Preservation Photos #188

Grain Belt Beer in Minneapolis, as seen from the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.

The 1940s Grain Belt Beer in Minneapolis, as seen from the Hennepin Avenue Bridge. The sign remains today, even though it no longer glows in neon.

Just in time for the holiday weekend!

Minneapolis By Bike

Nice Ride Minnesota offered the perfect way to tour the beautiful Minneapolis. Here are some of the sites along my travels: bike paths, bridges, museums, and buildings, all on a gorgeous day!

The famous Spoonbridge & Cherry sculpture at the Walker Art Museum.

The famous Spoonbridge & Cherry sculpture at the Walker Art Museum.

One of the holes at the mini-golf of Walker Art Museum.

One of the holes at the mini-golf of Walker Art Museum.

Walker Art Museum

Walker Art Museum

17 blocks of Eat Street!

17 blocks of Eat Street!

Nicollet Mall

Nicollet Mall

Downtown Minneapolis

Downtown Minneapolis

Cruising on the bike along the bike path.

Cruising on the bike over bridges.

The views from everywhere are spectacular and full of texture

The views from everywhere are spectacular and full of texture

The art museum at the University of Minnesota campus.

Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota campus.

The houses are beautiful on Nicollet Island.

The houses are beautiful on Nicollet Island.

Hennepin Avenue bridge (this one was built in 1991).

Hennepin Avenue bridge (this one was built in 1990 and is the 3rd bridge here).

More views from the University of MN campus looking to the Minneapolis skyline.

More views from the University of MN campus looking to the Minneapolis skyline.

University of MN.

University of MN.

Railroad bridge through Nicollet Island.

Railroad bridge through Nicollet Island.

My one concern: where was I supposed to find ice cream? Otherwise, thanks for the hospitality, Minneapolis!

Photos of Minnesota’s SIA 2013 adventures will continue to appear; I can’t get enough! 

Nice Ride Minnesota

Many cities have a bike share program; Minneapolis and St. Paul have Nice Ride Minnesota. What’s the purpose?

Nice Ride bikes are designed for one job, short trips in the city by people wearing regular clothes and carrying ordinary stuff. All Nice Ride bikes are the same size, the only thing you may have to adjust is the seat, and it’s easy!

Mr. Stilts came along for the ride, obviously.

Mr. Stilts came along for the ride, obviously.

Commuting to work? A quick trip to the store? In need of a ride across the city? Grab a bicycle at one of the many, many stations throughout the Twin Cities. You can rent a bike for $6 for 24 hours or $65 for a year. What a bargain! The bikes are available November – April, 24/7.

Station across from the Minneapolis Public Library.

Station across from the Minneapolis Public Library. See, they are quite popular.

At each station you get a code, which you then type into the bike stand to unlock the bike. Every time you get a new bike, you get a new code.

At each station you get a code, which you then type into the bike stand to unlock the bike. Every time you get a new bike, you get a new code.

And, Nice Ride also works well for tourists. Touring Minneapolis by bike was the perfect way to see great parts of the city.  The catch? You have 30 minutes to get between stations, otherwise you pay fees on top of your 24 hour or year subscription. With all of the stations, it’s easy. And then you can immediately take out another bicycle to continue on your journey.

All you have to do is (1) find a station, (2) insert a credit card, (3) select your subscription, (4) get a code, (5) punch in the code in the bike stand, (6) remove the bike, (7) ride and repeat within 30 minutes. You do have to enter your card at each station, but if you haven’t gone over 30 minutes, you will not be charged extra. And you can rent more than one bike at once and get more than one code.

These bikes have adjustable seats for all heights and were very easy to ride around the city. The green makes them easy to spot, and they’re fun looking bikes for cruising!

Each station has a map showing other stations so you can plan your trip.

Each station has a map showing other stations so you can plan your trip.

Hello transportation nerd, checking out the funding and yes, there is FHWA funding.

Hello transportation nerd, checking out the funding and yes, there is FHWA funding.Warms my heart.

Now, there were a couple of times when I didn’t think I’d made it to a bike rack. The $1.50 wouldn’t have ruined my day, but, hello, the challenge! That’s when the iphone app called Spotcycle (it’s free!) was incredibly helpful. Spotcycle identifies your location and shows you closest bicycle docks, how many bikes are at that station, gives you routes, timers, and more. It has cities all over the world. Check it out on your phone or on the website. Using the Spotcycle app as a tourist and doing my best to reach each station before the 30 minute limit made exploring quite the fun urban bicycle adventure.

Biking around a city was a great alternative to walking because you could cover more ground, and was definitely better than driving because it removes the need for parking and is slow enough to feel like you’re exploring. And with a bicycle I rode along the river. If you’re in a city with a bike share program, I’d highly recommend it, even just for cruising along a bike path.

What are the disadvantages of a bike share program? Safety, considering not everyone knows how to cycle in a city or knows the rules of the road; bike maintenance and security on the municipality; and usage. All of these are obstacles that can be overcome, by education and outreach. For cold weather climates, it’s a great way to get people to see their city in a new way. And for warm weather climates, it’s good all year long. And for everyone, it’s environmentally friendly and takes up less space than parking lots, garages or spaces.

Have you tried a bike share? What do you think?

Riding around Minneapolis on a Nice Ride bike. Mr. Stilts is there, too. The bikes have brackets and a bungee cord (as opposed to a basket) so you can secure whatever you need to. In my case, it was a flamingo, a pocketbook, and a water bottle.

Riding around Minneapolis on a Nice Ride bike. Mr. Stilts is there, too. The bikes have brackets and a bungee cord (as opposed to a basket) so you can secure whatever you need to. In my case, it was a flamingo, a pocketbook, and a water bottle.

Photos of Minneapolis by bike coming soon! 

Twin Cities Parking Garages

While exploring St. Paul and Minneapolis during the SIA, parking garages seemed to be everywhere. For some reason I was struck by the variety of structures: minimal concrete to elaborate garages with building facades. Take a look.

In Minneapolis, a parking garage (across the corner from the library) ... under some form of construction it seemed. A typical parking garage structure.

In Minneapolis, a parking garage (across the corner from the library) … under some form of construction it seemed. A typical parking garage structure.

Parking garage in St. Paul. No mistaking its purpose!

Parking garage in St. Paul. No mistaking its purpose!

This parking garage in Minneapolis looks like a child's toy - ramps for the matchbox cars!

This parking garage ramp in Minneapolis looks like a child’s toy – ramps for the matchbox cars!

Another basic parking garage in Minneapolis.

Another basic parking garage in Minneapolis.

This neon sign will make sure you see it from the street.

This neon sign will make sure you see it from the street.

Those above are more of your typical garage structure, though the curved ramp seemed a bit unusual. However, St. Paul has a few garages that bring it from parking structure to parking building, if you will.

A parking garage in St. Paul. Slightly hard to see, but look closely and you'll notice the facade.

A parking garage in St. Paul. Slightly hard to see, but look closely and you’ll notice the facade.

And then there’s this one:

It took a few times walking by this to decide that, yes, it was a parking garage. There is retail on the ground floor.

It took a few times walking by this to decide that, yes, it was a parking garage. There is retail on the ground floor.

The same parking garage during the day.

The same parking garage during the day. The metal cornice of the structure does well to blend it with surrounding architecture, giving the building a welcome presence on the street and when looking up (preservation tip: always look up).

This is obviously the star parking garage in terms of welcoming people and complementing the streetscape.

Listen to this NPR story about parking garages*, which states that “of all the American structures, few are so unlovable as parking garages.” It’s from 2009, when the National Building Museum had an exhibit called “House of Cars” on the parking garage.

Just a few tidbits from the story: There’s no exact beginning or inventor of the parking garage, but it was definitely a necessary structure. Early garages did look more like buildings (like the great example from St. Paul). You’ll hear that the open parking garages are from the mid 20th century. Early parking garages used elevators, and early garages were valet parked. Some had floors just for women so they felt safe. During the Cold War, you could get federal funding if your parking garage included a bomb shelter.

Thankfully, others are intrigued by parking garages, too. Read about parking garages in Chicago, And there is a book titled The Parking Garage: Design and Evolution of a Modern Urban Form by Shannon S. McDonald. More parking + garage history from the National Building Museum.

Now, what type of parking garage do you prefer? The open level type or those disguised to look like buildings with retail and services on the ground floor?

Do you like parking garages? Some can feel dark and damp, which make most people feel unsafe. Then again, parking lots can feel unsafe, too. Parking garages take up far less land than parking lots, thereby consuming less of the streetscape, hopefully preventing that urban wasteland feel. When designed to blend with the streetscape,however large or small, parking garages seem like they could solve many of our land-use and parking problems. That assumes that people will walk a bit rather than parking in front of the store, whether a strip mall or a downtown store. What do you think?

*Even if you’re not a NPR listener, give the parking garage story a chance. It’s fascinating and only five minutes long. Enjoy! 

SIA 2013: Minnesota Nice

As mentioned, the annual Society for Industrial Archeology meeting was held in the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis this year. The annual meeting/conference is typically a day of tours on Friday and a day of paper sessions on Saturday, with receptions and additional tours on Thursday and Sunday. Well organized, welcoming, interesting and fun, this year was no exception. Let me recap, starting today with an overview of the SIA conference. First and foremost, St. Paul and Minneapolis are great. And yes, “Minnesota Nice” is an apt description of my time there.

Based in the lovely city of St. Paul, a welcoming reception on Thursday greeted everyone with good food, drinks, mingling and a lecture about local history.

The welcome reception was held at 317 on Rice Park.

The welcome reception was held at 317 on Rice Park.

The library across the street from 317 on Rice Park.

The library across the street from 317 on Rice Park.

And best of all about the welcoming reception is that I finally got to meet Raina Regan, a long time social media friend. It’s funny how you can meet someone for the first time but feel like you’ve actually known each other much longer. Oh, the powers of social media. Aside from historic preservation, we bond over our love of cat photography.

Raina and me.

Raina and me. Obviously I was too excited to smile with my eyes open!

Downtown St. Paul, looking towards the St. Paul Hotel, the conference home base.

Downtown St. Paul, looking towards the St. Paul Hotel (center), the conference home base, and the Landmark Center (right).

For Friday’s tour I opted for the Mighty Mississippi tour, which took us up and down the Mississippi River to gaze at (and learn about) the beautiful bridge stock that Minnesota is lucky to call its own. The tour itself deserves its own post, but here’s a preview.

The Mighty Mississippi tour began in Minneapolis, on the Stone Arch Bridge, before we got on the boat to cruise the river.

The Mighty Mississippi tour began in Minneapolis, on the Stone Arch Bridge, before we got on the boat to cruise the river. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and the views of Minneapolis were spectacular from this bridge.

The Stone Arch Bridge and the Minneapolis skyline.

The Stone Arch Bridge and the Minneapolis skyline.

Saturday was the paper sessions, held in the St. Paul Hotel. From bridges to industrial communities to bordellos to mills and mines, the papers were informative and interesting. I always love giving a presentation, and I hope my audience enjoyed the topic as much I did. Considering it was right after lunch, playgrounds (recess!) were the perfect topic for that hour.

Getting ready in the morning, last looks!

Getting ready in the morning, last looks!

Presenting on the Giant Stride. Photo thanks to Raina Regan!

Presenting on the Giant Stride. Again, I was quite excited. Photo thanks to Raina Regan!

A Saturday banquet was held in the Wabasha Street Caves, once home to speakeasies in the 1930s. But before that, the caves were hollowed out by mining for silica in the mid 1800s. It’s a neat place and the guide shared ghost stories with us.

Inside the Wabasha Street Caves.

Inside the Wabasha Street Caves.

It’s always great to see familiar faces, to meet new people to exchange ideas between our fields. After all, this is a conference that attracts preservationists and engineers and everyone in between. The SIA is a wonderful crowd and I thank them yet again for a great time in a new place.

Later this week look for more about the Friday tour, Minneapolis adventures and much more. 

Sunday Snapshots for Summer #1

Here’s to a new post for Sundays: a sunny scene every week through the summer (it’s almost here) because once in a while you just need a sunny smile and a good memory and a good summer adventure.

This will be sort of like Preservation Photos on Tuesdays, but not necessarily something historic (far warning: a fluffly cat or a pink flamingo could pop up in Sunday Snapshots). Though this series will begin with a scene from a historic district in Minneapolis, MN, recalling my last week’s adventures in Minnesota at the SIA.

Sunday Snapshot for Summer adventure #1: cruising around a historic city on bicycle (or foot).

Nicollet Island in Minneapolis, MN.

Nicollet Island in Minneapolis, MN. Check out those brick paved streets! 

Bonus points: if it’s not overtly a “historic preservation” scene, connect the dots. Most creative answer wins! 

 

Preservation Photos #184

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Viewing the Mill City Museum and elevators through the Stone Arch Bridge on the Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN.

Society for Industrial Archeology 2013

siaconference13

Click for more information.

The Society for Industrial Archeology is a diverse group of members, interested in industrial heritage, manufacturing, the built environment, bridges, transportation and more. In its own words:

The Society for Industrial Archeology was formed in 1971 to promote the study, appreciation, and preservation of the physical survivals of our industrial and technological past. The word “archeology” underscores the society’s principal concern with the physical evidence of industry and technology-the study, interpretation, and preservation of historically significant sites, structures, buildings, artifacts, industrial processes, bridges, railroads, canals, landscapes, and communities.

Each year the SIA meets for an annual meeting, field sessions and paper sessions. I had the privilege to attend the SIA 2010 in Colorado Springs. Read Parts One, Two, Three, Four. This year the SIA is meeting in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. After a few years hiatus, I’m excited to be attending the conference and honored to be presenting about a topic dear to my heart and my preservation interests: The Giant Stride.

My research on the giant stride started as a paper in my graduate school class titled “History on the Land” taught by Bob McCullough (one of the best classes of my entire education). This is a playground apparatus that you will seldom find on playgrounds now due to safety regulations. However, if I found one I’d give it a try!

Another Giant Stride - at a playground in New York City, ca. 1910-1915. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division (click).

Giant Stride – at a playground in New York City, ca. 1910-1915. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division (click).

As you can read in the abstract booklet, my presentation is as follows:

INDUSTRY ON THE PLAYGROUND: MANUFACTURING AND DEVELOPING THE GIANT STRIDE 

The American playground movement of the early twentieth century focused on the health, social habits, and organic strength of children, manifesting itself in the tall, challenging playground equipment comprised of gymnasiums, ladders, poles, merry-go-rounds, swings and including one particular apparatus referred to as the “giant stride.” Best described as a tall pole with a rotating cap from which long ropes hung, children held on to the ropes and ran in circles around the pole fast enough for their feet to leave the ground as if they were flying. Like the other apparatus elements, the giant stride required strength and would look quite unfamiliar on today’s playgrounds. The giant stride stands as a good example of the collaboration between manufacturing advances, social and health trends of the early twentieth century, and do-it-yourself imitations: all contributing to the shared history of technology and resourcefulness.

Despite the popularity of the giant stride, it faded from the playground scene due to safety regulations; few remain in existence today.  The giant stride experienced its greatest evolution and popularity in the first decades of the twentieth century.  Though its origins remain uncertain, primitive versions appear in publications from late nineteenth century England. In the United States, its ubiquitous use on playgrounds is well documented in 1909-1929 issues of the periodical, The Playground, and its development thoroughly illustrated by United States Patents from 1904-1928.

Advances to the giant stride followed two patterns: manufactured and homemade. Manufacturers focused on function of the apparatus, specifically the revolving head or cap, the ropes or ladders (i.e. handles), and promoted the hot drip galvanized steel used in the equipment. More than one company manufactured the giant stride and variations of it. Companies include the Medart Manufacturing Company, Giant Manufacturing Company and the National Playground Apparatus Corporation, among others.  While manufacturing advances continued to improve the giant stride, not everyone could afford the steel apparatus. To remedy that factor, people employed their own creativity and constructed homemade giant strides using materials such as wood poles, wagon wheels and rope.

This presentation will include a discussion of the giant stride’s development within the social and industrial context, complemented with historic images, advertisements, patents and present day photographs.

Aside from being excited for my own paper, the panelists on all sessions have many familiar and respected names, including some people I’ve only had the opportunity to converse with via social media such as Raina Regan. A few days of preservation related chatter, exploration and new and old faces – what a time we’ll have! And although I’ve been to Minneapolis briefly in 2009, it was only a few hours, I’m looking forward to exploring the city more. And maybe it will be sunny this time.

If you’re going, let me know. I’d love to meet fellow preservationists. See you all soon – next week!

Road Trip Report 12

Brief notes on the trip, state by state, with sights, places, and photographs.

Minnesota

With the purpose of adding another state to our visited list and seeing a new city, we decided to swing into Minnesota between our Wisconsin travels.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation conference was in Minneapolis/St. Paul in October 2007 and I had heard good things about both cities.

Almost missed that one!

Almost missed that one!

We didn’t have any plans except to walk around and find some coffee – the usual. We also didn’t have directions, so we ended up taking a scenic tour until we found ourselves downtown near the Nicollet Mall. Nicollet Mall is an entire city block turned into a pedestrian mall with restaurants and stores and a light rail running down the street. Cars are also allowed to drive down the street, but not park. The mall wasn’t really what we were looking, nor could we find anything that wasn’t a chain.

Looking down Nicollet Mall.

Looking down Nicollet Mall.

Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis.

Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis.

Fountains on the mall.

Fountains on the mall.

Thank goodness for Internet on phones and all of their applications to direct us away from the chain stores and the mall to what Minneapolis has dubbed “Eat Street.” Eat Street is filled with ethnic restaurants mostly, but surrounding it are neighborhoods there were many people walking around.  The Spyhouse is a cool coffee shop there. Good coffee, good desserts, internet, comfortable chairs, funky mugs, and many people around our age hanging out made it worth the wait and the walk for the coffee.

Spyhouse Coffee. Go there when you visit Minneapolis.

Spyhouse Coffee. Go there when you visit Minneapolis.

Another reason for visiting Minneapolis was to see the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture in Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Again, the phone helped us out here. We walked the 1.5 miles or so through Minneapolis and crossed a very large pedestrian overpass to get there. The residential architecture of Minneapolis provided entertainment on the walk and we were able to a lot of the city (or at least it felt like it!) The sculpture garden was worth the walk as well. The main attraction is the Spoonbridge and Cherry, but there were many others.

Another view.

Another view.

In the sculpture garden.

In the sculpture garden.

A unique sculpture.

A unique sculpture.

After the garden we headed back to the car, but walked a different way. We passed through Loring Park,  which had gardens, paths, a lake, and a picnic area. It is the largest community park in Minneapolis and there is a Loring Park neighborhood (historic!) as well.

Another pedestrian bridge!

Another pedestrian bridge!

Loring Park.

Loring Park.

Loring Park.

Loring Park.

And just for the heck of it, for seeing modern American culture, we felt the need to visit Mall of America just south of Minneapolis. You know, the one with the roller coaster in the middle of it. Approaching the Mall was probably the most interesting part. Hotels sit adjacent to the mall, the huge sign welcomes you, and there are so many  directions to follow. While we’re glad to have seen it, just once, our impression was that it is just a giant mall. In the middle there is a Nickelodeon kiddy theme park and some larger-than-life Lego statues.

One of the many signs, just in case you were wondering what it looked like.

One of the many signs, just in case you were wondering what it looked like.

Legos in the mall.

Legos in the mall.

The amusement park.

The amusement park.

Although we spent just half a day in Minneapolis, we did walk a lot of the city (we think) and we liked it. It seemed like a safe, fun place to be with lots of events and people our age. It would probably be a nice place to visit again.

And now Minnesota is on our list of visited states.