Seward, a neighborhood on the western bank of the Mississippi River, is bound on the north by Interstate 94, on the east by the Mississippi River, on the south by 27th Street East and on the west by Hiawatha Avenue. The neighborhood is named for William Seward, secretary of state under Abraham Lincoln. Of the neighborhood’s 390 acres, 54 percent are residential and almost 20 percent are industrial. The industrial uses are located along Minnehaha and Snelling avenues and 27th Street East in the southwestern portion of the neighborhood. Parks line the river and Seabury Avenue. A group of rail workers’ houses on Milwaukee Avenue built at the end of the 19th century and restored in the late 1970s has National Historic Preservation status and gives character to this neighborhood. Seward is connected to downtown, the airport and the Mall of America through the newly opened light-rail line.
Source: Minneapolis Neighborhood Profiles
Adam has lived in Seward since 2009 and is currently on the Board of Directors for Seward Neighborhood Group. He currently works as an Associate Project Manager at Capella University. Before living in Seward, Adam lived in the Loring Park, Central, Whittier, and Bancroft neighborhoods of Minneapolis.
The Tour Route
Adam and I work for the same employer in downtown Minneapolis so we started our tour with a taste of a typical after work commute on the Light Rail. We boarded at the Government Station and got off three stops later at the Franklin Avenue Station. We walked on the commuter path and exited onto 24th Street East.
One of the reasons Adam moved to Seward neighborhood is because of the access to public transportation as he does not own a car. Additionally, he wanted a walkable community with easy access to amenities such as a grocery store.
We began our tour on the path from the Franklin Avenue light rail station. Both pedestrian and bike commuters are welcome on the Hiawatha Commuter Line, which has been featured nationally as an example of a successful combination of public transit and trail systems.
Walking by colorful murals, Adam introduced me to Sister's Camelot, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating sustainability in the Twin Cities.
The photo of Growing Lots Urban Farm is a prime example of why it is so great to have a neighborhood resident give tours! Maybe it is because I am from rural Iowa, but I am not sure I would have noticed those hay bales as unusual if I had walked by them on my own. Turns out, this is an urban agriculture venture led by Stefan Meyer and beyond that stack of hay, to the left, soil sits on top of asphalt where vegetables will grow. Impressive!
As we walked along, it was pretty hard to miss the bright aqua building housing Coastal Seafoods. I recognized the name because it provides seafood for many local restaurants but what I didn't know is that anyone can walk into the store to buy fresh fish.
Adam told me that one of the things he likes about Seward is that it is a good mix of residential, commercial and light industrial. It was at this point that he kind of pointed over his shoulder and behind us to show me where United Noodles is located. I remembered reading about United Noodles on the Heavy Table blog. We back tracked a bit to walk down what seemed like an alley to get to the entrance. It seems one would need to know they were going to United Noodle as it is unlikely you'd ever find it just by driving down the street. I now know where I can turn for hard to find ingredients for Asian dishes!
I am afraid I don't know the story behind this trailer decorated as a Wonder bread loaf. If anyone has some background info, please scroll to the bottom of this post to leave a comment!
It was around this point in the tour that Adam told me about the level of commitment Seward neighbors have to creating and maintaining a tight community. They have an e-democracy forum through which hyperlocal conversations take place. An example he gave me was when the City of Minneapolis tagged the oldest Oak tree to cut down. Voices of the community were heard and although the tree was cut down due to real safety concerns, the wood was repurposed by Wood from the Hood, a Seward neighborhood business. An excellent recap including beautiful photos is on Jennifer Larson's Everyday Photos blog.
An observation I made about the Seward neighborhood is that no two homes are alike. Most of the homes seem to take pride in their gardens and we saw many people outside tending to them. Some communities frown upon creative expression extending to people's home exteriors and landscapes but I personally love it and it makes walking around the neighborhood much more interesting.
More and more Minneapolis residents are choosing to raise their own chickens for eggs. We passed a couple of chicken coops in Seward but this one was by far the most creative. I love the use of a truck topper!
A gem that everyone needs to know about is the Milwaukee Avenue Historical District. Homes originally built around 1883 were part of a planned development for immigrant rail workers of Scandinavian and Eastern European decent. After years of neglect, the area was in jeopardy of being razed until protests saved the now historic designated district. Read more about the community on the Milwaukee Avenue Homeowner's Association website. Since cars are not allowed, the best way to experience this part of Seward is by foot.
Adam pointed out Pizza Luce as a favorite neighborhood spot, an amenity of which I am quite envious.
Adam volunteers at Boneshaker books, a collectively owned bookstore which opened in early 2011 describes itself as the"radical & progressive bookstore you always dreamed of: good books, book events, online ordering and bicycle book delivery!" Boneshaker is around the corner from 2nd Moon Coffee Cafe and is in the same building as Mezzanine Salon where Adam gets his hair cut.
Even the garages have character in Seward! Adam said that this barn reminds him of the Tom Waits song, "What's He Building In There." Adam ended up meeting the current owner through LinkedIn and learned that the garage was used by the former owner to store old bike parts.
We walked by Matthews Park and like many Minneapolis parks, it has a Community Center which shares space with a neighborhood school, this one is Seward Montessori School. While walking by, we learned they were having a Rain Forest Night at the school and we saw a family with two little rain forest princesses walking to the school.
Cake Eater Bakery has been open since 2010 and offers cupcakes, bars, cookies, muffins, scones and they are now serving breakfast.
Birchwood Cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as, weekend brunch. They have a bike team and their support of cycling is apparent with the Nice Ride station located directly in front of their building as well as the first bike corral in Minneapolis for on street bike parking.
When we arrived back at Franklin Avenue, we came across Joan of Art Gallery in which the artist, Kimber Fiebiger creates and sells her bronze sculptures which have been sold across the United States. I learned from the website, that she has made the building at 31st and Franklin her home/studio/gallery.
The tallest buildings in the Seward neighborhood are Seward Towers East and West. The high-rise apartment buildings are home to many immigrants to the United States. Adam shared with me that more than 18 languages are spoken by Seward Tower residents, currently many East African dialects. A 2010 Twin Cities Daily Planet article discusses the past and present of the Seward Towers.
A huge benefit to living in or near Seward is the Seward Co-op Grocery and Deli. Not only is it a visually vibrant addition to the neighborhood, its end statement is: Seward Co-op will sustain a healthy community that has: Equitable economic relationships; Positive environmental impacts; andInclusive, socially responsible practices.
At the end of our tour, Adam shared with me one of the best features of the neighborhood. When he takes the bus home from work, it drops him off at the corner of 27th and Franklin which has all he needs to create a wonderful evening at home. He calls True Thai on his way home to put in a take-out order, stops by Zipps Liquors for some tasty adult beverages, and rents a movie at Filmzilla.
What did I miss?
Adam and I were able to see a lot of aspects of Seward, but I am guessing we may have missed one of your favorite parts of the neighborhood. I'd love to come back and find out what you think makes Seward a great place to live and/or work. Fill out the Tour Guide form and we can find a time for me to return to learn more!
Share with friends and leave a comment!
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?