Bridges at Minnehaha Falls

The continuing Partners in Preservation voting on Facebook prompted me to look up information on the bridges over Minnehaha Creek below the falls that need restoration. Minnehaha Park is one of 25 contestants for a $125,000 grant from American Express to preserve local historical sites, another is Mill Ruins Park. The funds would be used at Minnehaha to tuck point and repair the WPA era bridges over Minnehaha Creek and retaining walls.

The first bridge to appear in photos of the falls on the Minnesota Historical Society Visual Database is this one that is catalogued as “ca. 1860.”

This is the earliest dated photo — ca. 1860 — of the bridge below Minnehaha Falls in the Minnesota Historical Society’s Visual Resources Database.

Of course that was long before the land surrounding the falls was acquired as a park. The Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners purchased the site as a state park in 1889 when the Minnesota legislature couldn’t come up with the $92,000 to buy the land. A group of private citizens, led by George Brackett, raised the money to purchase the land and was later repaid by the city. I have seen no evidence of who built or owned this bridge.

In 1893, four years after the park board purchased Minnehaha Park, it approved an expenditure of $250 to build two “rustic” bridges, one near the falls and another further downstream (Proceedings, June 19, 1893).

The park board built this “rustic” bridge in 1893. This photo was taken in 1896. (Minnesota Historical Society)

This is the bridge that resulted. In the MHS database, photos of this bridge are dated as early as ca. 1888, but all photos of this bridge had to be taken after 1893.

The 1910 stone arch bridge was actually made of reinforced concrete and given a facade of boulders found in the vicinity. (Minnesota Historical Society)

The next bridge was built by the park board in 1910 as noted in the park board’s 1910 annual report. The bridge was built of reinforced concrete and faced with boulders found in the park and surrounding area. A photo of the new bridge appeared in the 1910 annual report. In many photographs and postcards it was referred to as the “stone arch bridge.” This bridge was replaced in 1940 as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in the park.

The bridge was completed in 1940 as a WPA project. (Minneapolis Collection, Hennepin County Library)

The new bridge was made of concrete and faced with cut stone. (This photo is from the Minneapolis Collection at the Hennepin County Library, another priceless resource.) This is one of the five bridges that will be repaired and restored under the Partners in Preservation project.

To vote for Mill Ruins Park (educational archeological excavations of the mills that once stood beside the river) or Minnehaha Park go to Partners in Preservation on Facebook, “like” the page, then vote. (Voting continues only until October 12; you can vote once a day.) It’s a great opportunity to help Minneapolis parks get some funding that they might not get otherwise.

If you’re willing to share your photos of the bridge, send them to me at the address below.

David C. Smith


4 comments so far

  1. Melissa G on

    I love all of these images and the great history that goes along with them!

  2. […] more photos of 19th- and early 20th-Century bridges over Minnehaha Creek at Minnehaha Falls than the ones I’ve already posted. You can see those photos and more next Sunday, Feb. 10, at 2 pm at Hennepin History Museum. (Get […]

  3. postcardy on

    I just did a blog post with some of my postcards of the bridges.

    • David C. Smith on

      Thanks for the link. I look forward to seeing them.

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