Wednesday, July 18, 2018
West Calhoun neighborhood of Minneapolis | Cody Anderson

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The tree-line streets of West Calhoun may be Minneapolis’ most gorgeous, and its location in the trendy southwest section make it one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city.


The popular lake has recently been renamed by city leaders who want to honor the history of the area. The lake was first known as "Mde Ma-ka-ska," which means "Lake of the White Earth," by local Dakota because of the lake's sandy north shore. Later, early Europeans renamed the lake with another Dakota name, "Medoza," or loon. The most recent name dates to came from early surveyors who mapped the western lands in 1817 and named it after the secretary of war at the time, John C. Calhoun. Given Calhoun’s unsavory association with slavery and racism, the Park and Recreation Board voted in May 2017 to restore the original Dakota language name of Bde Maka Ska, meaning Lake White Earth.


The affluent West Calhoun neighborhood is located on the western edge of Minneapolis in the Calhoun-Isles community. The neighborhood is bounded by France Avenue, Lake Street, Lake Calhoun and 36th Street.


Until the 1880s, much of the land around Lake Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska was swamp land. But despite this terrain it offered a place for city residents to get away, and the lake became a popular resort area in the 1870s. Over the next century, the city of Minneapolis recognized the value of the area, and invested in a major effort to build up the land surrounding the lake to attract more homes and businesses. Today, nearly all of the parks, beaches and boulevards in this area were built atop man-made land.



There’s no denying the year-round appeal of this lake. It’s a fantastic summer hangout for those who enjoy kayaking, volleyball, paddleboarding, windsurfing, fishing, and more. Thomas Beach is home to the Lake Calhoun Sailing School, open every year from April to October for children and adults of all ability and experience levels. The Calhoun Yacht Club and the University of St. Thomas Sailing Club are also based here, and regularly draw large, enthusiastic audiences.



The 3.1 mile pedestrian and bike trail around Bde Maka Ska is one of the most popular trails in the city, known for its refreshing views and great breezes. The trail around the lake intersects with Lake Harriet and Lake of The Isles trails, as well as Uptown, so there’s no excuse for not getting out there and enjoying your favorite activity.



The Grand Rounds Scenic Byway borders Lake Calhoun, and the oldest country club in Minneapolis, the Minikahda Club, occupies most of the western and southern sections of the neighborhood.



The milk carton races are no longer part of the annual city-wide Aquatennial, but that doesn’t mean this long-standing tradition ended. Oh, no. These milk carton races are now the feature of their own festival, the Twin Cities Beach Blast, held annually in July on one of the most popular sections of the lake, Thomas Beach. Stop by to see the inventive ways milk cartons are used, and be sure to check out the Sandcastle competition while you’re there.



Positioned on the western edge of the Uptown district, there’s no shortage of trendy shops, nightclubs, restaurants and more. The well-known Hennepin Ave. is within walking distance of the lake and offers a long strip to explore that continues north to downtown. There’s a wide range of entertainment, including two movie theaters and a comedy club, in Uptown. The best part is when you’re ready to relax, you can leave the excitement behind and return to the quiet tree-lined streets of your neighborhood.



Find one of the world’s most beautiful museums in the West Calhoun neighborhood. The Bakken Museum is located in the historic West Winds mansion on Lake Calhoun. Founded by Earl Bakken, a Minneapolis native and co-founder of Medtronic who invented the first transistorized cardiac pacemaker, the Bakken Museum has been committed to nurturing a passion for science since 1975.  Established to study electricity and magnetism, its research library holds 11,000 rare books and 2,500 scientific instruments relating to the role of electricity in life. Be sure to browse the grounds before you go, and enjoy the Florence Bakken Medicinal Gardens.