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Going outside this spring and soaking up some air and sun can be a refreshing cure for restlessness, especially when we crave meaningful connections at social distance. With seemingly endless trail systems and extensive trails around the Twin Cities area, what better way to do this than around the Chain of Lakes? We have compiled an online map that will allow you to deepen our understanding of the area while rolling, hiking, or circling the lakes – and offering some less obvious ways to explore both on and off the main thoroughfare. (Enter full screen view to optimize your route.)
Finding the half-dozen historical markers on the shores of the lakes is something of a scavenger hunt. In many large rocks there are memorial plaques that document significant moments in the life of past generations. One of these boulders gently points to the east slope overlooking Bde Maka Ska to mark the construction site of the first Minneapolis apartment in 1834.
In its current context, at the center of intersecting streets on the north side of Lake of the Isles, the Peavey Well is a more obvious monument, but its importance is easily overlooked. It was built in 1891 as a drinking fountain for horses, but later it paid tribute to the horses killed in the First World War.
Along the southeastern portion of Bde Maka Ska, a beautiful ornamental railing marks the edge of the lake laid by Sandy Player, Angela Two Stars, and Mona Smith in June 2019 to commemorate the Dakota that started in the early hours of the lake century. The flora and fauna engraved on the sidewalk are less easy to spot.
Photo by Alex Smith
Visible from almost every part of Lake Harriet, the Bandshell is arguably the lake’s most famous landmark, but nearby, hidden among ancient trees, are the humble historic rest buildings for men and women. The two separate shelters were designed by Harry Wild Jones, with compelling hexagonal shapes and unique features (including a fireplace that is hard to find in today’s toilets).
The stories of historical landmarks are joined by voices of modern design and innovative materials that move us forward in time. In the neighborhood blocks that stretch from Lowry Hill to Tangletown, almost every imaginable approach to modernism can be discovered. Whether immaculately manicured landscapes that become works of art themselves, or the shiny steel cladding that reflects golden sunsets, it is worth leaving the often overcrowded sea route.
East of Cedar Lake, Lazor / Office’s Flatpak house is relatively easy to find during the construction of the new light rail line. It was built in 2005 as one of the first prefabricated systems for single-family homes in the Twin Cities with locally made wall panels.
Nowhaus, a renovation by Locus Architecture, is a bit more hidden in the neighborhood on the south side of Cedar Lake. The translucent panels with recycled billboard backs create a striking facade and a first impression. On closer inspection, the subtle contours of the still visible images show what this poster advertised, which gives the design depth and fascination.
On the northeast slope of the Lake of the Isles, the award-winning Dayton House (designed by VJAA) seamlessly connects exterior and interior spaces and becomes a kind of hybrid between an art pavilion and a modern residence. Although not visible from the path itself, the retaining walls that form courtyards that buffer public views are visible from the streets of the neighborhood and begin the merging of landscape and structure.
Between the highlights along the route, there are endless details, subtleties, and carefully crafted landscapes that are worth paying attention to. Make it your outdoor mission this spring and summer to identify the “unnoticed” and imagine how design can give us opportunities to explore the world around us to new depths.
E-mail [email?protected], and we’ll add your recommendations to the online map and share your discoveries and knowledge with others in the community.