Harry Perry Robinson Gets a Biography

One of the larger-than-life characters from Minneapolis history in the late 1800s has his own biography now and I just ordered my copy. I wrote about Englishman Perry Robinson in my story about the Makwa Club and in an earlier story about his best friend in Minneapolis, famous interior designer and park commissioner John Scott Bradstreet. (I have just reposted my article, one of my favorites, about Bradstreet and his proposed Japanese temple on an island in Lake of the Isles.)

Escape Artist: The Nine Lives of Harry Perry Robinson by Joseph McAleer is already out as an e-book and will be released in print October 1. You can order a copy from publisher Oxford University Press or Amazon or your favorite local book store (highly recommended).

I haven’t read it yet, but I know a good bit about Robinson and I had the opportunity to hear more stories about him from author Joe McAleer. Joe visited Minneapolis while researching the Robinson story and over a burger at Red Cow we had a chance to talk about the dynamic Englishman who adopted Minneapolis for awhile–and married the daughter of one of its leading citizens. And that’s barely a footnote in a story that includes American Presidents, English Kings (modern) and Egyptian Kings (ancient) and runs from the gold mines in the United States to the trenches of World War I to Robinson being knighted Sir Harry.

Initial reviews out of the United Kingdom are very positive. If this story doesn’t end up on Netflix, I’ll be astonished. But don’t wait for the movie.

David Carpentier Smith

Ironing Out Minnehaha Creek’s Wrinkles

A reader checked in a few weeks ago with a question: Did Minnehaha Creek ever cross West 54th Street in the southwest corner of Minneapolis?

I pulled out my 1903 Minneapolis Real Estate Atlas and was surprised to find that the creek did cross what is now West 54th St. for a few hundred feet. At that time, 54th St. was the southern city limit of Minneapolis.

Minnehaha Creek from Zenith Ave. to Penn Ave. in 1903. The creek crossed what would become West 54th Street at about what is now Upton Avenue, but was then Royal Road.

The park board didn’t acquire this section of Minnehaha Creek — from Humboldt to Zenith — until 1930, and graded and straightened sections of the creek in 1932. The creek would have been straightened here as elsewhere to avoid the expense of building bridges. (Read more about the acquisition and development of this section of Minnehaha Creek. Go to the “History” tab at the bottom of the page.)

The section of Minnehaha Creek acquired in 1930 never had a parkway built along it as was done east of Humboldt. That was partly because some homes had already been built near the creek and also because the creek banks were much steeper here than to the east. But even if it had been perfectly flat and unoccupied, the Great Depression had set in so there was no money for new parkways.

According to Hennepin County property records the first house along this section of W. 54th St. was not built until 1942. That was a rarity because very few houses were built in Hennepin County during World War II due to a shortage of labor and materials. The rest of the houses along the street were built after the war, mostly from 1948 on.

What other changes were made to the course of Minnehaha Creek over the years? Here are three other sections of the creek from the 1903 atlas that you can compare to Google Maps to see what’s changed. Most of the changes were made in the 1920s partly to make it easier to improve the parkway to accommodate car traffic and partly to shorten the course of the creek to try to increase water flow over Minnehaha Falls in drought years — which was most years in the 1920s-1950s. No one seemed to like an empty creek and dry falls.

This section, from Penn to Lyndale probably underwent the fewest changes since 1903. The park board’s ownership of Minnehaha Creek east from the outflow from Lake Harriet in the center of this map, dated to the 1880s when much of the land along the creek was donated to the park board. (For a history of the creek as a park east of here, see my post of several months ago.)
East from Nicollet Avenue to Portland Avenue the creek’s sharp bends were smoothed out a bit. Notice that Pearl Lake still existed in the lower right corner. That wouldn’t become park property until the 1920s. The lake was filled in the 1930s and 1940s in part from debris when the runways at the airport, which was owned and operated by the park board, were being modernized using WPA funds and crews.
This section of Minnehaha Creek clearly had the most work done after this map was made in 1903. It meandered entirely too much here for an efficient road builder like park superintendent Theodore Wirth. This map was made before Lake Amelia (lower right), now Lake Nokomis, was acquired as a park too.

You can view many other early maps of Minneapolis — and spend hours and hours of COVID-avoidance free time — at the University of Minnesota’s John Borchert Map Library website. Countless maps — and aerial photography as well. You’ll be happier and smarter. Stay healthy.

David Carpentier Smith

How Long?

As one with the good fortune to spend much of my time consulting historical documents for various projects, I come across a great deal of writing that I would like to share with all of you interested in parks, history, and improving life for all of us. Most of it I tuck away for later use, but this morning, while scouring sources for information on the Johnny Baker American Legion Post baseball team started by Bobby Marshall in 1927, I found a piece that I thought needs sharing more expeditiously. I am reaching across our great river with this one for it was written by Earl Wilkins, brother of Roy, when Earl was the editor of The St. Paul Echo an “Independent Negro Weekly Newspaper.” Unfortunately the Echo was only published for two years 1925-1927.

Here is the editorial published in the Echo December 12, 1925.

THE PRESIDENT SPEAKS

Once more the president has delivered his annual message to congress, and once more a plea of tolerance for the Negro has been made. Outlining the facts that the Negro makes up nearly one tenth of the population of the United States, that he is one of the most loyal citizens of the  country and that he has made almost incredible progress during 60 years in various arts, President Coolidge urges the necessity of securing to that large element in the population equal justice and protection from violence, and of punishing any persons who attempt violence upon that group.

In passing it may not be unwise to note that the effectiveness of the recommendations in this matter will depend largely upon the degree of earnestness which the president displays in that regard. If his later attitude shows an aggressive belief in the rights of his colored citizens, those rights will be more generally respected both as to individual treatment throughout the country, and to beneficial legislative enactment. Should he retreat, however to a lukewarm state now that the message has been broadcasted, the same evils of omitted action will be in evidence in the coming year as have often prevailed in the past.

The tragically humorous part of the message about the Negro is that the executive pleads in a way with certain elements in the country not to harm colored people. People who do commit violent acts upon Negroes should be punished, he says. That it should be necessary in this enlightened stage of civilization’s  progress, in a country which is admittedly Christian and one of the most progressive nations on the globe, to plead with the body of citizens that they should not harm any of the groups which make up the whole, is downright funny. Funnier still is that fact that the caution is not based upon unfounded whim, but upon the revolting truth that within the confines of these United States brutal crime is committed almost unchecked by a portion of the nine-tenths upon the ever-progressing one-tenth. Grim humor, that! Humor of the sort that is daily making smiling-faced black men with seething hearts realize more and more that only in co-operation among themselves can an integration be developed which will result in greater protection from within. Humor that can look back proudly upon six decades of eventful achievement in the face of supreme difficulties. Humor that glances undaunted into whatever the future may bring.

I doubt Wilkins could have imagined “undaunted” this future. Nearly a century. If I were cynical I would ask, “Where is President Coolidge when we need him?” Words no one ever could have imagined hearing.

David Carpentier Smith

P.S. If anyone has information on the Johnny Baker baseball team in 1927 and 1928 please let me know.

Parks and Plagues

The battle against COVID-19 brings to mind a couple episodes in Minneapolis park history.

Several people have asked if anything similar to the coronavirus-related closures of park buildings has happened in Minneapolis history. From my notes I can find no references to the impact on parks in 1918 of the Spanish flu, but polio did have a significant impact on parks in the years after WWII. The park board’s 1946 annual report notes that there was a sharp upward post-war trend in attendance at parks but it was “cut short” by the polio epidemic. Park superintendent Charles Doell in his segment of the report claimed that most summer recreation programs had to be shut down in July due to the polio scare. Parents wouldn’t allow their kids to go to parks, or beaches, because it was thought that the polio virus was transmitted through bathing water.

The final two weeks of the 1946 concert season at Lake Harriet were cancelled due to the epidemic and community sings were cancelled in July for the remainder of the season due to the polio scare. The sings were conducted for the rest of the summer over radio station WDGY.

The polio scare lasted much longer than we expect the coronavirus scare to last. Three years later, the park board reported that a new spike in polio cases and the associated “scare” had slashed beach attendance in 1949 by 68%. (The polio scare didn’t end until Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for the virus, which went into use in 1955.)

Elizabeth_Kenny_NYWTS

Sister Elizabeth Kenny, 1950. By New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer – Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The most lasting reminder of the polio epidemic, however, is Kenny Park. The park was named in 1955 for Sister Elizabeth Kenny, an Australian nurse who promoted a successful treatment for many polio victims. There was no cure. (“Sister” was a courtesy title for a nurse in the British Commonwealth, not a religious title.)

Kenny established an institute in Minneapolis, her base in the U.S., for the treatment of polio patients. In 1951 she was named in a Gallup Poll as the most admired woman in the U.S., the only woman to be so named in the first 20 years of the award who wasn’t a First Lady.

One of the only other connections between Minneapolis parks and present pandemic discussions is reference to the Defense Production Authority. President Trump last week invoked this authority, created in 1950 during the Korean War, and later backed away from it, to assert the control of the federal government over producing and securing medical supplies. It is cited now in regard to protective equipment and ventilators, but its application was far broader in 1950.

When the authority was created one of its provisions was to prohibit the construction of recreation and amusement projects in order to conserve materials for defense purposes. The authority would have killed park board plans to build a 17,000-seat lighted football stadium at the Parade. The stadium had been the highest-priority project on the park board’s post-war (WWII) project list.

Parade Stadium 1952 MPRB

Parade Stadium, 1952. Loring Park in background, Walker Art Center top right. Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

Park superintendent Charles Doell and mayor Eric Hoyer went to Washington to argue for stadium construction and came home with approval to proceed because the project was initiated before creation of the Defense Production Authority.  Another park project was also given a green light at that time because construction had already begun: Waite Park School and Park, a joint project of the park board and school board.

Can you think of other health-related restrictions on park usage, other than periodic e coli-related beach closures?

Two Minneapolis parks are named for nurses from the British Commonwealth. The other is…Cavell Park, named for Edith Cavell.

David Carpentier Smith

 

To Bee or Not to Bee: Are You Pollinator Friendly?

The Minneapolis Parks Foundation provided an enlightening evening Thursday with Dr. Marla Spivak, U of M professor of entomology, more commonly known as the “Bee Lady,” who spoke about the health of bees. Of particular interest was the promotion and maintenance of pollinator-friendly landscapes in our parks and yards.

Bee

The endangered rusty patched bumble bee from the University of Minnesota Bee Lab’s Bee ID website

My guess is that, like me, the couple hundred others in attendance at the Walker left the event calculating how to convert some or all of their yards into more pollinator-friendly habitat. Dr. Spivak is that convincing. She has the rare ability to explain problems and identify solutions without bombast, exaggeration or condescension. It is an ability that I associate with top-level scientists who seem more able than most of us to sift fact from emotion, opinion or belief. If you missed her on Thursday, please look for other opportunities to hear Dr. Spivak speak.

One of her comments stood out in a park-history context. She noted the value of cottonwood trees in maintaining healthy bee colonies. The resin that coats the leaf buds has beneficial properties for bees.

Eastern_Cottonwood_(Populus_deltoides)_-_Flickr_-_Jay_Sturner_(2)

That led me to think of the creeks that flowed through the unbroken prairies of a couple centuries ago and the fact that one of the trees most commonly found along those creeks was cottonwood. To prove the point, the cottonwood is the state tree of Nebraska, Kansas and Wyoming!  (A few huge cottonwoods can be found along Minnehaha Creek.) The tree was disappointing to many early settlers because it was not particularly useful for humans other than as a provider of shade. It didn’t burn well and wasn’t much good for lumber — much like the elm! — but it also outgrew and shaded-off trees considered more desirable. The disadvantage of the cottonwood compared to the elm, especially in an urban setting, is that it is messy. The “cotton” that carries the seeds can be annoying and, to use one of Theodore Wirth’s favorite words from a century ago, “unsightly.” I know because I have to sweep a pile of “cotton” out of my garage and dislodge it from my porch screens every summer. It can be a nuisance.

The specific connection to park history? In January 1905 the park board passed a new set of ordinances. Among them was one that prohibited the planting of cottonwood and box elder trees along Minneapolis streets!

I presume the cottonwood was banned for its profusion of clingy cotton seeds. The box elder was banned because of the black and red box elder bugs that lived in it. (There was a box elder tree across the alley from my boyhood home in St. Paul and I can confirm that the bugs were unpleasant.)

I have no idea when — or if — the 1905 ordinance was ever rescinded. The relevance of the ordinance to the discussion of bee health today is that of unintended consequences. I’m sure that no one in 1905 knew of the importance of cottonwood trees to the health of pollinators and our food supply. Did that ordinance contribute to the long-term decline in pollinators described by Dr. Spivak? Now we know to think of such contingencies.

My intent is not to disparage those who passed an ordinance 115 year ago, but to underscore our constant increase in knowledge and understanding of the world and the interconnectedness of things. I am grateful to people like Dr Spivak who expand our understanding and allow us to improve our world in ways that generations before us could not have done because they didn’t know what we know. We need to listen more to people who actually know stuff.

To learn more on the subject of bees and pollinator-friendly habitat visit the websites of the Bee Lab and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

A final word: the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has a professional staff that has long been committed to protecting the environment and improving management of our city’s natural resources. I think they do remarkable work and have for nearly 140 years — even as knowledge has increased, management techniques have evolved, and public perceptions and desires have shifted. That’s why we have the park system we have. To suggest otherwise is simply ignorant and I question the motives of those who do. (I’m not as tactful as Dr. Spivak; she’s a MacArthur Fellow and I’m not!) I applaud Tom Evers, Executive Director of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, for praising park board staff in his introduction of Thursday night’s program.

David Carpentier Smith

1948 Olympic Speed Skating Team and Louise Herou’s Medals

As I mentioned last week, a new book out on Twin Cities sports includes a chapter on speed skating. The chapter introduces Minnesota speed skating history from John S. Johnson’s world records in the 1890s to the many great skaters who raced at Powderhorn Lake into the 1960s.

I was reminded of a photo from Minneapolis park board archives that I featured a few years ago. The photo had no caption and I wondered who were the skaters and starters on the ice at Powderhorn Lake. Thanks to several readers, we identified all the skaters and Hubert Humphrey, Minneapolis’s Mayor, next to the starter. The skaters are six of the eight men who won places on the 1948 U.S. Olympic team that skated at San Moritz. No one, however, identified the man with the starter’s gun.

Powderhorn  U.S.Olympic Team 1947-2-16

I finally found the original of the photo and it’s not a park board photo after all but a photo by Bud Jewett in the Minneapolis Tribune, February 17, 1947. The original photo also included the famous coach of the Powderhorn skaters, Oscar Johnson. Below is the original published photo with caption, which identifies the man with the gun as Minnesota Governor Luther Youngdahl.

1947-02-17 Star_Tribune HHH and Gov. Youngdahl at starting line of Powderhorn men

Another bit of skating news: I recently acquired a collection of 110 medals, including national championship medals, won by Louise Herou from 1934-1942. Herou won medals from when she was 13 until she stopped skating after having two seasons cut short by illness. When the 1943 skating season rolled around she was a true-life Rosie the Riveter working at the Twin City Ordnance plant and no longer had time for training. She would never return to speed skating, except as a teacher and coach.

1943-03-09 Star_Tribune Herou with her medals and trophies

Herou with her medals and trophies from a March 9, 1943 Minneapolis Tribune article on her giving up skating for work at an ordnance plant. Many of these medals were displayed in a new case (below) which I recently acquired.

By then she had become one of the the top golfers in Minneapolis and had made an appearance as a swimmer with the Aqua Follies, the annual water show associated with the Minneapolis Aquatennial. She was also a crack shot with a shotgun, played an excellent second-base in softball and was a top-level tennis player. In 1945 she was inducted into an honorary sorority at the U of M for achieving straight A’s as a freshman. She went to law school at the U of M, became an attorney and married Charlie Saunders who owned Charlie’s Cafe Exceptionale, a leading Minneapolis restaurant, which she continued to run after he died.Herou medals 1

The display I acquired has an oak frame with a bronze nameplate that reads “Louise Herou Saunders”, so the medals in the top picture were likely put in this new display case after she was married. Many of the medals are beautifully made by some of the top silver and goldsmiths in the country. Unfortunately, the display was not covered with archival glass to protect the ribbons from UV rays (perhaps such a product didn’t exist when the case was made) so they are very faded. Most medals are engraved on the back with event and result; some are inscribed with her name.

All of her 1934 medals, which were won in the “juvenile girls” category, are inscribed “Tee Herou.” I assume that was a nickname. A check of newspaper results for her skating years reveals that these 110 medals are not nearly all that she won, but include many of her wins in the more prestigious local and national tournaments. While many of the medals she won are missing there is also one from the Minneapolis Star Journal in 1939 inscribed as a Medal of Merit for “Mens Skating.” How that came to be in her collection might be a good story. Where the trophies pictured in the newspaper photo above ended up is anyone’s guess. Louise Herou and Charlie Saunders did not have children.

I’m not really a collector of such things as these medals, but when I saw them for sale I thought they should remain together as a collection instead of being sold off individually. Herou’s scrapbooks are in Special Collections at Hennepin County Library. Perhaps a skating or historical organization will some day want to display her medals. If not for WWII, it is quite possible she would have competed on an international stage, although not the Olympics. Women’s speed skating wasn’t an Olympic sport until 1960.

David Carpentier Smith

Twin Cities Sports History

I’m happy to alert you to the publication of a new book that many of you will enjoy. Twin Cities Sports: Games for All Seasons, edited by my friend Sheldon Anderson, was released yesterday by the University of Arkansas Press. The book presents many of the most interesting aspects of sports in Minnesota history. It provides a behind-the-headlines look at sport and society. I can guarantee everyone will learn something new about sports history in Minnesota.

Dick Dahl writes about pro football, Stew Thornley about the Minneapolis Lakers, Tom Jones about golf — just three of the nine chapters. I think you’ll also enjoy reading about Minneapolis park history from someone other than me in Shannon Murray’s excellent chapter on the creation and evolution of the park system.   Twin Cities Sports Cover

I contributed a chapter on the history of Twin Cities speed skating in addition to collaborating with Shel on chapters about high school basketball and high school hockey. I am especially proud to have written the first broad account of speedskating in Minneapolis and St. Paul, from early superstars like John S. Johnson to the great skaters that came out of the Hippodrome Skating Club in St. Paul and Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis. While researching that chapter I learned so much about extraordinary athletes who have never gotten the attention they deserve. There is so much more to tell. Might be worth a book in itself someday!

Here’s my brush with greatness in the book: we illustrated the basketball chapter with an action photo of Lindsey Whalen in high school. I remember playing in the same gym in which that shot was taken. How cool is that? I bet there’s fewer than six degrees of separation.

The Roseau high school hockey cheerleaders also talked with me and a friend at the lunch counter in the old W.T. Grant’s store on Seventh Street in downtown St. Paul during the state hockey tournament one year when I was a kid. They must have thought we were cute little kids. We were probably staring at them. We were star struck. When you grew up on the East Side of St. Paul hockey was a big deal, so Roseau hockey cheerleaders were nearly celebrities. They were on tv!

I hope you will pick up a copy of the book. Of course, it’s available on Amazon, but I would encourage you to shop at local booksellers when you can.

David Carpentier Smith

Flu Seating at Gopher-Badger Game

One hundred years ago this week, an account of the Minnesota Gopher men’s basketball team’s loss to Wisconsin in Madison included this:

“Two fouls were assessed against Knapp, Badger captain, because of the noise made by the crowd during the progress of the game. Because of the influenza ban which is on at Madison, only alternate rows of seats were occupied at the game.”
— Minneapolis Tribune, February 1, 1920

Seems so ignorant given what we now know — and fear — about infectious diseases like the coronavirus. Maybe the excessive crowd noise was coughing. The old-fashioned crowd control and infectious-disease control were not the only things a bit dated: the final score was 28-12.

I found this item during my continuing research into a novel basketball tournament held in Minneapolis from the 1920s-1950s. In the process I’ve learned a great deal more about why the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners built a recreation center in Logan Park in 1915 and didn’t build another one on the same scale in any other park for more than 50 years. I will write more on that topic in the near future.

David Carpentier Smith

Baseballs at War

Once in awhile I come across a little gem of info that I don’t know what to do with because it’s not about Minneapolis parks, but is too interesting to let slip back under the covers of history. So this…

From the Minneapolis Tribune, Thursday, February 7, 1918, dateline New York, in its entirety:

Baseball To Follow The Flag In France

There is a probability baseball will be played extensively by the troops in France this spring. The Y.M.C.A. war work council has awarded a contract for 59,760 baseballs, probably one of the largest orders ever placed. Special preparation has to be made in packing these balls so they will not be affected by dampness. Special cases are made for the purpose.

I looked to see if I could find an image of a 1918 baseball online that I could post here and I found two noteworthy images.

The first was a 1918 baseball for sale at the time of this writing on eBay. The names of soldiers, complete with rank are printed on the ball. I don’t know if this was one of the balls sent to France by the “Y”, but it was clearly well-used. I love the red and blue stitching. I wonder if it was so tightly wound—or juiced—that it could leave a ball yard at an exit velocity of well over 100 mph as they do at Target Field these days. Doubtful.

1918-wwi-military-baseball.jpg

This 1918 baseball signed by soldiers, complete with ranks, is for sale on eBay by showpiecessports. The linked page above includes seven more photos of the ball. Thanks to showpiecessports for permission to use their image.

I also found another image at the National Baseball Hall of Fame that tells more of the story of baseball and WWI. This photo suggests that the ball used by the soldiers was the same—red and blue stitching—as that used by Major League Baseball. One notable change in the game since 1918 is immediately obvious: game balls weren’t discarded then after they had hit the dirt once!

1918 WWI Ball Hall of Fame

One panel of the ball reads, “Season ending on Labor Day on Account of War.” The other, “Last ball used in game at Navin Field. Hit by Jack Collins off Bobby Veach. Caught by Davy Jones.” For Bobby Veach, who led the American League in RBI that year as an outfielder, this was the only pitching appearance of his 14-year career. Thanks to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for permission to publish this image. (Milo Stewart, Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

The excellent article that accompanies this photo tells of how baseball players were viewed as potential soldiers in the Great War. Quite different from WWII. The full story of the game and the season from which this ball was saved—101 years ago this month—is fascinating. A little of everything: Star Spangled Banner, Ty Cobb, rifle drills, the Boston Red Sox winning a World Series before Big Papi, and more.

With all those YMCA baseballs going to France in 1918, I’m surprised the French didn’t pick up any interest in the game, but they seem not to have. I suppose when part of your country is reduced to sticks and mud and cemeteries, you don’t have much time to think about new sports played on fields of grass.

IMAG0470

The American monument to soldiers–some of whom may have played with those YMCA baseballs–who died near Chateau Thierry in WWI. Not many miles from this sobering, beautiful monument is where Ernest Wold and Cyrus Chamberlain, two young men from Minneapolis, died as aviators in the war. The Minneapolis airport, owned by the Minneapolis park board from 1926-1943, was named Wold-Chamberlain Field in their honor. (Photo: David C. Smith)

Baseball and war brings to mind the mistaken perception that baseball was spread in the other direction, to Japan, by American soldiers after WWII. Baseball was popular in Japan decades before then.

The University of Chicago’s baseball team played the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis in August 1910 on their way to the West Coast for a trip to Japan to play Japanese university teams. The next spring a team from Japan’s Waseda University—which had hosted the U of Chicago team—played two games against the Gopher nine at Northrup Field and Nicollet Park, losing 3-2 in 15 innings and 8-2.

The Tribune reported that the Chicago team—and a University of Wisconsin team in 1909—had been treated as “national guests” of Japan and noted that special arrangements were being made to entertain the Waseda University team “so they will feel they are the guests of the Twin Cities as well as the university.”

I have not found any similar stories about teams from the Sorbonne in Paris looking for games with local nines.

The Minneapolis park board did not create its first baseball field until 1908. Before then, sports fields were not viewed by many people as legitimate uses of public park land.

I wonder if we’ve sent any baseballs or baseball fields to Afghanistan? You’d think we might have after nearly two decades of war there. On the other hand we’ve had military bases in Germany for more than 70 years and only Max Kepler to show for it baseball-wise. Taking nothing away from Kepler; I hope he’s healthy for the Twins in the play-offs.

David Carpentier Smith

 

Posters for Parks

It’s time to fill that bare (or stale) spot on your wall with a limited edition poster of a local artist’s take on Minneapolis parks. The 4th Annual Posters for Parks event will be Saturday, Sept. 28 from 5-9 p.m. at Royal Foundry Craft Spirits, 241 Fremont Ave. N., Minneapolis.

More than 40 local designers and illustrators will present limited-edition, original posters for sale, with 50% of proceeds going to People for Parks, a grassroots organization that has raised money for park projects for decades. The event was created by lovemplsparks.org.

Good cause and good art mixed with royal spirits. Can’t beat that.

David Carpentier Smith

A Bus Tour and a Road Trip

Thanks to everyone who joined the Preserve Minneapolis Waterfront Bus Tour on Saturday. It was a beautiful day. A few people asked for a map of the tour so here it is. Follow the (shaky) black line down from top left at The Parade.Waterfront Tour Route Map

Below is the turn-by-turn itinerary we followed as I talked about one of the greatest preservation feats in any city: maintaining public ownership of nearly every foot of waterfront in the city. By car it’s about a 90-minute drive without stops, but by bus it was nearly a half-hour longer owing to some tight turns and having to wait for cars and bicycles to clear some intersections before our excellent driver could navigate some corners. If anyone has any remaining questions raised by the tour, ask them as comments below and I’ll try to answer. I’d recommend this drive for anyone interested in seeing a broad cross section of waterfront and neighborhood parks in the southern half of the city. Perhaps in the future we will  tour parks and parkways in north and northeast Minneapolis where there is not as much water but even more alluring neighborhood parks.

Bus Route for Waterfront Tour: August 17

Parade parking lot>

Spring Lake via right from parking lot onto Kenwood Parkway>

Lake of the Isles via Kenwood Parkway, left on Douglas, right on Logan, right on Franklin, left onto West Lake of the Isles Parkway>

Cedar Lake via West Lake of the Isles Parkway, right on Dean Parkway, right on Cedar Lake Parkway, left onto Sunset Blvd.>

Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) via Sunset Blvd, left onto Drew Avenue, left on Lake Street, right onto East Calhoun Parkway>

Lake Harriet via East Calhoun Parkway, left on William Berry Parkway and right on Lake Harriet Parkway>

Minnehaha Creek via Lake Harriet Parkway, right on West Minnehaha Parkway>

Diamond Lake (Pearl Lake) via West Minnehaha Parkway, to East Minnehaha Parkway, right on Portland Ave., right on E. Diamond Lake Road, right into Pearl Park parking lot>

Todd Park through parking lot, left on Hampshire Dr., left on E. Diamond Lake Road, right on Portland Ave. and left on E. 56th St., left on Chicago Ave. South>

Lake Nokomis via Chicago Ave. South, right on E. 54th St., left on W. Lake Nokomis Parkway, continue past beach>

Lake Hiawatha via W. Lake Nokomis Parkway, left on 22nd Ave. S, then right onto East Minnehaha Parkway>

Minnehaha Falls via East Minnehaha Parkway, right on S. Minnehaha Dr. at Godfrey Circle, left on S. Minnehaha Park Dr. to pavilion>

Mississippi River exit Pavilion parking lot, right on S. Minnehaha Dr., right on Godfrey Parkway, continue onto West River Parkway>

Seven Oaks Oval via W. River Parkway, left on E. 33rd St., left on Edmunds Blvd., right on E. 34th St., left on Park Terrace>

Longfellow Park via Park Terrace, continue onto 47th Ave. South, right on E. 35th  St.>

Powderhorn Park via E. 35th St.>

Painter Park via E. 35th St., right on Lyndale>

Bryant Square Park via Lyndale Ave. South, left on E. 31st St.>

Lake of the Isles Lagoon via E. 31st St., right on Dupont, left at light on Lagoon, right on E. Lake Calhoun Parkway>

Lake of the Isles via East Lake Calhoun Parkway, right on The Mall, left on James Ave. So., right on East Lake of the Isles Parkway>

Thomas Lowry Park (Seven Pools) via East Lake of the Isles Parkway, right then immediate left on W. Franklin Ave., right on Oliver Ave. South., right on Douglas Ave.>

Parade Parking via Douglas Ave., left on Frontage Road, right on Groveland Terrace, left on Hennepin Ave., left on Vineland, continue on Bryant Ave. South to Parade parking lot.

A Longer Road Trip

I haven’t put in a plug for the Minnesota Historical Society for awhile so I thought it was time again.

A couple weeks ago we took a day adventure to visit the Jeffers Petroglyphs in southwestern Minnesota. It was a spectacular summer day with a cooling breeze. Driving through south central Minnesota is always a treat for me. It’s wonderful to get out of the city into farmland and prairie. As much as I enjoy the open sky from a lakeshore or riverbank in town, there is something more spectacular—practically intoxicating—about the vistas and the fresh air of farms and prairie. Most of the Minnesota prairie is cultivated of course, but the native prairie has been restored, regenerated, around the site of the petroglyphs between Comfrey and Jeffers.

We approached from the north because I wanted to visit Redwood Falls on the way, a town and a waterfall I had not seen in many years. I was surprised and pleased to see that signs in the Redwood Falls park were in both English and Dakota. (Those signs reminded me to ask that the Minneapolis park board provide at least English translations for the Dakota language cutouts in the metal sculptures at Bde Maka Ska.)Petroglyph panorama

The 5,000 petroglyphs carved into a ridge of red rock—Sioux quartzite—emerging from the prairie tell of people long ago and hint at what they likely believed, enjoyed, feared and hoped. Some are thought to have been created 7,000 years ago.

Jeffers thunderbird

A thunderbird image hammered into the rock with a harder rock. The thunderbird faces west, always west, our guide told us.

Of course, with my Minnesota Historical Society membership, there was no admission charge. Do yourself a favor and take the drive some day. The site is open every day but Tuesday. We had an excellent burger and a cheap beer at the Comfrey Bar and Grill for lunch, just a few miles from the petroglyphs.

Be sure to visit the rock outcropping rubbed shiny by itchy buffalo, too. Picture them in the thousands coming to the little spa for a good scratch. Most helpful were the labels that identified prairie grasses, plants and flowers on the trail from the visitors center to the petroglyphs. Now I know names for some of the (what I thought were) weeds in my yard! I was a great day to imagine a distant and quite different past, as well as to revisit a near and quite different present than we see in the city.

David Carpentier Smith

Lake (White Out) Parkways, East and West

With the park board holding a public hearing this week on changing the names of all parkways with Calhoun in the name, I thought I might make one last suggestion to simplify everything going forward.

Instead of changing the names of East and West Lake Calhoun Parkways and West Calhoun Boulevard, perhaps we can serve multiple purposes if we just “white out” the “Calhoun”.

One, it gets rid of “Calhoun”, which is usually given as the primary objective of the name changes. (The other objective, to honor Dakota history at the lake, was accomplished when the park board changed the name of the lake itself to one of its historical Dakota names, Maka Ska.)

Two, it leaves a “blank” or white space on signs—I mean we literally paint over “Calhoun” on road signs and park signs—which invites questions and comments such as, “What the…?” or “Mommy-Daddy-Caregiver why is there white paint on that sign?” Many of the objections to changing the name from Calhoun to Maka Ska have to do with deleting a part of our history that we should acknowledge and confront instead of hiding. Some have said that keeping Calhoun provides an important teaching opportunity. I agree in principle. Visibly defacing or obliterating Calhoun’s name, however, might provide the same opportunity for discussion because it would invite queries without appearing to honor John C. Calhoun. “There’s something happenin’ here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear.” (A white space on road signs might also invite graffiti, but no solution I’ve heard is perfect.)

Neither keeping Calhoun nor replacing it with Maka Ska can achieve both those results.

Explanation for younger readers: What is white out? It was a fast-drying, white, opaque liquid applied by a tiny brush to places in typewritten documents that required corrections. By applying white out to a word with a typo one could then type over the whited out word instead of retyping a whole page. It had nothing to do with snow or blizzards or everyone attending a basketball game wearing white shirts.

Despite so much waterfront in Minneapolis, there is no East or West Lake Parkway or West Boulevard now, so whiting out Calhoun on those three parkways wouldn’t create confusion with any existing streets. Whiting out Calhoun also could avoid the expense of buying new signs and throwing the present ones into a landfill. Given how few intersections there are on the Lake (White Out) Parkways (by my count twenty or fewer), my guess is one or two cans of Kilz spray paint would do the job. Bring a brush if you don’t like aerosols. Would take a couple hours at most. Best if the paint is not reflective like the rest of the street signs so our history is hinted at by a non-reflecting hole on the sign even in the dark.

Address changes for homes on those streets would be easier too with the white out solution. People with present East or West Calhoun Parkway addresses could simply cross out or white out the Calhoun on their mail or legal addresses until the change takes hold in the public mind. The only people who really need to know street addresses—Amazon and its delivery subsidiaries—could easily sort that out. Google should also be alerted to update their maps so Uber drivers won’t get confused. (Drivers could tell the story of the white out to inquisitive travelers from St. Paul or Edina.)

Finally, “white out” as a metaphor should appeal to those who believe that is what has happened figuratively to our historical record.

Worth a thought.

Waterfront Tour

Preserve Minneapolis tells me that anyone who wants to join our waterfront tour may be without a seat on the bus if they wait much longer. Our tour of many Minneapolis waterfronts begins at the Parade parking lot next to the Sculpture Garden on August 17 at 10 a.m. One part of our tour will take us along East Lake (White Out) Parkway enroute to Minnehaha Falls, then back via West River Parkway and other waterfronts to Parade by noon. To learn more and reserve a seat click here.  The fee goes to Preserve Minneapolis, not me.

David Carpentier Smith