Timeless Quote, Ever-changing Parks

“The men and women of today who recall with lively joy the days when they played unwatched through the long summer days in meadow or woods or the old swimmin’ hole are likely to pity the youngsters of the present whose recreation is supervised and scheduled by grownups. For young dreamers with vigorous personalities there was something not to be duplicated in the lazy happiness of those days. But “other times, other customs.” City life of today is immeasurably more complicated: it has manifold possibilities for evil, numerous forces which make the child sophisticated before his time and which make a carefully planned constructive work necessary.”

The quote is from the Minneapolis Tribune, June 20 — 1920! Only 98 years ago. I first published it in these pages in 2010, but it’s worth another look. What a shock Instagram would be to the author of those lines.

I’ve reposted a few more older entries. Thanks to Chris for pointing out some dead links in my Lost Parks posts. I’m restoring those too.

On a personal note: Congratulations to long-time readers and park lovers Dick and Donna Smith on their 70th wedding anniversary last weekend.

In the year they were married, 1948:

  • The Park Board acquired Todd Park, Perkins Hill Park, Armatage Park and the Shingle Creek Valley north from Weber Park
  • Park Superintendent Charles Doell noted in his annual report that Minnehaha Creek was dry almost the entire year except for a short time in the spring, when water flow had been less than half of normal.
  • The Park Board formalized an agreement with the School Board, an effort led by Park Commissioner Maude Armatage, to jointly develop what became Waite Park and School and Armatage Park and School.
  • Park Board gardeners planted 3,613 perennials at the Kenwood Parkway Garden, which is now the southern end of the Sculpture Garden
  • The Auto Tourist Park near the river bluff in what is now the Waubun picnic area of Minnehaha Park hosted 3,010 travellers in 1,051 cars from 31 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Norway. There were 25 small cabins and a main lodge in the camp, which earned net income of $912.57 for the year
  • The most popular indoor activity sponsored by the recreation department that fall and winter was Women’s Bowling with more than 22,000 participants
  • A steep drop in attendance at swimming beaches in August resulted in a 20% decline for the summer. Doell speculated that fear created by a polio outbreak may have caused the drop
  • The wading pool at Van Cleve Park was filled
  • The first stop lights on Minnehaha Parkway were installed at Portland, Bloomington and Lyndale Avenues and on East Calhoun Boulevard at Lake Street.
  • Tenth Avenue South was vacated through Elliot Park to create a playground
  • A water line was installed to Eloise Butler Wild Flower Garden for use in “drouth” conditions
  • The first barge load of stone and sand from the US Army Engineers project to create an “Upper Harbor” was deposited along the west bank of the river downstream from Washington Avenue at the request of the park board as part of plans to create a scenic highway along the river
  • Most of Northeast Park was still occupied by the quonset huts of the veterans housing project, Theodore Wirth Park still extended a couple blocks west of Brownie Lake, and Parade Stadium hadn’t yet been built to be torn down.
  • A new  flagpole base, since replaced, was dedicated on Victory Memorial Drive
  • There were no freeways
  • Hubert Humphrey resigned as Mayor when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, which meant that he also left his ex-officio seat on the Park Board
  • The Park Board participated in the placement of a headstone marking the grave of landscape architect Horace William Shaler Cleveland at Lakewood Cemetery. Cleveland’s body had been interred in an unmarked grave next to his wife’s when he died in 1900.

David C. Smith


4 comments so far

  1. Rita Martinez on

    David thank you so much for your park history work. I enjoy reading your posts so much. What can you tell us about the anchor, flag pole and planting formerly by the intersection of E Calhoun Parkway & Lake? When was it installed? Why? Was there a dedication?
    With the redesign of the intersection it has been entirely removed which I regret. Thank you so much!

    • David C. Smith on

      Thanks, Rita. I don’t have a handy record of recent developments ro plans for the Navy Memorial at Lake Calhoun, but I know how it got started. In 1922 a rock was placed at the northeast corner of Lake Calhoun as a memorial to Navy veterans. At that time, a veterans organization asked the US Navy if it would donate something as a memorial from the original cruiser USS MInneapolis, which had been commissioned in 1893 and scrapped in 1922. (Another USS Minneapolis was commissioned during WWII.) The US Navy donated the bell from the original Minneapolis. That bell was mounted on a simulated cedar mast at the lake for Memorial Day 1930. A bronze plaque was added in 1931 and in 1933 the Memorial grew with the addition of an auxiliary wheel from the battleship USS Minnesota. The wheel was stolen in 1968 and again in 1975. Memorial Day observances were held at the site from 1922.

      If anyone knows the more recent history of the memorial I’d be happy to post it here. If not, I’ll try to look into more someday.

  2. Gail M Lofdahl on

    I grew up near 60th and Elliot Avenue South; I attended the dedication of Todd Park in 1963 (as an eight-year-old child). I can remember loads of fill dirt being dumped for years in the area that became the park. George Todd attended the dedication; even as a child I could see that he was very ill (with lung cancer). He died within months.

    My childhood home was built in 1941; my father told me that Portland Avenue couldn’t be completed between E. 56th and E. 57th until pilings were driven so that the swamp could support a road.

    • David C. Smith on

      Thanks for your observations, Gail. In the fifteen years between acquisition and naming for George Todd, when the land was being filled, the property was usually referred to as Diamond Lake East.

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