The Bend in the Street Grid

Weird Nicollet Tour, Minneapolis

The Bend in the Street Grid

Minneapolis, Minnesota 55407, United States

Created By: Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District


Nicollet and Alice Rainville Place

Here at Nicollet and Alice Rainville Place, named for an influential former Council Member, is the spot where conflicting downtown street grids come together. When Minneapolis was originally platted out by European settlers, the streets of the city were aligned not toward the ordinal directions of north south east and west, but to be parallel and perpendicular to the Mississippi River as it runs southeast alongside the Falls of Saint Anthony.

Locals these days would not recognize the original street names like Cataract Street, Minnetonka Street, Willow, Oak and Maple. The names were all changed to their current numerical and alphabetical monikers in 1873, and as the city grew up around the original downtown, planners shifted the streets to run in true ordinal directions. Indeed some of the only streets that kept their original names were Hennepin and Nicollet.

But around the perimeter of downtown, the points where the two street grids came together always posed challenges for developers, property owners, and traffic engineers. Because of the collisions of odd angles, the blocks around the downtown here had odd shapes and sizes, all kinds of cartographic triangles that allowed for buildings to display acute edges or obtuse sides.

Today, there are a lot of large buildings along this seam, massive complexes like the convention center and the large Hilton Hotel that you can see to the west, as well as the wide trench of the I-94 freeway. Many people likely walk along the edge of the old downtown without much noticing how their vistas and landmarks shift along with the orientation of the streets themselves.


This point of interest is part of the tour: Weird Nicollet Tour, Minneapolis


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