Hall’s Island and a Baseball Field?
Some of our readers must have played here — the baseball fields next to Scherer Brothers lumber yard in northeast Minneapolis between Marshall Avenue and the Mississippi River in the 1950s. I’ve never heard anything about those fields — which are now Graco parking lots — but they’re hard to miss in this photo. Who owned or maintained the fields — dugouts and all? Who played there? Do you have memories of these fields on Sibley Street?
I’ve never seen mention of the property in park board records, so I’m sure they didn’t belong to the park board. The nearest park board ball fields would have been almost a mile away at Logan Park. Diamonds at Bottineau Field were a bit farther away to the north. Dickman Park was the nearest park, but it had only recently been acquired and hadn’t been developed yet in 1955 — and wasn’t big enough for a full baseball field anyway.
The picture is one in a series of aerial photos of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis taken in 1955 by Fairchild Aerial Surveys. The photos were recently discovered in city archives and park planner Andrew Caddock shared them with me. I’ll be posting more information on them as time allows.
Halls’ Island appears in this photo probably much as it did in the mid-1960s when Scherer Brothers acquired it from the city and filled in the eastern channel to expand its yard. (I posted a history of Hall’s Island a few months ago.) The Minneapolis park board acquired much of the land from Scherer Brothers in early 2010.
Preliminary plans for the Scherer property, proposed by Tom Leader Studio/Kennedy & Violich Architecture, winners of the 2011 Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition, would dredge again the eastern channel and make a beach and kayak cove there and build a swimming pool/skating rink on the recreated Hall’s Island. (Among other things — I hope. Swimming and ice-skating opportunities are not a particular novelty in Minneapolis, where swimming in the Mississippi was abandoned nearly 100 years ago at the same location and park board ice-skating rinks throughout the city are strikingly under-used. I look forward to seeing more imaginative final designs for our $1.5 million cost to date.)
Some people have questioned why the park board didn’t develop parks along the river in north and northeast Minneapolis sooner. Another Fairchild Aerial photo from the same series as the one above — of nearly the same location — provides an answer. Railroads dominated the riverscape.
The history of park planning for the river upstream from St. Anthony Falls began more than 100 years ago. I’ll get to that story later this week.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com