Archive for the ‘Horace Cleveland’ Tag
While looking for other things I keep encountering bits of information that deepen my understanding of and appreciation for Horace W. S. Cleveland’s profound contribution to Minneapolis parks.
More than a year before the creation of the Minneapolis park board and Cleveland’s “Suggestions for a System of Parks for the City of Minneapolis” a Minneapolis Tribune editorial, published January 22, 1882, announced “A Prospective Park.” The editorial noted that Philo Remington and Col. Innes, who ran the Minneapolis Lyndale Motor Line, were planning to lay out a park on the shores of Lake Harriet and “may eventually” donate it to the city. The newspaper had high praise for the property.
“It is a natural forest, with hill and dale, and comprises without exception one of the most beautiful bits of woodland scenery that can be found anywhere.”
But it was the following sentence that caught my attention and provided more insight into Cleveland’s influence in the city before the park board.
“Col. Innes has made arrangements with Mr. Cleveland, the celebrated landscape gardener, who laid out Union Park, Chicago, whereby that gentleman will take immediate charge of the work of superintending the laying out of a park that will not only be a credit to the city but an inestimable benefit to our citizens.”
I have found no evidence in Cleveland’s correspondence that he was actually hired for any work at Lake Harriet; he never mentions it. And who knows, Remington and Innes may have been blowing smoke. They had other grand plans that didn’t materialize. But whether they were serious or not about a park at Lake Harriet, the editorial indicates the high regard in which Cleveland was held in the city and the likelihood that, at the very least, he was already being consulted on park matters, especially around the lakes, before the park board existed.
A bit prematurely the Tribune enthused, “Minneapolitans may now congratulate themselves on the fact that a public park, the need of which has so long been felt, will soon be completed for their pleasure and benefit.”
Only a year later, at the next session of the legislature, a bill was passed that created the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners. Although Cleveland was never credited with designing any of the parks at Lake Harriet, he likely had considerable influence on how the lake shore was perceived and, later, developed.
Just another small piece of evidence of Cleveland’s immense influence on the Minneapolis park system. And yet his name does not appear on a Minneapolis park property.
David C. Smith email@example.com
For more on Col. Innes’s plans for Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet see this entry.
For more on Cleveland in general, search above for his name or click on his name in the tag cloud at right. I’ve written quite a bit about him. Take a closer look at the map from his “Suggestions…” at right, too.
A tantalizing paragraph.
“Professor Cleveland submitted a plan of the improvement of the 2nd Ward Park, whereupon Commissioner Folwell moved that that part of the park designated as a play ground be changed to a pond and that so changed the plan be approved.”
“2nd Ward Park” was later named Van Cleve Park. It was the first park in southeast Minneapolis, not far from the University of Minnesota. I find it odd that the park board would create a pond in a city full of lakes, streams and rivers, but more significant, and unexpected, is what the pond replaced in the plan. A playground. Huh! Horace William Shaler Cleveland, often referred to in Minneapolis by the honorific “Professor,” never seemed a playground sort of guy.
The paragraph appeared in the proceedings of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners from its meeting of May 19, 1890. That date is important because at that time few playgrounds existed. Anywhere.
Unfortunately Cleveland’s drawings for Van Cleve Park didn’t survive. Six of his other park designs — large-scale drawings — are owned by Hennepin History Museum, but the Van Cleve plan is not among them. Neither was it ever published in an annual report, as several other of his plans were. No documents explaining Cleveland’s intent with his plan have been found either, so we really don’t know what type of playground he imagined for the center of the new park. We can only guess.
The Infancy of Playgrounds
The idea of public space devoted to play was still quite new at the time — to Cleveland and to everyone else. In his most famous book, Landscape Architecture as Applied to the Wants of the West, published in 1873, Cleveland mentioned “play ground” only as something that might be desired in the back yard of a home. In his famous 1883 blueprint for Minneapolis’s park system, Suggestions for a System of Parks and Parkways for the City of Minneapolis, he doesn’t mention play or playgrounds at all. Even in the notes that accompanied his first six individual park designs in Minneapolis (unpublished) in 1883 and 1885, he never mentioned play spaces. Yet, in 1890, when he was 76 years old, Cleveland proposed to put a playground in a new park.
The idea was just being explored elsewhere then. In 1886 Boston had placed sand piles for kids play in some parks. The next year San Francisco created a formal children’s play area in Golden Gate Park. In New York, reform mayor Abram Hewitt supported a movement in 1887 to create small, city-sponsored combination parks and playgrounds, but that effort bore little fruit until a decade later. In 1889, Boston created a playstead at Franklin Park and an outdoor gymnasium on the bank of the Charles River, a collaboration of a Harvard professor and Cleveland’s friend Frederick Law Olmsted. Historian Steven A. Riess calls it the “first American effort to provide active play space for slum residents.” (See Riess’s City Games for a fascinating account of the growth of sports in American cities.)
The social reform movement, which later helped create playgrounds in many cities, was gaining steam with the publication in 1890 of Jacob Riis’s, How the Other Half Lives, a glimpse of grinding poverty in the slums of New York. That movement would have an enormous impact on cities in the early 1900s, especially Chicago, which became the playground capital of the United States, led in part by Jane Addams of Hull House settlement fame.
Even though Cleveland addressed many of his efforts in civic improvement to providing fresh air, green spaces and access to nature’s beauty for the urban poor, especially children, he seems an unlikely proponent of playgrounds in parks. Based on the bitter complaint in a letter to William Folwell, July 29, 1884, I had taken Cleveland to be opposed to any manufactured entertainments at the cost of natural beauty. He wrote from Chicago,
“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.” (Folwell Papers, Minnesota Historical Society)
Yet, we have proof that Cleveland had a much more positive view of play areas for children in parks than he had of ball fields. A playground at Van Cleve Park, would have been a first in Minneapolis parks.
The Pond Instead
With the revised plan of the park approved, construction of the pond began immediately in the summer of 1890. A pond of 1.5 acres was created in the southern half of the park. The earth removed to create the pond was used to grade the rest of the park. That winter the park board had the pond cleared of snow so it could serve as a skating rink, too.
There must have been problems keeping water in the pond, because the next summer it was drained and the pond basin was lined with puddled clay. An artist’s rendering of the park in the 1891 annual report shows a fountain spraying a geyser of water in the middle of the pond. I’ve never seen a photo of such a fountain at Van Cleve, or read an account of it, but a similar fountain was built into the pond at Elliot Park, the only other pond created in a Minneapolis park, so it is possible a fountain existed. The park board erected a temporary warming house and toilet rooms for skaters on the pond beginning in the winter of 1905.
When Theodore Wirth arrived in Minneapolis as park superintendent in 1906, he placed a priority on improving Van Cleve Park as “half playground, half show park.” He recommended creating a sand bottom for the pond so it could be used as a wading pool and building a small shelter beside it that could double as a warming house for skaters.
The first playground equipment was installed in Van Cleve Park in 1907, following the huge popularity of the first playground equipment installed at Riverside and Logan parks in 1906.
The shelter was finally built in 1910, along with shelters at North Commons and Jackson Square. The Van Cleve shelter was designed by Minneapolis architect Cecil Bayless Chapman and was built at a total cost of just over $6,000. It included a boiler room, toilets and a large central room. The Van Cleve shelter was considerably more modest than the shelters at Jackson Square and North Commons, which cost approximately $12,000 and $16,000 respectively. On the other hand, neither of those parks had a pond. (Jackson Square actually had been a pond at one time, however, called Long John Pond. The cost of the Jackson Square shelter rose due to the need to drive pilings down 26 feet to get through the peat on which the park was built.)
Wirth published a new plan for Van Cleve Park in the 1911 annual report. Although he claimed that Van Cleve demonstrated that a playground and show park could exist without “interfering” with each other, the playground occupied only a narrow strip of land between the pond and 14th Ave. SE. There were still no playing fields of any kind in the park then.
In 1917, Wirth recommended pouring a concrete bottom for the pond, really converting it into a shallow pool. Two years later the park board did pave the pond basin, but with tar macadam.
Very few improvements were made at Van Cleve, or any other park in the city, for many years from the late-1920s to the late- 1940s. In 1935, in his last year as park superintendent, Wirth recommended that a swimming pool be built at Van Cleve in place of the pond, but the park board didn’t have the money for such a project during the Great Depression.
The park did get its share of WPA attention in 1940 when the federal work relief agency completed several renovations on the Van Cleve shelter to improve its capacity to host indoor recreation activities. Also included in those repairs were such basics as a concrete floor in the shelter’s boiler room. Comparing the two photos above, it’s obvious that the veranda was enclosed and the ground around the shelter was paved as well.
The man-made pond was finally filled in 1948. A modern, much smaller concrete wading pool was built to replace it the next year. The little rec shelter stood until a new community center was built at Van Cleve in 1970. By then Van Cleve, like most other neighborhood parks in the city, had been given over almost completely to active playgrounds and athletic fields.
Despite Cleveland’s aborted provision for a playground of some kind in his plan for Van Cleve Park in 1890, I imagine him astonished and a bit saddened to see neighborhood parks change so completely from the pastoral reserves and quiet gardens he had once preserved or coaxed from the urban landscapes of his time.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
© David C. Smith
Considerable time, effort and expense — $1.5 million spent or contractually committed to date — have been invested in the last two years to create “RiverFirst,” a new vision and plans for park development in Minneapolis along the Mississippi River above St. Anthony Falls. That’s in addition to the old vision and plans, which were actually called “Above the Falls” and haven’t been set aside either. If you’re confused, you’re not alone.
Efforts to “improve” the banks of the Mississippi River above the falls have a long and disappointing history. Despite the impression given since the riverfront design competition was announced in 2010, the river banks above the falls – the sinew of the early Minneapolis economy — have been given considerable attention at various times over the last 150 years. There’s much more
One of the most intriguing “might-have-beens” in Minneapolis park history was the proposed construction of a Japanese Temple on an island in Lake of the Isles. (If you missed it, read the story of John Bradstreet’s proposal.) But that was not the only proposal to spruce up an island in a Minneapolis park.
On March 15, 1961 the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners approved the placement of a replica of the Statue of Liberty on an island in another body of water.
Park board proceedings attribute the proposal to a Mr. Iner Johnson. He offered to donate and install the 10-foot tall replica statue made of copper and the park board accepted the offer – as long as the park board would incur no expense.
I can find no further information on the proposal or why the plan was never executed — or if it was, what happened to the statue.
The intended location of the statue was the island in … Powderhorn Lake.
The Minneapolis Morning Tribune of March 16, 1961 reported that Lady Liberty was to be installed for the Aquatennial that summer. Was it? Does anyone remember it? I’ve never seen a picture or read a description.
Another park feature from H.W.S. Cleveland
The man-made island was first proposed in the plan created for Powderhorn Park in 1892 by H. W. S. Cleveland and Son. It is the only Minneapolis park plan that carried that attribution. Horace Cleveland’s son, Ralph, who had been the superintendent of Lakewood Cemetery since 1884, joined his father’s business in 1891 according to a note in Garden and Forest (July 1, 1891).
More on Garden and Forest. Horace Cleveland contributed frequently to the influential weekly horticulture and landscape art magazine through his letters to the editor, Charles Sprague Sargent. Sargent was also the first director of Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum. Click on Garden and Forest to learn more about the magazine and its searchable archive. (Thank you, Library of Congress.)
Horace Cleveland was 78 and finding the field work of landscape architecture physically challenging when he and Ralph joined forces to produce a plan for Powderhorn. Only a year later his doctor prohibited him from working further. The Cleveland’s were paid $546 for their work at Powderhorn, but the park board didn’t implement parts of the plan for more than ten years.
Horace Cleveland had been a strong booster for making the lake and surrounding land into a park. Powderhorn Lake had been considered for acquisition as a park from the earliest days of the park board in 1883. However, the park board believed landowners in the vicinity of the lake were asking far too high a price for their land. To learn more of the park’s creation see the park board’s history of Powderhorn Park.
After I wrote that history, I found a transcript of a letter Cleveland had written to the park board (Minneapolis Tribune, July 26, 1885) encouraging the board to acquire about 150 acres from Lake Street to 35th Street between Bloomington and Yale avenues, which was, Cleveland claimed, the watershed for Powderhorn Lake. (I can find no Yale Avenue on maps of that time. Does anyone know what was once Yale Avenue?)
The letter repeated Cleveland’s frequent message about acquiring land for parks before it was developed or became prohibitively expensive. But he also claimed that due to the unique topography around the lake that if it were allowed to be developed it would become a nuisance that would be very costly to clean up. (You can read the letter in its entirety by accessing the historical Minneapolis Tribune database at the Hennepin County Library website.)
I’ll quote a couple highlights from his argument for the acquisition of Powderhorn Lake and Park:
I am so deeply impressed with the value and importance of one section…I am impelled to lay before you the reasons …that you will very bitterly regret your failure to secure it if you suffer the present opportunity to escape.
The surrounding region is generally very level and the lake is sunk so deep below this average surface, that its presence is not suspected till the visitor looks down upon it from its abrupt and beautifully rounded banks. The water is pure and transparent and thirty feet deep, and its shape (from which it derives its name) is such as to afford the most favorable opportunity for picturesque development by tasteful planting of its banks…All the most costly work of park construction has already been done by nature.
Cleveland concluded his letter to the park board by writing,
I feel it my duty in return for the bounty you have done in employing me as your professional advisor, to lay before you this statement of my own convictions, and request, in justice to myself, that it may be placed on your records, whatever may be your decision.
On the day Cleveland’s letter was presented to the park board, the board voted not to acquire Powderhorn Lake as a park and Cleveland’s letter was not printed in the proceedings of the park board either. Still the lake and surrounding land — about 60 acres, or 40 percent of what Cleveland had initially recommended — were acquired in 1890-1891 and Cleveland was hired to create a design for the park. Cleveland’s proposed foot bridge over the narrow neck of the lake was not built, even though Theodore Wirth incorporated Cleveland’s bridge into his own plan presented in 1907. However Cleveland’s island was created in the lake in the ensuing years.
In a recap of park work in 1893, park board president Charles Loring noted in his annual report that a “substantial dredge boat was built and equipped and is ready to work” at Powderhorn Lake. “I hope the board will be able to make an appropriation large enough,” he continued, “to keep the apparatus employed all of the next season.”
Loring’s hope was really more of a wish because the depression of 1893 was already having drastic consequences for the Minneapolis economy, property tax revenues and park board budgets. Despite severe cutbacks in spending in 1894, however, the park board devoted about 20% of its $48,000 improvement budget to Powderhorn. Park superintendent William Berry reported that the dredge was active in the lake for 90 days. The result was about 1.7 new acres of land created by dredging and filling along the lake’s marshy shore. In addition, nearly 15,000 cubic yards of earth were moved from near 10th Avenue to fill low areas on the north end of the lake.
An island emerges
The next year, 1895, the island was finally created. The park board spent $10,000, one-third of its dwindling improvement budget, dredging the lake and creating the island. Another 7.3 acres of dry land were created along the lake shore and an island measuring just over one-half acre was created in the southern end of the lake.
By 1897, the only activity at Powderhorn covered in the annual report was the “raising of the dredge boat,” which had sunk that spring, and watering trees and mowing lawns in the “finished portion” of the park. Two years later, Berry reported that the west side of the park was graded, another nine acres of lawn were seeded and 100 trees and 1600 shrubs were planted to a plan created by noted landscape architect Warren Manning. Horace Cleveland had left Minneapolis in 1896, moving with his son to Chicago, where he died in 1900.
It’s unlikely, due to his age, that Cleveland played any role in the actual creation of the island in Powderhorn Lake in 1895. And credit for the idea of an island may not be due solely to Cleveland either, but also to a coincidence in the creation of Loring (Central) Park in 1884. Cleveland’s original plan for Loring Park did not include an island in the pond then known as Johnson’s Lake. Charles Loring later told the story in his diary entry of June 12, 1884 (Charles Loring Scrapbooks, Minnesota Historical Society),
“In grading the lake in Central [Loring] Park the workmen left a piece in the center which I stopped them from taking out. I wrote Mr. Cleveland that I should be pleased to leave it for a small island. He replied that it would be alright. I only wish I had thought of it earlier so as to have had a larger island.”
The development of the island envisioned by Loring while supervising construction, then approved by Cleveland, proved to be a famous success. (The island no longer exists.) Four years later, on October 3, 1888, Garden and Forest published an article about Central (Loring) Park and concluded a glowing tribute with these words:
When it is considered that artificial lakes and islands are always counted difficult of construction if they are to be invested with any charm of naturalness, the success of this attempt will not be questioned, while the rapidity with which the artist’s idea has grown into an interesting picture is certainly unusual. The park was designed by Mr. H.W.S. Cleveland.
Given such praise, it is not surprising that Cleveland would be willing to try an island from the beginning in Powderhorn Lake. Between the time it was proposed by Cleveland and actually created three years later, decorative islands had also earned a faddish following on the heels of Frederick Law Olmsted’s highly praised island and shore plantings on the grounds of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. One landscape historian wondered whether Olmsted’s creation and treatment of his island in Chicago could have been influenced by his 1886 visit to Minneapolis where he would have seen Loring and Cleveland’s island in Loring Park.
The success of islands in Loring Pond and Powderhorn Lake likely also influenced Theodore Wirth when he proposed creating islands in Lake Nokomis and Lake Hiawatha. Both of those islands were scratched from final plans.
The island in Powderhorn Lake is one of three islands that remain in Minneapolis lakes — and the only one that was man-made. Only two of the four original islands in Lake of the Isles still exist. The two long-gone islands were incorporated into the southwestern shore of the lake when it was dredged and reshaped from 1907 to 1910. The two islands that remain were significantly augmented by fill during that period.
A handful of islands still exist in the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, although many more were flooded when the Ford Dam was built. Another augmented island — Hall’s Island — may be re-created in the near future as part of the RiverFIRST plan for the Scherer site upstream from the Plymouth Avenue bridge.
Although Horace Cleveland died in 1900, when the Minneapolis economy finally boomed again, the park board voted in April 1903 to dust off and implement the rest of the 1892 Powderhorn Lake Park plan of H.W.S. Cleveland and Son.
The lake was reduced by about a third in 1925 when the northern arm of the lake was filled. Theodore Wirth, the park superintendent at the time, contended that the lake level had dropped six feet for unknown reasons after his arrival in 1906. The filled portion of the lake was converted into ball fields — a use of park land that was unheard of in Horace Cleveland’s time. The lake that Cleveland estimated at 30 to 40 acres in 1885, when he recommended its acquisition as a park, is now only a little over 11 acres.
Now about that Statue of Liberty. Does anyone remember it in Powderhorn Lake?
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
© David C. Smith
Charles Loring’s view on preserving natural landscapes was so well-known that this anonymous poem appeared in the St. Paul Daily Globe on September 8, 1889 in a humor column, “All of Everything: A Symposium of Gossip About Minneapolis Men and Matters.”
A grasping feature butcher,
With adamantine gall,
Wants to build a gallery
At Minnehaha’s fall.
He wants to catch the people
Who come to see the falls,
And sell them Injun moccasins
And beaded overalls.
He wants to take their “phizes,”
A dozen at a crack,
With the foliage around them
And the water at the back.
But the shade of Hiawatha
No such sacrilege would brook:
And he’d shake the stone foundations
Ere a “picter had been took.”
C. M. Loring doesn’t like it,
For he says he’d like to see
The lovely falls, the creek, the woods,
Just as they used to be.
Loring had chaired a commission appointed by the governor to acquire Minnehaha Falls as a state park in 1885. The land was finally acquired, after a long court fight over valuations, in the winter of 1889. (The total paid for the 180-plus acres was about $95,000.) See City of Parks for the story of how George Brackett and Henry Brown took extraordinary action to ensure the falls would be preserved as a park.
The poem in the Daily Globe appeared because the park board was considering permitting construction of a small building beside the falls for the express purpose of taking people’s photos with “the water at the back.” And of course charging them for the privilege.
That proposal elicited a sharp response from landscape architect H. W. S. Cleveland who also opposed having any structure marring the natural beauty of the falls. Cleveland used language much harsher than the reserved Loring likely would have used. In a letter to his friend William W. Folwell, Cleveland wrote on September 5, 1889,
I cannot be silent in view of this proposed vandalism which I am sure you cannot sanction, and which I am equally sure will forever be a stigma upon Minneapolis, and elicit the anathema of every man of sense and taste who visits the place.
If erected it will simply be 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.
The preservation passion of Loring and Cleveland is evident today in the public lakeshores and river banks throughout Minneapolis. The next time you take a stroll around a lake or beside the river, or fight to acquire as parks the sections of the Mississippi River banks that remain in private hands, say a little “thank you” to people like Loring and Cleveland who saw the need to acquire lakes and rivers as parks more than 125 years ago — and nearly got them all.
And the photography shack was never built.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
We haven’t had much of a winter yet in Minnesota, but it’s inevitable. When it comes and you’re imprisoned in your cozy den, your thoughts may turn to spring and the gardens you’ll plant or visit. To get you thinking about warmer weather, I’m providing a reading list from the man who envisioned Minneapolis’s park system and designed the first parks acquired by the Minneapolis park board in the 1880s.
In 1886, the secretary to the Minneapolis park board, Rufus J. Baldwin, apparently asked landscape architect Horace W. S. Cleveland to recommend books on his profession. It’s not clear if Baldwin was interested in furthering his own education (he was a prominent Minneapolis attorney) or if he was acquiring books for the park board. Below is Cleveland’s reply dated 23 Sep. 1886.
(All of the books Cleveland cited are now available free online at Google Books. The links in the letter take you to the online volume of the work cited.)
In considering your request that I would furnish you a list of desirable works on landscape gardening I find the subject growing in my mind so rapidly and attaining such dimension that the chief difficulty lies in making a judicious selection. The literature of the last century was especially rich in the discussion of the principles on which the art is founded. “Repton’s Landscape Gardening” is perhaps the ablest and most elaborate of the works of that date, but I think I learned more of first principles from the “Essays on the Picturesque, By Sir Uvedale Price,” than from any book.
It is doubtful however whether either of these books can be purchased in this country unless by chance at a second-hand store. “Loudon’s Encyclopedia of Horticulture,” contains perhaps the most detailed, practical instructions of any English work and is still a standard of reference and can be had in England though it has not been republished here.
“Downing’s Landscape Gardening” is at the head of all works on the subject in this country and is in fact a compilation and adaptation to our wants of all the essential principles of the best foreign writers. Next to that and in fact supplying much in which Downing’s work is deficient is “Country Life By Robert Morris Copeland.” He was for many years my partner and was a man of rare taste and skill, and his book is an admirable one. “Scott’s Suburban Homes,” is also an excellent treatise and full of judicious advice in regard to the arrangement of grounds and tasteful use of trees and shrubbery. These books can be procured of any of the leading booksellers or at the seed stores of the principal cities. In ordering Downing’s book, be sure to get the edition which has the appendix by Winthrop Sargent, which contains a vast amount of very valuable information.
I do not think of any other work directly devoted to the subject that would add to the value of what is contained in the above.
“The Horticulturist” during the time it was edited by Downing was rich in essays on different branches of useful ornamental gardening, but it is doubtful if a complete set could be had, and indeed the three works above enumerated comprise I think all the essential principles so far as they can be given by print and illustration.
If I think of others that would be desirable I will let you know.
The letter is signed, “Very truly yrs, H.W.S. Cleveland.”
(The letter is in the files of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.)
Amazing, isn’t it, that works Cleveland cited as unavailable in the United States in 1886 — or available at “the seed stores of principal cities” – are now free to anyone with access to a computer. Some people have a problem with a company such as Google having so much control over information — I just read The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry) by Siva Vaidhyanathan — and while I agree with concerns over the concentration of information control, the widespread availability of so much information, even as old and arcane as these texts, is an invaluable resource.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
P.S. Minneapolis still doesn’t have a park named for Horace W. S. Cleveland — and we should. I’m still in favor of naming the west side of the Mississippi River Gorge for him.
I heard again recently the old complaint that north Minneapolis would be a different place if Bassett’s Creek had gotten the same treatment as Minnehaha Creek. Another story of neglect. Another myth.
You can find extensive information on the history of Bassett’s Creek online: a thorough account of the archeology of the area surrounding Bassett’s Creek near the Mississippi River by Scott Anfinson at From Site to Story — must reading for anyone who has even a passing interest in Mississippi River history; a more recent account of the region in a very good article by Meleah Maynard in City Pages in 2000; and, the creek’s greatest advocate, Dave Stack, provides info on the creek at the Friends of Bassett Creek , as well as updates on a Yahoo group site. Follow the links from the “Friends” site for more detailed information from the city and other sources.
What none of those provided to my satisfaction, however, was perspective on Bassett’s Creek itself after European settlement. A search of Minneapolis Tribune articles and Minneapolis City Council Proceedings, added to other sources, provides a clearer picture of the degree of degradation of Bassett’s Creek – mostly in the context of discussions of the city’s water supply. This was several years before the creation of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners in 1883 — a time when Minnehaha Creek was still two miles outside of Minneapolis city limits. The region around the mouth of Bassett’s Creek was an economic powerhouse and an environmental disaster at a very early date — a mix that has never worked well for park acquisition and development.
“A Lady Precipitated from Bassett’s Creek Bridge”
Anfinson provides many details of the industrial development of the area around the mouth of Bassett’s Creek from shortly after Joel Bean Bassett built his first farm at the junction of the river and the creek in 1852. By the time the Minneapolis Tribune came into existence in 1867, industry was already well established near the banks of the creek. A June 1867 article relates how the three-story North Star Shingle Mill had been erected earlier that year near the creek. The next March an article related the decision to build a new steam-powered linseed oil plant near the creek on Washington Avenue.
Even more informative is a June 27, 1868 story about an elderly woman who fell from a wagon off the First Street bridge over the creek. “A Lady Precipitated from Bassett’s Creek Bridge, a Distance of Thirty Feet,” was the actual headline. (I’m a little embarrassed that I laughed at the odd headline, which evoked an image of old ladies raining down on the city; sadly, her injuries were feared to be fatal.) But a bridge height of thirty feet? That’s no piddling creek — even if a headline writer may have exaggerated a bit. The article was written from the perspective that the bridge was worn out and dangerous and should have been replaced when the city council had considered the matter a year earlier. Continue reading
Trivia to delight and amaze.
Can you name two Minneapolis parks named for members of the “Five of Clubs” book club?
The ”Five of Clubs” met at the suburban Boston home of Horace W. S. Cleveland’s brother, Henry, in the 1840s. Horace lived with his older brother for a time and sat in on those book club meetings.
Answer: Sumner Field and Longfellow Field.
Sumner Field was named for Sumner Place, the street in north Minneapolis on which the park was built in 1911. Sumner Place was named for U. S. Senator Charles Sumner, famous for his opposition to slavery and for ensuring the rights of freed slaves during Reconstruction. Before he was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts, he was an attorney in Boston — and a member of the “Five of Clubs.”
Longfellow Field was named for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the poet and professor of literature at Harvard in the 1840s and also a member of the “Five of Clubs.” In 1855, Longfellow published his epic poem “Song of Hiawatha,” which made Minnehaha Falls famous around the world. Longfellow never visited Minnehaha Falls and the book was written 17 years before Horace Cleveland first saw the Falls.
Imagine Horace Cleveland’s astonishment if he would have been told that 110 years after his death he would be more respected in his field than Longfellow is in his.
A reminder: Minneapolis should have a park along the Mississippi River gorge named for Horace Cleveland.
For much, much more on Horace Cleveland, click on his name in the tag cloud at right. For the whole story of Horace Cleveland and Minneapolis parks read City of Parks.
Just curious. Any future Sumners or Longfellows or Clevelands in your book club?
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
I enjoyed a walk yesterday along the riverfront parks in northeast Minneapolis sponsored by the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership. I told a few historical stories and park commissioner Liz Wielinski, Above the Falls committee member Mary Jamin Maguire, and Cordelia Pierson, executive director of the partnership, provided insights into park developments, past and future, along the river. We were also delighted to hear stories of the neighborhood from a few longtime residents of the area.
We visited Marshall Terrace, Edgewater Park, and Gluek Park and along the way we passed the newest, still unnamed, Minneapolis park at 2220 Marshall Street — a single lot from Marshall to the river purchased by the park board in 2010.
These are a few of the notes I made for my input into the program.
Marshall Terrace was purchased in 1914. The first land chosen for a First Ward Park was a few blocks farther upriver, but neighborhood objections resulted in the park board asking for suggestions from residents and politicians for a better site. This eight-acre parcel further downriver was the result. (The park board also acquired the upriver acreage, but as a segment of a planned parkway across northeast Minneapolis, now St. Anthony Parkway, instead of a playground park.)
Park superintendent Theodore Wirth prepared these two plans for the new park, which were included in the 1915 Annual Report. (The same report included plans for nearby Bottineau Park.) Continue reading
In a fascinating and sad letter to Frederick Law Olmsted, dated February 23, 1892, Horace W. S. Cleveland proposed that the two collaborate as writers on “professional themes.” (Frederick Law Olmsted Papers, Library of Congress.) Cleveland mentions that Olmsted had written in “complimentary terms” of Cleveland’s writing style and that Olmsted had also noted his own desire to write more, which was frustrated by many demands on his time and energy. (At the time, Olmsted was overseeing preparation for the grounds at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition and was about to take a six-month trip to Europe, in part, to regain his health.)
“Often the thought has come to me,” Cleveland explained, “that if I could join forces with you, we might together produce something that would be essentially serviceable to the public and your name would suffice to summon an audience who would not listen to me.”
Cleveland explained that his motive was primarily to make money.
“I have been able to do but little more than keep even with my expenses, but thank God I have done that and am entirely clear of debt, and own some real estate which I hope to dispose of whenever a new demand arises, and may be worth two or three thousand dollars. You perceive that in this situation it is impossible for me to fold my hands and wait the course of events. I am constantly trying to devise means to stave off the necessity of becoming dependent on others.”
There is no record of Olmsted’s response to Cleveland’s proposal, nor any evidence that the men ever did attempt to write anything together. The health of both men deteriorated rapidly over the next couple years. Witold Rybczynski in his biography of Olmsted, A Clearing in the Distance, notes that Olmsted was managing to save about $1,000 a year at the time.
The real estate Cleveland referred to was likely the two half-blocks of land northwest of the intersection of West 44th Street and Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis.
If you know anyone who lives in the southern halves of the 4300 blocks of Pleasant, Grand and Harriet, they live on land once owned by one of the most important people in the history of Minneapolis.
The Washburn Park neighborhood at the bottom of the map above, often called “Tangletown,” was laid out by Cleveland.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
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. Continue reading
Oak Lake Addition was a rare real estate development in Minneapolis because the streets followed the contour of the land instead of a grid pattern. While I’ve found no evidence of who was responsible for the layout of the addition in 1873, it is reminiscent of Horace Cleveland’s work in St. Anthony Park for William Marshall at about the same time and later in Washburn Park or Tangletown near Minnehaha Creek. Although I find no reference to the project in Cleveland’s correspondence, it is plausible that he was involved in the layout of Oak Lake Addition.
Samuel Gale, the man who platted the Oak Lake Addition, had his hands in nearly everything in the young city: School Board, Athenaeum and Library Board, Academy of Natural Sciences, Society of Fine Arts, Board of Trade, City Council, the public lecture series, he even sang in the city’s most celebrated quartet along with his brother, Harlow, and it was later claimed that although nearly everyone speculated in real estate in those days, he was the dean of realtors in the city. Given his wide interests and involvement in civic affairs, it would be incredible if Gale hadn’t been one of those who welcomed Horace Cleveland to the city during his first visits in 1872.
In July, 1873 Gale was the chair of the Board of Trade’s committee on parks, which reported that several “public-spirited citizens” planned to devote considerable time to the issue of parks with “Mr. Cleveland, well-known landscape gardener” before the next Board of Trade meeting. (Minneapolis Tribune, July 18, 1873.) I think it is safe to assume that Gale himself was one of those who planned to meet with Cleveland. So it appears almost certain that Gale and Cleveland knew each other and had likely discussed park issues before Gale produced his plat for the Oak Lake Addition.
Absent information on who designed Oak Lake Addition, it’s fun to speculate that Cleveland may have had a hand in it, or at least influenced it through the book he published in early 1873, Landscape Architecture as Applied to the Wants of the West. In his classic of landscape architecture, Cleveland expressed his distaste for the grid pattern of streets in so many cities, because it ignored “sanitary, economic and esthetic sense.”
“Every Western traveller is familiar with the monotonous character of towns resulting from the endless repetition of the dreary uniformity of rectangles,” he wrote.
While he singled out western cities — it was his book’s theme – it takes only a glimpse of a map of Manhattan to know that rectangularism was not a sin peculiar to the frontier. For New York, however, it was already too late to do anything about that “dreary uniformity”; the West still had a chance to get it right. Cleveland added that “even when the site is level” the rectangular fashion of laying out cities “is on many accounts objectionable.”
He suggested that if blocks had to be rectangular at least they should be Continue reading