Update for Historians and Grammarians

A brief Minneapolis park history update. Essential for Minneapolis historians. Trivial for grammarians.

Grammarians first: King’s Highway, Bassett’s Creek, but not Beard’s Plaisance. (This apostrophic comment was begun here.) The “pleasure ground” was originally named “The Beard Plaisance.” Perhaps the ground had been Henry Beard’s, but without pleasure. Who knows? By the time the transfer of title to the land from Beard to the park board took place, Beard’s assets were in receivership — not much pleasure in that — and the park board did end up writing his receiver a check for about eight grand. But it’s never been clear to me if that payment was for The Beard Plaisance, Linden Hills Parkway or the Lake Harriet shoreline, all of which belonged to Beard at one point. (Beard built the city’s first consciously “affordable” housing for laborers and their families. He built a block of apartments on Washington Avenue — complete with a sewage system, before the city had one — near the flour mills.)

By the way, King’s Highway was a name given by the park board to a stretch of Dupont Avenue when it asked the city to turn over that section of street as a parkway. The park board did not name Bassett’s Creek; the name was commonly used as the name for the creek about 75 years before the park board acquired the land for a park with that name.

More trivia before we get to the important stuff. The Beard Plaisance is one of four Minneapolis park properties with “the” as part of the official name. There is another with a “the” that is widely used, but was not part of an officially approved name. Can you name the other three parks with an official “the”? Bonus points for naming the one with an unofficial “the”.

Spoiler: I’ll type the names backward to give you time to think. edaraP ehT, llaM ehT, yawetaG ehT. The park property with an unofficial “the”: selsI eht fo ekaL. The lake was named long before the park board was created, and it’s usage was so widely accepted that the park board never had to adopt or approve the name — much like Calhoun, Harriet and Cedar.

Speaking of lake names, which Minneapolis lake had the most names? I’d vote for Wirth Lake, or Theodore Wirth Lake for sticklers. Previously it had been Keegan’s Lake and Glenwood Lake. Part of the original Glenwood Park, which became Theodore Wirth Park, was first named Saratoga Park, but that didn’t include what was then Keegan’s Lake.

Now the Big News for Historians

Historic Minneapolis Tribune. The digital, searchable historic Minneapolis Tribune is now back online. Thank you, thank you to all the people at the Hennepin County Library and the Minnesota Historical Society who worked hard to make this happen. Here’s the link. Woo-hoo! (Thanks to Wendy Epstein for bringing this to my attention.)

Minnesota Reflections. The Minnesota Digital Library has posted about 150 items from park board annual reports at Minnesota Reflections. The items scanned were fold-out plans, maps, charts, tables and photos that could not be properly scanned during the efforts of Google Books, Hathitrust and other libraries to digitize annual reports. Most of the fold-outs had been printed on very fragile tissue paper, so digitization has not only made them accessible, but will preserve them. I hope you have a chance to look at some of them. All were produced while Theodore Wirth was Superintendent of Minneapolis parks, when he was also the landscape architect. So they are especially useful as a means of examining his view of parks and his design priorities.

Keep in mind that most of the plans Wirth presented in annual reports were “proposals” or “suggestions” and many were never built as he first proposed. Some designs were fanciful, others represented an ideal or a wish list of amenities from which the park board usually negotiated more modest facilities. During most of Wirth’s tenure, neighborhood parks were only developed if property owners in the area agreed in advance to pay assessments on their property. Property owners essentially had veto power over park designs they considered extravagant. As plans were scaled down and the price of improvements dropped, more owners were willing to approve the assessments. Wealthier neighborhoods were more likely to approve park facilities than poorer ones, and neighborhoods with more homeowners were more likely to approve plans than neighborhoods with more apartment owners.

After several of his plans were rejected for the improvement of Stevens Square, a residential area that then, as now, was primarily apartment buildings, an exasperated Wirth urged the park board to consult not only landlords, but their tenants as well.

If you’re looking for plans relating to specific parks, you might want to consult the index of annual report plans (foldouts as well as those printed on a single-page), which I published a couple of years ago in Volume I: 1906-1915, Volume II: 1916-1925 and Volume III: 1926-1935.

There will be much more to come from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on the Minnesota Reflections site, including Annual Reports and Proceedings in the public domain that are not yet on Google Books or Hathitrust, as well as, we hope, many more published after 1922. We also hope that many historical photos of Minneapolis parks will be added to the site.

Minneapolisparks.org. In case you missed it, the park board introduced a completely new website at minneapolisparks.org this spring  One advantage of the new design from a history perspective is that the historical profile of each park property is accessible from its individual park page. You no longer have to download the profiles of all 190 or so parks to get the ones you want. Have a look. The park histories are a good starting point for more research. If you have questions or corrections — or interesting sidebars — on anything in those histories let me know, and I’ll either publish them here or, as appropriate, pass the corrections on to park board staff.

Since the new park pages were introduced, the links to those park histories in my posts here for the past five years are broken. I will try to update them soon, but with more than 230 articles published here, it may take me a while to get to them all.

David C. Smith  minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

Minnehaha Falls 1912: A Feather in the Cap

Minnehaha Falls has been called the most-photographed site in Minnesota. Based on my study of photos and postcards over the last several years, I would agree. Still there’s often something a little different in the next photo I see — if not in the falls themselves, in something else that’s frozen in the moment the shutter opens.

Take this superb photo recently sent to me by Robert Henry. It was taken by his grand uncle Frank Prochaska, an amateur photographer, in 1912.

Minnehaha Falls, 1912 (Photographer, Frank Prochaska. Courtesy of Robert Henry.)

Minnehaha Falls, 1912 (Photographer: Frank Prochaska. Courtesy of Robert Henry.)

I like the photo because it shows someone on the bridge above the falls, the viewing platform to the left of the falls, which hasn’t existed for decades, a man and child near the cascade, and the wider flow of water over the lip of the falls. So much going on. But most of all I love the hats of the people on the stone-faced pedestrian bridge below the falls — and their postures. An instant of Minneapolis park history as six people witnessed it and Frank Prochaska captured it 103 years ago.

Thanks, Robert.

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

Park Punctuation: King’s Highway, Bassett’s Creek or Beard’s Plaisance

One of those is wrong. One of the park property names — King’s, Bassett’s or Beard’s — shouldn’t have an apostrophe. I recently received an inquiry on one of those names and thought we might offer everyone this little quiz.

There are only two apostrophes found among all the official names of park properties in Minneapolis, not three. Which one is incorrect? The website of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board won’t be of much help.

William Smith King owned Lyndale Farm on the east shore of Lake Harriet. The highway named for him, a continuation of Dupont Avenue, runs past where his farmhouse and barns once stood in what is now Lyndale Farmstead Park. King was one of the most influential proponents of parks in Minneapolis and he served as a park commissioner in the 1880s. He later donated part of the Lake Harriet shoreline and much of the land for Lyndale Park just east of Lake Harriet

Joel Bean Bassett built his farm in the 1850s at the confluence of the Mississippi River and the creek in North Minneapolis named for him. The creek was sunk into a tunnel beneath downtown Minneapolis more than one hundred ago. The name of the creek existed long before the park board acquired land along its banks in the 1930s.

Henry Beach Beard was an ordained minister who worked in Minneapolis primarily as a real estate developer. He owned much of the western shore of Lake Harriet and when the park board couldn’t afford to buy the lakeshore for a parkway, Beard and other landowners donated a strip of land around the lake. Beard also donated the land for the picnic ground that now bears his name. By the way, “plaisance” is French for “pleasure”, or in this usage pleasure ground.

No other park named for a person — from Loring to Wirth, Brackett to Armatage — was encumbered with a possessive apostrophe.

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

Something’s Missing at Lake Harriet

After my post yesterday of Margaret Hall’s letter and a Minnesota Historical Society photo of the tornado-damaged pavilion at Lake Harriet in 1925, I dug out my favorite Lake Harriet photo of all time. Notice what’s missing?

This photo was taken very shortly after the Lake Harriet pavilion was destroyed by a tornado in 1925. It's the only photo I've seen of Lake Harriet without a pavilion.  A pile of rubble marks the spot where the pavilion once stood. It's unlikely that a man as insistent upon beauty and efficiency as park superintendent Theodore Wirth would have allowed the rubble to remain for long, so this photo must have been taken in the few days after the storm in mid-July. (From the author's personal collection.)

 

No pavilion!

This photo was taken very shortly after the Lake Harriet pavilion was destroyed. It’s the only photo I’ve seen of Lake Harriet’s north shore without a pavilion. A “temporary” replacement band stand was built the next summer so concerts could continue at the lake. That small band stand stood for 60 years.

A pile of rubble marks the spot in this photo where the pavilion once stood. It’s unlikely that a man as insistent upon beauty and efficiency as park superintendent Theodore Wirth would have allowed the rubble to remain for long, so this photo must have been taken in the few days after the storm in mid-July. Surprisingly, the storm appears not to have damaged the boat docks or boats, lending credence to claims that the pavilion was destroyed by a tornado, not straight-line winds.

Like many others who have developed an interest in local history, I have begun searching for photos that reveal more of the history of a place than one can find in written accounts. One of the best places to find photos — of a certain era — is on postcards. This photo comes from a vintage postcard I purchased. There is no attribution of the photo on the card. It was never mailed, although it was quite beat up. I cropped the creases and stains on the edges of this postcard.

If you have a favorite, non-commercial image of Minneapolis, especially parks, send me a scan or print and I’ll post it here. Please identify the photographer if at all possible.

David C. Smith  minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

Memories of Lake Harriet

The following letter, dated July 9, 2014, was addressed to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board:

On July 4, 2014 my daughter sent me pictures of two of my great grandsons enjoying the holiday at Lake Harriet. I recently celebrated my 95th birthday and those pictures brought a deluge of memories to me. My two sisters and I grew up on Bryant Ave. So. in the 4100 block, just a few blocks from Lake Harriet, Lyndale Park and Lyndale Farmstead.

One of my early memories is from the early 1920s when dinners were served in the old pavilion where the modern band shell now stands. It was July 8, 1925 and my father decided it looked too stormy to go to dinner at the pavilion. That evening a tornado struck the area and the pavilion was devastated. Several lives were lost when the pavilion collapsed. I was 6 years old but I remember walking around the lake several days later and seeing the damage to the trees and the lake shore.

A storm destroyed the Lake Harriet Pavilion  in 1925, resulting in two deaths. (Minnesota Historical Society)

A storm destroyed the Lake Harriet Pavilion in 1925, resulting in two deaths. (Minnesota Historical Society)

There is no continuity to these memories as I write them down. Walking to the lake in the early spring and the scent and beauty of the lilacs along King’s Highway. The rose garden in summer which still looked the same in the pictures with the boys. The walk through the woods on the bridle path with the sounds and sights of the birds in the bird sanctuary.

The many picnics we had as a family by the lake and the band concerts that climaxed the day. The salt-water taffy, popcorn and balloons, the walk home along the lake shore through the park where it seemed there were always fire flies lighting our way. Often we left before the end of the concert and if the wind was right, we could hear the band playing the Star Spangled Banner and we knew the concert was over. All summer we swam at the 48th Street beach

I also recall when the launch on Lake Harriet was part of the Minneapolis Street Car Company and made stops at the docks at Penn. Ave., Morgan Ave., 48th Street and 43rd Street. We enjoyed coming from downtown on the Oak Harriet line and transferring to the launch at the pavilion for a cool ride home on a hot summer day, and a short walk home from the 43rd Street dock.

In the winter our sleds were on the easy slopes in the park adjacent to the rose garden. When we grew older, we advanced to Lyndale Farmstead and dared to slide on King’s Hill. At that park we skated all winter, played tennis in the summer and enjoyed the chrysanthemum gardens in the fall.

Another memory of Lyndale Park was the annual pageant with acts from every park in the city. The pageant was magic in the eyes of children.

Over the years I have made many trips back to the Bryant Ave. home. My mother and I would walk around the lake and my children and grandchildren would enjoy the same things I did as a child.

Theodore Wirth’s dream of a park within 6 blocks of every home in Minneapolis has been perpetuated and I, at 95, can from my home in Alaska live these memories.

Margaret J. Hall, Kodiak, Alaska

Note: I was given this letter recently at a meeting at the park board, so I wrote to Ms. Hall to ask her permission to reprint it here. Because the letter was nearly a year old and Ms. Hall was 95 when she wrote it, I wasn’t sure if I would get a response. I was delighted to receive a letter from her this morning granting permission to publish her letter.

She added:

When I got your letter I went to my computer and looked at your blog. (Yes, I do have a computer, but I still prefer letter writing.) More memories immediately came. My letter only included the parks within walking distance of our home and didn’t include the street car rides to Minnehaha Park and all its magic, Sunday rides to Loring Park, and to Powderhorn Park for the fireworks.

As I approach my 96th birthday on June 15th, I think of an ideal celebration: a picnic at Lake Harriet, a ride on the launch, and a band concert in the evening.

Thanks for sharing your memories with us, Margaret. So much has changed in the last  century, yet some things endure.

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

The Princess Depot at Minnehaha Falls

Guest post by Richard Kronick:

The Princess Depot is one of the best examples in the Twin Cities of the Eastlake style of architecture, which is named for the English architect and furniture designer, Charles Locke Eastlake.

In his 1872 book, Hints on Household Taste, Eastlake thundered against the florid and highly popular Italianate style:

“The so-called Italian style — now understood to include every variety of Renaissance design which prevailed in Rome, Venice, and Florence, from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century — has its aesthetic merits and its practical advantages.  But they are merits and advantages which are unsuited to the age, to the climate, and to the country [Britain] in which they are reproduced.  It does not require the judgment of an accomplished connoisseur to perceive that mouldings and carved enrichments which look well under the glowing effect of a Venetian sky, must appear tame and spiritless through the leaden atmosphere of  London.”  Hints on Household Taste, pp. 19-20.

Eastlake preferred Gothic Revival for buildings and Arts & Crafts (an outgrowth of the Gothic Revival) for furniture.  He said Gothic automatically projected a sense of dignity and rectitude because it was based on church architecture.  His book is illustrated with his furniture designs, which carpenters in England and America copied and adapted to their own needs in the 1870s and 80s.

Princess Depot at Minnehaha Falls (Richard Kronick)

Princess Depot at Minnehaha Falls (Richard Kronick)

The style is characterized by relatively flat wooden surfaces (as compared with the more voluptuous Italianate style) covered with a combination of incised and built-up geometric patterns in rhythmically repeating borders between panels and on bargeboards and roof ridges.

Closeup of trim on Princess Depot at Minnehaha Falls. (Richard Kronick.)

Closeup of detail on Princess Depot at Minnehaha Falls. (Richard Kronick.)

Often, as in the Princess Depot, the crowning ornament is a complex wooden lattice-work inserted under the overhanging eaves — a tour-de-force by a master carpenter. The other great example of the style in the Twin Cities is the Charles Burwell House in Minnetonka Mills.

Richard Kronick 

Note: Richard Kronick is a writer and architectural historian. He will be leading a walking tour of Red Cedar Lane in southwest Minneapolis on May 30 as a part of Preserve Minneapolis’s summer program.

If you didn’t get into Richard’s tour above, here’s more chances to join his tours. These are sponsored by Independent School District 728 (Elk River):

June 6, 10-noon — Red Cedar Lane & neighborhood
June 13, 2-4 p.m. — St. Paul Cathedral & Summit Ave.
June 20, 10-noon — Interiors of two Purcell & Elmslie houses

Two additional notes:

One of the earliest entries on this blog was essentially a question: Did the Princess Depot burn down in 1891? Recent information found by Karen Cooper, which she presented as a comment on that blog post, suggests that it was the “motor line” depot or waiting room, not the Milwaukee Road depot, that burned down as the Minneapolis Tribune had reported. I think that mystery is solved. The information Richard presents above also suggests that the depot’s architectural style was more consistent with the 1875 time of the original construction rather than with a depot that would have been rebuilt in the 1890s.

Richard’s mention of the Charles Burwell House in Minnetonka Mills reminds me that Burwell was the manager of the Minnetonka Mill in the 1880s, which was owned by Loren Fletcher and Charles Loring, who both played central roles in the development of Minneapolis parks. Even after Fletcher and Loring sold the mill, Burwell continued to work for them. I recall considerable correspondence in Minnesota Historical Society files among Loring, Burwell and William Watts Folwell in later years when proposals were on the table to change Minneapolis’s charter in a way that would have eliminated the park board. It was obvious from those communications that Burwell was acting as Loring’s employee and agent in those discussions. Charles Burwell named his first son Loring Burwell. You see, I can turn almost any topic into a tribute to Charles Loring!

David C. Smith  minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

Quotes from “Arts and Parks”: Folwell on Museums

Thanks to everyone who turned out Saturday morning at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to listen to my thoughts on the people who created parks and a fine art society in Minneapolis in 1883. Special thanks to those who purchased a copy of City of Parks afterwards and introduced themselves. Thanks too to Janice Lurie and Susan Jacobsen for inviting me to speak and hosting the event. I want to remind everyone that all proceeds from the purchase of the book go to the Minneapolis Parks Foundation.

Quite a few of those who attended asked where they could find some of the quotes I used in my presentation, so I promised I would post them here. The most requested, especially from those who work with arts organizations, was William Watts Folwell’s remarks as reported in the Minneapolis Tribune at the laying of the cornerstone of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1913. I’ve provided an excerpt of his remarks from the July 31, 1913 issue of the newspaper, as well as quotes from Charles Loring and Horace Cleveland from earlier times as noted — most of which have appeared in other posts here over the years.

Minneapolis Tribune headline July 31, 1913

Folwell’s remarks included these observations on his hopes for the Institute:

The primary function of the institution will naturally be exhibition of works of art. I trust it will be the governing principle from the start that no inferior works shall ever have a place. Better bare walls and empty galleries than bad art. A single truly great and meritorious work is worth more in every way than a whole museum full of the common and ordinary. A few such works might make Minneapolis a Mecca for art lovers. Gift horses should be carefully looked in the mouth. I am almost ready to say that none should be received. Let benefactors give cash.

“The museum should appreciate and encourage the artistic side of all structures, public, domestic and industrial, and of all furnishings and appliances. ‘Decorative art’ should never be a term of disparagement here. Men have the right to live amid beautiful surroundings and to handle truly artistic implements.”
– William Watts Folwell, as reported in the Minneapolis Tribune, July 31, 1913.

Folwell was not one to mince words. It is noteworthy, especially considering his comments on decorative arts, that one of the influential people in the creation of the Society of Fine Arts and the Institute was interior designer and furniture maker John Scott Bradstreet. You can read much more about him here.

Other quotes from Horace William Shaler Cleveland:

“Regard it as your sacred duty to preserve this gift which the wealth of the world could not purchase, and transmit it as a heritage of beauty to your successors forever.”
–H.W.S. Cleveland, 1872

“If you have faith in the future greatness of your city, do not shrink from securing while you may such areas as will be adequate to the wants of such a city…Look forward for a century, to the time when the city has a population of a million, and think what will be their wants. They will have wealth enough to purchase all that money can buy, but all their wealth cannot purchase a lost opportunity, or restore natural features of grandeur and beauty, which would then possess priceless value, and which you can preserve for them if you will but say the word and save them from the destruction which certainly awaits them if you fail to utter it.”
— H.W.S. Cleveland, Suggestions for a System of Parks and Parkways for the City of Minneapolis, presented June 2, 1883  to the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners.

“The Mississippi River is not only the grand natural feature which gives character to your city and constitutes the main spring of prosperity, but it is the object of vital interest and center of attraction to intelligent visitors from every quarter of the globe, who associate such ideas of grandeur with its name as no human creation can excite. It is due therefore, to the sentiments of the civilized world, and equally in recognition of your own sense of the blessings it confers upon you, that it should be placed in a setting worthy of so priceless a jewel.”
– H.W.S. Cleveland, Suggestions for a System of Parks and Parkways for the City of Minneapolis

“No city was ever better adapted by nature to be made a gem of beauty.”
— H.W.S. Cleveland to William Folwell, October 22, 1890, Folwell Papers, Minnesota Historical Society

“I have been trying hard all winter to save the river banks and have had some of the best men for backers, but Satan has beaten us.”
– H.W.S. Cleveland to Frederick Law Olmsted on his efforts to have the banks of the Mississippi River preserved as parkland, June 13, 1889, Library of Congress.

The west bank of the Mississippi River Gorge from Riverside Park near Franklin Avenue to Minnehaha Park was not acquired as parkland until after Cleveland died.

“There does not seem to be another such place as Minneapolis for its constant demands upon the time of its citizens. Everyday there is something that must be done. I suppose, perhaps, this may be why we are a great city.”
– Charles Loring in a letter to William Windom, September 27, 1890, Minnesota Historical Society

It is worth noting that Loring was the president of the Minnesota Horticultural Society, vice president of the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, president of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners, president of the Minneapolis Improvement Association, and an officer in the Athenaeum and the Board of Trade. It could be said that he alone was one of the reasons Minneapolis was a great city.

Finally, the newspapers were active supporters of arts and parks through most of the history of Minneapolis. I pulled this quote from an editorial in the Minneapolis Tribune:

“While looking after the useful and necessary, let us not forget the beautiful.”
Minneapolis Tribune, June 30, 1872

Words we could all live by.

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

Last Minute Reminders: Minnehaha Falls and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

In case you forgot.

Karen Cooper is speaking tonight at 7 at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Sheridan Ave. South and 42nd on Minnehaha Falls. Still plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and get to Linden Hills. Should be informative. Karen has promised some new revelations about the history of Minneapolis’s most famous park and she has a library of great photographs of the park and falls.

I will be speaking Saturday morning at 11 at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The title of my presentation is Arts and Parks: Culture and Beauty on the Frontier.  I’ll talk about the indefatigable promoters of both fine arts and parks in the early history of Minneapolis.

Hope to see you at one or both.

David C. Smith    minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

 

Minneapolis Park History Update

I enjoyed seeing many of you last Monday night at St. Peder’s Church for the Longfellow Community presentation on the Mississippi River Gorge. I promised Carolyn Carr that I would provide a brief synopsis of my presentation and post a few of the photos here. And I will. But first I wanted to post a photo I forgot to include in my presentation.

As a tribute to our hosts on Monday night, I wanted you to see this wonderful photo from the Hennepin County Library special collection. I haven’t given a proper plug to the library or the historical society in a while. They remain marvelous resources. If you haven’t visited Special Collections at the Central Library or the library at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul, you really should. Take some time for the exhibits at the history center too. And for those of you who prefer to shop locally, you can buy your copy of City of Parks in their book store instead of online! Can’t beat that.

The congregation of St. Peder's Danish Evangelical Luthern Church at Minnehaha Falls in 1886 -- before the falls became a park. Some parishioners must have had large families of daughters. (Hennepin County Library, Special Collections)

The congregation of St. Peder’s Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church at Minnehaha Falls in 1886 — before the falls became a park. Some parishioners must have had large families of daughters. (Hennepin County Library, Special Collections)

Thanks to the descendants of those in the picture, physically or spiritually, for providing the venue for last Monday’s meeting.

Speaking of special collections at the Central Library, it looks as if I may reprise — and embellish — my presentation on the Mississippi River Gorge at the Library on October 3. I hope to travel this summer to libraries in other parts of the country to continue my research into the life and work of H.W.S. Cleveland, so I may have some new nuggets for that presentation. I’ll keep you posted.

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

Minneapolis Park History Live!

One of my favorite Minneapolis park history topics, the Mississippi River Gorge, will be the subject of an illustrated presentation by yours truly next Monday night, March 23, at St. Peder’s Lutheran Church, 4600 E. 42nd St. The curtain rises at 7 p.m.

The Jewel of Minneapolis
And if you want to hear more, on a different topic, I’ll be speaking at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Saturday, May 9. Click the link above and put it on your calendar. I’ll remind you!

I hope you’ll stop by, introduce yourself, ask the burning question that’s been nagging you about parks, or tell me your park story.

Copies of City of Parks will be for sale with all proceeds going to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. I’d be happy to sign one for you.

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

Monument Men: Minneapolis Park Board Property

I received a note today from Craig E. Johnson that might help solve a mystery from 2012 when I posted another note about an unusual marker found near Minnehaha Parkway.

“I’m a land surveyor and work for Clark Engineering in Golden Valley. We recently did a survey of the Northeast Athletic Field Park in Minneapolis where we found a monument similar to the ones you were asking about in a blog in 2012. I thought you might be interested in a photo, this monument was found on a park boundary.”

The marker Craig found in Northeast Athletic Field Park.

The property marker Craig Johnson found in Northeast Athletic Field Park is, he says, “almost certainly” a park boundary marker.

The letters MBPC on the marker probably stand for “Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners”, the official name of the park board until 1969, when it became Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board or MPRB.

While the letters and type face on the marker found near Minnehaha Parkway are different — CMPC — the design is the same, which suggests they may be related. The Minnehaha Parkway marker appears much older, which would make sense as that property was acquired by the park board, therefore surveyed, about sixty years before Northeast Park. The park board acquired most of Northeast Park in 1941 at no cost from the state of Minnesota as tax-forfeited property. Most improvements were delayed, however, until well after World War II.

To catch up with the exciting changes taking place now at Northeast ,visit the park board’s website.

Thanks for the info and photo, Craig.

David C. Smith  minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

© 2015 David C. Smith

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Annual Reports and Proceedings Online

Something I’ve been meaning to do for some time: publish a list of and links to the annual reports and proceedings (minutes) of the Minneapolis Park Board that can be found online. These were scanned and published by Hathitrust and Google Books.

Here’s the really great news: the Park Board, Hennepin County Library and Minnesota Digital Library are talking seriously about scanning and publishing online more of the annual reports, even beyond those that are in the public domain (pre-1923). If that is done, it could include many of the maps, plans and images that have been skipped or scanned poorly in already published efforts. It could also include the informative and insightful reports of the 1880s and 1890s not yet scanned and listed below. That would be a marvelous service to historians interested in local parks as well as those investigating national and international park developments.

The list below corrects some labeling errors on the various sites.  If you find any errors remaining in this list or know of any other sites that provide additional information, please send it to me and I will post it in comments or as a follow-up.

Year Document Site
1883 1st Annual Report Hathitrust
1888 6th Annual Report Hathitrust
1890 8th Annual Report Hathitrust
1892 10th Annual Report Hathitrust
1893 11th Annual Report Hathitrust
1895 13th Annual Report Google Books
1895-1902 13th-20th Annual Reports Hathitrust
1896 Proceedings Hathitrust
1897 15th Annual Report Hathitrust
1897 Proceedings Hathitrust
1898 Proceedings Hathitrust
1899 17th Annual Report Hathitrust
1899 Proceedings Hathitrust
1900 18th Annual Report Google Books
1900 Proceedings Hathitrust
1901 19th Annual Report Hathitrust
1902 20th Annual Report Hathitrust
1903 21st Annual Report Hathitrust
1903-1909 21st-27th Annual Reports Hathitrust
1905 23rd Annual Report Hathitrust
1906 24th Annual Report Hathitrust
1907 25th Annual Report Google Books
1907 Proceedings Hathitrust
1908 26th Annual Report Hathitrust
1909 27th Annual Report Hathitrust
1910 28th Annual Report Hathitrust
1910-1913 28th-31st Annual Reports Hathitrust
1910 Proceedings Hathitrust
1911 29th Annual Report Hathitrust
1912 30th Annual Report Hathitrust
1913 31st Annual Report Hathitrust
1913 Proceedings Hathitrust
1914 32nd Annual Report Hathitrust
1914-1916 32nd-34th Annual Reports Hathitrust
1914 Proceedings Hathitrust
1915 33rd Annual Report Hathitrust
1915 Proceedings Hathitrust
1916 34th Annual Report Hathitrust
1916 Proceedings Hathitrust
1917 35th Annual Report Hathitrust
1917-1921 35th-39th Annual Reports Hathitrust
1918 36th Annual Report Hathitrust
1919 37th Annual Report Google Books
1920 38th Annual Report Hathitrust
1921 39th Annual Report Hathitrust
1922 40th Annual Report Hathitrust

Observation: these reports come from many libraries, but my favorite stamp is in the 1919 Annual Report from the library of landscape architect Warren G. Manning. Manning’s work around the country included several projects for the Minneapolis park board. Look in the 1899 annual report for Manning’s recommendations on the Minneapolis park system.

A note on using the annual reports and proceedings: search the annual reports first to find the years of acquisitions or improvements in specific parks, then go to the proceedings from those years to find more detail. Using the multi-year reports list above can speed general searches, but it’s easier to find specific references in the single-year reports.

Perhaps within this year many more park board records and images will be available online. Research will be so much easier!

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

© 2015 David C. Smith