The True Story of Sibley Triangle, by Robin Russell

I started tending this garden in 2006, but really took it on in 2007. In 2007, I was living in St. Anthony East neighborhood, and I lost my home to foreclosure. I didn’t want to leave my perennials behind, so I moved them to the triangle. In this same time period, another house in the neighborhood was demolished after a fire, and I was disappointed to learn that when that happens, any perennials or shrubs are ripped out, too. In 2007-2008 time period a lot of houses were being razed on primarily the North Side, so I got hold of the list of properties to be razed and went ‘plant rescuing’ before the bulldozers got in. I remember one afternoon it seemed like me and the bulldozers racing around the streets together! For awhile I kept a blog of my ‘guerrilla gardens’ (haven’t been able to keep up with it that past two seasons) and for the purposes of that blog, I dubbed Sibley Triangle “Foreclosure Park.” There are a number of really great specimens in the garden that I got from these rescue trips. Especially the ‘Hope for Humanity” rose. Well, maybe it’s not that variety, but I don’t want to hear about it. I like thinking it’s a Hope for Humanity. It seems fitting.

Before I took over the park, it had been abandoned for quite some time. Before that, St. Anthony East had a neighborhood garden group that installed the granite pavers and built the raised bed. The indigo baptisia is the plant that remains from this group. Water had been provided by ‘Phil,” a nearby homeowner, but after he either passed away or moved away, and there was no easy water access, the park was no longer cared for by this group. This is why I am such a pusher and shaker when it comes to making sure we continue to have affordable water for this space. Downtown in the water permits department I have been referred to as “the particular woman with the particular garden!” LOL. I am copying Kathy Kittelson on this e-mail as she was part of the aforementioned gardening group and she may have pictures.

I was told that when Our Lady of Lourdes parochial school was across the street from the Triangle (where the public housing building is now), that the Triangle had marble pits where the kids (probably boys) played marbles. I was told that if I kept digging, sooner or later I would find marbles, and in fact I have two that I have found there! If there is a way to get pictures of Our Lady of Lourdes School, maybe there would be pictures of the Triangle there. That would be a fun research project.

It is such an honor to take care of this space. It is really cherished by the neighbors, and is a destination spot that people now walk to. I learned that one neighbor even referenced it as a neighborhood amenity to a new tenant in the area!

My blog is guerrillagardensne[dot]blogspot[dot]com

Robin Russell

Another view of Robin’s garden from my May 30 visit. David C. Smith

NOTE: Thanks so much, Robin, for telling the story and for taking care of a space that we all can enjoy.

Does anybody have any photos of Our Lady of Lourdes school — or know of any? Let me know where I could find them, or send them to me at minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com and I’ll post them here. David C. Smith

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2 comments so far

  1. David C. Smith on

    Well said, Sue.

  2. Sue McGrath on

    Thank you Robin, for this wonderful historical look at Sibley Triangle (Foreclosure Park!) and for all the time and talent you have invested in this beautiful park place…we are proud to have you as one of our dedicated Park Stewards!
    (PS, you are a great writer, too!)


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