The Bancroft neighborhood is located south of Powderhorn Lake, between 38th Street East to the north and 42nd Street East to the south, and between Chicago Avenue on the west and Cedar Avenue on the east. The neighborhood is named for the Bancroft elementary school, which was named for George Bancroft, an American historian born in 1800. The Bancroft neighborhood consists mostly of single-family houses built before 1940. The neighborhood also has some commercial development along Bloomington Avenue and 38th Street.
Source: City of Minneapolis Bancroft neighborhood profile
Neal Baxter moved to the Bancroft neighborhood in the fall of 2003. He works in the deli at the Lunds grocery on Lake & Hennepin and walks to and from work every day (six miles roundtrip). He volunteers on two City of Minneapolis committees and is a member of the Bancroft Neighborhood Association board. For fun, he researches local history and maintains Minnesota Election Trends, a website that archives City of Minneapolis election results and stories.
His bio as written on the Minnesota Election Trends website:
Founder and originator of this website, Neal Baxter has roots in Minnesota back to the mid-1850s. His relations first settled in Minneapolis in the 1870s. He was moved to begin collecting material on the politics of Minneapolis while researching his great-grandfather, John G. Robb, who was an alderman.
Neal began collecting information on topics that interested him soon after learning to write. A compulsive listest, he first compiled lists of animals he knew about; later Neal's imagination reached into historical time, music in a variety of styles, geography, politics and language. Poetry baffles him. Neal has a good memory for data, but none for narrative.
Neal has performed as a listest in venues around Minneapolis. He has a Luddite sensibility, and walks everywhere. You may have seen him.
Note: This tour was taken on September 27, 2011 with special guest, Emily, my sister visiting from Washington D.C.
The below tour highlights were written by Neal Baxter and edited by Janelle Nivens. Some of the highlights do not have accompanying photos but were published so that you can view them as you walk or bike through the neighborhood on your own.
We met our Bancroft tour guide at his home where Jessica, former Organizer for Bancroft Neighborhood Association, welcomed us to the neighborhood. Jessica recently left the association to pursue other opportunities.
Our tour started at 1213 E. 38th Street see a mural painted by kids from Bancroft School in 2009 and designed by students at El Colegio, all under the guidance of local artist Greta McLain.
Across the alley, on the corner of 38th Street and 12th Avenue, we walked through the Bancroft Meridian Garden (Neal’s favorite spot in the neighborhood). The Garden is managed and maintained by volunteers from nearby houses, who also raise crops or flowers in their own plots. The site has changed hands many times through the years. In the 1930s occupants included a grocery and butcher shop, and the local outlet for Cedar Lake Ice & Fuel.
As we walked, Neal told us that from 1883 to 1887, 38th Street was the boundary between the City of Minneapolis on the north, and the Township of Minneapolis to the south. Bancroft did not become part of the City until 1887. In fact, from 1858 to 1867, Bancroft was in the middle of Richfield.
We walked south on 12th Avenue past the lovely gardens at 3820, 3824 and 3840. The front yard of Yvette & Joakim’s house at 3829 12th Ave South has a lovely sculpture.
We continued west on 39th, look at 3908 11th Avenue South, a lovely old house. Charles Young’s grocery store was at 1111 E. 39th Street in the 1930s.
The first plot settled in Bancroft by Alberta & Georgia Swift and family from 1886 is 3841 10th Avenue South.
Near the corner of 10th & 39th stands one of Bancroft’s 4 churches: Believer’s Fellowship Christian Church, at 3900 10th Avenue. This church was built in 1915 as Open Door Congregational. In the early 1950s the Minnehaha Lodge #165 of the Masons used the building for their meetings (they now meet at 50th & Bloomington). Since the Masons left, the church has changed hands about every 10 years. Grace Gospel Assembly first, then Mormons in the 1970s, Saint Mark’s Baptist in the 1980s and Seven Star Missionary Church in the 1990s.
We walked north up 10th Ave. to 3812, where William W. Woodward lived, 12th Ward Alderman from 1889 to 1893, and 7th Ward Alderman from 18931895. Woodward was indicted for trying to bribe a congregation of churchgoers for their votes, and fled town. He surfaced on a coffee plantation in Mexico, owned by a former colleague on the City Council. H.L. Moore, 7th Ward Alderman 19131915, lived at 3824 while serving on the City Council, and after leaving office moved next door to 3820.
Back on 39th Street, turn into Elliot, where 3915 dates from 1895 (possibly the neighborhood’s oldest house in existence), then continue toward Chicago Avenue.
With a mission statement of “In the City for Good”, Calvary Lutheran Church is located at 3901 Chicago Avenue South. The church was established at that site in 1924, the present edifice dates from 1930. Where the parish house is now (3907 Chicago) was the home of Cyrenius King from 1887 until 1906 or so.
Calvary Lutheran Church shares its space with Urban Arts Academy:
Urban Arts Academy is a nonprofit organization that offers arts education programs to children and families in South Minneapolis through preschool, after school, and summer arts programs.
The South of Lake Farmers Market is held in the parking lot of Calvary Lutheran Church on Thursdays between July and September. [NOTE: this may be discontinued. Contact Calvary Lutheran Church for information.]
South of Lake Farmers Market
Thursdays, 4–7 p.m.
July 14–September 29, 2011 Calvary Lutheran Church 3901 Chicago Ave South
In addition to the Farmer’s Market, 3901 Chicago Avenue South is home to an Urban Farming Community Garden. Urban Farming is a national organization with the mission:
...to create an abundance of food for people in need by planting, supporting and encouraging the establishment of gardens on unused land and space while increasing diversity, raising awareness for health and wellness, inspiring and educating youth, adults and seniors to create an economically sustainable system to uplift communities around the globe.
Built in 1888 by William Webster, 3945 Chicago Avenue South is a lovely house with great details.
At 40th & Chicago, we come to the RiverLake Greenway, which opened in June 2011. The Greenway is designed for recreational and commuter cyclists who want to avoid traffic.
Follow 40th Street east past 3937 Elliot, a house dating from 1893; then see 4012 Elliot, where lived Elwood B. Swanson. Swanson owned Swanson Grocery at 2404 E. 25th Street, and served Bancroft as Alderman 1945 1953.
On the corner of 10th Avenue (3952 10th Avenue), see another church. This was built in 1900 as Nazarene English Lutheran Church. In 1956 it became Church of the New Covenant. Fountain of Life Gospel Church has used the building since about 2000; at 3945 10th Avenue, see the fine old house, built 1891.
The traffic diverter at 11th & 40th Street, was installed here in 2010. The Bancroft Neighborhood board organized meetings to ascertain where residents along the path of the RiverLake Greenway would like to have one.
On our left, beyond the diverter at 3952 12th Avenue, is the home of Pam Costain, School Board
commissioner from 2007 to 2011.
The area north of us (Chicago -12th Avenues and 38th-40th Streets) was the first part of Bancroft to be platted and built up. In other words, these few acres are the oldest in the neighborhood. Most of the houses south of 40th Street were built after World War II, long after the northern half of Bancroft.
Continue beyond 13th Avenue, noting as you cross 13th that west of it, Bancroft’s children attended Central High, and east of it children went to South, back when children attended neighborhood schools. Approaching 14th Avenue, note that Clyde Bellecourt, a founder of the American Indian Movement, lives in the vicinity.
At 40th Street & 14th Avenue South, we find the lovely Bush Terrace condos, which were built on the site of Bush Nursery in 1962. Bush Nursery was founded by Guy D. Bush in 1922. Bush lived at 3948 15th Avenue South from 1912 on, and operated out of his lot there for 10 years before opening the Nursery across 40th Street.
Turn south on 15th Avenue and at 41st we come to Bancroft Meadows. This park, owned by the City and maintained by the Public Works Department of Minneapolis, replaced the houses here in 1991. Both this block and the one across Bloomington were covered by a little lake or a marsh until the area was drained and built up in the 1950s. The Bancroft neighborhood holds a picnic here every year in mid-July.
Built in 1960, the Nokomis Center has more than 4,000 square feet of retail space. Across 41st Street, don’t miss the wonderful mural on the former Nokomis Lanes bowling alley. The Lanes had to get special permission from City inspectors to keep this mural on their wall. The bowling alley folded in 2010, but a church is moving in.
Cross Bloomington Avenue South to see El Colegio Charter School. El Colegio is a small public high school in Minneapolis that serves students in English and Spanish. The school opened in September 2000. The emphasis on at El Colegio is on effective communication, creative expression and developing future leaders. Until the early 1990s a Country Club Market grocery occupied this site.
We talked with the Executive Director about the mission and future for El Colegio. She said that people often make the mistake of thinking that El Colegio is a credit recovery school and recently the community has worked hard to increase the promotion of the school’s achievements.
Every year, El Colegio helps celebrate the Day of the Dead with an event that includes a procession from Lake Street to El Colegio. The vision for the future is to be a Latino community center where people can learn to dance, take evening classes, volunteer for language ESL, quilting classes as well as many other activities and events of interest to the community. There will be a sacred space for aztec dances, a soccer field, and a community garden on the land to the north of the school.
While you cross 16th Avenue to reach the church parking lot, you can see why I think 16th is one of the City’s prettiest streets. It has a lovely shady look from 31st to the Parkway and beyond.
At 3152 17th Avenue South is Bethel Lutheran, built in 1955. The church was built on land still vacant at that late date. Note that Bethel hosts the offices of the Bancroft Neighborhood Association.
In 2012, construction should begin on the Southern Bicycle Connection which will run along 17th Avenue in the Bancroft neighborhood. The Southern Bicycle Connection is a north-south bicycle boulevard that will start at 24th Street and travel South, connecting Minneapolis to Richfield. The bicycle boulevard will go south along 17th Avenue from 24th Street to Minnehaha Parkway, then divert to other streets.
As we cross 41st Street between 17th and 18th Avenues, note that the alley separated the school districts of Bancroft and Standish public schools in former days. The alley between 17th & 18th from 41st to 42nd is a hoot, with the garages on the west side at your feet due to the hill.
At 40th and 18th Avenue we reach the highest point in the neighborhood, and the view is quite nice from here! For an equally dramatic view to the east, walk over to Cedar & 40th Street.
Down hill, at 17th Avenue & 40th Street, the two bike routes will intersect after the Southern is built in 2012.
North on 17th toward 39th Street at 3808 we find the newest house in Bancroft, built in 2010 to replace a house that was destroyed. This newly constructed home remains unoccupied.
We proceed along 39th again, to 3852 Bloomington, where lived Alderman John Swanson, City Council member from 1927 to 1939.
Continue to Bancroft School, at 38th between 13th & 14th Avenues, by walking through the schoolyard. The open field makes a wonderful spot to gaze at the stars and visit with neighbors. The school opened here in October 1911 as a temporary space. The present splendid edifice dates from 1912. Named for American historian George Bancroft. An earlier school named Bancroft sat from 18751896 where former Simmons School now is, at 3800 Minnehaha Avenue. In the spring and summer, take a look at the lovely flowers in the middle of the block along 13th Avenue, from your vantage point in the schoolyard.
The tour ends where it began, on Neal’s front porch. Neal says, “Thanks for your interest in our neighborhood. We love to show it off!”
Bancroft Neighborhood Association website
Bancroft Neighborhood Association Facebook page
City of Minneapolis Bancroft neighborhood profile
Minnesota Compass neighborhood data -- Bancroft
Bancroft six word stories
All photos from the Bancroft neighborhood tour
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I'd love to hear from you, please leave a comment. What was your favorite part of this tour? What places do you plan on visiting? Do you live and/or work in the neighborhood? If so, do you have additional information on any of our tour highlights?