Archive for the ‘Landscape Architects’ Category

More Horace W. S. Cleveland: A Bit of Oak Lake and More of Kenwood Parkway

Since I wrote about Oak Lake and speculated whether Samuel Gale might have hired Horace Cleveland to lay out his Oak Lake Addition to Minneapolis — it had the look of Cleveland’s work — I have been digging through notes to see if I could find a connection between the two men. I couldn’t find anything that put the two of them together in 1873 when Gale was platting Oak Lake, but I did find two interesting pieces of paper linking Cleveland with Oak Lake and with Gale in 1886.

One connection between Cleveland and Gale in 1886 comes from the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers at the Library of Congress. Continue reading

Horace Cleveland Hated Rectangles

Oak Lake Addition was a rare real estate development in Minneapolis because the streets followed the contour of the land instead of a grid pattern. While I’ve found no evidence of who was responsible for the layout of the addition in 1873, it is reminiscent of Horace Cleveland’s work in St. Anthony Park for William Marshall at about the same time and later in Washburn Park or Tangletown near Minnehaha Creek. Although I find no reference to the project in Cleveland’s correspondence, it is plausible that he was involved in the layout of Oak Lake Addition.

Oak Lake Addition, platted in 1873. 1892 plat map (John R. Borchert Map Library, University of Minnesota)

Samuel Gale, the man who platted the Oak Lake Addition, had his hands in nearly everything in the young city: School Board, Athenaeum and Library Board, Academy of Natural Sciences, Society of Fine Arts, Board of Trade,  City Council, the public lecture series, he even sang in the city’s most celebrated quartet along with his brother, Harlow, and it was later claimed that although nearly everyone speculated in real estate in those days, he was the dean of realtors in the city. Given his wide interests and involvement in civic affairs, it would be incredible if Gale hadn’t been one of those who welcomed Horace Cleveland to the city during his first visits in 1872.

In July, 1873 Gale was the chair of the Board of Trade’s committee on parks, which reported that several “public-spirited citizens” planned to devote considerable time to the issue of parks with “Mr. Cleveland, well-known landscape gardener” before the next Board of Trade meeting. (Minneapolis Tribune, July 18, 1873.) I think it is safe to assume that Gale himself was one of those who planned to meet with Cleveland. So it appears almost certain that Gale and Cleveland knew each other and had likely discussed park issues before Gale produced his plat for the Oak Lake Addition.

Absent information on who designed Oak Lake Addition, it’s fun to speculate that Cleveland may have had a hand in it, or at least influenced it through the book he published in early 1873, Landscape Architecture as Applied to the Wants of the West. In his classic of landscape architecture, Cleveland expressed his distaste for the grid pattern of streets in so many cities, because it ignored “sanitary, economic and esthetic sense.”

Every Western traveller is familiar with the monotonous character of towns resulting from the endless repetition of the dreary uniformity of rectangles,” he wrote.

While he singled out western cities — it was his book’s theme — it takes only a glimpse of a map of Manhattan to know that rectangularism was not a sin peculiar to the frontier. For New York, however, it was already too late to do anything about that “dreary uniformity”; the West still had a chance to get it right. Cleveland added that “even when the site is level” the rectangular fashion of laying out cities “is on many accounts objectionable.”

He suggested that if blocks had to be rectangular at least they should be Continue reading

And the answer is….French

In a post on December 29, 2010 I asked how these two pictures were related to the creation of Minneapolis parks.

Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D. C. (Jeff Kubina)

Minute Man, Minute Man National Historical Park, Concord, Massachusetts

Nobody has come up with the right obscure answer! So I’ll tell you.

The photos are of the most famous works of American sculptor Daniel Chester French. (The best example of French’s work in Minneapolis is the statue of John Pillsbury at the University of Minnesota.)

Here is the connection — and the key word is “related”:

Daniel Chester French’s older brother was William Merchant Richardson French. That’s this guy:

William Merchant Richardson French (Louis Betts, Art Institute of Chicago)

(Their father was Henry Flagg French who was the number two man in the U. S. Treasury Department. For eight months in 1881 he worked under Secretary of the Treasury William Windom, a U. S. Senator from Minnesota who resigned his Senate seat to become Treasury Secretary for President James Garfield. After those eight months, Windom resigned at Treasury and was elected to fill his own open seat in the Senate. He served as Secretary of the Treasury again from 1888 until his death in 1891.)

The important connection of William French to Minneapolis parks is that after graduating from Harvard in 1864 and a year at MIT studying engineering he moved to Chicago and met a man in the new and unusual profession of landscape gardening. It’s not clear how it came about, but in 1870 William French became the partner of a man thirty years older than he was. That pioneering landscape architect was Horace Cleveland.

Of course, young William, who was eager I’m sure to earn his keep with his much more experienced partner, went through his list of connections to identify potential clients. He likely recognized that one name on his list might provide useful contacts in a young city west of Chicago, Minneapolis. That contact was his cousin, George Leonard Chase, who was rector at the episcopal church in the small town of St. Anthony, which was springing up beside the falls of that name. Now it just happened that Chase had married one of the Heywood girls, Mary. And that was a funny thing because Chase’s best friend married Sarah Heywood, Mary’s sister. He and his best friend had lived together while they were students at Hobart College in New York. In fact, Chase had apparently had some influence with the regents of the University of Minnesota when they were hiring the university’s first president in 1869. Chase’s friend and brother-in-law by marriage was hired for that job. His name was William Watts Folwell.

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The Case For Horace Cleveland’s Name on a River Gorge Park

“A continuous park…of such picturesque character as no art could create and no other city can possess.”

That is how Horace Cleveland described the park he imagined along the boulevard he recommended for the west bank of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. He went on to write in his Suggestions for a System of Parks and Parkways for the City of Minneapolis, which he presented to the first Minneapolis park board on June 2, 1883:

“The Mississippi River is not only the grand natural feature which gives character to your city and constitutes the main spring of prosperity, but it is the object of vital interest and center of attraction to intelligent visitors from every quarter of the globe, who associate such ideas of grandeur with its name as no human creation can excite. It is due therefore, to the sentiments of the civilized world, and equally in recognition of your own sense of the blessings it confers upon you, that it should be placed in a setting worthy of so priceless a jewel.”

Horace Cleveland had a special passion for the Mississippi River gorge. The banks of the river remain a beautiful and wild place thanks, in part, to his constant encouragement over nearly three decades for Minneapolis (St. Paul, too) to acquire the river banks downstream from St Anthony Falls to preserve them from ruin.

This photo of West River Parkway in about 1910 shows how wild the river banks were. The ruggged, wild banks of the river gorge, the only such place on the entire length of the Mississippi River, remain as beautiful today as during Horace Cleveland’s lifetime. (Hennepin County Public Library, Minneapolis Collection, M0129)

The park board finally acquired all the land along the west side of the gorge downriver from Riverside Park to Minnehaha Creek in 1902, more than a year after Cleveland’s death. Cleveland once said that he would feel that he “had not lived in vain” if the city would preserve the river bank in its natural state.

Cleveland wrote of the river banks:

“No artist who has any appreciation of natural beauty would presume to do more than touch with reverent hands the features whose charms suggest their own development. No plan for such work could be made.”

Cleveland not only appreciated the beauty of the river, but he foresaw that the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis would one day grow together. In his mind that probability made it even more important that the cities preserve some wild, natural places along the river that ran between them.

We should name a river gorge park for Cleveland just as a tribute to his descriptive powers, even if he hadn’t suggested, recommended, planned, cajoled, informed and educated a generation or two of the city’s leaders on land preservation and city building.

I believe the only name ever given to the land along the river was Mississippi Park. A bit plain. Winchell Trail and West River Parkway run through it, and those names can remain. It would cause no one any discomfort to officially name the rest of the west gorge for Cleveland. It’s not like renaming a street, which causes people to have to change their addresses and the city to put up new road signs. It’s just putting a name on a space that essentially has none now.

A marker or two along Winchell Trail and the parkway would suffice to let people know Horace Cleveland’s name. That couldn’t cost much. I’ll put up the first hundred bucks.

Horace Cleveland River Gorge Park. He’s why we have it, so let’s put his name on it. I think we owe him that.

David C. Smith

© David C. Smith

Horace Cleveland River Gorge Park: We need the man’s name on our map

Folwell Junior High School is no longer, but we still have Folwell Park in north Minneapolis and Folwell Hall at the University of Minnesota. The building at the university won’t last forever, but the park should, so people will have reason to remember William Watts Folwell even if they never see scribblings such as this or City of Parks. Many other heroes of our park development are remembered in park names, too: Loring, Berry, Morrison, King, Beard, Wirth, Gross, Bossen, Armatage.

Not so for Horace William Shaler Cleveland who played such an important role in the creation of the Minneapolis park system. His name is nowhere in this city. While I’m quoting Folwell today, there’s this from the close of his President’s Address in the 1895 annual report of the Minneapois Board of Park Commissioners:

“Although still in the land of the living, no further service can be expected of Mr. H. W. S. Cleveland, disabled as he is by the infirmities incident to his advanced age. Our city may count itself fortunate to have had his assistance in the original development of plark plans, and in the later execution of them in part. In some proper way his name should be perpetuated in connection with our park system.

That is as true today as it was 115 years ago. We need Horace Cleveland’s name on Minneapolis maps.

My recommendation: everything between West River Parkway and the Mississippi River, from the mouth of Minnehaha Creek to Riverside Park, should become “Horace Cleveland River Gorge Park.” He loved most of all the river gorge and never stopped fighting for its acquisition as parkland, something that wasn’t accomplished until after his death. The west river bank is really known only as that; it doesn’t have a real name anyway. So why not put Cleveland’s name on it? No one has to call it that, I don’t care, just print it on the map so people don’t forget. It seems a little thing to do for a man who did so much for you and me.

I’m looking at you, park commissioners.

Horace Cleveland proposed this system of parks and parkways in 1883. I think it merits his name on a bit of the park system he suggested. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

David C. Smith

Was landscape architect Warren Manning the first to propose a public golf course in a Minneapolis park?

Under the headline “Fine Park Is Assured”, the Minneapolis Tribune ran a story on November 15, 1903 that contained details I had never seen on plans for a golf course and baseball field in a Minneapolis park. The basic facts of the article are well-known: Thomas Lowry, along with William Dunwoody and Seurity Bank, offered to donate land at the foot of Lowry Hill for what eventually became The Parade.

What was new (to me) in the story was that when Lowry submitted his proposal to donate land down the hill from his mansion he also submitted designs for the park. The plans were prepared by well-known landscape architect Warren Manning at Lowry’s request. Lowry also offered to foot the cost of implementing Manning’s plan. Lowry eventually did donate thousands of dollars to help the park board convert the land to a park, but Manning’s plans were never mentioned in park board records.

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Frederick Law Olmsted and Minneapolis Parks

How many Minneapolis parks did Frederick Law Olmsted design? How about his sons, Junior and JC? I believe the grand total is zero.

Some people have a mistaken notion that Olmsted, the godfather of American parks, played a role in the creation of Minneapolis parks. The impression was created in part by a letter Olmsted wrote to the Minneapolis park board in 1886 and by claims that Olmsted designed the grounds around William Washburn’s mansion Fair Oaks, which later became Washburn Fair Oaks Park.

A city claiming that Olmsted designed a park is akin to an inn in the East declaring “George Washington slept here.” A quick way to impress. The difference is that exhaustive records and correspondence document what Olmsted actually did, while there is little proof of where George laid his wooden teeth on any given night.

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