Arts and Parks: Part II

Another of my favorite recent photo finds is a good intro to my next speaking engagement on Minneapolis park history this Saturday.

I recently found this photo of the Washburn Fair Oaks mansion built by William Washburn in 1883.


Washburn Fair Oaks mansion, probably in the 1880s. Looking west across Third Avenue South in foreground. (W.S. Zinn)

Compare it to this photo taken two Sundays ago from about the same vantage point across Third Avenue South.

Washburn Fair Oaks from 3rd Ave.

Washburn Fair Oaks Park looking west across Third Avenue South.

Now turn about 90 degrees left and you get this image of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.


Minneapolis Institute of Arts looking southwest across Third Avenue South.

I’ll be talking about both parks and arts, and how many of the same people created Minneapolis’s parks and its art institutions at the Washburn Library on Lyndale Avenue, Saturday, November 21 at 10 a.m. My presentation is being hosted by the Minnesota Independent Scholars’ Forum, but the event is free and open to the public.

For more information visit here. Hope to see you Saturday.

If you want to know more about the landscaping of the Washburn Fair Oaks grounds, you can begin here. Of course, the story features H.W.S. Cleveland.

David C. Smith


9 comments so far

  1. Janet Bhagat on

    Penny, I found your question very interesting as my great-aunt Johanne Brecke Stroud was also a cook for the Washburns for many years. I would like to know when Augusta was working for them. I have been in touch with Kerck (Interesting book – not much on the servants) and he was unable to provide any other photos than what is in his book.

  2. Tom Balcom on

    That is a great photo, Dave, and I share your enthusiasm for this place. It looks like the photo was taken from the site of the Hennepin History Museum, before the George Christian residence/mansion was there. I’m sorry I missed your talk last Saturday. Do you have others coming up soon?


    • David C. Smith on

      Good to hear from you, Tom. You might be interested in a piece in the Star Tribune last week by Eric Roper about a Posterity Park proposed by Joseph Zalusky for the park in 1959.

      No talks scheduled at the moment but a few being discussed. I’ll post times farther in advance in future!

  3. Joan Pudvan on


    • David C. Smith on

      The building was demolished in 1924. It was huge and drafty and expensive to maintain and repair. The park board couldn’t afford to keep the building open. Too bad.

  4. C Luger on

     dear  david, whoa, very enlightening.   thanks. I will miss andrea greatly.   we worked on a number of citizen engagement projects over the years.    mpls.’ loss is Dakota county’s gain. best,Cheryl

    “I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.”                      — Jonathan Swift                          

    • David C. Smith on

      Hi Cheryl, glad you’re still reading along. Yes, we all wish Andrea the best and will miss her in Minneapolis. For those of you who don’t know, Andrea Webber was a landscape architect who worked in the planning section of the park board. She recently left MPRB for a job with Dakota County.

      • penny ricee on

        my grandfather, james mcclurg, was sen washburns personal aide and he traveled all over the world with the senator. also my grandmother was the cook, augusta mcclurg. would be so happy if i could get some information of his time with the senator pictures, photos of the inside rooms of washburns mansion, anything. can you help me or tell me who to contact. i will be 90 next july. penny rice.

      • David C. Smith on

        Thanks for your comment, Penny. I regret that I don’t have more information on Washburn or images of his mansion, Fair Oaks. I would think that the best resource would be author Kerck Kelsey who has written extensively about the Washburn family. You are likely familiar with his biography of William Washburn, Prairie Lightning. If other readers have suggestions for Penny, I’d be happy to post them.

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