Wednesday, June 20, 2018
East Isles neighborhood of Minneapolis | Cody Anderson

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A luxurious life in East Isles combines the peaceful escape of tree-lined streets and parks with the best of vibrant urban living. This lakeside enclave that is just a two to five-minute drive from downtown offers over 50 spots for eating, shopping and entertainment in the Uptown area.


The historic and serene East Isles neighborhood is located on the east side of Lake of the Isles, part of the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes area. The neighborhood extends from West 22nd Street on the north to West Lake Street on the south, and from Hennepin Avenue on the east to the lake shores on the west and Knox Avenue South on the southwest. The neighborhood’s name reflects the small isles in the lake. Lake of the Isles, which connects via a channel on the south to Lake Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska, the largest lake in Minneapolis, is arguably one of the most popular recreational destinations in Minneapolis. Lake of the Isles  also connects to Kenilworth Lagoon, which leads to Cedar Lake. Lake of the Isles has more than seven acres of designated wetland, recently restored.


Trails for bicyclists, rollerbladers and walkers line the lakes, and there are plenty of spots to launch a paddleboard, canoe or kayak to appreciate the Minneapolis skyline from the lakes that drew the first Euro-American residents here. The delights of the water extend into the coldest months with ice rinks and groomed cross country ski trails on the lake. The finish line for the City of Lake Loppet ski race is located in East Isles. During the hockey season, there is a warming house maintained for ice skating and hockey on Lake of the Isles.


The Midtown Greenway, a converted railroad line featuring bike and walking paths, runs through the southern part of the neighborhood. It connects with the Mississippi River on the east and the city limits on the west. Families with kids appreciate the playground at Levin Triangle. The first weekend of August, the Uptown Art Fair attracts over 375,000 art lovers and is the #8 ranked art fair in the United States.


In 2018, the neighborhood partnered with the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board to host the first farmer’s market on park land. The Market is located on The Mall, beginning at Humboldt and Hennepin Avenues. With Uptown on one side, The Greenway on another, and East Calhoun Parkway/Lake of the Isles just down the block on the west, the Market is accessible for those walking and coming by car or public transportation. Drop by on Thursday evenings during the summer months from 4-8 p.m. The pilot dovetails with the Park Board’s urban agriculture initiative, which aims to boost access to healthy food in the parks.


The East Isles community is part of a larger Lowry Hill District, a lively area with more than 190 one-of-a-kind shops, great restaurants, convenient services, great apartments and historic homes nestled within the neighborhoods of Lowry Hill, Kenwood, East Isles and Lowry Hill East (also known as The Wedge). The District includes some 9,100 homes and apartments, more than 30 restaurants, more than 30 service businesses, more than 30 retail shops, and dozens of health and wellness providers, nonprofits, religious organizations, and other organizations. Longtime favorites include Chino Latino, The Lotus, Via’s Vintage, and Saint Sabrina’s Parlour in Purgatory. Other hot spots open regularly, offering something new in this area known for its energy.


There’s a long history of non-agricultural residency in this particular part of the city, and some of the first homes in East Isles were constructed on a boulevard in 1907. This solid foundation of affluence and amenities is enjoyed by about 3,200 residents. The population of the neighborhood has been dropping slightly for the past few decades, likely due to fewer families moving in and more dwellings (about half) being occupied by singles.


Two historic homes stand out in the neighborhood, both designed by the renown team of William Gray Purcell and George Grant Elmslie. The Catherine Gray House, at 2409 Lake of the Isles Boulevard, is a fine example of early Prairie School in Minneapolis. Purcell built it for his grandmother. The Edna S. Purcell house, 2328 Lake Place, (now known as the Purcell–Cutts House), was Purcell’s family home. Built in 1913, the dwelling is a notable example of Prairie School architecture, featuring a long, narrow floor plan that disregards Victorian concepts about room divisions. The many modern features of the home, including its open plan, flexible room spaces, built-in furniture, and technologically advanced amenities, pointed toward the future of home design. Contrasting it with the expensive houses built concurrently by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Purcell home’s modern considerations accommodated for fewer servants and limited daily issues of maintenance, while giving flexibility for use and daily living, providing for the lifestyle of a young early 20th-century family. The home is now part of the the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and is open for tours on the second weekend of every month.


East Isle was one of the city’s earliest upscale neighborhood, and it is still among the most sought after.