Saturday, June 11, 2011

Netroots Nation: My Minneapolis

The Netroots Nation (a Dailykos affair) is coming to Minneapolis next week.  So like a good host (which I rarely am) I thought I might post some pictoral essays on what makes Minnesota unique and why our politics have been so progressive.  This is the last of my guides. The first three were called:
If St. Paul was always a city of lawyers, bankers, and bureaucrats, Minneapolis was going to be defined by its industrialists. And while the center of the Twin City metropolitan area economic activity has now actually migrated to a point in a southwest Minneapolis suburb, this is merely an extension of the historical economic domination of Minneapolis over St. Paul.

If anything is happening in Minnesota, it is probably happening in Minneapolis. It is also the home to one of the largest land-grant schools in the nation so there is also academia to balance the spirit of enterprise.

Minneapolis is mostly a city of lakes, plentiful parks, and lovely neighborhoods. And then there is the mighty Mississippi.

Minneapolis had it beginnings right here in a little town called St. Anthony after a nearby waterfalls that pretty much marked the northern terminus of the Mississippi as a navigable waterway. Flour mills were built using the power of the falls and they would prove to be the economic model for the city's development for about 90 years. By 1970, the St. Anthony neighborhood was pretty dilapidated but the spark of restoration was ignited by a brave couple who restored the Prachna building (just to the right of the cinema). This neighborhood has some fine eateries--at least as fine as those most often found in restoration projects.

From Prachna, it is a short walk to the east end of the Stone Arch Bridge. Of course, the SAB was the reason that Minneapolis soon grew to such a size it would engulf little St. Anthony. The downtown skyline is directly ahead.

The Falls of St. Anthony from the Stone Arch Bridge at full flood.

Eventually, the Army Corps of Engineers would build a lock around St. Anthony Falls. This shows how big the drop is. This lock isn't used much--by the time it was built, there were plenty of other transportation alternatives above the Falls.

This is the new bridge that replaced the one that fell into the river. It was built in a hurry because Gov. Bridgefail (Tim Pawlenty) didn't need an ongoing reminder of the failures of his economic priorities.

What to do about the riverbank redevelopment has been an ongoing project for city planner types since I went to the University of Minnesota in the early 1970s. So the city is especially proud of this new jewel on the West Bank--the new Tyrone Guthrie Theater.

A couple of miles east of St. Anthony we find the giant that straddles the Mississippi--the University of Minnesota. Seen here is the old Grey Drug Store in the little commercial section near the East Bank campus called Dinkytown. Bob Dylan once lived in an upstairs apartment. And as you can see, it is Positively on 4th Street.

The building on the left side of the picture is the Science classroom building.  I have a fondness for that place because the U choir would rehearse here. It is where I learned to sing Handel's Messiah.  The bridge that leads off to the right crosses the Mississippi.

I once was visiting Cambridge England.  Some twit was explaining to me the ritual called "punting on the Cam" which involves poling an ugly little boat (a punt) down this tiny creek called the Cam.  Finally, he turns to me and asks, "Do you have a creek that runs through your campus?"  "Why yes," says I.  And with a voice dripping in arrogant condescension asks, "And do you suppose I have heard of this creek?"  I replied, "I haven't a clue but it is called the Mississippi River."

Proof that Minnesotans can be as trendy as anyone else, we have a Gehry on the campus of the University of Minnesota. (I am NOT a fan)

About a two miles down the Mississippi from the UM campus near the Lake Street bridge you can find a dock where rowers launch out onto the water. This is a spectacular place to row. There are dams on both ends of this river segment, the high bluffs protect it from the wind, and the vegetation hides the fact that up on those bluffs is a city on both sides. You can hear the city while out on the water but except for the bridges, it looks as undeveloped as it did for the first explorers.

When the river goes down, it exposes flat sandy banks. These river flats are extremely popular as places for nearby college students to hold parties. Actually getting kegs down to those flats requires some ingenuity but it HAS been accomplished.

Little rivers merge with the Mississippi to make it a big river. This little creek that flows from a lake in a western suburb is called Minnehaha. About a mile from where it enters the Mississippi, the creek flows over a large rock. Minnehaha Falls has been the heart on one of Minneapolis' most popular parks since it was considered WAY out in the country.

1 comment:

  1. Gorgeous photos; Minneapolis is the perfect blend of modernity with nature (the lakes, water falls). That trendy abstract building is not something most people would expect from MN but it's there!

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