Horace W. S. Cleveland’s Real Estate: Pleasant Avenue and West 44th Street

In a fascinating and sad letter to Frederick Law Olmsted, dated February 23, 1892, Horace W. S. Cleveland proposed that the two collaborate as writers on “professional themes.” (Frederick Law Olmsted Papers, Library of Congress.) Cleveland mentions that Olmsted had written in “complimentary terms” of Cleveland’s writing style and that Olmsted had also noted his own desire to write more, which was frustrated by many demands on his time and energy. (At the time, Olmsted was overseeing preparation for the grounds at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition and was about to take a six-month trip to Europe, in part, to regain his health.)

“Often the thought has come to me,” Cleveland explained, “that if I could join forces with you, we might together produce something that would be essentially serviceable to the public and your name would suffice to summon an audience who would not listen to me.”

Cleveland explained that his motive was primarily to make money.

“I have been able to do but little more than keep even with my expenses, but thank God I have done that and am entirely clear of debt, and own some real estate which I hope to dispose of whenever a new demand arises, and may be worth two or three thousand dollars. You perceive that in this situation it is impossible for me to fold my hands and wait the course of events. I am constantly trying to devise means to stave off the necessity of becoming dependent on others.”

There is no record of Olmsted’s response to Cleveland’s proposal, nor any evidence that the men ever did attempt to write anything together. The health of both men deteriorated rapidly over the next couple years. Witold Rybczynski in his biography of Olmsted, A Clearing in the Distance, notes that Olmsted was managing to save about $1,000 a year at the time.

The real estate Cleveland referred to was likely the two half-blocks of land northwest of the intersection of West 44th Street and Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis.

H. W. S. Cleveland is listed as the owner of 4.7 acres on West 44th Street between Pleasant and Harriet in the upper left corner of this section of an 1892 plat map of Minneapolis. (John R. Borchert Map Library, University of Minnesota. Go to http://map.lib.umn.edu/collections/digitizedplatbooks/minn1892index.htm for the complete map.)

If you know anyone who lives in the southern halves of the 4300 blocks of Pleasant, Grand and Harriet, they live on land once owned by one of the most important people in the history of Minneapolis.

The Washburn Park neighborhood at the bottom of the map above, often called “Tangletown,”  was laid out  by Cleveland.

David C. Smith

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