Max Hailperin has made it his mission to walk every block of Minneapolis’ 87 neighborhoods.
Armed with a water bottle and a camera, the Linden Hills resident started his “All of Minneapolis” project in 2016 after retiring from teaching at Gustavus Adolphus College. In walking every neighborhood block of Minneapolis, Hailperin said he hopes to keep himself active and encourage others to explore their own neighborhoods.
While he’s taking a break during the coronavirus pandemic, Hailperin plans to work his way alphabetically through each of the city’s neighborhoods, trekking five to eight miles at a time. After each walk, he updates his blog (allofminneapolis.com) with pictures, personal observations and historical context about the homes and areas he visits.
Including colorful pictures of interesting houses, public art, local food and parks, Hailperin said he tries to share his experience with others and encourage them to get out and walk, too.
“One big thing was just recognizing that I kept going back to the same places and walking the same walks,” he said. “I needed some sort of specific goal to get me out of my comfort zone, out of my routine and see other places.”
Hailperin is very organized, mapping out his route carefully into grids on Google Maps before he sets out to ensure that he doesn’t walk the same street twice if he doesn’t have to. His careful methodology is what first appealed to Dee Tvedt.
Tvedt, a retired catalog librarian who lives in Stevens Square, learned about Hailperin’s mission after finding his blog online. As someone who has been car-free her entire life and is a member of her local neighborhood block patrol, she said she was drawn to his mission almost immediately.
“When I learned that he was walking the neighborhoods in alphabetical order by name, that just makes a librarian’s heart go pitter patter,” she said. “This is someone I need to get to know.”
Although Hailperin usually walks alone, he sometimes takes along others — usually curious strangers like Tvedt. Tvedt said she’s gone on about 10 walks with Hailperin, including his strolls through Kingfield, Lowry Park and Lynnhurst.
She said walking with him helped her see streets she had walked down before in an entirely new way.
“When you drive by or even bike by, you’re going too fast. You don’t hear the birds that are singing,” she said. “There’s nothing better than walking a neighborhood to get to actually know it.”
Jermey Iggers, a retired food critic for the Star Tribune who lives in the South Uptown neighborhood, has also accompanied Hailperin on some of his walks. Something he admired about him is his keen eye.
“Max has this very, very analytical mind,” Iggers said. “He’ll point at something on a house and say, ‘That must’ve been built around 1920 to 1930 because that’s when that architectural detail was popular.’”
In his blog posts, Hailperin examines the great variety of styles and types of homes that exist just on one block. While walking through the Armatage neighborhood in June 2016, he detailed the curious nature of a three-story house with a wide-open porch and protruding attic, which appeared to be a completely different style from other homes nearby.
“I’ve remarked before on some anachronistic houses that stand out from the rest of the neighborhood,” he wrote. “I saw another as I came up to the Wagner’s Greenhouses and Garden Center property. On the northeast corner of that property, instead of another post-war bungalow or duplex there is an old farmhouse such as one might find in rural Minnesota. As it turns out, this is a perfectly logical spot for an old farmhouse, because Wagner’s got its start in 1901 growing vegetables.”
After walking, Hailperin often turns to public libraries or the internet to research the neighborhoods he’s walked, digging into historical archives and city directories to uncover the biography of certain houses, buildings or street signs he passes by.
Hailperin said there are many remnants of the streetcar era in Minneapolis, evident in the way retail spaces are designed and in the vintage buildings that line certain street corners. Likewise, the names of street signs sometimes indicate the name of a farmer who used to own the land or serve as a reminder of an ethnic group that immigrated to a neighborhood 100 years ago.
Through his walks, he said he has come to appreciate the depth of Minneapolis’ historical layers.
Hailperin has put his project on hold during the pandemic. He’s trying to avoid crowded areas to protect his own health, he said, and he wants to witness the city’s neighborhoods “as they ought to be” — with restaurants full and residents going about their normal business.
Like many of his fellow Minneapolitans, Hailperin said he’s been taking shorter walks around his own neighborhood. He still enjoys looking at Linden Hills’ unique lawn decor and architectural styles and exploring details of the city that many overlook.
“We live in an era where a lot of people, if they have free time, are in and not out,” he said in late February. “If they’re not paying attention, they don’t get to see how weird the world is.”