More Horace W. S. Cleveland: A Bit of Oak Lake and More of Kenwood Parkway

Since I wrote about Oak Lake and speculated whether Samuel Gale might have hired Horace Cleveland to lay out his Oak Lake Addition to Minneapolis – it had the look of Cleveland’s work – I have been digging through notes to see if I could find a connection between the two men. I couldn’t find anything that put the two of them together in 1873 when Gale was platting Oak Lake, but I did find two interesting pieces of paper linking Cleveland with Oak Lake and with Gale in 1886.

One connection between Cleveland and Gale in 1886 comes from the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers at the Library of Congress. In a letter to Olmsted dated March 24, 1886, Cleveland asked Olmsted to send a copy of a unidentified pamphlet, presumably written by Olmsted, to a few people in Minneapolis and St.Paul. Cleveland jotted down the names of “a few persons who I think I can either depend upon or induce to read it…” Those on the list from Minneapolis were William Folwell, Charles Loring, George Brackett, Dorilus Morrison, Rev. J. H. Tuttle and Samuel Gale. All were actively engaged in promoting or managing Minneapolis parks at some point, except Rev. Tuttle about whom I know little other than that he was a Universalist clergyman. Cleveland’s familiarity with Gale at that time is perhaps more significant because Cleveland wrote the letter before he moved from Chicago to Minneapolis later that year.

The connection between Cleveland and Oak Lake was this invoice from the files of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

Horace Cleveland’s invoice for work on Oak Lake and Kenwood Parkway.

Cleveland billed the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners for creating a plan for Oak Lake more than a year after the board had acquired title to the little lake from the city and approved expenditures on the park not to exceed $250. The city held title because Oak Lake was platted as a park in 1873, but was overlooked when the city council handed over title to a few existing small parks when the park board was created in 1883.

No record exists of what Cleveland did at Oak Lake, nor is there any indication in park board proceedings of what he was asked to do. He likely prepared only a planting plan – no significant rearrangement of earth – because the park board’s only itemized expenditure for Oak Lake Park  was just a $189 labor charge in October 1886.

We know a little bit more about Cleveland’s work on the other property listed on the above invoice — Kenwood Boulevard. I am not aware of any surviving drawing by Cleveland of what he intended for that boulevard either, but we do have a brief written description of what he wanted there.

Minneapolis, Oct. 25th, 1886

Board of Park Commissioners of Minneapolis

Gentlemen.

I submit herewith a Design for the arrangement of Kenwood Boulevard, prepared in compliance with the request of your President communicated to me  through your Superintendent Mr. Berry.

This boulevard traverses a picturesque region and commands in its course many fine views in different directions. As its width is only 100 feet, I have secured variety and a park-like aspect in the only way that is available in such a street by leaving a broad space for planting on each side, or by contracting it on one side and widening it on the other as shown in the plan so as to secure a comparatively broad area on one side for considerable distance and then transferring it to the other, leaving opposite to it a space of fifteen feet for sidewalk and trees.

On these broad ornamental spaces no carriage driveway should be allowed to enter. The occupants of the lots can get access to their stables from the rear and I have arranged for double pathways by which they may reach the curbing in front without cutting up the ornamental space by the straight pathway in front of each lot. The driveway is forty feet wide and the ornamental side spaces are so arranged as to leave open the finest views to those who are driving upon it.

Very respectfully yours,
H. W. S. Cleveland

Cleveland’s plan applied only to that portion of Kenwood Parkway from Mt. Curve and Newton avenues to Lake of the Isles. The remainder of Kenwood Parkway north to Spring Lake and what would become The Parade was not acquired until two years later. Kenwood Park was not acquired until 1907.

It was not Cleveland’s choice to make the boulevard 100 feet wide, that’s the land he was given to work with. The land was donated for a parkway by the developers who were platting the land, Baker Potter and Company and I. C. Seeley and Company.

To appreciate what Cleveland meant when he wrote of leaving open the “finest views,” picture the route of Kenwood Parkway in its natural state running along the ridge looking to the west, then descending in its winding course to Lake of the Isles. Even six years later, the 1892 plat map of Minneapolis showed only 15 houses along that drive, about 7/10 of a mile, suggesting few obstructions to the view.

The park board has maintained Cleveland’s prohibition of drive ways across the planting spaces of the boulevard, steadfastly rejecting requests to cut driveways to houses on the parkway.

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

© David C. Smith

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