A City of Immigrants

People tend to forget that we are a nation founded by immigrants. Few of us can claim our ancestors were native to this land. Everyone here came from somewhere else, whether that be Britain, Czechoslovakia, Germany, France, Poland, Ireland, Japan, or any number of countries that gave us a booming population of hard working and innovative people.

The Statue of Liberty welcomed the masses with her symbol of hope and freedom. New York was the gate keeper for decades of immigration, but eventually the masses disseminated throughout the rest of the country. In Minneapolis, they arrived into downtown by train and no sooner than they were off the platform were they directed towards the neighborhood settled by people sharing their nationality. Upon arrival, Polish, Lebanese, Czech's, and Ukranian's were directed towards Northeast Minneapolis. Their influence on the development of the area is still visible today among the buildings and businesses still operating.

One of the most fascinating stories is represented at 207 East Hennepin Avenue, home to Kramarczuk's Sausage opened in 1954. Wasyl and Anna Kramarczuk emigrated from their homeland of Ukraine to the United States in the 1940's, escaping persecution under Hitler's reign. Anna had fled originally to Austria where she learned how to bake the breads she sold at Kramarczuk's. Their legacy is still alive today in the scratch made piroshky and baked goods created by the family's third generation.

Sidewalk in front of Kramarczuk's (storefront is located at the white awning with 207)

Sidewalk in front of Kramarczuk's (storefront is located at the white awning with 207)

The Melzer Block (308 and 310 East Hennepin Avenue), owned by Leo Melzer, is another Northeast treasure made possible by an immigrant. Leo Melzer fled the Nazi invasion, landing here in Minneapolis. He purchased the buildings one at a time until he owned the entire block. The buildings are now filled with local businesses serving the northeast community.

The Melzer Block, home to the original AOUW fraternal order building

The Melzer Block, home to the original AOUW fraternal order building

The oldest continuously operating house of worship in Minneapolis was built by immigrants. Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church was built as the Universalist Church in 1857, but purchased in 1877 by the Catholic French Canadian community who kept it going for many years. Despite almost being closed in 1968, the buildings history and character inspired a fight to save it. They make meat pies, a symbol of their heritage, to raise funds for continued building renovations and restoration.

Interior sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes

Interior sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes

Taking some time to consider the foundations of this country, we realize immigrants built and shaped each of our communities into what we see today. The buildings still standing, the restaurants still operating, and the churches offering Sunday services were all begun in another time with another generation of immigrants. We must look forward to and welcome the next wave of immigrants that will help our country expand and grow even further.

Three Eagles and Twenty Three Loons

Three Eagles and Twenty Three Loons

I am fortunate enough to have grown up going to a family cabin on a lake in Minnesota. At an early age I fell in love with the state bird, the loon. I remember purchasing my first loon call in hopes of luring them close for a good photograph. It took much effort and determination in order to get a good shot, but eventually I did. This past weekend, on the same lake where a loon was a rare sight, I saw twenty-three loons, three eagles, a number of sparrows and seagulls, and another unique bird. Clearly nature has made a come back on this lake, as it has on numerous throughout the United States.

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The Urban Farm

The Urban Farm

Living in Minneapolis has many benefits, one being the plethora of farmers markets to choose from year round. One problem with the city though is the climate. Our cold winters mean I rarely find local fruits and vegetables after October and before May. While this might sound like a standard problem for northern cities, some are breaking the mold and growing crops year round. The logical answer is a greenhouse out on the rural fringe, however some cities are taking it to the next level. They are growing acres of crops on small city blocks. The answer they have found is a vertical greenhouse.

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How the Great Depression Preserved the Historic Wesley Center

How the Great Depression Preserved the Historic Wesley Center

I recently had the opportunity to tour the Historic Wesley Center in downtown Minneapolis. The former home of the Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church now houses 8 nonprofit groups and hosts outside events. The Historic Wesley Center nonprofit, was formed about a year ago to preserve and protect the building after its viability as a church had expired.

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The Life of Plazas

The Life of Plazas

After recently starting a new job in downtown Minneapolis I noticed the plethora of public plazas available to residents, visitors, and employees. Almost every major tower has an inviting public realm leading to its primary entrance. I see a cleverly landscaped space daily from my office or when eating lunch out on the rooftop terrace. No two plazas are exactly the same, however each one has a standard set of basic amenities.

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Little Mekong Night Market

Little Mekong Night Market

The fourth annual Little Mekong Night Market was held this past weekend. The market is a mix of food, art, music, and cultural performances located in the heart of the Little Mekong District at Western Avenue and University Avenue in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Last year an estimated 18,000 people attended which appeared to have been surpassed this year. The market collaborated their event with Northern Spark, an all-night art event with the theme “Climate Chaos People Rising.” While Northern Spark runs from 9 pm until 5 am, the Little Mekong Night Market is a two-day event, starting at 5 pm and ending at midnight on Saturday and 10 pm on Sunday.

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Trees and the Dust Bowl

Trees and the Dust Bowl

There is still a generation living that can recall the hard times brought on by the Dust Bowl. I think about how my grandparents, in their late 90's now, would have been just teenagers at that time. I recall reading Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck trying to imagine a different Nebraska than the one I had grown up in. I cannot imagine hanging wet sheets over the windows to keep the dust out or wearing a mask every time I went outside. Even worse would be watching thousands of acres of crops dry up before my eyes.

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Complete Streets in Action

Complete Streets in Action

We have all driven, biked, or walked down a street that appeared wider than the traffic it served. Extra space proliferates within the area for vehicles while the pedestrian and bicyclist are forced onto a small, cracked sidewalk or into the street dodging parked cars. We constantly wonder why the road could not be redesigned to accommodate a better distribution of users. Some cities have begun to make a commitment to changing these conditions through a program called Complete Streets.

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Lake Life

Lake Life

Growing up, my family and I made three nine hour trips each year to Perham, Minnesota. The first trip was always Memorial Weekend, followed by a week in June when Walleye fishing was good, then a two week family trip that included excursions to nearby attractions. I was the only one in my class that would vacation in the same place multiple times each year. Most of my friends when more normal vacation spots like visiting a grandparent in Texas or Mount Rushmore. 

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Destination Jamaica

Destination Jamaica

I recently returned from a five day trip to Jamaica for my little sisters wedding. We had incredible weather with only one day of rain, which we ignored and swam anyways. The locals said this was their normal weather most of the year-warm, sunny, and somewhat humid when the wind is not blowing. The resort we stayed at was secluded from the world, nestled into a beach two hours from Montego Bay. It is probably good I am still training for my marathon in June because the all inclusive buffet and unlimited sugary drinks would probably have added a few more pounds.

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Minneapolis MayDay Parade

Minneapolis MayDay Parade

Every year, more than 50,000 people are drawn to the Powderhorn neighborhood in south Minneapolis to participate in the festivities of the MayDay Parade. This is not your typical parade which is demonstrated in the mission statement of the event "to bring people together for the common good through the power of puppet and mask performance." The event uses theater and performance to draw together a diverse crowd. The different puppets, masks, and costumes tell stories of current issues and past struggles. They seek to start a dialogue on a range of subjects such as politics and the environment. In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOBT) has been managing the events since the first MayDay Parade & Festival in 1975.

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Anoka's Trail System

Anoka's Trail System

Last weekend I went up to the family cabin to help my dad open it up as we do every spring. Knowing Saturday was going to be filled with raking leaves and moving the dock and boatlift, I decided to bump up my long run to Friday after work. Since I was already in Anoka, I took the opportunity to explore some of the trails and parks that I have only seen on maps. My original intent was to make it up to the Anoka Nature Preserve, a large swathe of land held in a natural state. Unfortunately, a few wrong turns in the southwestern neighborhoods kept me just short of reaching it.

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Fixing Water Problems One Yard at a Time

Fixing Water Problems One Yard at a Time

If you asked me a year ago what a rain garden was I would not have been able to explain it correctly. I believed one of the many misconceptions, that rain gardens are filled with water. A properly designed rain garden infiltrates the water into the ground within 24 hours. That is their primary purpose, absorb water. The majority of the time, the rain garden is bone dry. They do not breed mosquitoes, again because water does not pool long enough to hatch their eggs. They are low maintenance if you take the time in the spring and fall to tend to them. All these myths keep homeowners from solving their water problems with an aesthetic and effective system.

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A Journey to the Underrated Neighborhood: North Minneapolis

A Journey to the Underrated Neighborhood: North Minneapolis

An increase in my weekend long run mileage meant I could journey farther into Minneapolis yesterday and take advantage of the gorgeous spring weather. I decided to use my 20 mile journey to venture into North Minneapolis, a neighborhood that has so much to offer, but is commonly disregarded because of high crime rates.

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The Incremental Developer

The Incremental Developer

I recently read an article by Robert Steuteville titled "Great Idea:Incremental Developers". The incremental developer is someone who creates meaningful change in their own communities through small scale building projects. When I thought about this for a moment, I realized I was an incremental developer when I lived in Lubbock, Texas. My husband and I purchased a rundown old bungalow, spent months renovating it through window restoration, refinishing the hardwood floors, installing dry wall on the ceilings, new central heating and air, painting, and exposing the original brick fireplace.

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The Resurgence of Trains

The Resurgence of Trains

Today has been an interesting weather day. I watched the forecast go from rain all day, to a brief respite in the morning, to sitting on my deck in the sunshine writing this post. Not knowing we would luck out with this beautiful weather, I spent the first 9 miles of my 18 mile run on the treadmill reading a planning magazine. Most people might dread the thought of 9 miles on a treadmill (I listened to a podcast where an inmate ran a marathon on a treadmill to emulate the Boston Marathon, now that's dreadful), but I was distracted by the transportation articles which fueled today's post.

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Heading Out West on I-80

Heading Out West on I-80

From my last post you saw I went home last weekend to visit family. My husband and I make the six hour drive five to six times a year and have the route memorized down to which towns we stop in. We were able to leave by 10 am, after Minneapolis morning rush hours and before Omaha's evening rush hours. I say hours because it is no longer one annoying hour but about three. Leaving during these times can add almost forty-five minutes to our already long drive.

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Running Down Memories: a Return to Lincoln, NE

Running Down Memories: a Return to Lincoln, NE

This past weekend I drove home to Lincoln, Nebraska to host my little sisters bridal shower and bachelorette party. I spent weeks planning the events to make sure they went off without a hitch and for the most part they did. I even managed to bake themed cookies that turned out mostly like the Pinterest post I saw. 

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