Another Colorful Name Lost

The official record of the Minneapolis park board, the published “proceedings,” often don’t tell the whole story. Example: the proceedings of the park board meeting of June 6, 1910 record that the board voted that the “small lake in Glenwood Park between Western Avenue and Superior Avenue” be named “Birch Pond.” That’s been the name ever since.

What the official proceedings didn’t tell us I learned by accident while researching another issue. The June 7, 1910 Minneapolis Tribune noted the previous name of Birch Pond — the vastly more intriguing “Devil’s Glen.” I wonder how the little lake got that name.  Probably a good story. But I imagine it was more offensive to some people than a lake named for John C. Calhoun.

The pond was renamed as the parkway beside it was being built by a crew of forty railroad workers imported from Hungary. The previous year, scheduled construction at North Commons and East River Parkway was postponed due to a labor shortage in Minneapolis. The park board took no chance with its new parkway through what was then Glenwood Park, now Theodore Wirth Park, and imported the workers to build it.

David C. Smith


3 comments so far

  1. […] Gentrification. Inevitably names like Devil’s Glen in Glenwood (Wirth) Park were changed. Too bad. There must have been at least a story behind the old name; the new one — Birch Pond — tells none. The Devil had his name on several topographical features back in the day, including “Devil’s Backbone” for the ridge running southwest of downtown Minneapolis.  Lowry Hill was part of it. That hill used to be higher, but was cut down, in part, to create a more manageable grade for Hennepin Avenue. One of the last “mounds” to be cut down is where Thomas Lowry Park now stands. Maybe in that day, the Devil generated as much naming outrage as John C. Calhoun. […]

  2. Andrea W on

    I tihnk the pond was named the Devil’s Mirror before it became known as Birch Pond.

    • David C. Smith on

      I like “Mirror” even better. Thanks, Andrea. Do you know when that was used? I was relying on the Tribune reference to “Devil’s Glen” on June 7, 1910 and another on July 14, same year.

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