Friday, April 19, 2024

Dinkytown Digressions

“Dinkytown” is a four-square-block near the Main University of Minnesota campus in southeast Minneapolis. My first experience there was as a teenager in the 1967—helping my father rehab one of the numerous 19th century houses there that had been converted to student housing (all of which are now gone.)

In late 1959 and early 1960 Bob Dylan slept here:
He lived in a small converted closet (behind one of the second story windows), above what was then Gray’s Campus Drugs on 14th Avenue and 4th Street. A venerable building from 1920s (when much of Dinkytown was built), I visited it often when I was a miserable student at the U in the late 1960 and early 70s. After Gray’s closed in 1998 it became a restaurant where I had eaten once. A victim of Covid, it now sits empty:
A few streets over on 13th and 5th is the Chateau, a Ralph Rapson designed high-rise. Its brutalist style was shocking when it was new in the late 60s. I remember going to a social gathering there in 1968 and thinking of how modern it seemed. That iteration was torn down and an 18 story high rise was erected in 1973. Spartan would be an understatement.
It is still popular—there is a waiting list for vacancies—but it remains an architectural outlier, all the new housing in the area consists of boxy “4-over-1” construction:
A far cry from Bob’s humble digs, 64 years ago.

In the 1970s, I worked hundreds of hours mixing sound at a club on 4th Street and 13th Avenue (across the street from the Varsity Theater) in a venue that has also since been renamed and remodeled:
Revisiting Dinkytown brought back memories—some bitter, some sweet—of my time spent on and around (Positively) 4th Street. At least there is still a bookstore in Dinkytown, where a discerning scholar can still find the priceless tome he needs for his dissertation:
One thing I didn’t see a lot of was students. There is probably a reason for that.

By Professor Batty


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