Was landscape architect Warren Manning the first to propose a public golf course in a Minneapolis park?
What was new (to me) in the story was that when Lowry submitted his proposal to donate land down the hill from his mansion he also submitted designs for the park. The plans were prepared by well-known landscape architect Warren Manning at Lowry’s request. Lowry also offered to foot the cost of implementing Manning’s plan. Lowry eventually did donate thousands of dollars to help the park board convert the land to a park, but Manning’s plans were never mentioned in park board records.
According to the newspaper Manning’s plan for the new park included what were then still relatively new concepts for public parks: a golf course and a baseball field. (The first public golf course in the United States, at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, was built in 1895. The 700-yard ninth hole must have been a killer!) When Manning created his design for Lowry in 1903, Minneapolis had two golf courses: Minikahda, west of Lake Calhoun, and a little-remembered course in Bryn Mawr, but both were private. (More about the Bryn Mawr course another day.) The first public golf course in Minneapolis was not built until 1916 at Glenwood Park, now Theodore Wirth Park.
Manning would go on to greater fame as a designer of “wild” gardens, informal landscapes that relied heavily on native plants pruned and thinned to create naturalistic groupings. While his proposal for a public golf course at The Parade was a first, he had proposed playing fields in earlier work for the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners. In a report to the park board in 1899 that provided his assessment of the entire Minneapolis park system, Manning had proposed playing fields on the east river flats below the University of Minnesota. A couple years later he was hired by the University of Minnesota to redesign part of the campus. In 1904 he was hired to design Lyndale Park northeast of Lake Harriet. His designs were only partially implemented and completely reworked in 1907 by park superintendent Theodore Wirth when he built his famous rose garden there.
Manning had become familiar with Minneapolis parks and park board officials through his participation in the creation of the American Park and Outdoor Art Association (APOAA) in 1897 and 1898. Along with Louisville park officials, the Minneapolis park board had suggested the creation of a national organization of people interested in promoting parks. The first meeting of interested people was held in Louisville in 1897. (The Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners was represented at the Louisville meeting by park commissioner and architect Harry Wild Jones.) Warren Manning was elected secretary of the new organization and worked closely with William Folwell, president of the Minneapolis park board, among others, to create by-laws for the new organization. The second annual meeting of the APOAA was held in Minneapolis in 1898. At that meeting, Charles Loring, who was not on the Minneapolis park board at the time, was elected president of the APOAA. (Considerable correspondence between Manning and Folwell is contained in Folwell’s papers at the Minnesota Historical Society.) The next year, 1899, Manning was one of the eleven founding members of the American Society of Landscape Architects, which unlike the APOAA, was open for membership only to professional landscape architects.
Imagine what The Parade might have become if Manning’s original plans for a golf course in the park had been followed. Parade Stadium (below) would likely not have been built there. Would freeways have eventually followed a different route through the city? Do you think part of a golf course would have been sacrificed for the Sculpture Garden? As it was only a couple softball fields were taken out for that iconic garden. Central Minneapolis might look quite different today if the plans of Thomas Lowry and Warren Manning had been followed in 1903.
To learn more about the early history of APOAA and ASLA view the searchable texts of their official records:
Report of the American Park and Outdoor Art Association, Volumes 1-6, at Google Books.
David C. Smith, minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com