Archive for the ‘Loring Park’ Category
A comment received today from Joan Pudvan on the “David C. Smith” page made me think of some little known facts in Minneapolis park history. So here’s your park trivia fix for today.
Joan asked if Loring Park was once named Central Park? Joan is a post card collector and has seen many post cards from the early 1900s labelled “Central Park.” Those cards feature images of what we know is Loring Park, so the answer to Joan is, “Yes.” When did the name change?
Central Park officially became Loring Park in 1890 when the park board’s first president, Charles Loring, was leaving the board. He, along with every other Republican on the Minneapolis ballot that year, had been defeated at the polls in a shift of political power. At the end of Loring’s tenure, his friend and fellow park advocate, William Folwell, proposed renaming Central Park for the man who had helped create it, and had even supervised much of the landscaping in the park (to H.W.S. Cleveland’s design). Loring said he would prefer that the park be named Hennepin Park for its location on that avenue, but the rest of the board agreed with Folwell that Loring should be honored. So the name was changed, a fact that the post card publishers hadn’t caught up with as many as ten or fifteen years later.
Loring was not, however, the first person to have a Minneapolis park named for him. That distinction goes to Jacob Elliot who, in 1883, donated his former garden to the city as Elliot Park. Elliot had been a prominent doctor in Minneapolis who had retired to Santa Monica, California. The handwritten document (as all were at that time) donating the land to the city as a park — recently discovered in a park board correspondence file — was signed by Wyman Elliot as the attorney-in-fact of his father Jacob Elliot. Wyman Elliot later became a park commissioner himself, when he was elected to fill out Portius Deming’s term from 1899-1901 after Deming was elected to the Minnesota legislature.
In the document that officially donated the land, the most interesting paragraph required the creation, within 18 months, of a fountain in the park with a reservoir “of oval shape” with a diameter of at least 50 feet.
Additional recently found correspondence sought Dr. Elliot’s approval for the plaque he had specified.
One other bit of naming trivia before we get to the other name for Central/Loring Park. In 1891, Judson Cross, one of the first 12 appointed park commissioners, wrote to the park board suggesting that the pond in Loring Park be named Wilson Pond for Eugene M. Wilson, one of the first and greatest park commissioners. He also served as the board’s attorney in the 1880s. He had also been elected to Congress and as Mayor of Minneapolis twice. He died at age 56 in 1890 in the Bahamas where he had gone to try to regain his health. Cross claimed that the name was appropriate because Wilson had been the strongest advocate of securing the land surrounding what had once been Johnson’s Pond for the park that became Central Park. Wilson may have played one of the most important roles in creating a park system in Minneapolis because he was one of the most prominent Democrats to strongly favor the creation of the park board. Without Wilson’s influence among Democrats, many of whom opposed the Park Act — the Republican Party supported it — Minneapolis voters may not have passed the act in the April 1883 referendum.
The board did not add Wilson’s name to Loring Park, but it did rename nearby Hawthorne Square, Wilson Park — which was particularly appropriate because Eugene Wilson’s home faced that park. Unfortunately, the park was wiped out for the construction of I-94 in 1967, so we have been without Wilson’s name in our park system for nearly 50 years.
The other name by which Central and Loring Park was known lasted only a month. In 1885, the park board voted to name the park Spring Grove Park. Without much explanation, but apparently in the face of considerable opposition, the park board backtracked to Central Park a month later.
So…Central Park, Spring Grove Park, Loring Park. I think the park board ended up in the right place.
One among many reasons for that opinion is another historical document rediscovered in the last few months: a letter from Charles Loring to the board from which the excerpt below was taken. In the letter, Loring proposes to create a Memorial Drive, a tribute to fallen American soldiers, as part of the Grand Rounds. The result was Victory Memorial Drive.
Without any such intention when I started writing this, I have highlighted the incredible time and resources that have been donated to the Minneapolis park system. Loring, Elliot, Wilson: all people who shared a commitment to parks and were willing to give time, money and land to the city to realize their visions of what city life should be. Their example is particularly significant now as park leaders are trying to raise funds for new park developments downtown, along the river, and in north and northeast Minneapolis. Not a bad way to be remembered.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
If you have read my history of the Minneapolis park system, City of Parks, you may recall that Charles Loring’s efforts to acquire land around lakes Harriet, Isles and Calhoun remain a subject of speculation. No one has ever found a clear strategy or well-documented plan by Loring, the first president of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners, to acquire the lakes, even though he spent the better part of several years in getting those complicated real estate deals done. I focused mostly on Loring’s desire to create a parkway from Loring Park, then still called Central Park, around the lakes to Lake Harriet, which had been acquired already for the fledgling park board largely by gift. Even the generous gift of land around Lake Harriet by Henry Beard, James Merritt, Charles Reeve and, ultimately, William King, was prompted by the desire to have a parkway around the lake, which accounts for the limits of the original gift: a strip of land only 125 feet wide around Lake Harriet — just enough for a walking path, a carriage way and a few trees or flowers to dress it up.
A new discovery suggests, however, that Loring had much more in mind than parkways. As part of the ongoing project to inventory the park board’s historical records with the goal of making them more accessible to researchers, I recently found a letter written by Loring in 1886 that sheds more light on his thinking about the lakes.
The letter, dated June 14, 1886 and addressed to park board secretary Rufus Baldwin, discusses Loring’s views on what needs to be done to acquire land at Lake of the Isles. Loring notes that Alfred Dean, who owned much of the land that had to be crossed by a parkway at Lake of the Isles, had already told Loring he could do whatever he wished. Loring then wrote,
“My opinion is that we do not want the land on the outside, but do want it next the lake. As the plat now is, the boulevard goes around the little marsh thus.”
Loring then includes a small drawing.
He is very explicit, writing on the road next to the lake “This is what we want” and concluding bluntly, “We must control the lake.”
This evidence that Loring was thinking far beyond parkways is reinforced by the concluding page of his letter when he addresses a new topic: boats on Lake Harriet. He notes that a steamer has been placed on the lake and he has asked the owner to remove it, but adds that after talking with “Judge Fish” — park board attorney Daniel Fish — Loring doesn’t want legal questions raised yet about “rights on the water”. Clearly, Loring is thinking about park board control not just of boulevards around the lake, but activity on the lake as well. His earlier comment, “We must control the lake”, takes on even greater significance.
We may owe even more to Charles Loring and his vision than we previously knew.
While on the subject of Loring I want to mention a note I received a while ago from, William Scott, the great-great-nephew of Charles Loring’s second wife Florence Barton Loring. You can read more about his family’s relationship with the Bartons and Lorings in the “Comments” section here.
This is the carte de visite of Florence Barton that he refers to. Thanks to William Scott for sharing the photos below.
This must have been taken long before she married Charles Loring at age 45 in 1895. Read much more about Florence Barton Loring here.
William Scott also sent a photograph of family and friends at Minnehaha Falls in about 1910. Love those hats! The new bridge with the boulder face over a concrete structure was brand new in 1910. Appears to be a dry year.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
© 2016 David C. Smith
Minneapolis parks are home to few statues, but two of the people or characters memorialized by statues in parks were related in real life. Well, sort of. Maybe “connected” is a better word. Can you guess which two? And, no, it’s not Hiawatha and Minnehaha.
Here’s the complete list of park statues as they come to mind: Abraham Lincoln on Victory Memorial Drive, Ole Bull in Loring Park, Thomas Lowry in Smith Triangle, George Washington in Washburn Fair Oaks, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Longfellow Glen, and John Stevens, Hiawatha and Minnehaha, Gustav Wennerburg, and Taoyateduta at Minnehaha Park. We could add the Pioneers at the B. F. Nelson site, but they are anonymous figures.
The answer: Ole Bull’s brother-in-law, Joseph G. Thorp, the younger brother of Bull’s American wife, Sara Chapman Thorp, married Anne Allegra Longfellow, the youngest daughter of Henry in 1882. The marriage took place after Ole Bull’s death, so I’m not sure that such a bond actually makes Bull and Longfellow related, but Longfellow’s biographer Thomas Wentworth Higginson said the marriage “allied” the two families. Bull and Longfellow certainly would have known each other in the social/intellectual circles of Cambridge, Mass. Higginson suggests that Ole Bull was the model for the troubadour in Longfellow’s Tales of a Wayside Inn, which was published in 1863. Very few people recognize the book title, but many more are familiar with the most famous poem from the book, “Paul Revere’s Ride.”
The title of the volume of poetry mentioned above was recommended to Longfellow, according to Higginson, by another man who has a Minneapolis park named for him: Charles Sumner, the Massachusetts senator who was Longfellow’s best friend.
If you ever bothered to lay out the convoluted timeline of the above events you’d realize that it only works if Ole Bull was much older than Sara Thorp — which is true. He met the Wisconsin lumberman’s daughter after a performance in Madison, Wisconsin when he was 60 and she was 20. They married two years later.
This story was brought to mind by the discovery earlier this week of a cabinet photograph of Ole Bull among the possessions of my mother-in-law, Virginia Carpentier, who died two weeks ago. We will miss Ginny.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
© 2013 David C. Smith
This is the only music I know of based on a Minneapolis park and the landscape architect who designed it. Gregory Reese composed “Loring Park, Horace Cleveland” for McNally Smith College of Music Art-inspired Music Project. Very cool. Have a listen while you stroll through the park. Or find a favorite bench.
Know of other music based on Minneapolis parks? A playground or two must have shown up in some rock or rap lyrics, no? I recall a reference to Holmes playground in a song, but can’t remember the group.
David C. Smith, minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
After arriving in Minneapolis in September 1941, the first city park I became familiar with was Loring. I had come to enter nurse’s training at Eitel Hospital, and the park was right across the street. The park provided a beautiful view from patients’ rooms. It was also an oasis for student nurses, a place to relax in the summer or go skating on the lagoon in winter. Every nurse who has graduated from Eitel would have special memories of Loring Park.
The park looked different back in the forties. Old, tall trees grew along the edge of the lagoon. Now they are gone and tall grasses grow at the edge of the water. Bright red cannas blossomed in flower beds on the west side of the park. Now, “Friends of Loring” have created a large round garden on the northwest side called “Garden of the Seasons.” A variety of trees and flowers are in the center with benches and a brick path around it. Bricks can be donated in honor or memory of someone. A brick on the east side reads: “Eitel Hospital Nursing School — Class of 1944,” given in tribute to classmates, many of whom had served in the Army Nurse Corps in World War II.
In later years, my family and I enjoyed picnics at Minnehaha Park and viewing the beautiful Falls. Performances by the Aqua Follies at Theodore Wirth Park, and pop concerts at Lake Harriet on Sunday afternoons were great fun. My son as a teenager spent many winter evenings skating and playing hockey at McRae Park. On July 4th, we watched fireworks at Powderhorn Park. The park system provided something special for every season. My husband often said, “Minneapolis is the prettiest city I’ve ever seen.”
Editor’s note: For more photos of Eitel Hospital visit the Photo Collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.
If you have a Minneapolis Park Memory, send it to minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com. If you have a digital photo to accompany your memory, we’d love to see it.