Two obscure Southwest landmarks

bridge in the Lyndale Park Peace Garden
This bridge in the Lyndale Park Peace Garden incorporates a stone post sent by the city of Hiroshima, Japan.

The following is excerpted from the recently published book “Secret Twin Cities: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.” The book, published by Reedy Press, also explores the Washburn Park Water Tower and the Prince mural at 26th & Hennepin.

Secret Twin Cities: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure
Secret Twin Cities: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure

The zigzag bridge

What is the significance of the zigzag bridge at the Lyndale Park Peace Garden?

Lyndale Park features some of Minneapolis’s most beautiful gardens. One of them, the Peace Garden, located across from the illustrious rose garden, has been designated as an international peace site. Most visitors probably walk over its small zigzag bridge without knowing the story behind it.

In 1985, the Minneapolis Park Board invited local architect Jerry Allan to design a garden around a gift from Nagasaki, Japan. It was a single stone balustrade from Ground Zero of the atomic bomb detonated by the United States on Aug. 6, 1945. Allan decided to build a zigzag bridge over a dry riverbed after remembering a school lecture by Professor Heinrich Engel. Engel was a German submarine captain who moved to Japan at the end of World War II and taught architecture at the University of Minnesota in the 1960s. His lecture included the Japanese belief that evil spirits travel only in straight lines. The zigzag path prevents them from following people into the garden retreats.

After 20 years, the bridge wore out. The Park Board approached Allan, requesting a replacement. Allan invited his colleague Kinji Akagawa, a local artist originally from Japan, to embellish the new bridge. By this time, the city of Hiroshima had also sent a stone post. As Allan wrote in his journal, “Today the two posts rest in repose, at the head of each entry to the bridge, knowing they will never complete their path, while East truly meets West at the center in Peace.”

The Peace Garden also features a bronze sculpture known as the Spirit of Peace, designed by Caprice Glaser. It honors a Japanese girl who died from leukemia as a result of the bomb’s radiation. She folded more than 1,000 cranes before her death as a wish for peace. Each of the stones that surround the sculpture gives instructions for the next step in folding a paper crane.

Richard Avedon photograph at the Black Forest Inn
This Richard Avedon photograph at the Black Forest Inn has two bullet holes. In 1986, a patron
used a pistol to shoot the picture, which shows 10 women attending the 1963 Daughters of the
American Revolution convention. Staff have outfitted eight of the women pictured with paper
surgical masks during the pandemic. Submitted photo

A bullet-riddled photograph

Why are there two bullet holes in a photograph that hangs on the wall of a local German restaurant? And what’s in the suitcase above the bar?

Black Forest Inn, the iconic Eat Street eatery, is steeped not only in authentic German fare but also in local art.

One notable piece is a large photo created, donated and autographed by world-famous photographer Richard Avedon. It hangs on the wall in the bar area and features 10 women at the 1963 Daughters of the American Revolution convention. Look closely and you’ll see two bullet holes: one in a woman’s eye and another in a woman’s abdomen.

The “assassin” was a regular at the bar named Ellis Miller Nelson. One day in February 1986, he was feeling a little ignored. So he stood up, pulled out his pistol, aimed toward the picture, and shot at it three times. (One of the shots somehow missed.) Chaos erupted and customers hid under tables. Nelson casually left the premises, walked to the nearby police station and turned himself in.

Black Forest Inn
The Black Forest Inn has been owned by the Christ family since 1965.

The restaurant has been owned by the Christ family since 1965. They were concerned that nobody would want to come back after that incident. The next day it was packed as usual. The picture was never repaired. The wall behind it never needed repairing because, according to Erica Christ, the owner’s daughter, it just happened to be bulletproof.

The bullet-riddled photo isn’t the only odd thing on display. On the other side of the bar, up on a shelf, you’ll see a suitcase. Inside it are a few pictures, mementos and a jar of ashes belonging to another former patron. His name was Tony. He passed away in 2016. Throughout the last 10 years of his life, Tony, an eccentric fellow, sat on the stool below that shelf, drinking Grain Belt Premium and talking to almost everyone who walked through the door. He loved the community at the bar so much that he donated some of his remains to the place (the rest are in the Gulf of Mexico). Now that’s some customer loyalty!