Archive for the ‘Lost Minneapolis Parks’ Category

Lost Minneapolis Parks: Kenwood Triangle Photo Found

In a striking bit of good fortune, I found myself on an airplane last week with Rick Berglund. When Rick told me where he lived, I asked if he had ever seen a picture of Kenwood Triangle, which I had described in Lost Minneapolis Parks: Part II a few weeks ago. The triangle at the intersection of Penn and Oliver avenues next to Kenwood Park was paved over when Franklin Avenue was diverted slightly north in 1981 after Kenwood School was expanded. Rick told me that an old photo of his home included a view of Kenwood Triangle. He has generously shared a copy of the photo, which was taken in 1919.

Kenwood Triangle at the intersection of Penn and Oliver at Franklin next to Kenwood Park. (Lee Brothers, Rick Berglund.)

It was obviously not a triangle in which the park board invested much time, money or creativity. The overhead wire in the photo was likely for the trolley.

The most interesting revelation from my talk with Rick, however, was that he also has the original landscape designs for his property. The designs were created by Phelps Wyman in 1911. It must have been one of his earliest landscapes in Minneapolis. Wyman was the celebrated designer of Thomas Lowry Park and a Minneapolis park commissioner 1917-1924. (See also his marvelous, never-used plans for the Lyndale-Hennepin Bottleneck, Washburn Fair Oaks and Victory Memorial Drive.)

I suspect that many other photos of Minneapolis landmarks are stored away in files, vaults and boxes around town. If you have some, make copies and send them to us. We’ll post them here with attribution and any details you can provide.

David C. Smith

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Lost Minneapolis Parks: The Complete List, Part III

This is the third and final installment in a series on “Lost Parks” in Minneapolis. (If you missed them, here are Part I and Part II.) These are park properties that once existed, but did not survive as parks. There is a quiz question at the end of this article. It’s very hard.

St. Anthony Parkway (partial). In 1931, the park board swapped the recently completed portion of St. Anthony Parkway from the southern tip of Gross Golf Course to East Hennepin Avenue for the land on which Ridgway Parkway was built from the golf course to Stinson Parkway. The park board gained 19 acres of land in the deal and the entire cost of constructing Ridgway Parkway was also paid. This story of the parkway “diversion” will be told in greater detail some day. It was controversial. (Read the broad outlines of the diversion of St. Anthony Parkway.) Some people have claimed that the diversion of St. Anthony Parkway is one reason for the “Missing Link” in the Grand Rounds. But that link had gone missing long before the “diversion” and wouldn’t have been found with or without the diversion.

Sheridan Field. University Avenue NE and Twelfth Avenue NE,  1.25 acres. The park board purchased the half-block of land across the street from Sheridan School for $7,000 in 1912. At the park board’s request, Twelfth Avenue was vacated between the school and park. The new playground was provided with a backstop for a baseball field and a warming house for ice-skating, but few other improvements were made. In the early 1920s park superintendent Theodore Wirth urged the park board to either expand the playground or abandon it. He believed the site was too small. It was “inadequate,” he wrote, to provide for the “large attendance (it) constantly attracts.” In the 1924 annual report Wirth presented a plan for the enlargement and development of the park, but that was the last mention of the possibility of expanding the playground. A new, much larger Sheridan School was built on the site in 1932, and the following year the park board granted the school board permission to use the park as a playground for the school, provided that all maintenance and improvements would be the responsibility of the school board. It wasn’t until 1953 that the park board officially abandoned the site. In a land swap with the school board, the park board gave up the under-sized Sheridan Park for the site of the former Trudeau School at Ninth Avenue SE and Fourth Street SE. The park at the Trudeau site became Elwell Field II.

Small Triangle. Royalston Avenue in Oak Lake Addition, 0.01 acre. The triangle was never officially named; it was called “small” because it was. Very small. (See Oak Lake.)

John Pillsbury Snyder and Nelle Stevenson Snyder the day they reached New York after being rescued from the Titanic. (StarTribune and Phillip Weiss Auctions)

Snyder Triangle. Fifth Avenue South and Grant Street, 0.06 acre. Purchased by resolution January 15, 1916 for $4,578. The park board had considered and rejected buying the triangle in 1886. The park was named for Simon P. Snyder, a real estate agent who once owned much of the land in the area. As Patrick Dea pointed out in a comment several months ago, Simon Snyder’s grandson, John Pillsbury Snyder, was a 24-year-old first-class passenger on the maiden voyage of the Titanic in 1912. He and his bride, Nelle Stevenson, were returning from their honeymoon — and survived. The triangle named for his grandfather did not. It was lost to freeway construction for I-35W. A triangle park exists today very near the old location, but it’s not owned by the park board. In 1967 the park board offered to help the state highway department landscape the new triangle between I-35W entrance and exit ramps and 10th Street. The old Snyder Triangle appears to be partly under the Grant Park building on Grant Street. I have not found a record of the price the little triangle fetched.

Stevens Circle. Portland Avenue and 6th Avenue South, 0.06 acre. The small park was named for Col. John Stevens in 1893, but at that time it was named Stevens Place. The name was changed to Stevens Circle on August 1, 1928. From its acquisition in 1885 to 1893 the property was called Portland Avenue Triangle. It is not known if a change in the shape of the park prompted the name change from triangle to place to circle. The park was transferred to the park board from the city council in 1885 according to park inventory lists, although there is no record of the transfer in park board proceedings. The only indication of park board ownership of the triangle was an entry in the expenditures of the park board for 1885 for “Triangle, Portland Avenue and Grant Street” in the amount of $1.50. The triangle became the home of a statue of Col. Stevens in 1911. The circle was given back to the city for traffic purposes in 1935, at which time the statue of Col. Stevens was moved to Minnehaha Park and placed near the Stevens House.

Stinson Boulevard (partial). From East Hennepin to Highway 8. 24 acres. A section of the boulevard was given to the city in 1962 because functionally it was a business thoroughfare, not a parkway. The section given to the city included all of the original land donated for a boulevard by James Stinson et al in 1885. It’s good we still have some Stinson Parkway remaining, because as I explained in the history of Stinson Parkway on the park board’s website, I think Stinson Parkway helped keep alive the plans of Horace Cleveland for a parkway that encircled the city. Without Stinson’s generosity, we might not have the Grand Rounds today.

Svea Triangle. Riverside Avenue and South 8th Street, 0.09 acre. The first mention of the triangle is in the minutes of the park board’s meeting of May 3, 1890 when the board received a request that it improve the triangle. The problem was that the park board didn’t own it. So, on June 27, 1890 the city council voted to turn over the triangle to the park board. The land had been donated to the city in 1883 by Thomas Lowry and William McNair and their wives for park purposes. The triangle was reportedly named on December 27, 1893 to honor Swedish immigrants who had settled in the neighborhood. It had previously been known simply as Riverside Avenue Triangle. The triangle was traded to the city council in 2011 in exchange for a permanent easement between Xerxes Avenue North and the shore of Ryan Lake in the northwestern corner of Minneapolis. The city council requested the exchange when making improvements to Riverside Avenue. Svea Triangle is the most recent park lost.

Vineland Triangle. Vineland Place and Bryant Avenue South, 0.05 acre. Transferred to the park board from the city council, May 10, 1912. The triangle was paved over in a reconfiguration of the street past the Guthrie and Walker entrances in 1973, but remains on the park board’s inventory.

Virginia Triangle. Hennepin, Lyndale and Groveland avenues, 0.167 acre. The triangle was apparently named for the Virginia Apartments adjacent to the triangle. The triangle was traded to the park board by A. W. French and wife on January 1, 1900 in exchange for a piece of land they had originally donated for a parkway along Hennepin Avenue. The triangle was sold in 1966 to the Minnesota Highway Department to accommodate interchanges for I-94. The price tag was $24,300, plus the cost of relocating the Thomas Lowry Monument, which had stood on the triangle since 1915. Read much more about Virginia Triangle and the monument here.

Walton Triangle. No property by this name was ever listed in the park board inventory or Schedule of Parks, but was included in the 1915-1916 proceedings in a schedule of wages for park keepers. Walton Triangle was included with Virginia Triangle, Douglas Triangle and Lowry Triangle and other properties in that neighborhood as the responsibility of one parkkeeper. This mysterious property likely got its name from Edmund Walton, a well-known realtor and developer, who lived on Mount Curve Avenue near where this property must have been located.

This photo from the Brady-Handy Collection at the Library of Congress is almost certainly Eugene Wilson when he was a Congressman from Minnesota 1869-1871. The photo by Matthew Brady is identified only as Hon. [E or M] Wilson, but resembles very closely other images of Wilson.

Wilson Park. Hawthorne Avenue and 12th Street North, 1.13 acres. The property was named Hawthorne Park when it was turned over to the park board by the city council April 27, 1883. Hawthorne Park was purchased by the city in 1882 for $15,503, of which $6,737 was donated and the remainder assessed against property in the district by the city council. The name was changed in 1890 to honor Eugene Wilson shortly after his death. Wilson had been Mayor of Minneapolis, a congressman, a park commissioner and the park board’s first attorney. Wilson, one of the city’s leading Democrats, worked very closely with one of the city’s leading Republicans, Charles Loring, to secure the parkland we enjoy so much today. Good for them — and us. That’s the way government is supposed to work. Wilson Park was sold to the Minnesota Highway Department after a long fight in 1970.  The exit ramps from I-94/394 into downtown behind the Basilica now pass over the lost park. Too bad we lost Eugene Wilson’s name in Minneapolis along with the park. He was one of the good guys.

Other Losses to Freeways and Highways.

In addition to the parks listed above, the following Minneapolis parks were trimmed by construction of freeways:

  • I-94: Luxton, Riverside, Murphy Square, Franklin Steele Square, The Parade, Perkins Hill, and North Mississippi, as well as easements for bridges over East and West River Parkway.
  • I-35W: Dr. Martin Luther King, Ridgway Parkway, Francis Gross Golf Course. The highway department also acquired an easement from the park board to build a bridge over Minnehaha Creek.
  • I-394: Theodore Wirth Park, Bryn Mawr, The Parade
  • Hwy 55: Longfellow Gardens

I’ve only included properties that were officially acquired or improved, then later disposed of for some reason. The informal parks and playgrounds in empty lots that existed in many neighborhoods, but were never owned or improved by the park board, are not included. I’ve also left out small pieces of a few parks that were sold for various reasons over the years, other than those taken for highways.

If you can add to or correct this list, please let me know. Do you remember anything about any of these former parks? If you do, please send me a note so we can preserve something of them.

TRIVIA TEST. Here’s the Ph.D.-level park quiz question inspired by one of these entries.  Two people had two completely different stretches of parkway named for them. One of those people was St. Anthony. (You could argue the parkways were named for the town, not the man, but this is my quiz.) The first parkway named for St. Anthony is now officially East River Parkway. Later the name was given to the parkway across northeast Minneapolis. Name the other person who had two different parkways named for him. Only one of them still has his name.

David C. Smith

© David C. Smith

Lost Minneapolis Parks: The Complete List, Part II

This is Part II — H-R — of an alphabetical list of “lost” Minneapolis parks. These are park properties that were officially acquired or improved by the park board, but then were sold or given away. (If you missed  Part I — A-G — click here.)

Hennepin Avenue South. 17.5 acres. The main parkway link from the city — Loring Park — to Lake Harriet was supposed to be Hennepin Avenue.  The park board spent considerable effort and money to establish Hennepin Avenue as a parkway, beginning in 1884, but it was too heavily used as a commercial route and thoroughfare to be the beautiful and tranquil parkway the park board desired. Instead, Charles Loring created a route to Lake Harriet out Kenwood Parkway, then around Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun, an integral part of what would become the Grand Rounds. The park board returned ownership of Hennepin Avenue South, from Lyndale to Lake Street, to the city in 1905. I’ll write more of the Hennepin Parkway story eventually.

Hiawatha Triangle. Minnehaha Avenue and East 32nd Street, 0.5 acre. Purchased September 6, 1910 for $2,975. In 1960, the City Planning Commission informed the park board that the triangle was to be rezoned, probably as residential. I don’t know if that played a role in the subsequent sale of the property. On September 7, 1960 the park board accepted bids on several parcels of land, including an oral bid by Lawrence Hauge of $35,500 for  Hiawatha Triangle, or Lots 1-4 of Block 7, Rollins Addition. Hauge’s bid was accepted. He purchased the land for what became McDivitt-Hauge Funeral Home.

Highland Oval. Highland Avenue in Oak Lake Addition, 0.058 acre. (See Oak Lake.)

Hillside Triangle. Hillside Avenue and Logan Avenue North, 0.6 acre. Transferred from the city council September 20, 1892. The park board granted a request from the school board to use the triangle as a playground for Lowell School in 1921. Title for the land was transferred to the school board in 1953. Lowell School closed in 1974. Houses were built on the former triangle and school site.

Iagoo Triangle. Hiawatha Avenue and East 45th Street, 0.05 acres. Donated to the park board by William Adams and wife, March 17, 1886, along with Osseo Triangle. The triangle was named for the story-teller in Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha. Sold to the Minnesota highway department in 1966 for the proposed Highway 55 freeway. The purchase price is not contained in park board records.

Kenwood Triangle. Penn Avenue South, Oliver Avenue South and West Franklin Avenue, 0.02 acre. Transferred from the city council to the park board June 3, 1907 when Kenwood Park was acquired. This is another triangle still on park board books, but listed as “paved.” The traffic intersection was altered in 1981, when the park board and school board collaborated on the construction of the recreation center attached to Kenwood School.

Lakeside Oval. Lakeside Avenue in Oak Lake Addition, 0.32 acre. (See Oak Lake.)

LaSalle Triangle. LaSalle Avenue and 13th Street South, 0.05 acre. Transferred to the park board from the city council June 7, 1922. The triangle was returned to the city in 1976 as a part of street reconfiguration.

Longfellow Field I. Minnehaha Avenue and East 26th Street, 4 acres. Purchased in 1911 for about $7,000. Sold in 1917 for $35,000. That’s only the beginning of the story. Read the rest and see more photos here.

The playground at the first, “lost” Longfellow Field in 1912. (Minneapolis Collection, Hennepin County Library)

Lowry Triangle. Hennepin, Lyndale and Vineland Place, 0.16 acre. Transferred from the city council November 28, 1891. Lost to I-94 in 1964. See much more detail here. The highway department’s initial offer of $1,500 for the triangle was rejected by the park board and the board instructed its attorney to oppose that valuation in court. By September 1967 the offer for the triangle had increased to $5,000 and the park board still wasn’t biting. Park board proceedings and annual reports never reported the final sale price of the property. Someday I’ll look through Hennepin County records to see what I can find.

Lyndale Avenue North. 16.65 acres. Lyndale Avenue North was intended to be the primary parkway into North Minneapolis in what later became known as the Grand Rounds. It was too much a commercial avenue ever to serve the purpose of a parkway connecting Loring Park to Farview Park, however. After twenty years of trying to make it a parkway between Western (Glenwood) Avenue and 29th Avenue North, the park board gave up and turned it over to the city to maintain as an ordinary street in 1905. The park board abandoned Hennepin Avenue South at the same time.

Lyndale Farmstead (partial). The half-block south of West 40th Street between King’s Highway and Colfax Avenue, 1.78 acres. Acquired from James J. Hill and Thomas Lowry in 1909 as part of the land donated for a superintendent’s house. Theodore Wirth  recommended selling the land in the 1912 Annual Report and using the proceeds to build a laundry at the Lyndale Farmstead shops for washing the napkins and table cloths from park refectories, and towels and swimming suits from the bath houses. Other uses were later proposed for revenue from the sale of the 14 lots platted there. In 1922 the board decided to sell the lots, asserting that no park use was ever intended for that land. All of the lots were sold by 1925. Annual report figures for those years only show revenue of $17,155 from land sales, but that likely understates total revenue as the lowest listed sale price I can find for any single lot was $1,750. All revenues from sales went into a fund for the operation and improvement of Lyndale Farmstead. Curiously, in the midst of the sale of those lots, Wirth published a plan for the improvement of Lyndale Farmstead in the 1924 Annual Report that included building four tennis courts at the corner of King’s Highway and West 40th St.

Market Square. Main Street and today’s Central Avenue. Transferred to the park board April 27, 1883. The city council had acquired the land in exchange for the assistance it had provided in constructing a dam to protect St. Anthony Falls. On January 22, 1886 the city council voted to cede the land to the Minnesota Industrial Exposition as part of the ground to be used for an Industrial Exposition Building.

Midway Triangle. University Avenue and Bedford Street SE, 0.03 acre. Acquired from the city council, October 1, 1919. The park board noted at its meeting November 1, 1944 that the triangle had already been paved over as part of the widening of University Avenue and, therefore, transferred title back to the city council. See more detail on this and other Prospect Park triangles here.

Mississippi Park. Land was lost on both sides of the Mississippi River when the Meeker Island Dam and later the Ford Dam were built. The park board also lost several islands in the river, including Meeker Island, which were submerged in the reservoirs behind the dams. The story of the construction of the dams and their impact on Minneapolis parks deserves more detail than I can give it here. The west side of the river gorge from Franklin Avenue to Minnehaha Park should be named for Horace William Shaler Cleveland, the man who did so much to ensure that the river banks became a park.

Oak Lake. Lakeside and Border avenues in Oak Lake Addition, 1.33 acres. Oak Lake and other parks in the Oak Lake Addition — Highland Oval, Lakeside Oval, Royalston Triangle and Small Triangle — were donated as parks in the original plat of Oak Lake Addition by Samuel C. Gale et al., October 22, 1873. The Farmers’ Market on Lyndale sits on what was once the first Minneapolis lake to become a park. (The story of the little lake and Oak Lake Addition is fascinating. I’ll re-post it someday soon.)

Oak Street Triangle. Officially part of East River Parkway at Oak Street, but known as Oak Street Triangle. Sold to U of M in 1961 for a price that is not recorded in park board records.

Osseo Triangle. Hiawatha Avenue and East 46th Street, 0.03 acres. Donated by William Adams and wife, March 17, 1886 along with Iagoo Triangle. In keeping with the Longfellow theme in the neighborhood named for him, the triangle was named for another character in The Song of Hiawatha; Osseo was the Son of the Evening Star. Sold to Minnesota Highway Department for Highway 55 freeway in 1966 for an unknown price.

The dedication of Pioneers Square in front of the post office was held November 13, 1936 to honor, Charles M. Loring, the “Father of Minneapolis Parks.” It would have been his 103rd birthday.(Minnesota Historical Society)

Pioneers Square. Marquette Avenue and Second Street South, across from the post office, 2.5 acres. The land was purchased and developed by the park board at the request of the city council. The U. S. Postal Service wanted to construct a new post office in downtown Minneapolis, but insisted that it be set in attractive environs, a park. The park board rejected the plan of the city council to assess the nearly half-million dollar cost of acquisition, demolition and improvement mostly on the surrounding property owners at the onset of the Great Depression in 1930. The park board finally agreed to the deal in 1932 when the city council authorized $320,000 in bonds to cover about 80 percent of the cost of the land. The remaining costs were assessed on property owners.

The Pioneers Statue being assembled in front of the new post office.

The new post office and Pioneers Square — and The Gateway, a couple blocks west — did not lead to urban renewal in the area. (With the snow melt at the end of the winter of 1953, maintenance crews picked up 70 bushel baskets of empty wine and whiskey bottles from The Gateway. One Monday morning in the summer of 1953, crews picked up 62 empty wine and whiskey bottles from the grass at Pioneers Square. [Charles E. Doell Papers, Hennepin History Library]) The city condemned Pioneers Square and The Gateway in 1960 in a new round of urban renewal. The Pioneers Monument was moved to a small triangle in northeast Minneapolis in 1967, which the city sold to the park board for a dollar. The statue was moved across Marshall Avenue to the B. F. Nelson park site in 2011.

Rauen Triangle. Eleventh Avenue North and Fifth Street, 0.027 acre. Purchased in 1890. Turned over to the city in 1939. (See more of the story and photos here.)

Royalston Triangle. Royalston Avenue and 6th Avenue North in Oak Lake Addition, 0.20 acre. (See Oak Lake.)

I’ll post Lost Minneapolis Parks: The Complete List, Part III soon.

Do you remember anything about any of these former parks? If you do, send me a note so we can preserve some recollection of them.

David C. Smith

© David C. Smith

Lost Minneapolis Parks: The Complete List, Part I

I’ve written about several parks in Minneapolis that are no more. Since then I’ve been asked if there is a list of those “lost” parks. The short answer is, “Not until now.” Here’s the first part of an alphabetical list I’ve compiled from park board proceedings and annual reports.

19th Avenue South and South 1st Street. 1.0 acre. The park board’s 1948 annual report noted that the site near Seven Corners had been graded and frames had been installed for swings, teeter-totters and slides for small children. The plan was to complete the playground in 1949. This parcel was leased specifically for use as a playground. I don’t know the terms of the lease, but it was still included in park inventory as leased land in the 1964 annual report. The U of M’s West Bank softball fields are now near the site. 19th Avenue South at that point is the approach to the 10th Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River.

Bassett Triangle. 7th Avenue North and 7th Street North, 0.03 acre. Acquired from the city council December 3, 1924. Returned to the city council in 1968, after the board hired appraisers in 1967 to try to sell the property. The site is now occupied by a Wells Fargo Bank. The property was named for Joel Bean Bassett, who owned much of the land in the vicinity in the 1800s. Bassett’s Creek, underground not far away, is also named for him.

Bedford Triangle. Orlin Avenue SE and Bedford Avenue SE, 0.01 acre. This little triangle in Prospect Park was still carried on the park board’s inventory the last time I checked, but it was listed as “paved.” There is no visual evidence of the triangle. Read more about this and other triangles in the meandering streets below Tower Hill.

Brownie Lake (partial). Theodore Wirth Park west of Brownie Lake and south of Highway 12, 32 acres. The land was sold in 1952 to the Prudential Insurance Company for $200,000 and some additional land.

The southern end of Theodore Wirth Park west of Brownie Lake got a makeover when the Prudential Insurance Company purchased the land for its regional headquarters in 1952.  It was the largest section of park land the Minneapolis park board has ever sold. Construction is underway in this 1954 photo. (Minneapolis Star Journal Tribune, Minnesota Historical Society)

The park board bowed to intense public pressure to sell the land beside the lake. Prudential had made it clear that the site adjacent to the lake was the only site it would consider for its offices in the city. Ultimately the park board was convinced that the benefit to the Minneapolis economy was a greater good than keeping the land as a park. The board justified its action in part by asserting that with the growth of traffic on Highway 12 (now I-394) and the widening of that road, the land west of Brownie Lake had already been isolated from the rest of Wirth Park anyway.

Cedar Avenue Triangle. Cedar Avenue and 7th Street South, 0.02 acre. The triangle was offered to the park board by Edmund Eichorn on April 15, 1891. After delaying a decision for a couple of months, the board agreed to pay Eichhorn $2,394 over ten years without interest. The triangle, adjacent to what is now the Cedar Avenue exit ramp from I-94 westbound, was sold to the state highway department in 1965 for $1,000. In April of that year the board approved a resolution to sell the property for $1,000 plus “other valuable considerations.” Later that year the board approved dropping the “other valuable considerations” clause.

Crystal Lake Triangle. West Broadway and 30th Avenue North, 0.05 acre. The triangle was supposedly purchased July 21, 1910 and sold to the state in 1962 for $2,700. It once sat at the edge of what is now the hideous intersection of Theodore Wirth Parkway, West Broadway (County Highway 81) and Lowry Avenue. Imagine if Phelps Wyman’s 1921 plan for that complex intersection had been used. What a difference it would have made in that part of Minneapolis. It would’ve been gorgeous.

Dell Place. Dell Place between Summit and Groveland avenues, 0.04 acre. Transferred from the city council April 27, 1883 when the park board was created. Citizens near the tiny lot petitioned the park board in 1907 to plant and maintain the grounds, which the park board agreed to do — if residents of the area would first pay to have the parcel curbed and filled to street grade. The street triangle was sold to the Minnesota highway department for I-94 interchanges in 1964 for $1,350. The park board had rejected the state’s first offer of $450. The park board’s appraisers valued the land at $2,250, but the park board accepted an internmediate figure instead of proceding to court with litigation.

Elwell Field I. East Hennepin and 5th Avenue SE, 3.7 acres. Purchased in 1939 from the Minneapolis Furniture Company for $5,000. Sold to Butler Manufacturing in 1952 for $55,000. The somewhat isolated field, surrounded by industrial buildings, was sold with the promise to the neighborhood to acquire another playground nearer Holmes School. Eventually the land adjacent to the school was purchased as a playground. The school on the former Holmes site, built in 1992, is now named Marcy Open School.

The first Elwell Field, 1952. Across the field is a building of the Butler Manufacturing company, which purchased the field the year the picture was taken. (Norton and Peel, Minnesota Historical Society)

Elwell Field II. 9th Avenue SE between SE 4th Street and SE 5th Street, 1 acre. The former site of Trudeau School was acquired February 4, 1953 in a trade with the school board. The park board gave up Sheridan Field next to Sheridan School at Broadway and University Avenue NE for the Trudeau property. The second Elwell Field was condemned by the state highway department for I-35W in 1962. The park board accepted a negotiated payment of $125,000 for the park in 1966.

Franklin Triangle. Franklin Terrace and 30th Avenue South, 0.05 acre. Transferred to the park board from the city council August 13, 1915 and accepted and named by the park board September 6, 1916. Taken by the state highway department for I-94 in 1962 in exchange for $1 and “other valuable considerations” again.

The beautiful cover of the park board’s 1915 annual report depicted the fountain at The Gateway. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

The Gateway. Hennepin and Nicollet avenues, 1.22 acres. There is still a Gateway park property at Hennepin and 1st Street South, but it’s not in the same location, so I consider this original Gateway a lost park. I have already provided the outline of the story for the original Gateway on the history pages of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s website at minneapolisparks.org.

Groveland Triangle. Groveland and Forest avenues, 0.21 acre. The triangle was purchased in November 1910 for $8,979. It was sold to the state highway department for the construction of I-94 in 1964 for $8,900.

That’s all for Part I of Lost Minneapolis Parks. Part II — H-R — will be out soon.

Historical profiles of all existing Minneapolis parks can be found at the website of the Minneapolis park board.  Each park has its own page with a “History” tab.

If you remember anything about any of the lost parks mentioned here, please send me a note so we can preserve something of those parks — especially the property beside Brownie Lake. Any memories before Prudential moved in?

David C. Smith 

© David C. Smith

Longfellow Field: The Park that Bombs Bought

If any park in Minneapolis should be a “memorial” park, perhaps it should be Longfellow Field, because it was bought and built with war profits. It would be hard to explain it any other way. The neighborhood around present-day Longfellow Field  is one of the few in the city that didn’t pay assessments to acquire and develop a neighborhood park. That’s because the park board paid for it with profits from WWI.

The story begins with the first Longfellow Field at East 28th St. between Minnehaha Avenue and 26th Avenue South. (There’s a Cub Store there now.) It was once one of the most popular playing fields in the city—and it is the largest playground the park board has ever sold.

The park board purchased the field in the upper right of this photo in 1911 and named it Longfellow Field. This photo, looking northwest, was taken from the top of Longfellow School at Lake St. and Minnehaha Ave. shortly before the land was purchased for a park. Minnehaha runs through the center of the photo and ends at E. 28th St. where the vast yards of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway begin. Minneapolis Steel and Machinery is on the left or west side of Minnehaha. (Charles Hibbard, Minnesota Historical Society)

The origins of that field as a Minneapolis park go back to 1910 when the park board’s first recreation director, Clifford Booth, recommended in his annual report that the city needed a playground somewhere between Riverside Park and Powderhorn Park.

Clifford Booth, shown here in 1910, was the first recreation director for Minneapolis parks and an unsung hero in park history.

It was the only addition he recommended to the playground sites he already supervised around the city.

The following year, the park board found the perfect place within the area Booth suggested: an empty field just off Lake Street, about equidistant from Powderhorn and Riverside, a stones throw from Longfellow School, easily accessible by street car, and it was already used as a playing field. The park board purchased the 4-acre field in 1911 for just over $7,000 and spent another $8,000 to install football and baseball fields, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, and playground equipment.

An architect was hired to create plans for a small shelter at the south end of the park, but when bids for the shelter came in at more than $10,000, double what park superintendent Theodore Wirth had estimated, the park board decided it couldn’t afford the shelter.

This plan for the development of Longfellow Field was published in the 1911 Annual Report of the park board. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.)

Despite the absence of a shelter, Wirth wrote in 1912 that Longfellow was one of the most active playfields in the city. Longfellow Field and North Commons were the venues for city football and baseball games for two years while the fields at The Parade were re-graded and seeded. The popularity of the field was attested to by the police report in the 1913 annual report of the park board, which claimed that additional police presence was necessary to control the crowds at football games at Longfellow Field and North Commons.

This Is Where the Intrigue Begins

I was surprised when I learned that the park board sold the park in 1917. The park board had never sold a park before. Why then—after 34 years of managing parks? And why this park? The park board’s explanation in the 1917 annual report was pretty weak, stating only that the field “became unavailable for a playground on account of the growth of manufacturing business in the vicinity.” The property was already on the edge of an industrial zone—see photo above—when it was purchased, so this was no revelation.

Longfellow School, on Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue, was built in 1886 and used until 1918. (Minnesota Historical Society)

The park board resolution on October 17, 1917 to sell the land provided a bit more explanation, but it still seemed less than forthcoming. It wasn’t just the growth of manufacturing business, the resolution claimed, it was also the school board’s decision to close Longfellow School and build a new school farther south. Moreover, the park board claimed that to make the playground useful it would be necessary to invest in improvements and a shelter. Given the other shortcomings of the site, the park board didn’t think it prudent to make those investments at that site.

So the park board declared that the site was no longer useful for a park, a legal requirement to get district court permission to sell the land, and it was sold for $35,000 to the Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Company.

At the time the park board decided to sell the field it also expressed its intention to find a “more suitable area” for a park and playground nearby in south Minneapolis. Less than two weeks after the sale was announced, the board designated land for a second Longfellow Field, the present park by that name, about a mile southeast in a much less populated neighborhood. The park board paid the $16,000 for the new land—not just four acres, but eight—and for initial improvements to the park from the proceeds of the earlier sale. It was a boon for property owners in the vicinity of the new Longfellow Field: a new park without property assessments to pay for it. The owners of three houses that had just been built across the street from the park must have been thrilled.

When I learned all of this a few years ago, I assumed that in the end the land deal was about the money—the opportunity to sell for $35,000 land the board had bought only six years earlier for $7,000. Even if you subtract the $8,000 spent on improvements, that was a nice return. And to keep that sum in context, remember that the park board shelved plans for a park shelter when bids exceeded estimates by $5,000. Thirty-five grand was a lot of money for a cash-strapped park board.

But the deal still puzzled me, especially because of the unusual way the transaction was introduced in park board records.

Park board proceedings, October 9, 1917, Petitions and Communications:

“From the Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Company —
Asking the Board to name a price at which it would sell the property included in the tract of park lands known as Longfellow Field.”

Talk about asking to be gouged! Who starts negotiations that way? Name a price? That seemed fishy. So did the speed of the deal. Two committees were asked to report back on the issue the following week, the first indication that someone was in a big hurry to get a deal done. The joint committees not only reported back a week later, they had come up with a price, $35,000, and had essentially concluded the deal. There hadn’t been time for much dickering over the number; the park board had a very motivated buyer. Moreover the board selected land to replace Longfellow Field only two weeks later. As decisive as early park leaders often were, this was unprecedented speed. Too much money. Too fast. Too little explanation.

Perhaps too little deduction on my part as well, but that’s where the matter stood for me the last few years until I decided recently to look into it a bit more as I was compiling a list of “lost parks” in Minneapolis. What I learned is that the decision to sell Longfellow Field had less to do with demographic shifts or manufacturing concentration in south Minneapolis than what was happening in the fields of France and the waters of the North Atlantic.

The United States Joins a World at War

For more than two years, the United States had stayed out of the Great War that embroiled much of the rest of the world. But in early 1917 Germany took the risk that a return to unrestricted submarine warfare and a blockade of Great Britain, including attacks on American ships, could bring about an end to the war before the United States could mobilize its army and economy to have a significant impact on the ground war in Europe. Germany knew that its actions would bring the U.S. into the war—and they did. The U.S. Congress declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917—and began to mobilize in earnest. Part of that mobilization was the enactment of the selective service, or draft, law in May 1917 to build an army. Another part was the procurement of weapons and equipment needed to fight a war.

Of course the manufacturing capacity for war couldn’t be built from scratch. Existing expertise, process and capacity had to be converted to war products. That meant beating plowshares into swords.

That’s where Minneapolis Steel and Machinery came in. In the fifteen years since its founding, Minneapolis Steel had become one of the leading suppliers of structural steel for bridges and buildings in the northwest. That was the “steel” part of the name. The “machinery” was represented most famously by Twin City tractors, but also by engines and parts it manufactured for other companies.

Doesn’t the logo for a line of products from the Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Company remind you of the logo of our favorite boys of summer? (Thanks to Tony Thompson at twincitytractors.tripod.com)

All I knew about Minneapolis Steel and Machinery was that in the 1920s it was one of the companies that merged to become Minneapolis-Moline and that it was notoriously anti-union. I didn’t know that it was an important military supplier, too.

The first evidence I found of the company’s production for war was a November 10, 1915 article in the Minneapolis Tribune that claimed the company would begin shipping machined six-inch artillery shell casings to Great Britain by January 1, 1916. The paper reported that the initial contract, expected to be only a trial order, was for almost $1.5 million.

Less than two weeks later, another Tribune report made it clear that the company’s involvement in the war was much broader. The paper reported on November 23 an order from Great Britain for 100 tractors from Bull Tractor, another Minneapolis company, for which Minneapolis Steel did the manufacturing and assembly. The tractors, still a relatively new invention, would be shipped from Great Britain to France and Russia to supplant farm horses drafted for war service or already killed in the war. Minneapolis Steel was also shipping 50 steam shovels to be used to dig trenches on the Russian front. Both orders were placed by the London distributor for both Minneapolis Steel and Machinery and Bull Tractor.

Shell orders must have continued for Minneapolis Steel and Machinery after the initial order in 1915, too, because on August 16, 1917 the Tribune reported a new order for the company. Under the headline, “Steel and Machinery Plant to Be Enlarged to Meet Uncle Sam’s Demand for Shells,” the paper reported,

“War orders just taken will necessitate a considerable enlargement of the buildings of the Minneapolis Steel & Machinery company. The company, after completing its shell contract with the British government last spring, decided not to accept any more shell orders, but the United States insisted and a large contract is the result.”

Artillery played an unprecedented role in a war in which both sides were dug into trenches. Blanket bombardments preceded most offensive actions. The result was a French countryside that resembled nothing earthly.

The report, which quoted Minneapolis Steel vice president George Gillette, continued that the company was also manufacturing steam hoists for ships and expected more contracts as the building program progressed. More contracts, unsolicited according to Gillette, did indeed materialize in the next month for carriages for 105 millimeter guns and steering engines for battleships. Those contracts reportedly required a doubling of the company’s manufacturing capacity. At that time government contracts accounted for 75 percent of the company’s output. By early 1918, the Tribune reported that Minneapolis Steel and Machinery had already been awarded $23 million in government contracts.

In the midst of this rash of new military contracts, Minneapolis Steel asked the park board to name its price for Longfellow Field. Even before the district court finished its hearings on the park board’s proposed sale, the company had  obtained building permits for three new warehouses, two of them in the 2800 block of Minnehaha Ave., a short foul pop-up from home plate at the former Longfellow Field.

A Civic Duty

The spirit of the times suggests that while money may have been a factor in the park board’s prompt action, it likely was not the primary motivation for selling Longfellow Field. The park board probably viewed the sale as its civic and patriotic duty to assist the war effort—especially given the other valid reasons for moving the playground.

An example of the patriotic fervor generated by the war—to which park commissioners could not have been immune—was a dinner held at the Minneapolis Club, June 12, 1917, to raise funds for the American Red Cross, which was preparing field hospitals to treat wounded soldiers. (Did the army not have a medical or hospital corps?) The next morning the Tribune reported that in one hour the 200 business and civic leaders at the dinner pledged more than $360,000 to the Red Cross. That amount eclipsed the city’s previous one-evening fund-raising record of $336,000 for the building fund for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts a few years earlier.

The report is noteworthy especially for the accounts of the number of men present, among the wealthiest and most influential citizens of Minneapolis, who had sons and nephews on their way to France—so different from the wars of the last four decades.

“Almost every man who rose to name his contribution had a son already in France or on his way. So often did the donor, in making his contribution, add that his boy was wearing the khaki of the army or navy blue that Mr. Partridge (the emcee of the evening) called the roll to ascertain just how many present had sons or nephews in the service. Including two who announced that they themselves were entering the service, the total was 56—mostly sons.”

One of the two men present who was entering military service himself was introduced as Dr. Todd, son-in-law of J. L. Record, who was president of Minneapolis Steel and Machinery. Record pledged $10,000 to the Red Cross on behalf of his company that night.

Ernest G. Wold was one of two WWI pilots  from Minneapolis who died in the air over France. The other was Cyrus Chamberlain. (Minnesota Historical Society)

Among others who pledged money were two bankers who had sons in the military aviation services, F. A. Chamberlain, chairman of First and Security National Bank, and Theodore Wold, governor of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank. Both men—and Chamberlain’s wife—were leaders in raising funds for the Red Cross and in selling Liberty Bonds. Their sons never came home. Ernest Wold and Cyrus Chamberlain died in the air over France in 1918. They were jointly honored by having Minneapolis’s airport named Wold-Chamberlain Field, a name that still stands. This was several years before the Minneapolis park board assumed control of building and operating the airport.

The Park Board During the War

Also making pledges at the Minneapolis Club dinner were park commissioners William H. Bovey and David P. Jones. Two other park commissioners who took active roles in the war effort were Leo Harris who resigned from his seat on the park board to enlist and Phelps Wyman who took a leave of absence from the park board to serve as a landscape architect for a group designing new towns for the workers needed at military factories and shipyards.

But it was the president of the park board in 1917 who had the most to lose—or prove—during those days of heated anti-German rhetoric. Francis Gross was the president of the German-American Bank in north Minneapolis. Gross had worked his way up from messenger to the presidency of the bank, which was said to be the largest “non-centrally located” bank in Minneapolis. The bank, founded in 1886, had been located on  the corner of Plymouth Avenue and Washington Avenue North since 1905. Gross eventually served 33 years as a park commissioner between 1910 and 1949, earned the nickname “Mr. Park Board,” and had a Minneapolis golf course named for him. He must have been indefatigable, because his name pops up in association with many civic and financial endeavors.

Of all the park commissioners in Minneapolis history, Frank Gross is one of the most intriguing to me. If I could find some cache of lost journals of any of the city’s park commissioners since Charles Loring and William Folwell, I would most want to find those of Frank Gross. He’d be a great interview subject.

Francis A. Gross, 1918 Annual Report of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners

In the second year of the war, before the U. S. entry into the conflict, Gross was quoted in the Tribune expressing his view that Germany’s desire for peace was “sincere.” He urged the U. S. and other neutrals to push for peace. “I have no sympathy with the assertion that one side must be victor,” he said. “There can be a fair settlement now on nationality lines.”

Gross’s role in the war effort changed considerably after the U.S. entered the war. The tension of war in the U.S. was underscored when in March 1918, the German-American Bank officially changed its name to North American Bank. Gross asserted that the old name no longer represented the bank’s business or clients, adding “it is not good or desirable that the name of a foreign nationality be attached to an American institution.” In announcing the name change, Gross emphasized that his bank had been the first Minnesota bank to join the federal reserve system in 1915 “to do its part to establish a national banking system in our country so strong and efficient that it could meet any demand our country might make upon it.” (Tribune, March 8, 1918.) Gross’s implicit message: those demands could even include making war on the fatherland of the bank’s founders.

Only three weeks after Gross’s bank changed its name, he went on a speaking tour of towns outside Minneapolis that had large populations of German immigrants or descendants. The Tribune described his visit to Waconia on March 28, 1918. “In line with the belief of the state war savings and Liberty Loan committees that there is a distinct desire in German communities to have the war explained by persons of German birth or descent, Frank A. Gross, president of the North American bank, has spoken to several meetings composed entirely of Germans in the last few days,” the Tribune’s report began. Gross told of how he had circulated among the estimated crowd of 300 people of German descent, mostly farmers, before he spoke and found a “feeling that anyone of German birth or German descent is not wanted as a citizen of this country.”

He ascribed the feeling to the manner in which “overzealous orators” had attacked the German people, “not distinguishing between German imperialism, against which we are making war, and the German people.” Gross said that he then told the people of Waconia they “certainly were wanted as American citizens, but that the citizenship carried with it the responsibility of 100 per cent loyalty to this nation.” Gross said he also dispelled the notion that this was a “rich man’s war,” asking if they thought the “rich would send their boys to war just so their fathers could make a little more money.”

Family experience: My father, who grew up in a small town in rural Minnesota, recounts that his older brother and sister, born before WWI, spoke primarily German before they went to school, but my father and another sister, born after WWI, were never taught German.

Gross later was a prominent speaker at meetings promoting the purchase of Liberty bonds, especially in predominantly German communities such as New Ulm, Hutchinson and Glencoe, and he spoke at “Americanization” meetings—scheduled in Minneapolis neighborhoods with large “foreign elements” according to the Tribune—about “Patriotism.” He shared the podium at one such meeting in north Minneapolis with Rabbi S. M. Deinard whose subject was “The Obligation of the New Generation to the Old” and Mr. E. Avin of the Talmud Torah who gave a patriotic address in Yiddish. Gross also became an instructor, along with future Minneapolis mayor Wallace Nye, at a school for Minneapolis draftees before they were sent off to military camps.

The park board’s annual reports written while Gross was president of the board in 1917 and 1918 reveal very little of the impact of war on parks other than brief references to the heavy burden of taxes and contributions to welfare organizations and the lack of funds for park maintenance. From Gross’s other activities, however, as well as those of other park commissioners, it is apparent that the board would have had a strong sense of patriotic obligation to do what it could to assist the war effort. And that certainly extended to providing expansion space for one of Minneapolis’s largest military suppliers. So the original Longfellow Field became a casualty of war—and the neighborhood surrounding the new Longfellow Field acquired a park without having to pay property assessments.

The Last Link

One connection remains between the descendants of Minneapolis Steel and Machinery and Minneapolis parks. Minneapolis Steel and Machinery built Bull tractors, but the engines were supplied by another local company, the Toro Motor Company. Bull, Toro, get it? One contemporary newspaper account (November 17, 1918), describes Toro as a subsidiary of Minneapolis Steel and Machinery, but the website of The Toro Company today does not claim that connection. (The Toro website does claim the company produced steam steering engines for ships during WWI, however, a product that newspaper reports in 1917 attributed to Minneapolis Steel and Machinery.) Regardless of legal relationship, the two companies were closely connected and Toro is the sole survivor of the Bull, Minneapolis Steel, and Toro tractor trio.

Toro later focused its efforts on lawn-care products, famously lawn mowers, and still specializes in turf management products mostly for parks, athletic fields and golf courses. Each year in recent times, Toro and its employees, along with the Minnesota Twins Community Fund, have donated the materials, expertise and labor to rehabilitate or upgrade a baseball field in a Minneapolis park. These little gems of ball parks now exist in several Minneapolis parks, from Stewart Park to Creekview Park. Thank you, Toro. I don’t know specific park board needs now, but wouldn’t it be appropriate if Toro helped put in a fabulous field at Longfellow Park in honor of the connection long ago?

I’ll leave the final word on WWI in Minneapolis to a preacher.

“I rejoice that I am no longer needed as a partner in the grim business of killing.”
— Rev. Elmer H. Johnson, pastor of Morningside Congregational church who had worked for 11 months at the artillery shell factory of Minneapolis Steel to augment his church salary. (Minneapolis Morning Tribune, December 22, 1918)

David C. Smith

NOTE: Bob Wolff of The Toro Company provides additional details on that company in a “Comment” on the David C. Smith page. (May 31, 2012). In a separate note, Bob said he’d also look into finding photos of the first Toro turf management products used in Minneapolis parks. Stay tuned.

© David C. Smith

Lost Minneapolis Parks: A Fifth Prospect Park Triangle

A fifth Prospect Park triangle was added to Minneapolis parks inventory in 1919 when the City Council turned over a 0.03-acre triangle at the intersection of Bedford Street and University Avenue S.E. The Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners (BPC) instructed the superintendent to plant shrubbery on the triangle and to maintain it.  It was named Midway Triangle. The City Council must have forgotten that it gave the land to the BPC—or ignored the fact—because in November 1944 the BPC adopted a resolution that “inasmuch as the intersection of University Avenue and Bedford Street, including what was formerly Midway Triangle, has been paved,” it was turning  over the land to the City Council. There is still a remnant of the triangle at the intersection, just enough curbed space to hold a traffic signal, a light post and some signs.

The entire neighborhood might have looked quite different if the Minneapolis park board had acted on John Pillsbury’s proposal in 1887. Pillsbury was the former Governor of Minnesota and former Minneapolis park commissioner and still the president of the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents at the time, who had just donated a $150,000 building to the University. He proposed that University Avenue be made a parkway from Central Ave. to the county line (the boundary with St Paul) and that from Oak Street east the parkway be 120 feet wide, or more than 50% wider than it is now.

That might have been spectacular, but it is also possible that a parkway on University Avenue would have suffered the same fate as early parkways on Hennepin Avenue from Loring Park to Lakewood Cemetery and Lyndale Avenue North from Loring Park to Farview Park. They were eventually abandoned by the BPC as parkways and returned to the control of the City of Minneapolis, because they carried too much traffic to be true parkways. I suspect the same would have happened to a parkway on University Avenue; it was a major thoroughfare. But it’s fun to speculate and try to picture a beautiful wide boulevard approaching the University of Minnesota from the east—in the shadow of Tower Hill.

David C. Smith

Lost Minneapolis Parks: Rauen Triangle

Minneapolis lost one of its only parks named for someone with a German surname in 1939. Given that more Minneapolitans define their ancestry as German than any other nationality — nearly one in four — it seems a bit odd that a city with more than 180 parks would have so few named after people of German descent. As I was looking over a list I compiled of Minneapolis park properties that no longer exist, I was struck by the description of Rauen Triangle; a 1930s park inventory claimed that the triangle was named after “German settler” Peter Rauen. When that triangle was paved over in 1939, the only park property that remained with a German name was Humboldt Triangle in north Minneapolis. Alexander von Humboldt was a German naturalist and explorer who died in 1859. Even Humboldt’s name adorned a park property by default rather than by choice; the triangle took its name from its location on Humboldt Avenue.

Rauen Triangle was a small piece of land (0.03 acre) at the oddly configured intersection of 11th Avenue North, North Fifth Street and North Sixth Street. The park board purchased the land at the request of residents of the neighborhood in 1890 for $3,462 — a price that seems exorbitant for such a small, otherwise useless tract. The entire cost was assessed on property in the neighborhood. It was given the unimaginative name of Fifth Street Triangle.

If the Nomenclature Committee had had its way in May 1893 the triangle would have been renamed Iota Triangle. The committee of Harry Wild Jones, William Folwell and Patrick Ryan had suggested naming most of the small street triangles after letters of the Greek alphabet. The park board approved many other names recommended by the committee that day — Kings Highway, The Beard Plaisance, Logan Park, Windom Park, and Van Cleve Park — but returned the Greek alphabet names to the committee for further consideration. Good choice.

The only suggested park name recommended by the committee that was shot down completely by the board was the name Hiyata Park for Spring Lake Park, the small pond at the foot of Kenwood Hill behind the Parade Ice Arena. The board voted to keep the name Spring Lake. Hiyata, the committee claimed, was an “Indian name meaning Back-By-The-Hill.”

After further deliberation, instead of Iota Triangle the committee returned with a recommendation of Rauen Triangle in honor of Peter Rauen, a German who had arrived at St. Anthony in 1856. The name made sense because Peter Rauen’s home at 1101 North Sixth Street faced the triangle.

Peter Rauen’s house at 1101 North Sixth Street, about 1875. This photo was taken from approximately the site of the future Rauen Triangle. I like the board sidewalk. (Michael Nowack, Minnesota Historical Society)

Rauen operated a successful grocery and general merchandise store at the corner of Plymouth and Washington. He was an alderman on the first city council after the merger of St Anthony and Minneapolis in 1872 and he was mentioned in Horace Hudson’s early history of Minneapolis as a prominent president of the Harmonia Society, one of the more successful musical organizations in the early days of Minneapolis.

The park board gave up Rauen Triangle in 1939 to the city of Minneapolis. On the same lot that Rauen’s home had once stood, the city built Fire Station 4, which still stands on the site. It seems that the triangle got in the way of the long hook and ladder fire engines maneuvering into the station. The triangle was paved over to create a quite wide intersection.

Fire Station 4, 1101 North Sixth Street (City of Minneapolis website)

In Rauen’s time the neighborhood was all residential, but it is now completely industrial and hemmed in by freeways.

Since the demise of Rauen Triangle, two other Minneapolis parks have been named for people with German surnames: Mueller Park (1973) and Gluek Park (1995).

I don’t mention the nationality or ethnicity of park names as something that needs to be addressed; it is simply an observation. The only name missing from a Minneapolis park that really must be added is Horace Cleveland’s.

David C. Smith

© David C. Smith

Lost Minneapolis Parks: Virginia Triangle

Can you tell where this photo was taken? The land in the foreground is a lost Minneapolis park: Virginia Triangle.

Virginia Triangle 1938 (Minnesota Historical Society)

Virginia Triangle  was at the intersection of Hennepin and Lyndale avenues; the cross street is Groveland Avenue. Hennepin crosses left to right and Lyndale right to left. The photographer was facing north. That’s the Basilica straight ahead, St. Mark’s to the right, with the trees in Loring Park between them. To your immediate right (out of the picture) is Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church. On your left, just past the cross street, is Walker Art Center. Beyond that is The Parade, athletic fields when this picture was taken, but now the home of the Sculpture Garden.

Isn’t this view lovely compared to the freeway interchanges, tunnels, etc. of today? The park board put up and decorated a huge Christmas tree in the triangle each year. I don’t know when that practice began or ended, but I’ll try to find out. If you know, send me a note.

An important memorial was installed at Virginia Triangle in 1915. The park board did not pay for the memorial but agreed that it could be placed in the park triangle. Whose memorial was it? This photo was taken at the dedication. ( That’s Hennepin Methodist church across Lyndale Avenue in the background, Hennepin Avenue in foreground.)

Virginia Triangle in 1915

He had something to do with urban transit and his mansion was immediately to the left of the photographer when this picture was taken. An avenue in north Minneapolis is named for him. He donated part of the land for The Parade and paid to have it developed into a park.

Here is his statue as part of the memorial that was put on the triangle.

Virginia Triangle Memorial (Charles Hibbard, Minnesota Historical Society)

This is what Rev. Dr. Marion Shutter said when he spoke to the crowd gathered at the dedication above:

How grandly has the sculptor done his work! This heroic figure needs no emblazoned name to identify the original. It seems almost as if Karl Bitter (the sculptor) had stood by the door of that little Greek temple at Lakewood (cemetery), and had said: ‘Thomas Lowry, come forth.’

Virginia Triangle was acquired by the Minneapolis park board on the first day of the last century. A.W. French and his wife donated the property to the park board in a swap. The Frenches had originally donated a piece of land for Hennepin Avenue Parkway, but apparently wanted that piece back and offered what became Virginia Triangle instead. The park board accepted on January 1, 1900. The best guess is that the name of the triangle comes from “Virginia Flats,” the apartment building behind the memorial in the photo above according to a 1903 plat map.

Thomas Lowry was joined on the triangle by another statue for a time during the summer of 1931. The Knights Templar held their conclave in Minneapolis that year and requested permission to erect life-sized statues of knights on horses throughout the city. The request was approved by the park board on the condition that all park properties be returned to their original condition without cost to the park board at the conclusion of the conclave.

Knights Templar statue at The Gateway, 1931 (Minnesota Historical Society)

The statue at Virginia Triangle was probably similar to this one placed at The Gateway during the conclave. Other statues were placed at The Parade and Lyndale Park.

Virginia Triangle was eventually lost to freeway construction when I-94 was built through the city. With freeway entrances and exits needed for Hennepin and Lyndale, the triangle had to be removed even though the freeway itself was put underground below Lowry Hill and Virginia Triangle.

The state highway department paid the park board $24,300 for the triangle in 1966, plus the actual cost of relocating the Lowry Memorial. The park board chose another triangle about a half-mile south on Hennepin Avenue at 24th Street as the new site for Thomas Lowry. The low bid for moving the memorial to the new site at Smith Triangle in 1967 was $38,880.

The inscription on Lowry’s memorial reads:

Be this community strong and enduring — it will do homage to the men who guided its youth.

David C. Smith

© David C. Smith