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

 

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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

Sibley Field Flattened 1923

Sibley Field was one of the bigger challenges the park board faced when it came to building neighborhood recreation parks. 1923 was a very busy year as the park board developed Sibley Field, Chicago Avenue (Phelps) Field and Nicollet (MLK) Field in south Minneapolis, Folwell Field and Sumner Field in north Minneapolis and Linden Hills Field in southwest. But Sibley may have been the biggest challenge, because all four corners of the park were at different grades. Park superintendent Theodore Wirth wrote afterwards that Sibley was one of the only projects for which costs had been seriously underestimated due to the expense of moving dirt. To create level fields, park board crews used a steam shovel and horse teams to move 68,000 cubic yards of earth.

Sibley Field being levelled in 1923. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

This is one of my favorite photos of neighborhood park construction. It shows dramatically how much earth had to be moved to create an expanse of level ground suitable for playing fields. I wonder if the home owners who sat near the precipice on 20th Avenue South were ever worried.

As I noted in my profile of Sibley Field on the park board’s website, Wirth wrote in the park board’s 1923 annual report that the “formerly unsightly low land” was brought to an “attractive and serviceable” grade.

Photos like this reinforce my admiration for all the people — from neighborhood residents to city leaders — who envisioned, supported, planned and paid for the parks that have made life in Minneapolis better for many generations.

David C. Smith

Keewaydin Park Before and After — 1928

Like a lot of other people I’m curious to see the new look of Keewaydin Park and School. Construction is underway. It has to be an improvement over what was there a few years ago.

Keewaydin Park before — the first time c. 1928. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

Okay, it was a long time ago. In 1928-29 the park board hauled in 38,600 cubic yards of fill to bring the playing fields up to grade on one side. Clearly the neighbors tried to help by discarding their refuse there, too. The crate says “Morell’s Pride Hams and Bacon.” But that wasn’t enough; the fill kept settling. The park board continued to fill the former swamp in 1930-31. By 1932 the field had been filled sufficiently to be regraded and have tennis courts and a wading pool finished. By 1934 the grounds looked much nicer.

Keewaydin School and surrounding park in 1934. (Norton and Peel, Minnesota Historical Society)

Keewaydin was one of the early collaborative projects between the park and school boards. In the park board’s 1929 annual report it noted that the park had one of the best-equipped shelters for skating and hockey rinks due to the “well-appointed” basement rooms of the school. The doors on the lower level in this photo must have been the entrance to those rooms.

Anybody remember skating there or going to school there when it was new? Does anybody want to take a photo of present construction and email it to me? I forgot to zip over and take one Sunday when I was at Longfellow House.

David C. Smith

Florence Barton Loring

Charles Loring was married to Emily Crossman for 38 years, to Florence Barton for only 27, but he probably knew Florence longer than he knew Emily.

The “Father of Minneapolis Parks” likely met Florence more than 30 years before he married her, but he may not have noticed her much at first. She was the daughter of his friend and business associate Asa Barton. Barton, like Loring, was an immigrant from Maine. (Barton also has his name on the Minneapolis map: Barton Avenue in Prospect Park.) Read more »

Sibley Field

One of the most heavily used playgrounds in Minneapolis for a few decades was Sibley Field at 39th and Longfellow in south Minneapolis. Now, thanks to the efforts of Annie Olson who worked at Sibley Field for several years, we have found some historic photos of activities at Sibley Field.

One of my favorites is this hockey team wearing Cloggy’s sweaters.

Cloggy’s 1952 hockey team at Sibley Field (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board). ** Please see the comments by Ron Jelmo below on this photo.

In more recent times, Cloggy’s was a bar at 34th and 54th, but that’s quite a distance from Sibley Field. Not exactly a neighborhood bar. The photo provides no identification of the players or coaches. Does anyone know the story of this Cloggy’s team or Cloggy’s sponsorship of teams in general?

Sibley Field cub hockey team, 1961 (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

Another group of unidentified players is this 1961 cub hockey team? Anybody know any of these kids?

Another picture that I found interesting is this one of unnamed staff or volunteers at Sibley Field. The year is also unknown, although I’m guessing early 1960s.

Sibley Park staff or volunteers, year unknown. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

I like this photo because of the “BPC” on the t-shirts. BPC was the acronym for Board of Park Commissioners, the official name of the Minneapolis park board until it was changed in 1969 to Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. The new name was intended to emphasize the significant responsibilities of the park board for recreation programs — something that didn’t exist when the BPC was created in 1883. I presume they are standing in front of the recreation center that was built in 1924 and stood until the current rec center was built in 1971. Can anyone identify the people in this picture and whether they were BPC employees or Sibley Field volunteers? Interesting composition in front of the men’s room.

Sibley Field was one of the most active parks in Minneapolis from 1946 when it was one of only five city parks that offered year-round programming. The other four year-round parks were Folwell, Nicollet (King), Logan and Loring; North Commons was added to that group in 1956.

Women’s craft class at Sibley Park in 1961. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

This series of photos (stapled together) suggests the wide range of activities offered — and groups served — at the park. Two years after this photo was taken Sibley Field became one of nine recreation centers in Minneapolis to offer programs for senior citizens, too. The seniors met one morning a week at the park. The program was modeled after a similar program that had first been tried at Loring Park in 1960.

A search of old Minneapolis Morning Tribunes reveals that the Cedar Avenue Heights neighborhood (the park was originally Cedar Avenue Heights Field) began to be developed in 1909-1910. Newspapers also reveal that petitions for a park in Cedar Avenue Heights, which the park board received in September, 1921, followed the creation of a neighborhood improvement association in March of that year (Minneapolis Morning Tribune, March 28, 1921). The Tribune reported that the neighborhood improvement association was founded primarily to promote the creation of a double track on the street car line on Cedar Avenue from Lake Street to 42nd Street and an extension of the line south of 42nd. (Park commissioners also appeared at the City Council to advocate extending the Cedar Avenue car line to serve the new bath house at Lake Nokomis.) The paper also speculated that day that the association would also support the construction of a new Nokomis High School, which was eventually named Roosevelt High School.

The impetus for the formation of the Cedar Heights Improvement Association in March, 1921 was almost certainly the opening of the new Miles Standish school in January of that year. The school quickly became the center of the community. The Tribune reported that 900 people attended the first meeting of the neighborhood improvement association at the school.

The new Miles Standish School facing what is now Standish Avenue at 40th Street in 1922. The school was significantly enlarged in 1923, just two years after it was built. (Minneapolis Public Schools)

Cedar Avenue Heights Field was not the first playing field in the neighborhood. Tribune articles about amateur baseball in 1909 refer to a baseball field — the home field of the Prince Realty team — at Cedar and 42nd Street. I’ve never seen a picture of that field. If you have, let me know where I can find one.

David C. Smith

The Smack and Tang of Elemental Things

One of the coolest things I’ve ever purchased online was a book of poetry about trees published in 1923 or 1924. Not your ordinary, run-of-the-paper-mill tree poetry book. It was published by Florence Barton Loring as a remembrance from her husband, Charles M. Loring, “The Father of Minneapolis Parks.” (Do not accept imitation “creators” of the Minneapolis park system. More to come on that subject.) Only forty-eight pages with a hard cover. The little book was explained this way in a brief foreword by Mrs. Loring:

In explanation of this booklet’s publication, it may be stated that my beloved husband requested me, when circumstances favored, to compile a collection of  verses from which we had derived much pleasure, on the subject of trees, for distribution as a parting souvenir of himself, among those who knew him well, and share his tastes and enthusiasm…It does not require this parting remembrance from Charles M. Loring to keep his memory alive in the hearts of his friends, but that may render it none the less acceptable to the recipients; while, to the compiler, it has been not only a means of redeeming a promise, but, also, has provided a labor of love.

Poets included range from Byron, Longfellow and William Cullen Bryant (Bryant Avenue) to Minnesota poets Henrietta Jewett Keith and May Stanley.

The poem excerpt that caught my attention though was a few lines from “Lincoln: The Man of the People,” by Edwin Markham. Loring cites only six lines of the poem including the closing four lines:

And when he fell in whirlwind, he went down
As when a lordly cedar, green with boughs,
Goes down with a great shout upon the hills
A
nd leaves a lonesome place against the sky

That was perhaps Mrs. Loring’s tribute to Lincoln as well as her husband, who had been a stalwart of Lincoln’s party. But she left out Markham’s great description of Lincoln including the fabulous line used as a title here:

The color of the ground was in him, the red earth;
The smack and tang of elemental things;

A reading of Markham’s poem was part of the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in May, 1922. Markham, who had published the poem in 1901, read it himself. The dedication took place a little more than a month after Charles Loring died at the age of 88.

Florence Barton Loring and Charles Loring, about 1915, likely in Riverside, California where they often spent the winter. (Minnesota Historical Society, por 16225 r3)

I first saw the book at the Minnesota Historical Society Library in St. Paul (there is also a copy in Special Collections at the Hennepin Country Central Library downtown Minneapolis). Because relatively few copies were printed for gifts to Loring’s friends I was surprised to find one for sale online from a Los Angeles rare book dealer. It is one of only a few souvenirs I have collected from my research of Minneapolis parks.

More on Florence Barton Loring soon.

David C. Smith

© David C. Smith

Inspiration, Ideas and Ideals (Courtesy of William Watts Folwell)

Park history provides more than pretty pictures. Thanks to people such as William Folwell, it also gives us inspiring words. Such inspiration has perhaps never been needed more than now when political discourse is dominated by petty self-interest and shallow swagger.

“We owe it to our children and to all future dwellers in Minneapolis to plan on a great and generous scale. If we fail to accomplish, let them know it was not for lack of ideas or ideals.”

— William W. Folwell, President, Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners, Eighteenth Annual Report, 1900

William W. Folwell attended the dedication of facilities at Folwell Park, July 4, 1925. He was 92. (Minnesota Historical Society, por 12574 r18)

David C. Smith

Minneapolis Park Memory: A Memorable Silence

I was the editor of the Minneapolis Municipal Hiking Club’s monthly newsletter for many years, up through the last month of the club’s existence in October 2010.

One hike I particularly remember took place on Wednesday, September 12, 2001. The Club had an evening hike scheduled for the neighborhood around Bossen Field in south central Minneapolis. Many planes fly over this area approaching the airport, but this was the day after 9/11 and all U.S. civilian planes were grounded by federal decree. It was quite a sensation walking in this area, expecting to hear planes fly over, but hearing none.

George Bridgman

Minnehikers was a popular club. Annual banquet, 1938. (Norton and Peel, Minnesota Historical Society, GV1.22 p87)

Editor’s note: The Minnehikers, as the club was known, was originally organized by the park board’s recreation staff in 1920. According to Theodore Wirth (Minneapolis Park System 1883-1944), the first hike took place on January 10, 1920. Minneapolis Mayor J. E. Meyers, Judge Edward Foote Waite and Wirth led 83 hikers 3 1/2 miles from Minnehaha Falls to Riverside Park.

Twenty-nine years later, the park board named a park for the juvenile court judge who participated that day: Waite Park in northeast Minneapolis.

Waite Park and Waite Park School, the first joint school/park development in Minneapolis in 1949, were named for Judge Edward F. Waite, pictured here with students and teachers at the school in about 1955, when he was 95. (Newburg Studio, Minnesota Historical Society, por 5807 p8)

The mayor’s name is on a park too, the J.E. Meyers Memorial Park in Mound on Lake Minnetonka. Internet sites list it as both a boy’s camp and a cemetery. A mystery to be solved. Of course, we know that Wirth has a park named for him, too.

I would tell more about the Minnehikers, but I hope former members of the group will do that themselves with first person accounts. The club sponsored its last hike in October. Changing times.

David C. Smith