July 19, 2012
A long day at work today meant a quick ride tonight.
Snelling Avenue is one of the busiest north-south roads in Saint Paul and the speed limit varies from 40 MPH on the north end of the city to a typical 30 MPH south of Pierce Butler Route.
At the extreme southern end, however, Snelling changes from a stick straight four-lane artery to a curvaceous, tree-lined, steeply sloped two-lane thoroughfare. (9493) For the bike rider, unless training for a race, going down this half-mile switchback is preferable than struggling up the steep hill.
It doesn’t matter which direction you go, the lack of bike lanes or shoulders requires an acute awareness of cars.
From Snelling and West Seventh, it was onward to Shepard Road, then westward to where Shepard and Mississippi River Boulevard meet.
Two Rivers Overlook is a beautiful sculpture garden, interpretive center, rest area and scenic view. Sculptor Philip Ricky and city landscape architect Jody Martinez created the sculptures.
This large house at 1590 Mississippi River Boulevard was the Hollyhocks Nightclub, a notorious gangster hangout in the early 1930s run by a shady character named Jack Peifer.
This section of Saint Paul was nearly undeveloped at the time but Hollyhocks was still one of the city’s most popular nightclubs until its closure in 1934. In 1936 Peifer committed suicide after being convicted of kidnapping Saint Paul brewer William Hamm, Jr. I knocked on the door in an unsuccessful effort to talk to a resident about living in a home with such an interesting history.
Across the street is the shuttered Ford plant, which closed in December 2011.
There remain a few signs of life here as you’ll see shortly but nothing like the bustle of trains and trucks moving parts into the plant and glimmering new Ford Ranger pickups out. It makes me angry and sad to see this manufacturing facility idle after 86 years. So many good jobs lost and so many lives markedly changed, even as the Saint Paul plant remained near the top of Ford facilities in efficiency. I’m certain it’s the same feeling that many had when corporations like Hamm’s Brewery, Whirlpool, 3M and others abandoned their Saint Paul facilities.
And what will rise from this spot once redevelopment begins? Right now, there are great expectations but I’m concerned we’ll end up with what we don’t need-more strip malls, fast food restaurants and chain stores. Of course I hope my fears about revitalization will be wrong and a creative developer, city officials and neighborhood interests come together to create a unique, useful, architecturally significant, well designed and cost-efficient project. On the bright side, come whatever, it will be more fodder for this blog.
Henry Ford selected this spot in Highland Park for his new factory because of easy access to the Mississippi River, which Ford harnessed to generate inexpensive electricity.
Architect Kahn‘s design features art deco touches like these frescoes.
There were many more photos I’d like to have taken had it not been 9 p.m. and the light fading quickly with sunset seven minutes past. I could say much more about the long history of the Twin Cities Ford Assembly Plant, but others have already done so. Here are a couple of links to learn more:
Click for route map: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/157183625
Cool writeup Wolfie. I like the historical photos you through in. Hope they can get some manufacturing jobs into the Ford Plant area.
The hill at the end of Snelling has gotten more use as we switched over from Fairview for our airport and MOA trips. I can’t imagine peddling up the thing on a bike. And going downhill would be tense also. Coming up on a motorcycle though is pretty fun.
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