How a chance encounter in St. Paul almost prevented World War II

Cross-posted from How a chance encounter in St. Paul almost prevented World War II :

“While staying in St. Paul, Minnesota, Zeppelin encountered a fellow German who had served for the Union inflating a hot-air balloon. It was here Count Zeppelin first went airborne in 1863. The rest, as the say, is history.”

How a chance encounter in St. Paul almost prevented World War II

The first manned flight may have been in 559, when the Emporer’s son, Yuan Huangtou of Ye, China was forcibly strapped to a kite and set airborne from a tower. Yuan Huangtou was later executed, and this experiment did not lead to any follow-on.

The French Montgolfier Brothers designed and took off in a hot-air balloon in 1783 (with others), which is credited as the first manned free-flight. In 1891, German Otto Lilienthal flew in a glider. By 1898, internal combustion engines were powering airships (dirigibles) designed and flown by Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont. Numerous other pioneers made attempts. Two bicycle mechanics, better known as the Wright Brothers then changed the world in 1903.

The history of flight passed briefly through Minnesota on a couple of occasions. Charles Lindbergh grew up near Little Falls, Minnesota. He of course was a leader in the Nazi-sympathizing America First pacifist movement. This was not helpful in the War effort.

However, the relationship of Minnesota and Germany and aviation has another interaction.

Coming to the US as an observer to the American Civil War representing Wurttemberg (Germany was not yet unified), Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin decided to explore the North American frontier (See Botting (2001) for discussion of the history of the Zeppelin Company). While staying in St. Paul, Minnesota, Zeppelin encountered a fellow German who had served for the Union inflating a hot-air balloon. It was here Count Zeppelin first went airborne in 1863. The rest, as the say, is history.

Almost half a century later (1909), the Zeppelin Company he founded was facing financial difficulties selling airships to the German military, and decided to start an airline (DELAG). While it was not at first as successful in organizing regular service, it did provide some (with logistical support from the Hamburg-Amerika steamship lines), marking the first commercial airline.

By 1914, DELAG had made over 2,000 flights, totaling 100,000 miles (160,000 km), carrying 34,028 passengers. World War I changed the nature of airship use, and the German military’s interest. By war’s end, almost 100 airships had been used for the German army and navy, and more than half were lost, indicating lower success than hoped for, and significantly underperforming airplanes. Still, the Americans showed some interest, and after the War, the US Navy ordered some airships from the Zeppelin Company as part of reparations payments, to the anger of some Germans, who disapproved of the technology transfer. An assassin skulked Dr. Hugo Eckener, famous dirigible pilot and the manager of the Zeppelin Company.


Hugo Eckener, Dirigible pilot, Nazi fighterEckener was so prominent in post World War I Germany he almost stood for President against Hitler. But stepped aside when President and war hero Count von Hindenberg chose to run again. Had the anti-Nazi Eckener run (and won of course), he may have proven himself far more competent and avoided the subsequent rise of Hitler altogether.


So St. Paul gave Count Zeppelin his first balloon flight and infected him with the aviation bug. Zeppelin gave Eckener his position with the company and the opportunity to become nationally regarded, and Eckener may have stopped the rise of Hitler.


Prior to the 1938 LZ 129 Hindenberg (named for the Count) disaster in Lakehurst, New Jersey, no passenger had died due to a crash of a Zeppelin airship. Transatlantic Airship travel was not doomed due to this one well-publicized crash, but rather to the rise of Pan American Airways flights, which were much faster, though less comfortable. Though there was an attempt to convert future airships (such as the LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin II) to Helium rather than Hydrogen, the US government withheld Helium supplies under the 1937 Neutrality Act.

Adapted in part from The Transportation Experience, 2nd Edition.


JTLU 5(3)

We are pleased to announce the publication of Vol. 5, Issue 3 of the Journal
of Transport and Land Use
Table of Contents
Viewpoint: Assessing the reality—Transport and land use planning to
achieve sustainability

  • David Banister, Oxford University

What makes travel ‘local': Defining and understanding local travel behavior

  • Kevin Manaugh and Ahmed El-Geneidy, McGill University

Impact of light rail implementation on labor market accessibility: A
transportation equity perspective

  • Yingling Fan, Andrew E. Guthrie, and David M. Levinson, University of

How built environment affects travel behavior: A comparative analysis of
the connections between land use and vehicle miles traveled in US cities

  • Lei Zhang, University of Maryland
  • Arefeh Nasri, University of Maryland
  • Jin Hyun Hong, University of Washington
  • Qing Shen, University of Washington

Does public transit use increase the economic efficiency of urban areas?

  • Mathew Drennan, UCLA
  • Charles Brecher, New York University

The paths from walk preference to walk behavior: Applying latent factors in
structural equation modeling

  • Matthew A. Coogan, New England Transportation Institute
  • Thomas Adler, Resource Systems Group
  • Karla Karash, TranSystems Corporation

Delivering the ‘D’ in transit-oriented development: Examining the town
planning challenge

  • Carey Curtis, Curtin University

Book Review
Human transit: How clearer thinking about public transit can enrich our
communities and our lives, by Jarrett Walker

  • Kari Edison Watkins, Georgia Institute of Technology

The Journal of Transport and Land Use is an open-access, peer-reviewed
online journal publishing original interdisciplinary papers on the
interaction of transport and land use. Domains include: engineering,
planning, modeling, behavior, economics, geography, regional science,
sociology, architecture and design, network science, and complex systems.
Thank you for the continuing interest in our work,

2012 Best Mid-Late 20th Century Enclosed Shopping Mall: Mall of America |

Cross-posted from 2012 Best Mid-Late 20th Century Enclosed Shopping Mall: Mall of America:

“What do most urbanists want? A lively, pedestrian realm, clean, free of automobiles, with a variety of activities, the ability to interact with others and randomly encounter friends and acquaintances. This is what the shopping mall gives.”

2012 Best Mid-Late 20th Century Enclosed Shopping Mall: Mall of America


When we at Streets.MN were dividing up who would write which “Best of” entry, no one else wanted shopping malls. One said “I’m cool with anything but the best indoor mall, since that doesn’t exist.”

What do most urbanists want? A lively, pedestrian realm, clean, free of automobiles, with a variety of activities, the ability to interact with others and randomly encounter friends and acquaintances. This is what the shopping mall gives.

While these malls tend to be surrounded by huge parking lots, and no one would, of choice, walk to them, this is what is required to provide this pedestrian realm and the residential densities at which most Americans want to live. With single-family housing densities, there just are not enough people within walking distance of anywhere to create a retail experience at a scale larger than a convenience store. We need motorized transportation to get people to large centers where we can get the variety we crave. In the downtowns of the 1890s — 1940s, this retail experience was enabled by the Streetcar. Since the advent of the climate-controlled indoor mall in the late 1950s, it has been the Automobile.

Minnesota’s claim to fame is the Mall. Edina’s Southdale was not the first shopping center, nor the first auto-oriented shopping center, nor the first shopping mall, but it was the first climate-controlled shopping mall. It, and the rest of the ‘Dale family (Rose, Brook (a sad story, that Brook), Ridge) were built by the Daytons (whatever became of them?). But that is not all, oh no, that is not all. After the destruction of the Superbowl non-champion Vikings first stadium in Bloomington, the site became home to the Mall of America, the largest shopping mall in the United States (maybe).

When asked to come up with a symbol for the states as part of a Monopoly Here and Now edition, Americans in a survey selected Times Square for New York, San Francisco gets the Golden Gate Bridge, while for Minneapolis, Americans selected the Mall of America (which as all good Minneapolitans know, is in Bloomington). It is how the nation sees us. (The game is also appalling for its inclusion of 4 stadia, and one stadium plaza.)


Southdale, designed by Victor Gruen, was envisioned as a Town Center, and while surface parking was the first thing to surround it, it was not envisioned as the last. But it is only today, more than five decades later, that development adjacent to Southdale is finally being approved. Malcolm Gladwell talks more about Southdale here:

When Gruen first drew up the plans for Southdale, he placed the shopping center at the heart of a tidy four-hundred-and-sixty-three-acre development, complete with apartment buildings, houses, schools, a medical center, a park, and a lake. Southdale was not a suburban alternative to downtown Minneapolis. It was the Minneapolis downtown you would get if you started over and corrected all the mistakes that were made the first time around. “There is nothing suburban about Southdale except its location,” Architectural Record stated when it reviewed Gruen’s new creation. It is:

an imaginative distillation of what makes downtown magnetic: the variety, the individuality, the lights, the color, even the crowds—for Southdale’s pedestrian-scale spaces insure a busyness and a bustle. Added to this essence of existing downtowns are all kinds of things that ought to be there if downtown weren’t so noisy and dirty and chaotic—sidewalk cafés, art, islands of planting, pretty paving. Other shopping centers, however pleasant, seem provincial in contrast with the real thing—the city downtown. But in Minneapolis, it is the downtown that appears pokey and provincial in contrast with Southdale’s metropolitan character.

In Planning for Place and Plexus, we discussed the Evolution of Retail (adapted here):

The first-ever sales transaction has not been recorded, and probably went untaxed. As the first transaction, it certainly did not occur in a shopping center, and almost certainly did not take place in a store. It also likely did not involve money, which had yet to be invented, so it really was more of a barter-like procedure. [Though this is disputed, see Debt: the First 5000 years] This first trade was an invention on the order of the wheel. Some scientists have even speculated that the ability of modern humans to trade is what advantaged us over the Neanderthals, (otherwise larger and stronger, and already settled) and gave us the evolutionary push to put that competing species out-of-business, so to speak.

Moving forward tens of thousands of years from the extinction of the Neanderthals, the Greek Agora, which acted both as a marketplace and public gathering area, was developed, probably some time around 1000 BCE, the Agora in Athens became a public area during the administration of Solon (638-558 BCE). The Roman Forum too was a marketplace and public venue, and in the City of Rome, several specialized markets developed, such as the Forum Boarium, dedicated to the cattle trade. One reference identifies over 31 fora in Ancient Rome. Rome at this time traded with places as far away as China, across the Silk Road and with islands in the Indian Ocean, indicating a similarly evolved culture of markets and exchange throughout much of the world. Market squares later took their place in medieval Europe.

Shopping streets were of course common in urban areas. Enterprising retailers could transform the traffic brought by roads and bridges into customers. Even expensive transportation facilities would find themselves choked with stores, slowing transportation while quickening commerce. The medieval London Bridge is one of the more famous examples of a bridge that was covered with buildings such as retail, residences, and even churches. Opened during the reign of King John in 1209, it had taken 33 years to build. Eventually buildings up to seven stories high were built on this prime real estate. This bridge lasted until 1831, after a new bridge (without buildings) was constructed.

Permanent marketplaces were supplemented with temporary and traveling fairs. The first fairs have been dated to 500 BCE, and may have occurred earlier. Fairs were events where foreign traders could show their wares, and were often coupled with religious festivals, taking place at and around temples. The fair changed over many centuries, evolving into several different types of activities, ranging from world to state and county fairs to conventions and trade shows. They are now less a place for purchasing, and more for information exchange. In fact, the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE), which specializes in agricultural events (like State Fairs), itself has an annual convention and trade show in Las Vegas.

Markets were enclosed at least as early as 1786, when a member of the French royal family rented gardens to create the wooden Galeries de bois du Palais Royal. In 1800, a warehouse was transformed into a Bazaar in London. In later decades, at other locations throughout Europe, streets were covered with metal and glass roofs, such as Saint Hubert Gallery in Brussels, opened in 1847, which survives to this day. These are clearly early predecessors of modern shopping centers that have management under a single organization

In 1823, Alexander Stewart opened a dry-goods store in New York. Dry-goods stores were certainly not rare, and what distinguishes department stores is basically size and scope. In 1846, Stewart opened the Marble Dry-Goods Palace on New York’s Broadway, which by 1862 had taken over a full city block and was the largest retail establishment in the world. Department stores were as the name suggests, stores with individual departments, which were often contracted out. Paris’ Bon Marche opened in 1838 and expanded in 1852, and Macy’s opened in 1858. John Wanamaker entered the Philadelphia retail sector in 1861 and by 1876, in time for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, constructed a department store that was “’the largest space in the world devoted to retail selling on a single floor.’” There is thus some controversy over which department store is first, because it is unclear where a regular store ends and a department store begins.

The shopping center followed streetcars and citizens to the suburb. Baltimore, Maryland’s Roland Park shopping center (with six shops) opened in 1896 to serve the needs of that new streetcar suburb, and is considered the first to provide off-street parking. Roland Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted among others, may also have been the home of the first homeowners or community association. Since it was built before zoning, its developer Edward Bouton placed covenants on houses to ensure that the character of the neighborhood would remain. The association collected revenue to support common areas like the neighborhood park. It is now listed on the register of national historic places.

Others credit Country Club Plaza, opened in 1922 and developed by Jesse Clyde Nichols, with being the first shopping center. It certainly was the first to fully adapt to the automobile, early plans had eight gas stations at the center, with plenty of off-street parking. In a sense Country Club Plaza is a planned extension of the city, the shops are at street level, and automobile streets transect the complex. But it is a part of the city designed solely for shopping. It is at a much larger scale than anything that came before. It has also kept up with the times, remaining a functioning and successful center with over 100 stores, in a way that many later enclosed malls, such as Apache Plaza, have not.

A mall is distinct from a center because the shops are facing inward into a pedestrian realm, rather than outward into a street. There are also pedestrian or auto-free streets that could be classed as malls. The key is that a mall is pedestrian oriented area lined with buildings. The word “mall” to refer to shopping derives from “pall-mall”, which was an alley where a game with a croquet mallet was played, pall-mall comes from the Italian for “Ball-mallet”. After games played in long alleys stopped being fashionable, that same street became a shopping area.

An enclosed, climate-controlled mall is a variant of the mall. Of the some 47,700 shopping centers in the US, only 2.4%, or about 1,130 are enclosed malls, but these malls have a much larger footprint, the 0.8% largest centers (the 421 centers larger than 1 million ft2 (93,000 m2)) comprise 7% of total floor space. The Mall of America alone contains just under 0.1% of total shopping center floorspace in the US. Many malls are now owned not by developers, but by Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS). REITS own or have an interest in half of 1130 malls (NREI online 2005). Leasable area has steadily increased

Well Street.MN readers voted, and the results are given below. Mall of America is not only how the world knows us, it is what we think of as the Best Mall in the region. It is big, oversized even, but we live in the land of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, that is how we roll in the Upper Midwest.

I see its merits. It is the epitome of mall-ness. Rosedale (and Har-Mar) are closer to where I live. Frankly the interior of Har-Mar gives me the creeps, though it is better than the Crossroads of Roseville, which was dark and abandoned-ish before its recent remodel. Malls of insufficient scale do not justify entering the common section, since consumers seem to only be interested in surgical strikes on individual stores. Enabling the stores to have their own parking lot entrances benefits the individual store to the detriment of the common mall. Rosedale has the mass, and I am likely to visit more than one store. But even Rosedale is following the trend of turning itself inside-out with its most recent remodel. Rosedale (unlike MOA) has the benefit of not being overwhelming, and even from time-to-time has train rides for the kids on the priciest transit system in Minnesota.

I like Galleria, it seems well scaled, and its narrower walkways make it feel more crowded than the same number of shoppers on a common section that was too wide. But I can’t justify spending the money the stores there demand.

Mall of America Under Construction

The MoA came out on top though. There are economies of scale to be had. If you go there, you can get almost anything mall-like, you can see the cool gadgets from Apple, visit an amusement park, get married, and catch 2 films. On our first visit, we spent 11 hours (at least 6 hours in movie theaters). Subsequent visits have been shorter.

The results are:

  • 27.7% Mall of America
  • 20.5% Rosedale
  • 16.1% Minneapolis Skyways
  • 11.6% Southdale
  •  6.3% Galleria
  •  5.4% Har Mar
  •  3.6% Eden Prairie
  •  0.9% Ridgedale
  •  0.9% Maplewood
  •  7.1% Other
    • Victoria Crossing
    • opt-out
    • No such Thing
    • None
    • ugh
    • Burnsville Center
    • They all suck
    • Brookdale

Congratulations to the Mall of America, voted by Streets.MN readers as the “Best Mid-Late 20th Century Enclosed Shopping Mall”


In praise of contiguity |

Cross-posted from In praise of contiguity

“After seeing other places throughout the world, notably Toronto, London, Manhattan, any continental European city, even Washington DC, I believe the problem with making Minneapolis a first rate pedestrian city is the lack of contiguity. There are some really good walkable sections, but they are not connected well (or at all).”

In praise of contiguity

In February of 1999 I visited Minneapolis with my then fiancé to decide whether to take a job at the University of Minnesota. It was Valentine’s Day, and unseasonably warm (high 40s F), and there was snowmelt and piles on the ground, but the streets and sidewalks were not covered. We asked the concierge at the then Radisson Metrodome hotel what was the most interesting neighborhood in Minneapolis, for shopping and walking around. He said Uptown. They had a van that takes people to places around town, and you can call for pickup when you are ready.

So they dropped us off somewhere around Hennepin and Lake, and we walked around. We went to Majers and Quinn, and Kitchen Window, and then proceeded to walk up Hennepin towards Downtown. I could see downtown and the Basilica, but could not see how to get there. We migrated to the west side of Hennepin, which I knew was a major street, and figured there must be some way across. We eventually came to the Walker, the mess at Hennepin and Lyndale. It seemed as we could not proceed. After about 15 minutes of wandering about, we found a place to cross. We walked through Loring Park and eventually made it to downtown. We proceeded to walk up Nicollet.

We found our way to the Hennepin Avenue bridge, and walked into the what is now the East Hennepin neighborhood. Then it wasn’t much. Surdyk’s, Kramarczyk’s, and a broken down furniture store. You could sense it was gentrifiable, but it was not gentrified. There were no gentry to be found. We hit University, which I knew would take me to the University, and we followed that for a bit over a mile, running into Dinkytown. Dinkytown also was pretty depressed at the time, the bridges over the trenches having recently been replaced, which I am told killed some businesses there. It was nothing nothing like the neighborhoods near where we then lived in Berkeley. We then made our way back to the hotel. My then fiancé compared Minneapolis to her hometown of Fresno (which she escaped). That really bit.

After seeing other places throughout the world, notably Toronto, London, Manhattan, any continental European city, even Washington DC, I believe the problem with making Minneapolis a first rate pedestrian city is the lack of contiguity. There are some really good walkable sections, but they are not connected well (or at all).

I will define walkable as a place that I want to walk. For which walking is more than simply going from A to B as fast as possible. This is subjective, but I think I have taste. Some characteristics of walkability:

(a) It is in front of well-maintained residential with trees, or

(b) It is in front of street-fronting retail, or

(c) It is along a well-maintained park, and

(d) There is a pedestrian walking path/sidewalk or otherwise pedestrian-dominant transportation corridor

Some characteristics of unwalkability

(a) It is on or crosses a freeway, or

(b) It fronts surface parking, or

(c) It fronts built walls (sides of buildings, stadia, parking ramps, etc.), or

(d) There is no pedestrian-dominant path

Now there are degrees to everything. A one-lot surface parking lot on an otherwise walkable Grand Avenue is not a disaster. But block after block of unmitigated surface parking is a walkability catastrophe.

Within Minneapolis:

I should be able to walk pleasantly from the St. Paul City Line to the Chain of Lakes via University Avenue through Hennepin to Lake Street.

I should be able to walk pleasantly from the St. Paul City Line from the River at Lake Street, all the way down Lake Street.

I should be able to walk from the University of Minnesota Campus to the Lakes via Washington Avenue through the City to Hennepin.

I should be able to walk from Columbia Heights to Richfield along Central, Hennepin, and Lyndale.


I could go on. Instead, I drew a map on Google of some of the most important routes that I should be able to traverse contiguously on foot (feel free to edit, just use a different color). I recognize we don’t have the resources to make every single street in Minneapolis walkable for a long a distance, and frankly some shouldn’t be. We need warehouses, but it’s not worth spending a lot of effort to try to put street-fronting retail in low density industrial areas. But to say we cannot do it everywhere doesn’t mean we can’t do it anywhere. If we organize and coordinate and regulate and deregulate (dare I say “plan”) better, we have the resources to make any (but not every) street walkable.

After drawing said map, I realized it was beginning to resemble the Twin Cities Rapid Transit map. But even that has gaps, lines where there are not streetcars, but there should be pedestrian paths, and lines where there are streetcars, but don’t demand contiguous walkability.


There are multiple causes of this. I don’t think one is the lack of activity. There are enough jobs in downtown Minneapolis that all the streets should be walkable. However, they are concentrated in a few blocks of very tall buildings rather than more blocks of lower buildings. One of the reasons Washington DC is more walkable is the height limit. This creates more blocks with critical mass, and comparatively few blocks of surface parking. I am not advocating the regulation, just pointing out a positive externality of height limits. Of course if there were sufficient demand for block after block of 50 story buildings (Manhattan), a 10-story height limit would be a dumb idea.

Another cause is the success of freeway construction, which disrupted the grid and changed pedestrian oriented land uses to motorist-serving. Air rights over the freeways, freeway caps, could fix that, but the only significant air rights in the Twin Cities are the Twins Stadium and the ABC ramps.

The city is much more grid like than dendritic, which creates opportunities, but this needs to be systematically addressed.

There is of course a Pedestrian Master Plan, but the problem is not simply the sidewalks (though those should be better), it is the land use abutting the sidewalks.

Just as we are concerned about wildlife corridors for animal migration, and greenways for bikes, and continuous limited access freeways for cars, we should ensure there long contiguous walkable sections for pedestrians.


Why Grids Matter and We Should Recreate Them At All Cost (Strictly for the ROI)

WALKABLE Dallas-Fort Worth: Why Grids Matter and We Should Recreate Them At All Cost (Strictly for the ROI):

“A dendritic system is defined by a branching structure that funnels movement in one direction. Whereas a conventional grid provides a multiplicity of routes. The key defining factor is choice. Think about this from where you live and you’re on your way to work or to pick up the kids or to get a gallon of milk. How many routes can you take? What if there is a wreck along the way? How many different modes of travel are quick and convenient?
There is quite a bit of talk about the emergent nature of cities as complex systems, but few really understand the applicability to how we design our cities and the dynamics of the process. What we have to understand is that emergence implies a second level of organization that is largely beyond our control. Why? Because we can only ‘design’ the first level of organization, whether it is a building or a road. Because designers are only one person or group working on one problem. The second order of ‘design’ happens when everybody else decides how to use the system. That can’t be designed en masse, only nudged in certain directions depending upon how well we understand the dynamics of this emergence.”

Profitmobiles (EVs)

Quartz: Elon Musk’s electric car company Tesla Motors is now cash-flow positive:

“Elon Musk just disclosed on CNBC that last week, for the first time, Tesla Motors was “mildly cash-flow positive.” That’s only a couple weeks later than Musk’s earlier prediction that Tesla would become cash-flow positive by the end of November. The electric-car company is also paying back early its $465 million loan from the US Department of Energy, and the company is ramping up production to 200 cars per week.”

10,000 cars per year is still a bit less than the 13 million cars per year in the US market, but it is more than zero, or what EV production has been historically. It would be about half of Nissan Leaf sales (18,000) or a third of the Chevy Volt (~30,000).
More on Electric Drive sales here at the industry trade group. Sales of hybrids + EVs are now up to 3.3% of the total market. Most of that is hybrids though.

John Silva, Maker of ‘Telecopter’ Camera, Dies at 92

NYT Reports: John Silva, Maker of ‘Telecopter’ Camera, Dies at 92 :

“Helicopter news footage is common today. But until myriad problems in sending live pictures from a moving aircraft were solved, television broadcasters could not show an eagle’s-eye view of a forest fire, or contemplate aerial coverage of, say, a famous man fleeing the police in a white Ford Bronco.
John Silva made that now-familiar vantage possible in 1958, when he converted a small helicopter into the first airborne virtual television studio.”