TC Sidewalks Live!: Old Streetcar to Wildwood Tour this Sunday

Seeing a map of Twin Cities' historic streetcar network goes a long way toward explaining the urban geography of the city. Most of the existing commercial corrdors, those places with the historic density, mixed-use nodes, and interesting old buildings are along the old streetcar lines. Even though the streetcars were all ripped up, burned down, and defunded over 50 years ago, there's a way in which they're still alive today.

[The streetcar map on the wall of Minneapolis Central Library.]

Some of the streetcar routes are pretty straightfoward. Others (like the old route through Minneapolis's) are crooked and confusing. Most have become bus routes, but a few of them have completely disappeared.

[The route in question.]
The old route to Willernie, White Bear Lake, and Stillwater is one of the latter. Together with Mark Brauer, a long-time East Side Saint Paul bicyclist, retired Mn-DOT planner, and amateur urban geographer*, we'll be tracing the old route of the Wildwood streetcar as best we can.

It'll be an adventure. Some parts of the route are completely gone. In other places, you'll be able to find it. And waiting at the end will be Willernie, a crazy East Metro town that used to be an amusement park and still feels like its at the the end of a long drive up to the cabin.
  • What: Bike ride to Willernie, along the old Stillwater streetcar line
  • When: Sunday August 2nd at 11:00AM. Shoudld take 2-3 hours, probably more depending on stops
  • Where: Meet at the corner of Payne and Edgerton, across from Yarusso's
  • How long: 25 miles round trip
  • How much: Free! (Or buy Mark or me a beer.)

Willernie is fascinating all by itself. Last summer, Andy Sturdevant, Steven Lang, and myself toured through it. Here's a bit from Andy's column:

Like so many Twin Cities neighborhoods — St. Paul’s Union Park, Lake Minnetonka’s Excelsior, the stretch of Longfellow once known as Wonderland — Willernie owes its odd footprint to an amusement park. Wildwood Amusement Park, another of the cities’ many trolley parks built to lure city dwellers out to the end of the lines for recreation, sat on the site from 1889 through the 1930s.

I've been looking forward to this ride for a while. If you're free Sunday, join in and explore the streetcar of your imagination.

PLEASE NOTE: The ride's pacing will be leisurely. I am not a speed demon and neither is Mark, who has an upright handlebar type bicycle. It'll be a relaxing ride befitting the pace of a streetcar and the idea of Wildwood bourgeois leisure.

[Wildwood spirits.]

[Willernie stop sign.]

[Willernie back roads.]

[Do you even know what this means?]

[Willernie main street.]

* As if there was any other kind.

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