Sharing Streets: An Old Discussion

The lively continuting discussion of the use of Minneapolis streets and parkways by bicycles, pedestrians and cars reminds me of something I wrote on these pages about six years ago.

That post—100 Years of Engines, Wheels and Metropolitan Parks—addressed the coming of cars to Minneapolis parkways and the increasing importance of automobiles, with a comment on bicyles and horses on parkways, too.

Lake Harriet Bicycle Path 1896

This is one of my favorite park photos. It shows bicycle paths around Lake Harriet in 1896. Notice that the layout of walking path, bicycle path and carriage way, there were no cars yet, is almost identical to today. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

I regret that we don’t have the “Greater Grand Rounds” that Edmund Phelps (for whom Phelps Park was named) and many others advocated in the early 1900s—one long parkway from White Bear Lake to Lake Minnetonka and along the Minnesota River as well as the Mississippi. Still, what we have is not bad.

David C. Smith


7 comments so far

  1. Steven James Ruce on

    Just wondering, is the Edmund Phelps mentioned in the piece the same person who attended Yale for Landscape Architecture, opening for business in 1929, and working for many blue bloods and estates around Lake Minnetonka until the early 1970s? The chronology doesn’t seem correct to be that person, so perhaps he was a relative….?

    • David C. Smith on

      I’m guessing the Phelps I quoted was the father or grandfather of the one you mention, but I don’t know for sure. The Edmund Phelps who was a park commissioner from 1905-1923 and president of the board 1912-1914 died in 1923. He had been a business partner of Minneapolis’s famous interior designer John Scott Bradstreet in the late 1870s. Bradstreet later created the internationally famous Craftshouse workroom and showroom in downtown Minneapolis. I’ve always assumed Phelps Bay and Phelps Island in Lake Minnetonka were named for the same Edmund Phelps, but I could be corrected on that score.

      • Steven James Ruce on

        Thank you, David, for the clarification.

  2. Cathy Maloney Bailey on

    Reply #3…….Bde Maka Ska!!!!!!!

    • David C. Smith on

      No worries. I suspect many of us will stumble a bit on the new name for awhile. As for your comment on a “groomed” look at then Lake Calhoun, many people at that time, including park superintendent Theodore Wirth, preferred neatly mowed grass right to the water line.

  3. Cathy Maloney Bailey on

    My Great Uncle Mort and Great Aunt Ethel Smith raised their family in one of the beautiful homes along the lake in the early 1900’s. They were one of the folks who worked hard to protect the lake and keep it as natural as possible. I have always had a warm feeling when driving or walking around the lake and been thankful for that work. Lake Calhoun (now Boe Mtka Ska) had a much more Victorian groomed look.

    • Cathy Maloney Bailey on

      Whoops….should have checked my work….Lake Boe Maka Ska!!! Even our computers don’t want to type that lovely name out!!!

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