Sidewalk of the Week: Lauderdale

It's true, there are small cities among us. The un-annexed places, remnants of the municipal land grab hiding in the trees amidst big names. These small cities are familiar and quickly forgotten: Hilltop, Landfall, Lauderdale... To laud is to sing, to celebrate in song and poetry. Yet this is a corner that seems to want to be overlooked, forgotten, left alone.

Lauderdale sits at the crook of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, where the two towns rub against each other, slightly abrasive. The seam of Highway 280 marks the border, hedging an industrial park on one side and a large wall on the other, obscuring something. And there lies Lauderdale behind its rampart, high on a hill, hemmed in here by brown walls and there by the yellowgreen grass of golf courses.

The first question you will be asked when walking round Lauderdale is, "Do you live in Lauderdale?" So much depends on the answer, and most fail the test.

Part of the challenge lies underfoot. That there are no sidewalks here. Or, in fact, there are. But only two. Small bits of concrete laid bare, that end and start abruptly. Who made these? When? Why do they stop?  Hopscotch grounds for agoraphobes. Still, it's fun to walk on them, pivot on one's heel, and march back again to the omega.

[One of the two sidewalk fragments.]

[A Lauderdale sidewalk ends.]

[The street becomes the sidewalk.]

[Lauderdale City Hall.]

[A sidewalk painting project.]

[There used to be an overpass here.]

[Unattached stairs.]
Instead, the people of Lauderdale walk in the street or in the alleys. It's not difficult, and not a problem as Lauderdale can only be the end of your journey, a place that goes nowhere. There used to be a bridge across the freeway, leading out of Lauderdale, but it was removed some years ago.  Now there is only a wall and a road that ends as abruptly as the fragmentary sidewalk under my feet. People walk in the street, but there are no cars and it makes little difference.

Lauderdale is a paradox, an old suburb, its homes ranging the ages from just before the war. They are small and precise, unemcumbered by grand gesture. Meanwhile, small gestures are everywhere. A rock garden, fountain, or flag stand higher next to a Lauderdale house. Everything seems like a project, something someone created.

The age means that homes are as small as homes can be. Most have rear garages and alleyways snaking behind the quiet streets. The alleys are the real sidewalks of Lauderdale, backyards with front doors, gardens, swimming pools, workshops, old car storage. Approximately one-third of the garages don't even have pavement connecting them to the alley. Odd to see a garage not meant for cars, but that's what you find here.

[An alleyway garden growing wild.]

[Lauderdale garage.]

[An alleyway.]

[Alleyway, garage, child care center.]

[No Trespassing along a Lauderdale edge.]
Almost hemmed in on all sides by walls and fences, the edges of Lauderdale contain cracks and fissures, places where the plan doesn't quite fit with reality. At one extreme, a small path appears next to the freeway wall, leading to a tiny Lauderdale park: a playground and picnic table, tree and small patch of grass, all overlooking the view of to the Western sunsets. And this Lauderdale view, over the freeway toward Minneapolis, is a rare sight. Layers of infrastructure fold up like mountains before the downtown skyline. This is the view of labor, of the engineer, not for tourists.

Along the other sides, Over here, the sight of an abandoned onramp, now just a patch of grass waiting for a monster truck. Elsewhere, long fences of golf courses, white balls scattered like pennies in the wayward shrubs. No Trespassing. One golf course bleeds into the next, and a small path runs between them, a tightrope between the greens. 

[An alleyway / driveway / pathway.]

[The path to the overlook park.]

[The end of the Lauderdale sound wall, an abandoned onramp.]

[Red British telephone boxes lurking in a yard.]
The quality of the sunlight here might be because of the elevation, or because Lauderdale seems to exist as a limit, a place with no beyond. All things appear differently here. Homes and trees display a facticity, as if there is nothing beneath appearances. Lauderdale, plainly stated, simply being: this house, this decorative fountain, this patch of grass, this tree.

But of course there is art hiding here. Each fence conceals a vintage car. A yard on a hill contains seven red British telephone boxes, partially obscured.

Unlikely, but nonetheless. You will not find yourself in Lauderdale without reason. An overlooked overlook.

[A Lauderdale water feature.]

[A less exciting Lauderdale road.]

[Falcon Heights street sign in foreground, Lauderdale in background.]

[Corner house with a garage inside it.]

[The view from Lauderdale.]


Shovelfoot said...

you forgot to mention St. Anthony Village.

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