New Names for Minneapolis Parks

Naming the meadow at Riverside Park in honor of Annie Young was a very nice gesture by the Minneapolis park board — and appropriate — although it was approved with contempt for board rules and public input, the type of thing you wouldn’t expect from commissioners who seemed to think during the last campaign that they invented the notion that parks are for people. (Those same commissioners, by the way, utterly trashed Annie’s achievements as a commissioner by trying to portray past boards as evil polluters and themselves as eco-saviors. If you will recall, Annie herself did not endorse the present board leadership during the 2017 election, I suspect at least in part, because of their apparent disrespect for her.)

I would not be in favor, however, of changing the name of Riverside Park to include Annie Young’s name. Riverside Park was one of the first four neighborhood parks acquired by the first park board when it was created in 1883. Along with Logan (originally Washburn) Park in northeast, Farview (originally Prospect) Park in north Minneapolis and Loring (originally Central) Park in the southwest, Riverside Park was part of the original plan to give each quadrant of the city a neighborhood park. Among those four original parks, Riverside is the only one that has had only one name. It is the oldest park name in the Minneapolis park system and should remain as it has for almost 135 years.

While contemplating the topic of park names I have gone back and reposted several earlier articles I had written about park names, part of my continuing effort to update this site.

All the names in Minneapolis parks. All 132 names in Minneapolis parks that refer to a person. Now the count grows to 133 with the naming of the meadow at Riverside park for Annie Young.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I wrote about the original name change from Nicollet Field to Dr. Martin Luther King Park following King’s assassination in 1968, an excellent decision even though it did require a suspension of the rules, too. Those were dramatic times. The name was subsequently modified again in 2010 to the present mouthful. I’ll give a dollar to anyone who pushed for that last name change who ever uses the full name. MLK is one of the few sets of initials in U.S. history that everyone knows along with FDR and JFK. Maybe LBJ. Men as big as King don’t need honorifics. Still, as a formality, I don’t object. It just seemed needless.

Tower Hill Park. The park is not named for the “Witch’s Hat” tower.

Bde Maka Ska. Some thoughts on the proposed name change for Lake Calhoun before it was passed.

H.W.S. Cleveland. I’ve posted three times —  first, second, third — about adding the name of Horace William Shaler Cleveland to our park system, preferably somewhere in the Mississippi River gorge, which he was so instrumental in preserving from destruction. The third link above celebrates the introduction of a resolution to the park board that set in motion adding Cleveland’s name to the west side of the river gorge. Unfortunately, that effort has stalled.

Perkins Hill Park. The park was not named for Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor. As a member of the cabinet, she was the first woman to be in the line of succession to the Presidency of the U.S. The Perkins name in Minneapolis came long before her tenure in Washington; it goes back to property owners in early Minneapolis.

Loring Park. The first park acquired by the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners was officially named Central Park. Loring Park was the third name given to the park.

The Commons. When I wrote about this donation of public land to the Minnesota Vikings — the park is reserved for private use about 20% of the time at essentially no cost — it was called The Yard. A short time after my post, the name was changed to The Commons. That makes me feel so much better about our city’s largesse to a private business to which we had already donated hundreds of millions. Oh, I almost forgot, we got the Super Bowl for it — with lots of events we couldn’t get into. So much fun.

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.

These are just a few of past entries on this site that dealt with park names. I will be reposting many more articles in the near future.

David C. Smith



3 comments so far

  1. Dean D Campbell on

    Speaking of Riverside Park, the soccer field there appears to have been used as early as 1922. Have you encountered any other information about soccer in your Minneapolis Parks research?

    • David C. Smith on

      I have not researched when soccer fields were first provided, Dean, but I suspect it was at least that early. I’m sure the annual reports, which included reports from the recreation directors from 1907 on, would have that information. Next time I get a chance I’ll look.

  2. Connie Sullivan on

    Bracingly tart, David! Bravo! Sometimes we need to have this kind of blunt comments so we don’t get awash in political goo-gah.

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