Showing posts from April, 2014

Support the Northfield Skateboard Coalition

In the right sidebar of this blog, you’ll see a widget that allows you to make a secure online donation to the Northfield Skateboard Coalition through its fiscal agent, the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative. All donations will go toward designing and building a permanent skateboard park in Old Memorial Park in Northfield.
In 1986, Northfield passed an ordinance that prohibited skateboarding within “the central business district.” Three years later, the late Bev Finholt, then a member of the Northfield City Council, questioned the skateboard prohibition, and the mayor, Jerry Anderson, brought up the possibility building a city skateboard park.
That was in 1989.
Fast forward to 2006. A group of young skateboarders, mostly sixteen- and seventeen-year olds, formed the Northfield Skateboard Coalition. Their mission was to raise money to build a permanent skateboard park in Northfield. Within a year, the Skateboard Coalition had secured and matched a $10,000 grant from th…

Pedestrian Enhancements in Northfield: A Wish List

On Monday, May 5, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation (NDDC) will be holding a discussion on “public infrastructure for multi-modal transportation” in Northfield. You can find out more here. Among the suggested topics of discussion are “proposed pedestrian enhancements at 3rd Street and Highway 3” and “challenges to pedestrian crossing of Washington and Woodley Streets.”
Here’s my wish list of improvements to pedestrian access, safety, and connectivity in Northfield:A safe, traffic controlled pedestrian crossing on Highway 3 at Third Street. I’ve blogged about this here.A four-way stop at the intersection of Washington and Fifth Streets. I’ve lived within sight of this intersection for over 20 years, and have lost track of how many accidents occur there. Especially during downtown events, such as the Deafeat of Jesse James Days, cars parked along Washington Street make it difficult for cars on Fifth Street to see cross traffic without pulling out so f…


On the dry southeastern faces of the prairie hills, the first native flowers of the spring, the pasqueflowers, were in bloom...  Paul Gruchow, Journal of a Prairie Year
I biked out Hall Avenue with the wind in my face, down the narrow rumble-stripped shoulder of Highway 19, and down the loose buff-colored gravel of Canada Avenue to the far entrance of the Lower Arboretum. At the entrance to the Arb, I locked my bike, swallowed some water, and headed east down 320th St. W. My goal was McKnight Prairie, a little over five miles away, and the pasqueflowers.Pasqueflowers always remind me of the late Minnesota writer Paul Gruchow, who describes them so beautifully and with such care in his first book, Journal of a Prairie Year (1985). He explains how the pale pastel flowers serve as solar collectors, rotating to catch the sunlight, trapping heat and attracting insects who sometimes shelter at night inside the closed petals.
He was a newspaperman in Worthington, Minnesota, when he wrote tha…

Failures of Connectivity: Third Street and Armstrong Road

In an earlier post, I mentioned that the opening of Highway 3 in 1963 effectively split Northfield in half. Here are two pairs of photographs showing Third Street before and after the construction of Highway 3. In each, you can see that before Highway 3, Northfield’s downtown effectively straddled the Cannon River, with buildings and busineses extending continuously along Third Street up to the tracks of the Great Western Railway.

For over half a century, starting in the 1880s or so, you could walk up Third Street to one of Northfield’s three train depots and hop on a passenger train to Minneapolis, Chicago, and points beyond. Then, in the 1950s and 1960s, came the expansion of the U.S. highway system, which eventually led to the end of passenger rail service in Northfield. Personal automobiles and the state highway system became Northfield’s connection to the outside world. Northfield’s remaining train depot, the depot of the Milwaukee Road (or Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul), stan…

Northfield's Boulevard Trees

“Northfield is a city rich in trees,” Harvey Stork wrote. “Looking eastward from Manitou Heights, one sees in summer a green grove broken only occasionally by the steeple of a church, the tower of a school, or the roof of a commerical or factory building. It seems hardly possible that this forest shelters a population of five thousand people.”
In July 1948, Stork counted “2,426 trees of 48 different species growing in the parking between the sidewalk and curb;” in other words, boulevard trees. Of these, the most numerous species in 1948 was the American elm: Stork counted 993 of them. Sixty-one years later, few of those elms remain. Most fell victim to Dutch elm disease, which was just beginning to make an appearance in Minnesota when Stork made his inventory.
Since Professor Stork wrote The Trees of Northfield in 1948, the population of the city has grown fourfold, but Northfield is still sheltered by an urban forest. In February 2014, forester Katie Himanga completed an Urban Forest…

Naomi Mitchison, "The Triumph of Faith"

Naomi Mitchison, “The Triumph of Faith,” in When the Bough Breaks and Other Stories. London: Jonathan Cape, 1924.
For those who have never heard of Naomi Mitchison: she was born into a prominent Scottish family in Edinburgh in 1897, married a future Labour MP, and enjoyed remarkable success as a novelist in the 1920s and 1930s as the author of historical novels set in the ancient Greek and Roman world. The novelist Winifred Holtby considered her work of Nobel Prize caliber. She would later become one of the first women to publish science fiction with her 1962 novel Memoirs of a Spacewoman. She was also a socialist, a feminist, an advocate for birth control and free love, and in her sixties travelled to Botswana (then the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland) and became an honorary member of the Bakgatla tribe. She died in 1998 at the age of 101, and according to her friend Isobel Murray remains “one of the great neglected writers of our time.”
The New Testament scholar John Court call…

A Walk on the West Side