It’s easy to see why Highland Parkway was given its name

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Today’s 12 miles featured all but the six most westerly blocks of Highland Parkway.  The street is appropriately named as the picture shows.

A ride through the southern end of Lexington-Hamline produced the day’s highlight; a couple I met on Benhill Road.  More on that shortly.

The Saint Paul Regional Water Services now uses this building on the corner of Highland Parkway and Snelling Avenue…
…but in 1958, 1596 Highland Parkway served as Gloria Dei Lutheran Church’s activity center. Prior to that, the building was home to St. Paul Fire Department Engine Company 19.  Photo courtesy MN Historical Society
Janet and Clarence’s garden as seen from Benhill Road

Benhill Road is a half-mile long street that has its northern terminus on St. Claire. Benhill travels south for slightly more than a block and hooks east for two long blocks, coming to an end at Pleasant Avenue and Victoria Street.

I caught a glimpse of a colorful, well-kept garden, somewhat out-of-place amongst the longer grass and utility poles along the Amtrak railroad tracks.  As you can see, there is a beautiful variety of flowers, some nice tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegis as well.  I spied a decorative windmill painted with the words “Clarence’s South 20,” so I went up to the house directly across the street to see if I could find out more.

The windmill in Clarence's South 40.
The windmill in Clarence’s South 40.

Just before a got to the door a woman came out of the house so I asked her about the garden.  “Yes,” Janet told me, “the garden is mine and my husband’s.”

“I assume your husband is Clarence,” I said and she confirmed.

She told me that she started the garden about 10 years ago and that both she and Clarence do the weeding, grass cutting, watering, trimming and harvesting.

My next question was about the sign “Clarence’s South 20.”  Janet explained it this way, “When we started the garden, it was 20 feet wide, hence the name, although now,” she admitted,  “it’s closer to 10 feet.”

Judy and Clarence Purfeerst in the "South 20."
Janet and Clarence Purfeerst in the “South 20.”

Another tidbit I got from Janet is that, although the garden isn’t on their property, utility crews have trenched under it when laying new cables.  She also said that they’ve only had one theft from the garden when a couple of nine-year-olds grabbed an onion or two.

Before I left, I asked Janet if I could take her picture next to her garden and she readily agreed but added that she wanted to get Clarence.  Following the pics Janet and Clarence graciously offered me a tomato and an Armenian cucumber which I’d never had before. Both were excellent plain and in our salad that evening.


  1. I appreciate how you attempt to meet a local on each of your rides and tell just a bit of their story.

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