Not realizing why old buildings and streets were laid out the way they were, a Magical History Tour changed all that.

A magical bike ride and history tour of the south Twin Cities Metro

by Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking

It is incredible the things you don’t know about an area you have been pedaling around by bike for many years. Have you ever wondered why an old building or a street is designed the way it is? Maybe it’s not a top priority, and you have put off finding the answer. For me, that all changed when I had the opportunity to tag along on a special ride of the Hiawatha Bicycling Club.

The ride called the Magical History Tour was led and narrated by Joe Metzler, one of the club’s many ride leaders. An architect, Joe enjoys building landscape history and took us through neighborhoods in southwest Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, and Edina.

Gather for the Magical History Tour in south Minneapolis.

Gather for the Magical History Tour in south Minneapolis.

A History Tour of south Minneapolis

With close to 20 riders, the history tour periodically made stops to share some of the unique facts about the buildings, streets, and structures along the way.

Joe,, leading the group head north to the tours fist stop.

Joe, leading the group, heads north to the tour’s first stop.

Leaving the Lyndale Farmstead Park in south Minneapolis, MN, you will find ample street parking if you arrive by car. Our first stop was a few blocks away at a porcelain-steel prefabricated Historic White Castle. No. 8 building. From there, the history tour meandered a few blocks further north, straddling Lake Street to view a 1907 needle manufacturing site purchased by a greeting card company that renamed the building. Further along, the tour stopped at a fountain on the north end of Lake of the Isle. Originally built to honor fallen horses of World War I, it’s still a mainstay attraction to the parkway. After visiting a few homes, associated with Frank Lloyd Wright, Joe led us into St. Louis Park.

The first stop on tour was White Castle #8

On the history tours first stop the group learned more about White Castle #8.

On the history tours first, stop the group discovered several interesting facts about White Castle #8.

Located at 3252 Lyndale Avenue. in south Minneapolis, the Historic White Castle Bldg. No. 8 building was modeled after the Chicago Water Tower. Notice the octagonal buttresses, crenelated towers, and parapet walls in the picture above. The structure was designed to be dismantled and then reassembled when needed. However, after moving it the 3rd time to its current location, it was moved in one piece. See more on the history of this site here.

The Buzza Company building at 1006 W. Lake St, Minneapolis

Here Joe share information on the many uses of the Buzza Building.

Here Joe shares information on the many uses of the Buzza Building.

Located at 1006 W. Lake Street, this building was purchased and renamed after the second-largest greeting card company of the early 1920s. After the business folded around 1942, the building was then used by the War Department, followed by Honeywell, the veteran’s administration, and then by the Minnesota military district, dubbing it “Little Pentagon.” See more on the history of this site here.

Purcell-Cutts House, a prairie style masterpiece

After stopping at the Purcell-Cutts House you will want to come back for one of the scheduled tours.

After stopping at the Purcell-Cutts House, you will want to come back for one of the scheduled tours.

Located at 2328 Lake Place, the house is considered by many a Prairie Style masterpiece. The design of this 1913 resident was intended as a house for “modern American family life”. The home is now owned by the Minneapolis Institute of Art and is open for tours on the second weekend of each month. See more on the history of this home here.

Peavey Fountain on Kenwood Pkwy & W. Lake of the Isles Pkwy

The Peavey Fountain, a gift to Minneapolis for watering horses is a gem to the Lake of the Isles Parkway.

The Peavey Fountain, a gift to Minneapolis for watering horses, is a gem to the Lake of the Isles Parkway.

Located at 2384 W. Lake of the Isles Pkwy (Grand Rounds National Byway), this was a gift to the city of Minneapolis in 1891 from Frank Peavey, a local grain broker. The fountain was to provide drinking water for horses. After World War I, the fountain was rededicated to honor horses from the 151st Field Artillery killed in action. See more on the history of this fountain here.

The Neils House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

A pictuques setting for a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home.

A picturesque setting for a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home.

The Neils House is located at 2801 Burnham Boulevard and is one of only two homes in Minneapolis designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Built-in 1950-51, this home was the only house Wright designed that used marble wall cladding or “culls” leftover from other building projects. See more on the history of this home here.

Tour riders found a charming neighborhood round-a-bout on their way to the next stop.

Tour riders found a charming neighborhood round-a-bout before the next stop.

The history tour moves on to St. Louis Park

Pedaling to the southwest into St. Louis Park, the group of inquiring minds used the south spur of the Cedar Lakes Trail to stop at a park. Here they viewed the beehive barbeque and a tower in the background dubbed “Peavey’s Folly.” The next stop on the ride was to Mcdonald’s #93. This restaurant located in St. Louis Park was the second to open in Minnesota in 1958.

More info on the tour

In Lilac Park the group viewed one of the remaining Beehive Grills here.

In Lilac Park, the group viewed one of the remaining Beehive Grills here.

Lilac Park (originally part of Roadside Park) at SE corner of Hwy 7 & Hwy 100, St. Louis Park

The last of five parks along “Lilac Way” (now Hwy. 100), these parks were originally built in the late 30s by WPA artesian stonemasons. The fireplace here, along with another located in Graeser Park, are the only two remaining beehive fireplaces in the nation. Find out more here.

Riding out of Lilac Park back to The Cedar Lakes Trail.

Riding out of Lilac Park back to the Cedar Lakes Trail.

Peavey-Huglin Experimental Concrete Grain Elevator east of Lilac Park of Trail

Due to skyrocketing insurance rates from the constant threat of wooden grain terminals catching on fire, Frank Peavey had the Peavey-Haglin Experimental Concrete Grain Elevator built-in 1899. The 122-foot structure was dubbed “Peavey’s Folly” by skeptics who expected it to crack and explode. Now a National Historic Landmark it is on the grounds of the Nordic Ware company, just east of Lilac Park. Find out more here.

McDonald’s #93 at 6320 W. Lake St, St. Louis Park

In 1958, this location was Minnesota’s second and the world’s 93rd McDonald’s ever built. At the Gala Grand Openina linehat stretched more than a city block long, waiting for hours to be served. You can find more info here.

Having fun on the HBC bike tour

Having fun on the Hiawatha Bike Club bike tour.

The history tour now rolls into Edina

Now pedaling along Minnehaha Creek, the group discovers how Edina got its name when stopping at a mill site that once operated here. Another interesting stop was the Grange Hall. Both the building and organization were established to improve life on the rural farm and a place to socialize. This practice was helpful for the women at the time who had little opportunity to interact with others outside of the farm. After visiting a few more historic buildings in Edina, the ride now turned back to the northeast, following the old Minneapolis Streetcar (right of way) that once stretched all the way to Lake Minnetonka.

More info and stops along the tour

The stopped here at the Grange House.

The stopped here at the Grange House.

Grange Hall at 4918 Eden Ave, Edina

Even before Edina incorporated as a village the Grange Hall served the area with many historic events, including the final decision to name Edina. This is one of the few remaining Grange Hall structures standing in the State of Minnesota today. You can find more info here.

Cahill School at 4924 Eden Ave, in Frank Tupa Park, Edina

One of Edina’s oldest surviving buildings, built-in 1864, the Cahill School continued to serve children of all ages until the 1950s. It is one of the few remaining one-room schoolhouses in the State of Minnesota. Find more info here.

Stop at the park where remnants of the old Edina Mill can be seen.

Stop at the park where the old Edina Mill remnants can be seen

Edina Mill at West 50th St and Browndale Ave, Edina

The Edina Mill was one of the first gristmills to be built on the Minnehaha Creek between 1855 and 1876. The mill and the tiny settlement around it were originally named Waterville Mills. After being sold in 1869, the new owner gave the mill and the city its present name. Edina was a nickname the new owner had for Edinburgh, Scotland, that appeared in a poem written by Scottish poet Robert Burns. Find more info here about the mill and how Edina progressed.

The oldest house standing in Edina, The Grimes House is a rare, well-preserved example of cottage architecture from the early settlement period.

The Grimes House is the oldest house standing in Edina.

Grimes House at 4200 W 44th St, Edina

Built in 1869, it is the oldest house standing in Edina. Stopping by and viewing it from the str is a rare, well-preserved example of cottage architecture from the early settlement period. The Grimes who settled here also established a 16-acre ‘Lake Calhoun Nursery, which is the present-day neighborhood of Morningside. Find more info here.

The tour circles back into Minneapolis on the old streetcar route

If you look carefully, while out in front of the Grimes house, you can see traces of the old streetcar right-of-way that provided public transportation, back and forth, from Minneapolis, through Edina, and out to Lake Minnetonka.

Streetcar Right of Way through the Linden Hills Neighborhood, Minneapolis

You can still see remnants of the old streetcar right-of-way line through this neighborhood. The Linden Hills neighborhood was at the end of the line for commuters coming from the inner city of Minneapolis. Then in 1905, the line was extended out to Lake Minnetonka, making Linden Hills a transfer stop between the two rail lines. See more info here.

A brief stop in an area once covered by cottage homes.

A brief stop in an area once covered by cottage homes.

Chadwick Cottages at 2617 W 40th St, Minneapolis

The two cottages here were originally built by Loren Chadwick in 1902 and combined in 1972 as a single dwelling. The individual cottages were typical of the size homes built in the early 1900s as a resort area. This is the reason the neighborhood was known as “Cottage City.” See more info here.

Here stopping on this bridge, where the streetcar tracks run below, the group had a chance to see a modern day trolley pass by.

Stopping on this bridge, where the streetcar tracks run below modern-day trolley passes by.

Interlachen Bridge at William Berry Dr. over streetcar tracks, Minneapolis

The oldest reinforced concrete bridge in Minnesota covered by a stone veneer. The bridge was built using a system patented in 1894 by a Swiss engineer. Steps on the west side lead down to a streetcar stop known as the Cottage City stop.

Pond Cabin Site/Lyndale Hotel Site at 3450 Irving Ave S, Minneapolis

Overlooking the eastern shore of Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) the Pond brothers built a cabin when they came to Minnesota to convert Native Americans from the Dakota tribe to Christianity. Then on this same site in 1877, the Lake Calhoun Pavilion (later named the Lyndale Hotel) was built with the streetcar line passing by. In the ECCO neighborhood in Minneapolis, the original streetcar alignment crossed 36th St. on an overpass. It continued along the top of the bluff, passing the Lyndale Hotel and overlooking the lake on what is now a walking path. The resort was a popular stop offering guests a dancing hall, billiards, and a variety of recreational activities centered around the lake. Find more information here.

Even with cool temps in the mid-forties everyone was smiling as they returned to the starting point.

Even with cool temps in the mid-forties, everyone was smiling as they returned to the starting point.

This brought this Magical History Tour back to the park where the ride began. Joe says, he has a couple more Magic History Tours in mind that he plans on leading, through the club next year. If you would like to go on one of his rides, check the Hiawatha Bicycle Club ride calendar periodically.

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