A Challenge for Wedge and Whittier Historians

A regular reader has asked a couple questions that I can’t answer, but perhaps someone else can. Why does Lyndale Avenue South from 19th to 24th street or so seem to run in a trench with the east-west cross streets rising steeply on both sides of Lyndale. Is there a geological explanation for it?

Also, was there ever a swampy area at Franklin and Lyndale, or nearby in Whittier, that was drained for park purposes? The park board was never involved in such an action, but perhaps an effort to create a playground or other playing field could have taken that direction before the park board took responsibility for playgrounds.

In the 1880s there was a baseball stadium that seated about 1300 near 17th and Portland, according to Minnesota baseball historian Stew Thornley, but that’s quite a distance east. Horace Cleveland was likely referring to that field when he wrote to William Folwell in 1884, “There’s no controlling the objects of men’s worship or the means by which they attain them. A beautiful oak grove was sacrificed just before I left Minneapolis to make room for a baseball club.” Cleveland’s words imply a clear dividing line between parks and playing fields. At that time, the two did not mix. (Folwell Papers, Minnesota Historical Society.)

The area a couple blocks northeast of Franklin and Lyndale — south of what became Loring Park — was the site selected by Charles Loring, William King, Dorilus Morrison and others for a private cemetery in the 1860s. Land speculators got wind of the plan, however, and drove the price of the land higher than the cemetery group would pay. Instead they looked for land further south and established Lakewood Cemetery in 1871 at its present site. Charles Loring wrote in a letter to George Brackett, both were among the founders of Lakewood, that the idea for a beautiful cemetery came to Loring as he buried his infant daughter in Layman’s Cemetery in 1863. (George Augustus Brackett Papers, Minnesota Historical Society.)

(Ask me a question about Minneapolis parks and I’ll probably work Loring and Cleveland into the answer!)

Any ideas on the topography of Lyndale Avenue South? Or a drained swamp near Lyndale and Franklin or elsewhere in Whittier?

David C. Smith

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7 comments so far

  1. David C. Smith on

    I posted another article with more information on this subject — and a quiz — at http://minneapolisparkhistory.com/2012/05/02/comments-on-lyndale-pond-comments-and-a-very-hard-quiz-on-minneapolis-parks/.

  2. [...] interested in the subject of a pond near Lyndale and Franklin, you might want to check out “comments” on the subject posted a few days ago. Some good information. Thanks to readers who [...]

  3. David C. Smith on

    I recently recieved a note from Bill Payne — who has commented here before and written about Thomas Lowry Park for Hill And Lake Press — that I thought other readers would find interesting. Bill and Suzanne have also been mainstays of Friends of Thomas Lowry Park. With his permission, I’ve copied Bill’s email below.

    “David, You got me curious. I looked at many topo maps online, but couldn’t figure out the topo lines with the presence of the Lowry Tunnel. Perhaps if I saw a physical map I could. Finally found this 1901 map:

    http://cartweb.geography.ua.edu:9001/StyleServer/calcrgn?cat=North%20America%20and%20United%20States&item=States/Minnesota/Topos/Minneapolis%201901.sid&wid=500&hei=400&props=item(Name,Description),cat(Name,Description)&style=simple/view.xsl&plugin=true

    You need the Mr. Sid reader to view it, which is available free from the same site. Actually, it’s one of their products, but free.

    Anyway, the topo map clearly shows a passage along where Lyndale goes through, although it is elevated above Loring Pond, but lower than the ridge lines to the east and west, and relatively level from where Hennepin crosses, going south. If you follow the map south along Lyndale, there is a low lying area east of Lyndale between 22nd and 24th streets, but this is two blocks south of Franklin. Perhaps this is what your other reader was thinking of. However, the topo lines are only at 20 foot intervals, so you can’t see much detail.

    On another subject, the map does not show Mt. Curve Ave. to the north of the present TLP, but instead a Mt. Curve that curves into Colfax. There also appear to be two houses within what is now TLP, but no Speedy house on the northwest corner of Colfax and Douglas. The Speedy house, built in the 1880s, was the subject of some neighborhood opposition when it was proposed to be torn down for a McMansion. So that may suggest that the physical elements of the map are suspect.”

    I looked up the map and downloaded the software, which is easy. I enjoyed seeing a topographic map that also shows some aspects of development. As Bill noted, not every detail of the map is exact, but it is informative. Thanks, Bill.

  4. Adrienne on

    1874 A.T. Andreas Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Minnesota (Borchert Map library website) appears to show a wet area in that vicinity.

    • David C. Smith on

      Thanks, Adrienne. On that map, the body of water along Lyndale appears bigger than Johnson’s (Loring) Pond.

      Here is the link to the Andreas map that Adrienne cites: http://geo.lib.umn.edu/twin_cities_maps/reference/map01428a.jpg. Another reminder of a valuable resource. I’ve referred to the Borchert map library in a few posts and included links, but I’ll also put the link in the column at right under “Useful Information.”

      A pond east of Lyndale also appears in the 1883 Cleveland map pictured in the right margin. This map was part of Cleveland’s “Suggestions” for a Minneapolis park system. The park board printed 2500 copies of his report in the summer of 1883 and also included it in the first annual report published in early 1884.

      The Andreas and Cleveland maps, printed nine years apart, certainly establish that a pond or a marsh existed at roughly Lyndale and 22nd. Can anyone shed light on what happened to it? Did it just dry up as the area was developed? Do people who live in the neighborhood still have wet basements?

      By the 1892 plat map, http://geo.lib.umn.edu/plat_books/minneapolis1892/minn1892index.htm, the pond is gone, but it is interesting that no buildings are shown along the east side of Lyndale between Franklin and 25th. Maybe it was still too wet to build there.

      While we’re in the neighborhood, does anyone know why there isn’t a 21st or 23rd Street there? 21st exists only between Chicago and Bloomington avenues and between Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake on the 1892 map. 23rd St. doesn’t exist at all.

  5. Dan Lapham on

    To my recollection of an early survey/map that I saw years ago, there was a small lake/swamp that encompassed the later intersection.


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