Restored Posts: Makwa Club, Toboggans, Building Restrictions, Parkways

In response to requests and my own whimsy I have restored several posts to these pages today.

I restored one post at the request of author Joe McAleer, whom I met through these pages. He is just finishing a biography of one of the most fascinating characters I’ve come across in Minneapolis history,  Harry Perry Robinson. Joe’s book is entitled Escape Artist: The Nine Lives of Harry Perry Robinson, which is due out in June 2019 from Oxford University Press. Robinson visited Minneapolis as a young Englishman right out of college in the 1880s and made the city his home for several years while writing for local newspapers, becoming besties with many influential Minneapolitans and marrying the daughter of Thomas Lowry. He achieved his greatest fame as a correspondent covering World War I from the trenches of France for London newspapers and was knighted for his efforts. I’m really looking forward to reading his life story.

Due to a link in the piece Robinson inhabits on this site, I also restored some of my favorite photos: the toboggan slide from Queen Avenue out onto Lake Harriet. There is much to see in those images from 1914.

Toboggan Slide Lake Harriet 1914 side

The impressive structure of the Lake Harriet toboggan slide (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

Given continuing discussions of building near Minneapolis lakes, I wanted to restore a piece I wrote a few years ago about how the city passed the first ordinance limiting building heights around lakes. It was passed in 1912 in response to a threat to build a hotel beside Lake of the Isles at 25th Street.

I also reposted stories on the intersection of Dean Parkway and Calhoun Parkway.

I’ve reposted a few other pieces that seemed worthwhile, which I’ll let you discover for yourself by scrolling through the site.

David C. Smith

In the past I included my email address on everything I posted here, but due to the volume of spam I received I had to quit doing that. But you can always reach me by posting a comment on some post or page on this site. Every comment is reviewed before it is posted, so they all come to my attention.

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Influential Women in Minneapolis Park History

I just received a new post from the Minneapolis Parks Foundation blog by Janette Law about five important women in the history of Minneapolis parks. Janette wrote her tribute to celebrate Women’s History Month. I wanted to add to Janette’s tribute by adding the name of Alice Dietz to her list, as well as Inez Crimmins and Lorna Phillips. I have re-posted from my archives a profile of some of Ms. Dietz’s accomplishments as well as additional information on one of Janette’s notable women, Maude Armatage. Armatage was the first woman to serve as a park commissioner and still holds the record for the longest consecutive term of service as a commissioner at 30 years. (Francis Gross served a total of 33 years as a commissioner, but in four segments.) The piece on Armatage is especially important because it includes a photo of Armatage with Crimmins and Phillips, the second and third women to be Minneapolis park commissioners. I also re-posted a charming photo and info sent by reader Bea Dunlap on her memory of Alice Dietz and the playground pageants she wrote, choreographed and directed.

I would encourage someone, perhaps even young historians for History Day projects, to investigate further the contributions of park commissioners Crimmins and Phillips who served from the mid-1950s and Beverly Smerling who served as a commissioner from 1963-1969. In addition, little has been written, to my knowledge, of the first women to be elected President of the Park Board:  Naomi Loper was the first in 1980, succeeded by Patricia Hillmeyer in 1982 and Patricia Baker in 1985.

Many other women who served as recreation directors at parks have also had a profound influence on the people and neighborhoods they served. If you remember someone from your park, I’d be happy to publish your recollections here.

David C. Smith

 

New Names for Minneapolis Parks

Naming the meadow at Riverside Park in honor of Annie Young was a very nice gesture by the Minneapolis park board — and appropriate — although it was approved with contempt for board rules and public input, the type of thing you wouldn’t expect from commissioners who seemed to think during the last campaign that they invented the notion that parks are for people. (Those same commissioners, by the way, utterly trashed Annie’s achievements as a commissioner by trying to portray past boards as evil polluters and themselves as eco-saviors. If you will recall, Annie herself did not endorse the present board leadership during the 2017 election, I suspect at least in part, because of their apparent disrespect for her.)

I would not be in favor, however, of changing the name of Riverside Park to include Annie Young’s name. Riverside Park was one of the first four neighborhood parks acquired by the first park board when it was created in 1883. Along with Logan (originally Washburn) Park in northeast, Farview (originally Prospect) Park in north Minneapolis and Loring (originally Central) Park in the southwest, Riverside Park was part of the original plan to give each quadrant of the city a neighborhood park. Among those four original parks, Riverside is the only one that has had only one name. It is the oldest park name in the Minneapolis park system and should remain as it has for almost 135 years.

While contemplating the topic of park names I have gone back and reposted several earlier articles I had written about park names, part of my continuing effort to update this site.

All the names in Minneapolis parks. All 132 names in Minneapolis parks that refer to a person. Now the count grows to 133 with the naming of the meadow at Riverside park for Annie Young.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I wrote about the original name change from Nicollet Field to Dr. Martin Luther King Park following King’s assassination in 1968, an excellent decision even though it did require a suspension of the rules, too. Those were dramatic times. The name was subsequently modified again in 2010 to the present mouthful. I’ll give a dollar to anyone who pushed for that last name change who ever uses the full name. MLK is one of the few sets of initials in U.S. history that everyone knows along with FDR and JFK. Maybe LBJ. Men as big as King don’t need honorifics. Still, as a formality, I don’t object. It just seemed needless.

Tower Hill Park. The park is not named for the “Witch’s Hat” tower.

Bde Maka Ska. Some thoughts on the proposed name change for Lake Calhoun before it was passed.

H.W.S. Cleveland. I’ve posted three times —  first, second, third — about adding the name of Horace William Shaler Cleveland to our park system, preferably somewhere in the Mississippi River gorge, which he was so instrumental in preserving from destruction. The third link above celebrates the introduction of a resolution to the park board that set in motion adding Cleveland’s name to the west side of the river gorge. Unfortunately, that effort has stalled.

Perkins Hill Park. The park was not named for Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor. As a member of the cabinet, she was the first woman to be in the line of succession to the Presidency of the U.S. The Perkins name in Minneapolis came long before her tenure in Washington; it goes back to property owners in early Minneapolis.

Loring Park. The first park acquired by the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners was officially named Central Park. Loring Park was the third name given to the park.

The Commons. When I wrote about this donation of public land to the Minnesota Vikings — the park is reserved for private use about 20% of the time at essentially no cost — it was called The Yard. A short time after my post, the name was changed to The Commons. That makes me feel so much better about our city’s largesse to a private business to which we had already donated hundreds of millions. Oh, I almost forgot, we got the Super Bowl for it — with lots of events we couldn’t get into. So much fun.

Gentrification. Inevitably names like Devil’s Glen in Glenwood (Wirth) Park were changed. Too bad. There must have been at least a story behind the old name; the new one — Birch Pond — tells none. The Devil had his name on several topographical features back in the day, including “Devil’s Backbone” for the ridge running southwest of downtown Minneapolis.  Lowry Hill was part of it. That hill used to be higher, but was cut down, in part, to create a more manageable grade for Hennepin Avenue. One of the last “mounds” to be cut down is where Thomas Lowry Park now stands. Maybe in that day, the Devil generated as much naming outrage as John C. Calhoun.

These are just a few of past entries on this site that dealt with park names. I will be reposting many more articles in the near future.

David C. Smith

 

CIDNA Presentation and Minneapolis Winter Olympics Nuggets

You’re all invited to my next public presentation Sunday, February 25, 3:00 p.m. at Jones-Harrison Residence, 3700 Cedar Lake Avenue. My talk, which I’ve entitled “Linking Shrinking Lakes, a Deadly Railroad Crossing, and the Northwest Passage: CIDNA’s Rich Park History” is part of the CIDNA Speaker Series. CIDNA is the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association, which encompasses parts of Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun. It’s free and open to anyone, not only CIDNA residents.

I’ll talk mostly about the history of parks in that neighborhood, but as always I would be happy to entertain questions about park history throughout the city.

To relieve any apprehension of controversy and fisticuffs, my reference to a “deadly railroad crossing” has nothing to do with SWLRT, but rather goes back about 10 park superintendents. Perhaps you’ve heard of the “missing link” in the Grand Rounds parkway system. Historically that refers to the gap in the Grand Rounds from St. Anthony Parkway (and Stinson Boulevard at one time) in Northeast Minneapolis through the U of M campus back to East River Parkway. But there was once, technically, another gap in Minneapolis parkways right in the middle of the CIDNA neighborhood.

Winter Olympics and Minneapolis

To elevate this post above crass self-promotion, I’m including some wildly entertaining and illuminating Minneapolis historical info that relates to the Olympic games which many of us are watching this week.

The trials for the U.S. Ski Team for the 1924 Winter Olympics were held in Minneapolis. The ski jump at what was then Glenwood, now Theodore Wirth, Park was one of the best in the country. Olympic skiing did not include any Alpine events then. Skiing meant “ski-running” — cross country — or ski-jumping, the traditional Nordic events. (Alpine events, such as downhill and slalom, weren’t included in the Olympics until 1936.) Based on the success of the ski trials here in 1924, park superintendent Theodore Wirth speculated that Minneapolis would host the 1928 or 1932 Winter Olympics. Also based partly on that success, Minneapolis Mayor George Leach, an avid sportsman, was named the manager of the U.S. Ski Team for the 1924 Olympics in Chamonix. Mayor Leach was later the man who formally applied to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for Minneapolis to host the 1932 winter games. Instead, Lake Placid was chosen to host the Games that year. In those days the nation that hosted the Summer Olympics was also given the first chance to host the Winter Games. Because Los Angeles was hosting the 1932 Summer Olympics, the Winter Games were expected to be held in the U.S. too. Seven American cities officially applied to host the 1932 Winter Games, including Duluth and Minneapolis.

Please, Please Come!

That was far from the last time that Minneapolis put in a bid to host the Olympics. Minneapolis mounted serious efforts to host the Summer Games in 1948, 1952 and 1956. (When downhill ski events and more sledding events were added to the Olympic agenda, and ski-jumping techniques outgrew our hills, we flatlanders had no more chance to host the Winter Olympics.) Minneapolis came close in 1952, finishing tied for second — with LA — behind Helsinki in IOC voting to host the Summer Olympics. The effort to win the 1952 games was complicated by bids from Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia in addition to Minneapolis and Los Angeles. IOC representatives from the rest of the world were a bit puzzled and not impressed by the infighting among American cities to host the games.

Another major effort was made in 1988 to host the 1996 Summer Olympics. By that time the U.S. Olympic Committee would approve only one American bid for consideration by the IOC and the USOC chose Atlanta’s bid over Minneapolis’s. To the surprise of many, Atlanta’s bid won that year over the bid by Athens to host the centennial of the modern revival of the Olympic Games where they had begun.

Think how much more impressed the world would be by Minneapolis if visitors saw our summers instead of only our Super Bowl and Final Four winters!

Didn’t MacArthur Like Lutherans?

1928 was a cruel year for some Minneapolis Lutherans. When the American amateur hockey establishment was looking for a hockey team to represent the U.S. at the Olympics in St. Moritz four teams emerged as favorites: Eveleth Junior College, University of Minnesota, Harvard and Augsburg. For various reasons three of the teams withdrew from consideration, mostly due to the long time scholar-athletes would be away from classes and the travel expense. The U of M administration determined that Olympic play was outside the scope of interscholastic sports and withdrew the Gopher hockey team from consideration. Olympic athletes or their home towns were expected to pay most of the expenses of competing. The only team that agreed to play — and pay — was Augsburg and the team was duly named by the amateur hockey authorities to represent the U.S. in St. Moritz. Augsburg was coming off a championship season in the first official season of hockey competition in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

A fund drive was launched in Minneapolis to raise $4,500 to underwrite the Auggie’s expenses. After $2,000 had been raised, S.O. Severson, former athletic director at Augsburg and then principal of Franklin Junior High School in Minneapolis, pledged to cover any of the remaining amount. Augsburg was in!

Except the U.S. Olympic Committee and its president, Douglas MacArthur, had other ideas. When MacArthur looked at the Augsburg team he saw something he didn’t like and he declared that Augsburg would not go to the Olympics as the U.S. team. Augsburg’s hockey team, he declared, was not representative of American hockey. Perhaps this was the catch: Augsburg’s five starting skaters were the Hanson brothers and while the Hansons were Americans they had grown up partly in Canada. The U.S. was not represented in hockey at the 1928 Olympics by Augsburg — five Hansons and a goalie — or anyone else.

Of the 11 countries that did enter hockey teams in the 1928 Games, 10 were divided into three pools for round-robin play. The three winners of those groups were joined by Canada in a final round-robin tourney. Canada’s extraordinary bye into the final group was apparently well-deserved because in their three games in the medal round the Canadian team, the University of Toronto Grads, won by an average score of 13-0 to claim the gold medal.

Imagine this: Just prior to the Olympics, the body that governed international hockey allowed several rule changes proposed by the Canadian association. But the international authorities declined to approve two changes: defenseman still would not be allowed to kick the puck in the defensive end and goalies would not be permitted to drop to their knees to stop the puck. Imagine if goaltenders today had to stay on their skates to make a save. What a different game it would be.

There are so many more stories involving Minneapolis and the Winter Olympics that I hope to tell one day. Nearly all involve ski jumping and speed skating, but Minneapolis also had some notable figure or “fancy” skaters and cross-country skiers.

Our compatriots have not performed well in the more military-oriented Olympic shooting events. Odd isn’t it that a country like ours with such an entrenched history of gun ownership doesn’t perform better in shooting events in both Winter and Summer Games? The overlay of the Parkland school shooting last week with various shooting and skiing competitions in the South Korean snow was striking. The U.S. has more guns and more shooters, but apparently fewer marksmen and women than other countries.

Epilogue: An Augsburg athlete finally made it to the Winter Olympics 20 years after the hockey team was denied its chance. John Werket, an Augsburg student, made the U.S. Olympic speed skating team in 1948 and, after he graduated, again in 1952 and 1956. Werket also qualified for the 1960 games but withdrew because he said he couldn’t afford to take two months off work to train and compete. While Werket’s best Olympic finish was a sixth place in 1948, he won several medals in world championships from 1948 to 1952.

U of M Hockey and Minneapolis Parks

One more hockey story. The University of Minnesota made an effort to put a varsity hockey team on the ice in 1903, but hockey history really begins at the U in 1921 when varsity hockey got its true start. However — in 1914 the regents awarded $25 to a group of students that wanted to form a hockey team, although it wasn’t given varsity status. The elated student hockey promoters immediately announced their first hockey team tryouts would be held at the nearest hockey rink — in Van Cleve Park.

I hope to see you Sunday afternoon.

David C. Smith

 

Charles Loring’s Memorial Arch

In 1908 Charles Loring commissioned young architect William Gray Purcell to design a memorial arch. That project, revealed in Purcell’s papers at the Northwestern Architectural Library (a fabulous historical resource at the University of Minnesota), was a mystery to me.  Where was this memorial arch supposed to be located?

Soldiers Memorial Arch, Purcell

This “presentation rendering” created by William Gray Purcell for Charles Loring is from the UMedia Digital Archive. Additional information on the William Gray Purcell Papers can be found by following the above link — as well as this one from organica.com and Mark Hammons.

I might have found the answer to the location last year when I helped create a record of the archival documents being sent from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to the Minneapolis Central Library for permanent archiving and public access.  Read more »

Restoration

I began reposting updated articles yesterday. I apologize for filling subscribers’ inboxes with notices; I didn’t think that alerts would be sent out just for reposting previously existing material. I am restoring some old posts, starting at the beginning—2010—with minor edits, corrections and updated links. It’s amazing how many links die. I will continue that process, a handful of posts at a time, in the near future. If you subscribe, please forgive the annoyance of repeated alerts, but maybe you’ll come across something you missed the first time.

Thanks for reading.

David C. Smith

Horace William Shaler Cleveland and Me at the Library

The temperature will rise just enough on Saturday to allow you out to hear me speak on my favorite subject: Horace William Shaler Cleveland, the landscape architect who shaped the Minneapolis and St. Paul park systems in the 19th Century and beyond.

Come to the Minneapolis Central Library at 2:00 pm, Saturday, January 6 to hear the latest on the surprising life and career of “Professor” Cleveland. I’ve travelled the country for the last three years piecing together the life of this remarkable man who helped shape our thinking on urban parks.

Update: I’m making progress on editing and reorganizing the 270-plus entries on this blog over the last several years, so I hope to re-post most of them in the near future. Until then, we can catch up at the library on Saturday afternoon. Hope to see you there. There should be plenty of time to consider any other park-related topics or questions you might have.

David C. Smith

Taking a Break

After writing a few hundred thousand words for this blog, which were viewed nearly a half-million times, I’m moving on to other subjects. Until I decide what to do with those thousands of words and topics, I have stored them away from this site. Some may reappear here or elsewhere, others probably won’t. Many of the best stories and comments on this site were simply hard to find because there got to be too much. More than 270 entries. Unwieldy. Even cluttered. In need of editing, which I hope to give them someday.

I have left a link to the University of Minnesota Press at right where you can purchase City of Parks: The Story of Minneapolis Parks. All profits from those purchases go to the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. I receive nothing. It’s a pretty good book. Nine years after writing it and learning a great deal more detail about the history of Minneapolis parks, I would change very few things I wrote in the book.

I have always tried to find the truth. Thanks for reading.

David C. Smith

DIY Minneapolis Park History at the Library

I have been very lucky over the last decade to have had access to the archives of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board because of some park board history projects I was working on. I have always advocated making those archives accessible to the public and it has finally happened. Nearly all of the historical documents of the park board from its creation in 1883 until 1970 have been transferred to the Minneapolis Central library.

Webber Pool 1

The community center at Webber Park was best known for its pool, which was fed originally by water from Shingle Creek. But the building also housed the first branch library in a park building. Branch libraries also were located at Logan Park and the Gateway Pavilion. In addition, the Longfellow House near Minnehaha Creek was leased to the library board as a branch library for 30 years until 1968. If you want to learn more about the community center at Webber Park, you can now go the Central Library and read Charles Webber’s letters to the park board announcing his desire to upgrade the building he and his wife Mary had donated to the park according to her wishes before she died.

Special credit for the new collection at the library should go to park superintendents Jon Gurban, who initiated a park history project to celebrate the park board’s 125th birthday in 2008—that’s when I became involved—and Jayne Miller who committed in 2015 to the big task of organizing park board archives and transferring many historical records to the library for preservation and public access. Credit is also due to park commissioners for recognizing amid the stress of daily challenges that preserving park records and making them accessible was important. Among others, Scott Vreeland and former commissioner Bob Fine were especially supportive of  efforts to document and preserve the history of Minneapolis parks.

Thanks to Dawn Sommers at the park board and Ted Hathaway, manager of special collections at the Minneapolis Central library, for managing with enthusiasm the considerable task of transferring thousands of documents even as they performed their “regular” duties. I should also note that the Minneapolis City Clerk’s Office was very helpful in facilitating the two-stage movement of some documents from City Hall to Park Board to Library.

These are all public servants of the highest order and too-rarely praised for their contributions to the outstanding quality of life in this city. As you will see if you have a chance to dig into the park board’s archives at the library, they follow in the footsteps of giants. The men and women who created Minneapolis parks—and libraries—were far-sighted people who tried to look beyond immediate needs to the future of the city. Where they made mistakes, let’s fix them, but let’s also continue to emulate the qualities that led to their many successes from which we derive daily benefits.

You can learn more about the park board’s mistakes and successes over nearly 100 years by looking at park board records on the fourth floor of the Minneapolis Central Library every Monday to Thursday and some Saturdays.

David C. Smith

 

G’day Maka Ska, G’bye Calhoun?

Efforts to eradicate the name Lake Calhoun and replace it with Bde Maka Ska have generated a great deal of discussion and passion on many sides. The usage of the recommended new name and its meaning and pronunciation have been badly muddled, however, which confuses the issues unnecessarily.

Let me, a non-Dakota speaker, try to clarify. Bde Maka Ska is one of the Dakota names for the lake that was named Lake Calhoun by white surveyors or soldiers sometime before 1820. We have been told often that the term translates as White Earth Lake. So far, so good. But let’s break it down further.

Translation
Bde: lake
Maka: earth
Ska: white

Pronunciation
Bde: The “e”, as in Spanish, is more like “ay” as in day. Hear Crocodile Dundee saying “G’day, mate.” Say b’day like an Australian caricature says “g’day” — rather than b-day which suggests a pronunciation more like a fixture in a French bathroom. G’day. B’day. Closer to one syllable than two.
Makaska: I’ve cheated and put the two words together, which to my ear is how Dakota speakers pronounce them. All a’s are pronounced as in “Ma” for mother. Accent the middle syllable, as if you were saying “my Costco.” MaCostco. Makaska.
This is the easy part and should not have any bearing on the merits of changing the name. It’s not hard to say, so let’s not use that excuse. How do you know how to pronounce “Isles” in “Lake of the Isles” with two of five letters silent? You learned — and thought nothing of it. Not difficult.

Usage
This is a little trickier. I don’t know Dakota patterns of usage, but to my view the Minneapolis park board’s master plan entitled Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska-Harriet, which recommended the name change, is confusing. If we are dropping “lake” from Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet, in this context shouldn’t we also drop “bde” from Bde Maka Ska. Otherwise it would be Lake Lake White Earth.

In other words, Bde Maka Ska replaces Lake Calhoun, not just Calhoun. Maybe Dakota grammarians would box your ears if you said the equivalent of, “I’m going to bike around Maka Ska this afternoon.” Maybe in Dakota “lake” or “bde” must always be part of a lake name. But if the “bde” doesn’t have to bde there, couldn’t the park board have approved renaming the lake “Maka Ska”? I ask in part because I haven’t heard any objection to the word “lake” itself, although Tony Lake, Lake Street, and Veronica Lake all have had detractors. (I’ve never seen her right eye!)

It matters because any use of Calhoun alone then is unaffected, which is a bit exasperating, because that’s the objectionable part. So on the parkway signs that say East (or West) Calhoun Parkway it was incorrect to add Bde Maka Ska, as was done last year. Only signs that say “Lake Calhoun” should have been changed. Even the vandals of signs at Lake Calhoun last year didn’t know what they were doing when they replaced only Calhoun, but not Lake, with Bde Maka Ska. Pretty ignorant activism.

I raise this issue primarily for clarification. We know some lakes around the world by their indigenous names, Loch Ness comes to mind, and others have retained names given by non-English speakers, such as Lac qui Parle in western Minnesota (not just a lake but a county), a French translation of the Dakota words “lake that speaks”. (Was “bde” part of that Dakota name?)

Something to Consider

So… how should we treat Bde Maka Ska? Wouldn’t it be easier to discuss the merits of a name change if we said we wanted to change the name from Lake Calhoun to Lake Maka Ska? Dakota and Ojibwe names for lakes and places abound in Minnesota and no one seems to have a problem with that. Yet I’ve never seen any other lake named Bde Anything. There are many a “mni” — Dakota for “water” — anglicized to Minnetonka, Minnesota, Minnehaha, but not a “bde” that I know of.

I suspect that some people opposed to renaming the lake get hung up on “bde” for “lake”. It’s a diversion from the real issues, which are, “Calhoun or not?” And, “If not, what?” Lake Maka Ska might eventually be adopted by those who don’t speak Dakota. Bde Maka Ska will take decades longer — if the bde isn’t dropped quickly anyway.

Where Does the Name Come From?

Knowing a bit of the history of Lake Calhoun since 1820, I’m also curious how the lake got the name “White Earth”.  We know that parts of the shoreline, especially on the south and west, were quite marshy by the mid- to late-1800s and had to be filled eventually to hold parkways. But we also know from dredging reports that the beach on the north side at the site of the bath house built in 1912 was created or greatly augmented by considerable dredging  from sand found on the lake bottom.

Lake Calhoun aerial 1a

Lake Calhoun’s northwest shore and Bath House in late 1910s, before a parkway existed on the west side of the lake, although there is a light-colored trail or path. The north beach was mostly man-made. Photo likely taken from near the Minikahda Club. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

To my knowledge the dredging at Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake produced little sand from those lake bottoms. Lake Harriet has never been dredged. It’s not obvious from any accounts I’ve seen of why “maka ska” or “white earth” was used to distinguish this lake from neighboring lakes in Cloud Man’s time or earlier.

Maybe a geologist could enlighten me. Were there relatively white deposits of sand in the vicinity at some point? What is the geological explanation? (For those of us who still believe in science anyway.) Were the shores of Lake Calhoun once sandy — before beaches, parkways and retaining walls?

If anyone can enlighten us about the Dakota language or can explain the park board’s garbled use of Bde Maka Ska, sometimes as a substitute for Lake Calhoun and others for Calhoun only, or can tell us about “white earth”, please do. I won’t post comments on whether we should keep or erase the Calhoun name; many other venues provide space for those arguments.

David C. Smith

Naming Rights … and Wrongs? People Commemorated in Minneapolis Parks

Given recent discussions of the propriety of the names of park properties, especially Lake Calhoun, I compiled a list of the 129 people whose names are commemorated in Minneapolis parks. This includes park properties and facilities, such as playing fields, fountains and gardens. Only one of the names is fake.

At the end of the list are several little-known facts about Minneapolis park names. Some of the names most difficult to track down belong to park triangles at street intersections. In many of those cases, the triangles were given the street name, such as Orlin and Clarence triangles. I have not researched the origin of those names, so if you know something, please share.

Also let me know if I have overlooked any names in this list. More information on many of these people is featured in other posts on this site, so if you want to learn more, begin with a quick search here.

Adams, Abraham
Alcott, Louisa May
Anthony, Saint of Padua
Armatage, Maude
Audubon, John James
Barnes, William A.
Barton, Asa Bowers
Bassett, Joel Bean
Beard, Henry Beach

Bethune Mary McLeod portrait (Scurlock)

Mary McLeod Bethune

Beltrami, Giacomo
Berry, William Morse
Bethune, Mary McLeod
Bohanon, John C.
Bossen, Christian A.
Bottineau, Pierre
Brackett, George Augustus
Bryant, William Cullen
Butler, Eloise
Calhoun, Vice Pres. John C.
Carew, Rod (baseball field, Xcel Field Park)
Casey, Bob (baseball field, Stewart Park)
Cavell, Edith

Edith Cavell

Edith Cavell

Chergosky, Donald and Janice
Chowen, George
Chute, Richard (and Samuel)
Clarence (unknown, street name)
Cleveland, Pres. Grover
Clifton (unknown, street name)
Corcoran, William Wilson
Cowles, John Jr. and Sage (conservatory, Sculpture Garden)
Coyle, Brian
Crone, Martha (shelter, Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden))
Currie, Edward A.
Cyson, Stan (baseball field, Northeast Park)
Dean, Joseph (and sons)
Deming, Portius

Portius C. Deming 1916 AR

Portius C. Deming

Dickman, Ralph
Dorr, Caleb
Elliot, Dr. Jacob S.
Elwell, James T.
Farwell (unknown, developer)
Folwell, William Watts
Fremont, Gen. John Charles
Fuller, Margaret
Gale, Samuel
Gladstone, William
Gluek, Jacob
Godfrey, Ard
Gross, Francis A.
Hall, Elizabeth
Harrison, Pres. William Henry
Hartman, Sid (baseball field, Northeast Park)
Heffelfinger, Frank (fountain, Lyndale Park)
Hennepin, Father Louis
Holmes, Oliver Wendell
Hull, Agnes “Brownie” McNair

Agnes McNair Hull, ca. 1890, Jordan, Minnesota Historical Society, por 25613 r1

Agnes “Brownie” McNair Hull

Humboldt, Friedrich von
Imme, Roger
Irving, Washington
Isle, Billy, Ezekiel and Otis
Jackson, Pres. Andrew
Jordan, Charles M.
Kenny, Sister Elizabeth
Killebrew, Harmon (baseball field, Pearl Park)
King, Rev. Lyndon (“Lyndale” is derived from Lyndon, father of William S. King)
King, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, Jr.
King, William Smith
Kroening, Carl
Leavenworth, Harriet Lovejoy
Levin, Joanne R.
Logan, Gen. John
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth
Loring, Charles Morgridge

Charles M. Loring

Charles M. Loring

Lovell, C. P.
Lowry, Thomas
Lupient, Jim (water park)
Luxton, George E.
Marcy, William A.
Marshall, Gov. William
Matthews, Charles E.
McRae, Alexander A.
Monroe, Pres. James
Morris, Lucy Wilder
Morrison, Clinton
Morrison, Dorilus
Mueller, Robert C. and Herbert L.
Murphy, Edward
Neiman, Leonard
Nelson, Benjamin Franklin
Newton, Isaac
Nicollet, Joseph
Oliver, Deacon
Olson, Orvin “Ole”
Orlin (unknown, street name)
Painter, Jonathan E.
Peavey, Frank H.
Perkins (unknown, property owner)
Pershing, Gen. John
Phelps, Edmund J.
Phillips, Eddie (football field, Farview Park)
Phillips, Wendell
Pillsbury, Phillip W. (and John S. and Charles A.)
Quilici, Frank (baseball field, Shingle Creek Park)
Reed, Lachlan and Martha Sweatt
Rice, James I.
Ridgway, James Arthur
Rivers, J. D. (garden, Wirth Park)
Roberts, Thomas Sadler
Rollins (John or Mortimer?, developer of Rollins Addition)
Russell, Roswell P.
Sheridan, Gen. Phillip H.
Sibley, Gen. Henry Hastings

Sibley, Henry Brig. Gen.

Gen. Henry Sibley

Smith, Charles Axel (C.A.)
Snelling, Col. Josiah
Solomon, Edward C.
Steele, Franklin
Stevens, Col. John
Stewart, Levi Merrick “Elder”
Stinson, James
Sumner, Sen. Charles
Sweatt, Harold
Todd, George
Van Cleve, Gen. Horatio P. and Charlotte Ouisconsin
Waite, Edward Foote
Washburn, Sen. William Drew
Washington, Pres. George
Webber, Charles C. and Mary Harris
Wells, Frederick (tennis center)
Whittier, John Greenleaf
Willard, Frances
Winchell, Newton (and Horace)
Windom, Sen. William
Wirth, Theodore

Some “names” are not included on this list. Minnehaha is often thought of as a fictional character from Longfellow’s famous poem “Song of Hiawatha.” In fact, it’s a phrase in the Dakota language, “mni haha” that was a generic term for “waterfall.” So Longfellow named his character not for laughing water, but literally for waterfall.

Six other names from Longfellow’s once wildly popular poem also were used in the Minneapolis park system. Four are still used: Hiawatha and Nokomis for lakes, Keewaydin for a park and Wenonah for a triangle. Two others, Iagoo and Osseo, were names of park triangles that no longer exist.

One of the most influential park commissioners on nomenclature opposed the Longfellow-associated names for the two lakes. William Watts Folwell, the first President of University of Minnesota and a historian, opposed naming Lake Amelia and Rice Lake for Nokomis and Hiawatha, respectively, in 1925, because they were Ojibway names, not Dakota names, and were therefore inappropriate in a region once inhabited primarily by Dakota people.

William Watts Folwell dressed for his wedding

William Watts Folwell

In the 1890s Folwell had proposed several names for parks when he was a park commissioner. Only one of the names he suggested was accepted: Loring Park. He proposed the name to honor his friend and first president of the park board Charles Loring, when Loring left the park board in 1891.

In addition to Loring Park, Folwell’s most lasting naming suggestion came in 1891 when he proposed calling Minneapolis’s system of parkways – first imagined by H. W. S. Cleveland – the “Grand Rounds.”

Other names proposed by Folwell that were not accepted for various reasons:

  • Hiyata Lake, for Spring Lake at The Parade, from a Dakota word for “behind the hill” according to Folwell. While the name was never officially adopted when proposed in the 1890s it did appear on several park board maps in the early 1900s
  • Accault Parkway for West River Parkway, after Michel Accault, the leader of the French exploring party that included Father Hennepin as a subordinate member
  • Lake Medoza, for Lake Calhoun, using a Dakota name for the lake, which meant lake of the “loons”. Folwell, like many others who had fought in the Union Army, weren’t keen on perpetuating Calhoun’s name, which was so closely identified with the secessionist cause. Folwell was pursuing a graduate degree in Germany when the Civil War broke out; he returned home immediately and enlisted, eventually becoming a Lt. Col. in command of a corps of engineers
  • “Alpha” through “Lambda”, letters of the Greek alphabet, for smaller triangular parks – not one of Folwell’s most brilliant ideas.
sanford maria portrait

Maria Sanford

I recently discovered a suggestion from 1923 to rename the three bridges over canals linking Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun after three prominent women in Minneapolis history: Maria Sanford, Beatrice Lowry and Alice Ames Winter. I haven’t found a record of what became of that idea. They would all be excellent additions to park nomenclature.

 

Cleveland reading

H. W. S. Cleveland

If you have followed this blog for some time you know that I must close with a plea to add a name to this long list: Horace William Shaler Cleveland.

It remains astonishing that one of the people most responsible for the creation of this marvelous park system is not included among the many who have had their names memorialized in it. There is still time to make that right!

 

 

David C. Smith

A few moments later: Thanks to MaryLynn Pulscher, I have added the name of Roger Imme to the list. The recreation center at Whittier Park is named for him. If I got paid for writing these pieces, MaryLynn would get paid as my editor!

3/25: I just added three names I had overlooked in the park system. The Reed Sweat Family Tennis Center at MLK Park was not named by the Minneapolis park board but does operate through a lease agreement within a park. The center is named for Lachlan Reed, his wife Martha Sweatt Reed and her father Harold Sweatt, who founded InnerCity Tennis.

City of Parks among “excellent books”

Many people who love urban parks are familiar with Alan Tate’s tremendous book Great City Parks (2001). It was one of the first books I bought when I began research for City of Parks in 2007. Tate provided an overview, beautifully illustrated, of 19 great urban parks from around the world and one urban park system—Minneapolis’s—which provided context for my own decade-long obsession. Among the individual parks he profiled in addition to the Minneapolis park system were some of my favorites: Central Park and Bryant Park in New York, Regent’s Park in London, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in Paris and Parque de Maria Luisa in Sevilla.

A second edition of Great City Parks was published in 2015. In the preface to that edition, Tate explained why he had decided to produce a revised edition. Among his reasons was that there had been “numerous publications bringing new perspectives on the subject.” He also noted that since he had written his book some “excellent books on the individual parks” had been written. He listed seven books “particularly.” One of them was “David C. Smith’s City of Parks – The Story of Minneapolis Parks.”City of Parks

I mention this for two reasons. One, you really should own a copy of City of Parks. I don’t get a penny from your purchase—I don’t get royalties—so all proceeds go to the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. Even if you disagree with Alan Tate, one of the world’s leading authorities on city parks, and don’t think the book is “excellent”, you’ll be supporting Minneapolis parks. Seems worth the risk to me.

The other reason I mention this is ego; writers love praise. So why didn’t I mention it before now? I just learned of it this week. I’m not sure, but some people are saying that the “lying media” has kept this from us. It wasn’t in the New York Times, was it?

David C. Smith