Cleveland’s Connections

What brought H.W.S. Cleveland to Minneapolis as a guest lecturer in 1872 may have been his connection to a famous family.

William Merchant Richardson French. Carte de visite photo taken in 1864 when he graduated from Harvard University. A few years later he became Cleveland’s business partner in Chicago. (Personal collection of the author. It’s amazing what you can find on ebay.)

Find the complete story here, an article originally posted in 2011. Since that article was posted, I learned that William’s father, Henry, and Cleveland almost certainly knew each other before Cleveland took on the young engineer as a partner in Chicago. Henry and Horace had both written on the subject of irrigation and were both active in Massachusetts horticultural societies. Their paths would have crossed.

Cleveland later proposed a collaboration in a Minneapolis park with French’s older brother, the famous sculptor Daniel Chester French.

David C. Smith

2 comments so far

  1. Elsa Carpenter on

    Interesting article about the relationship of Cleveland, French, Olmsted and Folwell. You also wrote that the land for the Mpls. Inst. of Art was donated by Clinton Morrison. I thought the land on which Mia stands belongs to the Park Board. Because of that my husband Walter S. Carpenter as President of the Mpls. Park Board sat on the Board of Mia as an ex-officio member in the 1970’s. Did Morrison donate the land to the Park Board? Can you enlighten me and your readers? Elsa Carpenter

    • David C. Smith on

      You are correct, Elsa. Morrison donated the land to the Park Board. That eight-acre lot was once the home of Dorilus Morrison, Clinton’s father. The land donation was made specifically to be the site of an art museum. It was accompanied by state legislation authorizing the Park Board to levy property tax to support the museum. Among the plaques in the entryway that thank donors to the Mia is one that acknowledges the contributions of Minneapolis taxpayers. (The levy authority was extended to include all of Hennepin County in 1959.) That is why your husband, one of the giants of Minneapolis park history, sat on the board of what is now known as Mia.

      Did you also know that Dorilus Morrison Park, the park’s official name, and the art museum are the reason for I-35W taking a jog east as it approaches downtown Minneapolis from the south? The freeway enters Minneapolis from the south and takes one jog east to slip between Grass Lake and the Wood Lake/Richfield Lake wetlands, then turns north again before it hits Diamond Lake. The freeway then follows Stevens Avenue north; it was originally called the Stevens Avenue Expressway. But Stevens Avenue forms the western border of Dorilus Morrison Park. Had the freeway plowed straight on it would have taken out the art museum. So the freeway angles to the east before it enters downtown Minneapolis on Fifth Avenue South.


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