Archive for the ‘Minnehaha Falls’ Category
I lived at 3040 Longfellow Avenue South until I was nine years old, and I have fond memories of Minneapolis parks and lakes. We were a walking, rail-riding family, often hurrying to Cedar Avenue to catch the streetcar. Do you remember the overhead sparks?
My dad and his younger brother Bobby, who often stayed with us, would pull me on the toboggan all the way to Powderhorn Park to slide down the “big” hill. Family legend has it that I didn’t trudge up the hill hand-in-hand like most kids: I had to be carried. My mom took me by streetcar for ice skating lessons at the Minneapolis Arena, and Dad and I would carry our skates to Powderhorn Park to practice on the lake. Do you remember when it was so cold you could hear the ice all the way across the lake?
Of course, Minnehaha Falls was a fascination for the young me. Remember the pony rides? I’m sure I thought I was Dale Evans as those Shetlands made endless circles. A family outing at the Falls always included a long walk down (and up) the stairs built by the federal work-relief crews. I have pictures of me and Dad posed at those beautiful stonework rest stops.
Other bits and pieces of my Minneapolis park and lake memories include the swans of Loring Park, the Aqua Follies at Theodore Wirth, and canoeing in a borrowed canoe on Lake of the Isles, with my fellow paddlers trying to hit a muskrat with their paddles.
When I was a child, my family lived at 42nd Street and 33rd Avenue. My parents and brother often walked to Minnehaha Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon. We usually made one stop, at 46th Street, so my brother and I could ride the ponies. They had three pairs of ponies that went around and around and around. Mother packed a small lunch; we never took liquids because there were several water fountains in the park. The lower part of the park was fenced in for deer; it was called the “deer pen.” I have a picture of me standing on thh bridge in front of the falls dressed in my Sunday best. Mother had curled my hair to look my best for a trip to the park.
In teen years we ice skated on the lagoon above the falls. We had a warming house, as well as an iced toboggan run. A park employee monitored the run. In the summertime, my family would walk the trails on either side of the creek all the way down to the river, where we would wave to the people across the water. Every year we had our fall church picnic at the park. We used the wonderful pavilion with its restrooms, stoves and lots of picnic tables. This is most of my life. What would I have done without my park?
The mention of Sea Salt restaurant in Alice Streed’s Minneapolis Park Memory: Treasure (below) is noteworthy. A relatively new development in our parks is mentioned in the same sentences as long-celebrated spaces and activities. The popular restaurant in the Minnehaha Park refectory — run as a private, for-profit business — is a marvelous example of the best of public-private collaboration. It proves that private enterprise can do some things, such as serving delicious sea food, better than a public agency. I believe it also demonstrates the silliness of claims that the sky is falling whenever an agency like the park board considers change.
Lest private enterprise advocates get carried away here, however, let me state quite emphatically that there would be no park system in which to place these wonderful little restaurants if we would have relied on private interests to create parks. Our parks prove that public agencies can do some things, such as creating a park system, that private enterprise will not do.
The debate over allowing businesses to operate in Minneapolis parks is old — and sometimes entertaining. The park board began granting concessions for boat rentals, then food sales, to private businesses at Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet very early in the history of Minneapolis parks. The park board assumed control of the boat rentals at Lake Harriet in the late 1880s when Charles Loring noted that the business could be easily managed by the park board. On other issues, however, the presence of private enterprise on park property was vigorously opposed.
Permit me to quote myself — and Horace Cleveland – from City of Parks:
(Cleveland) had also written (to William Folwell) of his disgust that the park board was considering permitting a structure next to Minnehaha Falls where people could have their photos taken beside the cataract. “If erected,” Cleveland complained, “it will be simply pandering to the tastes of the army of boobies who think to boost themselves into notoriety by connecting their own stupid features with the representation of one of the most beautiful of God’s works.”
You didn’t mess with Cleveland’s favorite natural landscapes — one of the things that made him one of the first great landscape architects. Fortunately, William Folwell, who was president of the park board at the time, agreed with his friend.
Another early private business on park property was a service to pump up deflated bicycle tires on the new bicycle paths created by the park board during the bicycle craze of the 1880s-1890s. The park board did exercise some control over the business, however, by stipulating that the business could not charge more than a penny for filling a tire.
The park board began to take over food service in park buildings afterTheodore Wirth became park superintendent in 1906. Wirth, like many park executives of the day, believed that no private concessions should be operated in parks — although he seemed to make an exception for pony rides and probably would have for the polo fields and barns he proposed for Bryn Mawr Meadows. (And, of course, the sheep he brought in to graze at Glenwood Park in 1921 were not owned by the park board. Wirth wrote that he thought sheep grazing in a park was a cool visual effect and that the sheep would earn their keep by cutting grass, keeping weeds down, which reduced fire risk, and fertilizing. Unfortunately they didn’t mow evenly and ate other plants too, so the borrowed sheep were evicted in 1922. ) One of the few other historical examples of a private venture operating on park property was the Minneapolis Tennis Club, which operated first at The Parade and then moved to Nicollet (Martin Luther King) Park in the early 1950s when Parade Stadium was built.
Do you remember concession stands in parks? What about treats at the Calhoun, Nokomis or Wirth beach houses? As good as fish tacos?
I have high hopes for Bread & Pickle, the new food service contracted for Lake Harriet next summer. I hope the Citizens Advisory Council that worked so hard on the recommendations wasn’t too conservative in forcing a new service into old space.
David C. Smith, minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
How I have enjoyed the Minneapolis parks: watching fireworks at Powderhorn Park; concerts at Lake Harriet, with picnics on the hill; swimming and canoeing at Calhoun; walking in Minnehaha Park and eating crab cakes at Sea Salt; walking and biking at Nokomis; watching my children play hockey at various parks, and baseball at McRae and Diamond Lake; teaching the children to skate at Diamond Lake; my sons in their early teens taking the bus from our home at 48th and Clinton all the way to Theodore Wirth Park to play golf; my boys golfing at Hiawatha and telling us that they played with two really nice “old guys.” (These “old guys” happened to be friends of ours from church and were our age, in their 40s.)
My son Glen would leave the house in the summer early in the morning, bike to Lake Harriet with his fishing equipment, climb on a tree branch overhanging the lake and stay until suppertime. He enjoyed being outdoors even if he didn’t catch fish.
But here is my most treasured memory: In 1945, my future husband took me canoeing at Calhoun and then into Lake of the Isles, and gave me my engagement ring.
I grew up in South Minneapolis and enjoyed all the parks especially Minnehaha and the Falls. I have a picture of my Girl Scout Brownie Troop taken there (that would be along time ago). My family has had many wiener roasts at the “deer pen” and several family reunions attended by 80+ people from many different states. We just had one this past August at Wabun Park at the east end of Minnehaha Park. It has recently been remodeled and is a wonderful park.
My best memories have to do with our local neighborhood parks that aren’t necessarily on a tourist’s list, such as Keewaydin, Brackett, Longfellow, Hiawatha and many others. My favorite park was Longfellow, where my husband spent his childhood years skating and playing hockey, football and baseball. He was president of the Longfellow Activities Council for seven years and was a baseball coach. Those were the “good old days” when you could send your kids to the park without worrying about kidnapping and the like.
Activities at the park brought kids and parents together; we were one large family that would be known as a “village” today. Those were the best days of my life.
Minneapolis truly is a “City of Parks” for everyone — north, south, east , and west. As a ten-year-old tomboy in north Minneapolis, the neighbor kids and I would hike three miles to Glenwood Park, where we hunted for golf balls at the golf course, climbed the ski jump, and went wading in the creek until the golf workers would yell at us, “Hey, you little brats, get the heck out of that ‘crick’ NOW!” We would find a shady spot and dry off, giggling while eating our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Or we would hike along Victory Memorial Drive to the Camden Pool, where every kid in north Minneapolis came to swim or get a bath. It was jam-packed with grubby young bodies all day long! When I was twelve, we moved to south Minneapolis, the Nokomis Lake and Lake Hiawatha area, another neat area for having fun in the parks.
After marriage and four kids, it was my kids who kept up the “fun in the parks” tradition, especially at Minnehaha Park. They investigated every nook and cranny, often ending up at the Falls, where they would crawl down the steep banks to the bottom of the Falls and work their way behind the water falls so nobody could see them and then make scary sounds and howls when little kids came to look at the water falling. Down the path from the Falls to the river was a large tree on a high bank. My son found a sturdy branch to which he tied a long, 2″-wide rope. Then he crawled to the top of the bank, holding the rope firmly an gave a bloodcurdling “Tarzan” yell, swinging form the top of the bank to a small island in the river where he landed. All the kids had a good time with the “Tarzan tree.” There weren’t so many park police or restrictions to keep kids from getting into mischief in the 30s to 60s, but I don’t recall any accidents occurring.
Thanks to Theodore Wirth and the Minneapolis Park Board for their foresight and wonderful planning of our great park system. There is so much for our enjoyment, and it’s free.
After arriving in Minneapolis in September 1941, the first city park I became familiar with was Loring. I had come to enter nurse’s training at Eitel Hospital, and the park was right across the street. The park provided a beautiful view from patients’ rooms. It was also an oasis for student nurses, a place to relax in the summer or go skating on the lagoon in winter. Every nurse who has graduated from Eitel would have special memories of Loring Park.
The park looked different back in the forties. Old, tall trees grew along the edge of the lagoon. Now they are gone and tall grasses grow at the edge of the water. Bright red cannas blossomed in flower beds on the west side of the park. Now, “Friends of Loring” have created a large round garden on the northwest side called “Garden of the Seasons.” A variety of trees and flowers are in the center with benches and a brick path around it. Bricks can be donated in honor or memory of someone. A brick on the east side reads: “Eitel Hospital Nursing School — Class of 1944,” given in tribute to classmates, many of whom had served in the Army Nurse Corps in World War II.
In later years, my family and I enjoyed picnics at Minnehaha Park and viewing the beautiful Falls. Performances by the Aqua Follies at Theodore Wirth Park, and pop concerts at Lake Harriet on Sunday afternoons were great fun. My son as a teenager spent many winter evenings skating and playing hockey at McRae Park. On July 4th, we watched fireworks at Powderhorn Park. The park system provided something special for every season. My husband often said, “Minneapolis is the prettiest city I’ve ever seen.”
Editor’s note: For more photos of Eitel Hospital visit the Photo Collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.
If you have a Minneapolis Park Memory, send it to minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com. If you have a digital photo to accompany your memory, we’d love to see it.
I found these postcards in a lot box at an auction. They intrigued me because I work for the park board. What I liked about them was that we always think that the world changes so much but here was proof that we are still enjoying the exact same activity (having fun at Minnehaha Falls) that people did over a hundred years ago. Kind of reassuring in a crazy world.
Iris Pahlberg Peterson
Most visitors to Minnehaha Falls have seen the little railroad depot, the “Princess” depot, that sits along the railroad tracks southwest of the falls. It was once owned by the Milwaukee Road but is now owned by the Minnesota Historical Society and operated by the Minnesota Transporation Museum. The little information available about the depot says that it was built in 1875. However last year while helping my daughter research a school paper we came across an article in the Minneapolis Tribune of March 7, 1891 that read in its entirety:
The Minnehaha Depot Burned
Shortly after 10 o’clock last night the Milwaukee depot at Minnehaha Falls took fire. Before the apparatus of the fire department could reach the place the flames had obtained too much of a start to be put out and the building, which was built of wood, was totally destroyed. It was a small structure, probably worth less than $1,000.
Subsequent searches of the newspaper revealed no more information on the fire or when the depot was rebuilt. Was the Princess Depot the one that burned or was there another Milwaukee depot at Minnehaha?
Not exactly a Minneapolis parks issue, but many visitors to the falls likely passed through that station.
David C. Smith