August 2, 2012
For Sale signs in yards, like dandelions, barely register on my consciousness. But this one at 560 Saratoga Street South necessitated a stop and a picture.
Some cities have a bar on nearly every corner. Despite it’s reputation and Irish heritage, Saint Paul seems to have more houses of worship than bars on corners. Case in point, Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church at 113 North Saratoga Street.
Hamline Avenue between Ashland and Selby is a challenging section of roadway. Two narrow lanes run in each direction, bikes and a dearth of bike lanes frequently add to the congestion. The sharply inclined bridge over Ayd Mill Road and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks augment the confusion. Smart drivers (and bike riders) avoid sightseeing in favor of paying attention to traffic.
However, from “ground level” on the Hamline frontage road, there is a nicely hidden neighborhood. The western side of the southern bridge approach has been painted into a fantastic historical canvas. Not only does this piece depict the area as it was in earlier times, it shows the locale during the four seasons.
Minneapolis artist MJ Heubach painted the mural in 2003. One of the goals of the mural was to cut down on graffiti. Funding was provided through Saint Paul’s Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) Program and other donors.
As nice as the mural is, its days are numbered. The Hamline Avenue bridge has been declared “structurally deficient” by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and its replacement will begin in spring of 2013. The nearly $7-million project includes bicycle lanes, walkways and decorative lighting, according to the City of Saint Paul website.
The quickly setting sun had me pondering my return home when a woman came out of her house to dump a bag of garbage. She was in a bit of a hurry but I persuaded Jan Mandell to talk to me about this somewhat hidden neighborhood.
“It’s nice ‘cause a lot of the neighbors know each other. They have block parties, they have street hockey; they block off the area. There must be 35 kids between the ages of 1 and 12 on this block so there’s a lot of action on this block.”
Pointing at the house across the alley, Jan told me about one of her not so young neighbors, “This lady is 99 years old and she’s a role model for everybody. She hula hoops and she does weights at Curves, and she does line dancing at the community center. Her name is Vivian and she’s amazing.”
Another benefit of the neighborhood, said Jan, is the location, “It’s close to where I work so I don’t have to go far. I don’t like traveling on freeways, I don’t like driving cars.
“I like it because it’s near Summit and I can take walks. And I like it because there are grocery stores.”
Jan and I conversed for a few minutes longer before she excused herself. Having developed a keen sense of the obvious, I took this as my cue to get back on the road.