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The beauty of Minneapolis’ grid

The Minneapolis street grid: it’s a beautiful thing. By just memorizing a few key alphabetical names of town notables (in South and North Minneapolis) or presidents (in Northeast), you can have a pretty good idea of how to get from point A to point B in the city.

Just how rigid is the grid? The map below shows all the streets of Minneapolis, colored according to their grid orientation:

Most streets, colored orange in the map, hew strictly to the main north-south grid. The obvious exception is Downtown and its across-the-river neighbor Marcy Holmes (colored teal), where the grid is rotated about 45 degrees to roughly parallel the banks of the Mississippi. There’s also a pocket of off-north-south grid in the southwestern part of Northeast, also apparently influenced by the river. But everywhere else in Minneapolis, excepting lakeshores and the aberrant Tangletown, the orientation of the grid is the same.

In this Minneapolis is similar to other planned cities, like Chicago, which you can see in this map by Stephen Von Worley whose work, along with Mathieu Rajerison, inspired this post. Von Worley mapped several major cities. Older cities, which may have grown in historical spurts without being carefully planned out, make for more interesting maps: check out Boston.

Note that, due to programming issues beyond our control or comprehension, the colors are not perfectly accurate. But the idea is definitely there.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 02/06/2015 - 05:28 pm.

    Clicked on your link to the Boston grid

    and it is far more “beautiful” than the Minneapolis grid.

    Of course “beauty” is not synonymous with “navigability.”

  2. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 02/07/2015 - 10:13 am.

    One extra complication though: in Northeast streets and avenues flip.

  3. Submitted by Bill Kahn on 02/07/2015 - 10:21 am.

    Can’t help but notice many of the most desirable places to live in the city are “off the grid” and far from ugly.

  4. Submitted by David Markle on 02/07/2015 - 05:22 pm.

    Irregularity in the grid

    One of those who designed the grid, Minneapolis pioneer John Stevens, later regretted the decision to try to make the streets and avenues run parallel or perpendicular to the river which resulted in an quilt-like layout.

    I certainly agree with Mr. Holtman that the Boston hub cowpath pattern helps make Boston interesting and particularly attractive to walkers. But Boston’s small grid (the Newbury Street area) has its own charms, as does Manhattan’s.

  5. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 02/08/2015 - 03:51 pm.

    Let’s remember, too, that both Boston and Manhattan–and Philadelphia and Baltimore, etc.–are a good two- to three-hundred years older than Minneapolis is. Our city was built much after the Enlightenment.

    By the mid-nineteenth century, the U.S. officially platted sections of territory, before cities were platted within those lines. Squares and rectangles, guys. Rationality, not cow paths.

    Minneapolis was quite proud of its urban planning rationality, even changing street names forcefully, in about 1909, in the “old city” sectors along both sides of the Mississippi, so they made sense.

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