the City of Saint Paul is required.

brickyard 12

An interpretive sign and a garbage bucket, both clearly vandalized.

An interpretive sign and a garbage bucket, both clearly vandalized.

brickyard 14

One of several quotes about walking found around the Brickyard.

The Brickyard and Lilydale Regional Park remains largely undeveloped other than a few benches, garbage containers and signs, interpretive and other.Many park users, especially the Friends of Lilydale Park, stridently want to keep the park that way. However changes will very likely come to some degree beginning in the spring of 2013. The City of Saint Paul has applied for a permit to improve about 1.7 miles of the road through the north side of the park and longer-term plans call for bathrooms, shelters and other enhancements. Here are some links to learn more.

http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?NID=2693

http://www.nps.gov/miss/planyourvisit/lilydale_park.htm

http://www.oldmanriver.com/

This was my first trip to Vento’s View and the Brickyard portion of Lilydale Regional Park and I found both were remarkable. From any perspective-historical, archeological or recreational, there are a vast number of things to see and do.

After more than 90 minutes in Lilydale Park, I hiked back up the Brickyard Trail, got on my bike and rode a couple of blocks to neighboring Cherokee Park. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of activity on this gorgeous summer afternoon.

Things were swinging at Cherokee Regional Park.

Things were swinging at Cherokee Regional Park.

tom 1Not far away, Tom McGregor was enthusiastically painting when I rode up and began talking with him. He continued painting as he explained, “This is called en plein air painting which means basically that you’re painting outside trying to capture a moment in time. You’ve got a couple of hours max to get your key notes down. This could be something that I finish up in the studio or leave rough like this or I do a large painting from.”

tom 3Tom said he won’t know for a while which of the three ways he’ll go with this painting, “I’m standing here painting this fast and furious trying to capture the effect and I don’t know how I feel about it yet. So I have to actually take another look at it after I’ve taken a little break.”

IMG_0212Tom lives on the West Side and takes advantage of the area’s magnificence, “I can stay on the West Side and go for several years without repeating myself.  You don’t have to go very far to find a painting. You just have to tune into what it is that you love. I come over here and I see the light coming through those trees. A dap of light just does something. I just know it’s something I want to try to capture. You have to really love it.  You can’t paint something you don’t really love.”

Perhaps surprisingly, summer is Tom’s least favorite season during which to paint because there is so much green, “I love winter, despite the cold. The sun is at a low angle. Artists like a low angle because the sun going through all that atmosphere you get beautiful golden colors. When that hits snow you get the pinks, you get the turquoise, the purples, you get all of these colors in the snow.”

tom 2I was intrigued by Tom’s multilevel easel, which he said he customized for the way he paints.

Tom majored in art with a concentration in graphic design. He worked full-time as a graphic artist but for the last few years he’s done much more painting.  Now, he says, it pays half his bills.

Tom has a website http://mcgregorart.com/ and a blog http://mcgregorpaintings.blogspot.com/ , both of which display many of his paintings and his musings.

The ride home from Cherokee park began with a trek east to Ohio Street, a wonderfully curvy road that is a fun alternate to the High Bridge to and from the West Side. At Plato Boulevard I went west through Harriet Island Regional Park and onto Water Street and the north entrance of Lilydale Park.

lilydale 1

Is it me or would a new sign improve the look of the north entrance to Lilydale Regional Park?

If my experience is at all common, this is the side of Lilydale Park that is most familiar.

This rutted, mostly dirt road, still technically Joy Street in Saint Paul, leads to a parking lot and entrance to the Brickyard. Shot from Water Street looking south.

This rutted, mostly dirt road, still technically Joy Street in Saint Paul, leads to a parking lot and entrance to the Brickyard. Shot from Water Street looking south.

The bike trail in this section of the park is wide, smooth and separated from the road by trees and bushes.

The bike trail in this section of the park is wide, smooth and separated from the road by trees and bushes.

The trees in the distance are on the bluffs of Lilydale Park. These rails, which cut through the park and are still used, were first laid before the turn of the last century.

The trees in the distance are on the bluffs of Lilydale Park. These rails, which cut through the park and are still used, were first laid before the turn of the last century.

Water Street imperceptibly turned into Lilydale Road meaning I had left Saint Paul again but in fewer than two miles, I’d be back in the city.

entering sp

My apology for the poor framing. It’s because I shot this (without looking through the viewfinder) while riding down hill on the bike path that parallels 35E.

Some takeaways from today’s ride:

  • I’m coming back to the Brickyard at Lilydale Park to do some more hiking.
  • The McClearys’ tour and insight to the area added to the experience.
  • There is far too much graffiti in the park.
  • West Side people and sites continue to educate and impress me.
  • Tom McGregor does a remarkable job of conveying a scene to canvas.
  • It’s much more fun to bike down from the West Side bluffs than it is to bike up.

The map of today’s ride:

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/130883163

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