Archive for the ‘Minneapolis Parks: General’ Category

Taking a Break

After writing a few hundred thousand words for this blog, which were viewed nearly a half-million times, I’m moving on to other subjects. Until I decide what to do with those thousands of words and topics, I have stored them away from this site. Some may reappear here or elsewhere, others probably won’t. Many of the best stories and comments on this site were simply hard to find because there got to be too much. More than 270 entries. Unwieldy. Even cluttered. In need of editing, which I hope to give them someday.

I have left a link to the University of Minnesota Press at right where you can purchase City of Parks: The Story of Minneapolis Parks. All profits from those purchases go to the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. I receive nothing. It’s a pretty good book. Nine years after writing it and learning a great deal more detail about the history of Minneapolis parks, I would change very few things I wrote in the book.

I have always tried to find the truth. Thanks for reading.

David C. Smith

Dancing with the Fishes

Recent news about the discovery of a zebra mussel in Lake Harriet prompted a flurry of activity at the lake to see if more could be found. Thankfully, after nearly 70 hours of searching, no more of the striped invaders were located. Some of that searching was done by divers who filmed their searches.

Although they found no more mussels, what they did find is a bit of a mystery. You can view their discovery on YouTube here.  Thanks to MaryLynn Pulscher at the Park Board for the link.

The divers speculated that what they found was a dance floor from one of the old pavilions at the lake. It is entirely possible that what they found was a remnant of an old pavilion, although I have serious doubts if it was dance floor because dancing was frowned on by a significant portion of society in early park history. I’m not aware of dancing at any of the Lake Harriet pavilions. (When the first recreation center was built at Logan Park in 1913, there was angry opposition to it by those who didn’t want any kind of dances held in their neighborhood. To appease them, the Park Board limited the type and frequency of dances that were permitted.)

The first pavilion constructed at water’s edge burned down in 1903. Perhaps part of that wreckage was simply pushed into the lake. I’ve never seen photos or read descriptions of how any remains of that fire were disposed.

Lake Harriet Pavilion 1895 MHS

First pavilion built on the Lake Harriet shoreline in 1892. The pavilion was designed by Harry Wild Jones. It burned down in 1903. (Minnesota Historical Society)

Another possibility is that when the succeeding pavilion, which extended into the lake, was destroyed by a tornado in 1925, part of the pavilion was blown into the lake and never retrieved.

Lake Harriet pavilion and boat dock, 1906

The new Lake Harriet pavilion, also designed by Harry Wild Jones, and boat dock in 1905. The bandstand seen here on top of the pavilion lasted only one year due to terrible acoustics. It was moved to the east side of the lake at 46th Street where it served as an overlook or “belvidere”.

Lake Harriet Pavilion damaged by tornado

A storm destroyed the Lake Harriet Pavilion in 1925, resulting in two deaths. (Minnesota Historical Society)

Lake Harriet 1925

This photo was taken very shortly after the Lake Harriet pavilion was destroyed in 1925. It’s the only photo I’ve seen of Lake Harriet without a pavilion. A pile of rubble marks the spot where the pavilion once stood. Did some of that rubble remain in the lake? Or were these extensive boat docks eventually dismantled and scuttled in the lake? (David C. Smith)

The second pavilion designed by Jones, which extended into the lake, was also rearranged in 1912 and 1913 because it had become unsafe for the large crowds that listened to concerts on the rooftop. The pilings under the pavilion were replaced in 1912 and the pavilion was extensively remodeled. Perhaps debris was left in the lake when that work was concluded. Another possibility could be that a portion of one of the two floating band shells that were used in the early history of Lake Harriet entertainment were sunk there.

If the remains found on the bottom of Lake Harriet near the shore were just wood, however, why did they sink instead of floating to shore? It’s hard to imagine someone like park superintendent Theodore Wirth, who served in that capacity 1906-1935, permitting something as unsightly as pavilion wreckage to bob around in one of his lakes until it sank.

I would welcome speculation from our many knowledgable readers on what that wreckage on the bottom of Lake Harriet could be and how it got there.

Before leaving the subject, I want to express my support and gratitude to the park commissioners and staff who have kept our lakes mussel-free for this long and to encourage boat owners to exercise extreme caution when putting their craft into city lakes. I hope the lone zebra mussel found was an anomaly — as it appears to be.

David C. Smith

DIY Minneapolis Park History at the Library

I have been very lucky over the last decade to have had access to the archives of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board because of some park board history projects I was working on. I have always advocated making those archives accessible to the public and it has finally happened. Nearly all of the historical documents of the park board from its creation in 1883 until 1970 have been transferred to the Minneapolis Central library.

Webber Pool 1

The community center at Webber Park was best known for its pool, which was fed originally by water from Shingle Creek. But the building also housed the first branch library in a park building. Branch libraries also were located at Logan Park and the Gateway Pavilion. In addition, the Longfellow House near Minnehaha Creek was leased to the library board as a branch library for 30 years until 1968. If you want to learn more about the community center at Webber Park, you can now go the Central Library and read Charles Webber’s letters to the park board announcing his desire to upgrade the building he and his wife Mary had donated to the park according to her wishes before she died.

Special credit for the new collection at the library should go to park superintendents Jon Gurban, who initiated a park history project to celebrate the park board’s 125th birthday in 2008—that’s when I became involved—and Jayne Miller who committed in 2015 to the big task of organizing park board archives and transferring many historical records to the library for preservation and public access. Credit is also due to park commissioners for recognizing amid the stress of daily challenges that preserving park records and making them accessible was important. Among others, Scott Vreeland and former commissioner Bob Fine were especially supportive of  efforts to document and preserve the history of Minneapolis parks.

Thanks to Dawn Sommers at the park board and Ted Hathaway, manager of special collections at the Minneapolis Central library, for managing with enthusiasm the considerable task of transferring thousands of documents even as they performed their “regular” duties. I should also note that the Minneapolis City Clerk’s Office was very helpful in facilitating the two-stage movement of some documents from City Hall to Park Board to Library.

These are all public servants of the highest order and too-rarely praised for their contributions to the outstanding quality of life in this city. As you will see if you have a chance to dig into the park board’s archives at the library, they follow in the footsteps of giants. The men and women who created Minneapolis parks—and libraries—were far-sighted people who tried to look beyond immediate needs to the future of the city. Where they made mistakes, let’s fix them, but let’s also continue to emulate the qualities that led to their many successes from which we derive daily benefits.

You can learn more about the park board’s mistakes and successes over nearly 100 years by looking at park board records on the fourth floor of the Minneapolis Central Library every Monday to Thursday and some Saturdays.

David C. Smith

 

G’day Maka Ska, G’bye Calhoun?

Efforts to eradicate the name Lake Calhoun and replace it with Bde Maka Ska have generated a great deal of discussion and passion on many sides. The usage of the recommended new name and its meaning and pronunciation have been badly muddled, however, which confuses the issues unnecessarily.

Let me, a non-Dakota speaker, try to clarify. Bde Maka Ska is one of the Dakota names for the lake that was named Lake Calhoun by white surveyors or soldiers sometime before 1820. We have been told often that the term translates as White Earth Lake. So far, so good. But let’s break it down further.

Translation
Bde: lake
Maka: earth
Ska: white

Pronunciation
Bde: The “e”, as in Spanish, is more like “ay” as in day. Hear Crocodile Dundee saying “G’day, mate.” Say b’day like an Australian caricature says “g’day” — rather than b-day which suggests a pronunciation more like a fixture in a French bathroom. G’day. B’day. Closer to one syllable than two.
Makaska: I’ve cheated and put the two words together, which to my ear is how Dakota speakers pronounce them. All a’s are pronounced as in “Ma” for mother. Accent the middle syllable, as if you were saying “my Costco.” MaCostco. Makaska.
This is the easy part and should not have any bearing on the merits of changing the name. It’s not hard to say, so let’s not use that excuse. How do you know how to pronounce “Isles” in “Lake of the Isles” with two of five letters silent? You learned — and thought nothing of it. Not difficult.

Usage
This is a little trickier. I don’t know Dakota patterns of usage, but to my view the Minneapolis park board’s master plan entitled Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska-Harriet, which recommended the name change, is confusing. If we are dropping “lake” from Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet, in this context shouldn’t we also drop “bde” from Bde Maka Ska. Otherwise it would be Lake Lake White Earth.

In other words, Bde Maka Ska replaces Lake Calhoun, not just Calhoun. Maybe Dakota grammarians would box your ears if you said the equivalent of, “I’m going to bike around Maka Ska this afternoon.” Maybe in Dakota “lake” or “bde” must always be part of a lake name. But if the “bde” doesn’t have to bde there, couldn’t the park board have approved renaming the lake “Maka Ska”? I ask in part because I haven’t heard any objection to the word “lake” itself, although Tony Lake, Lake Street, and Veronica Lake all have had detractors. (I’ve never seen her right eye!)

It matters because any use of Calhoun alone then is unaffected, which is a bit exasperating, because that’s the objectionable part. So on the parkway signs that say East (or West) Calhoun Parkway it was incorrect to add Bde Maka Ska, as was done last year. Only signs that say “Lake Calhoun” should have been changed. Even the vandals of signs at Lake Calhoun last year didn’t know what they were doing when they replaced only Calhoun, but not Lake, with Bde Maka Ska. Pretty ignorant activism.

I raise this issue primarily for clarification. We know some lakes around the world by their indigenous names, Loch Ness comes to mind, and others have retained names given by non-English speakers, such as Lac qui Parle in western Minnesota (not just a lake but a county), a French translation of the Dakota words “lake that speaks”. (Was “bde” part of that Dakota name?)

Something to Consider

So… how should we treat Bde Maka Ska? Wouldn’t it be easier to discuss the merits of a name change if we said we wanted to change the name from Lake Calhoun to Lake Maka Ska? Dakota and Ojibwe names for lakes and places abound in Minnesota and no one seems to have a problem with that. Yet I’ve never seen any other lake named Bde Anything. There are many a “mni” — Dakota for “water” — anglicized to Minnetonka, Minnesota, Minnehaha, but not a “bde” that I know of.

I suspect that some people opposed to renaming the lake get hung up on “bde” for “lake”. It’s a diversion from the real issues, which are, “Calhoun or not?” And, “If not, what?” Lake Maka Ska might eventually be adopted by those who don’t speak Dakota. Bde Maka Ska will take decades longer — if the bde isn’t dropped quickly anyway.

Where Does the Name Come From?

Knowing a bit of the history of Lake Calhoun since 1820, I’m also curious how the lake got the name “White Earth”.  We know that parts of the shoreline, especially on the south and west, were quite marshy by the mid- to late-1800s and had to be filled eventually to hold parkways. But we also know from dredging reports that the beach on the north side at the site of the bath house built in 1912 was created or greatly augmented by considerable dredging  from sand found on the lake bottom.

Lake Calhoun aerial 1a

Lake Calhoun’s northwest shore and Bath House in late 1910s, before a parkway existed on the west side of the lake, although there is a light-colored trail or path. The north beach was mostly man-made. Photo likely taken from near the Minikahda Club. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

To my knowledge the dredging at Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake produced little sand from those lake bottoms. Lake Harriet has never been dredged. It’s not obvious from any accounts I’ve seen of why “maka ska” or “white earth” was used to distinguish this lake from neighboring lakes in Cloud Man’s time or earlier.

Maybe a geologist could enlighten me. Were there relatively white deposits of sand in the vicinity at some point? What is the geological explanation? (For those of us who still believe in science anyway.) Were the shores of Lake Calhoun once sandy — before beaches, parkways and retaining walls?

If anyone can enlighten us about the Dakota language or can explain the park board’s garbled use of Bde Maka Ska, sometimes as a substitute for Lake Calhoun and others for Calhoun only, or can tell us about “white earth”, please do. I won’t post comments on whether we should keep or erase the Calhoun name; many other venues provide space for those arguments.

David C. Smith

Lake Calhoun Outlet and Lakewood Cemetery Greenhouses

I acquired this photograph because it’s the only one I’ve seen of an outlet from Lake Calhoun. But in light of today’s public tours of Lakewood Cemetery’s greenhouses I looked at the picture differently. Until I was told by Katie Thornton at Lakewood that the cemetery once had six huge greenhouses I had no idea what the buildings in this picture near the southeast shore of Lake Calhoun could be. Could they be the original Lakewood greenhouses?

EPSON MFP image

I don’t know the date of this photograph of the south shore of Lake Calhoun — or the photographer. I was interested in it primarily because of the “outlet” and the parkway running so close to the shore. But it may also be the only picture I’ve seen of the Lakewood Cemetery greenhouses. What else could that be near the southeastern shore of the lake? (Photo: David C. Smith Collection)

If you make it over to the Lakewood Cemetery greenhouse tour today and I don’t, please ask if their greenhouses are what we see here and let me know what you learn. If you have better information—or guesses—on what those structures might be, please share.

David C. Smith

Naming Rights … and Wrongs? People Commemorated in Minneapolis Parks

Given recent discussions of the propriety of the names of park properties, especially Lake Calhoun, I compiled a list of the 131 people whose names are commemorated in Minneapolis parks. This includes park properties and facilities, such as playing fields, fountains and gardens. Only one of the names is fake.

At the end of the list are several little-known facts about Minneapolis park names. Some of the names most difficult to track down belong to park triangles at street intersections. In many of those cases, the triangles were given the street name, such as Orlin and Clarence triangles. I have not researched the origin of those names, so if you know something, please share.

Also let me know if I have overlooked any names in this list. More information on many of these people is featured in other posts on this site, so if you want to learn more, begin with a quick search here.

Adams, Abraham
Alcott, Louisa May
Anthony, Saint of Padua
Armatage, Maude
Audubon, John James
Barnes, William A.
Barton, Asa Bowers
Bassett, Joel Bean
Beard, Henry Beach

Bethune Mary McLeod portrait (Scurlock)

Mary McLeod Bethune

Beltrami, Giacomo
Berry, William Morse
Bethune, Mary McLeod
Bohanon, John C.
Bossen, Christian A.
Bottineau, Pierre
Brackett, George Augustus
Bryant, William Cullen
Butler, Eloise
Calhoun, Vice Pres. John C.
Carew, Rod (baseball field, Xcel Field Park)
Casey, Bob (baseball field, Stewart Park)
Cavell, Edith

Edith Cavell

Edith Cavell

Chergosky, Donald and Janice
Chowen, George
Chute, Richard (and Samuel)
Clarence (unknown, street name)
Cleveland, Pres. Grover
Clifton (unknown, street name)
Corcoran, William Wilson
Cowles, John Jr. and Sage (conservatory, Sculpture Garden)
Coyle, Brian
Crone, Martha (shelter, Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden))
Currie, Edward A.
Cyson, Stan (baseball field, Northeast Park)
Dean, Joseph (and sons)
Deming, Portius

Portius C. Deming 1916 AR

Portius C. Deming

Dickman, Ralph
Dorr, Caleb
Elliot, Dr. Jacob S.
Elwell, James T.
Farwell (unknown, developer)
Folwell, William Watts
Fremont, Gen. John Charles
Fuller, Margaret
Gale, Samuel
Gladstone, William
Gluek, Jacob
Godfrey, Ard
Gross, Francis A.
Hall, Elizabeth
Harrison, Pres. William Henry
Hartman, Sid (baseball field, Northeast Park)
Heffelfinger, Frank (fountain, Lyndale Park)
Hennepin, Father Louis
Holmes, Oliver Wendell
Hull, Agnes “Brownie” McNair

Agnes McNair Hull, ca. 1890, Jordan, Minnesota Historical Society, por 25613 r1

Agnes “Brownie” McNair Hull

Humboldt, Friedrich von
Imme, Roger
Irving, Washington
Isle, Billy, Ezekiel and Otis
Jackson, Pres. Andrew
Jordan, Charles M.
Kenny, Sister Elizabeth
Killebrew, Harmon (baseball field, Pearl Park)
King, Rev. Lyndon (“Lyndale” is derived from Lyndon, father of William S. King)
King, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, Jr.
King, William Smith
Kroening, Carl
Leavenworth, Harriet Lovejoy
Levin, Joanne R.
Logan, Gen. John
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth
Loring, Charles Morgridge

Charles M. Loring

Charles M. Loring

Lovell, C. P.
Lowry, Thomas
Lupient, Jim (water park)
Luxton, George E.
Marcy, William A.
Marshall, Gov. William
Matthews, Charles E.
McRae, Alexander A.
Merrill, Mary
Monroe, Pres. James
Morris, Lucy Wilder
Morrison, Clinton
Morrison, Dorilus
Mueller, Robert C. and Herbert L.
Murphy, Edward
Neiman, Leonard
Nelson, Benjamin Franklin
Newton, Isaac
Nicollet, Joseph
Oliver, Deacon
Olson, Orvin “Ole”
Orlin (unknown, street name)
Painter, Jonathan E.
Peavey, Frank H.
Perkins (unknown, property owner)
Pershing, Gen. John
Phelps, Edmund J.
Phillips, Eddie (football field, Farview Park)
Phillips, Wendell
Pillsbury, Phillip W. (and John S. and Charles A.)
Quilici, Frank (baseball field, Shingle Creek Park)
Reed, Lachlan and Martha Sweatt
Rice, James I.
Ridgway, James Arthur
Rivers, J. D. (garden, Wirth Park)
Roberts, Thomas Sadler
Rollins (John or Mortimer?, developer of Rollins Addition)
Russell, Roswell P.
Sheridan, Gen. Phillip H.
Sibley, Gen. Henry Hastings

Sibley, Henry Brig. Gen.

Gen. Henry Sibley

Smith, Charles Axel (C.A.)
Snelling, Col. Josiah
Solomon, Edward C.
Steele, Franklin
Stevens, Col. John
Stewart, Levi Merrick “Elder”
Stinson, James
Sumner, Sen. Charles
Sweatt, Harold
Todd, George
Van Cleve, Gen. Horatio P. and Charlotte Ouisconsin
Waite, Edward Foote
Washburn, Sen. William Drew
Washington, Pres. George
Webber, Charles C. and Mary Harris
Wells, Frederick (tennis center)
Whittier, John Greenleaf
Willard, Frances
Winchell, Newton (and Horace)
Windom, Sen. William
Wirth, Theodore
Young, Annie

Some “names” are not included on this list. Minnehaha is often thought of as a fictional character from Longfellow’s famous poem “Song of Hiawatha.” In fact, it’s a phrase in the Dakota language, “mni haha” that was a generic term for “waterfall.” So Longfellow named his character not for laughing water, but literally for waterfall.

Six other names from Longfellow’s once wildly popular poem also were used in the Minneapolis park system. Four are still used: Hiawatha and Nokomis for lakes, Keewaydin for a park and Wenonah for a triangle. Two others, Iagoo and Osseo, were names of park triangles that no longer exist.

One of the most influential park commissioners on nomenclature opposed the Longfellow-associated names for the two lakes. William Watts Folwell, the first President of University of Minnesota and a historian, opposed naming Lake Amelia and Rice Lake for Nokomis and Hiawatha, respectively, in 1925, because they were Ojibway names, not Dakota names, and were therefore inappropriate in a region once inhabited primarily by Dakota people.

William Watts Folwell dressed for his wedding

William Watts Folwell

In the 1890s Folwell had proposed several names for parks when he was a park commissioner. Only one of the names he suggested was accepted: Loring Park. He proposed the name to honor his friend and first president of the park board Charles Loring, when Loring left the park board in 1891.

In addition to Loring Park, Folwell’s most lasting naming suggestion came in 1891 when he proposed calling Minneapolis’s system of parkways – first imagined by H. W. S. Cleveland – the “Grand Rounds.”

Other names proposed by Folwell that were not accepted for various reasons:

  • Hiyata Lake, for Spring Lake at The Parade, from a Dakota word for “behind the hill” according to Folwell. While the name was never officially adopted when proposed in the 1890s it did appear on several park board maps in the early 1900s
  • Accault Parkway for West River Parkway, after Michel Accault, the leader of the French exploring party that included Father Hennepin as a subordinate member
  • Lake Medoza, for Lake Calhoun, using a Dakota name for the lake, which meant lake of the “loons”. Folwell, like many others who had fought in the Union Army, wasn’t keen on perpetuating Calhoun’s name, which was so closely identified with the secessionist cause. Folwell was pursuing a graduate degree in Germany when the Civil War broke out; he returned home immediately and enlisted, eventually becoming a Lt. Col. in command of a corps of engineers
  • “Alpha” through “Lambda”, letters of the Greek alphabet, for smaller triangular parks – not one of Folwell’s most brilliant ideas.
sanford maria portrait

Maria Sanford

I recently discovered a suggestion from 1923 to rename the three bridges over canals linking Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun after three prominent women in Minneapolis history: Maria Sanford, Beatrice Lowry and Alice Ames Winter. I haven’t found a record of what became of that idea. They would all be excellent additions to park nomenclature.

 

Cleveland reading

H. W. S. Cleveland

If you have followed this blog for some time you know that I must close with a plea to add a name to this long list: Horace William Shaler Cleveland.

It remains astonishing that one of the people most responsible for the creation of this marvelous park system is not included among the many who have had their names memorialized in it. There is still time to make that right!

 

 

David C. Smith

A few moments later: Thanks to MaryLynn Pulscher, I have added the name of Roger Imme to the list. The recreation center at Whittier Park is named for him. If I got paid for writing these pieces, MaryLynn would get paid as my editor!

3/25: I just added three names I had overlooked in the park system. The Reed Sweat Family Tennis Center at MLK Park was not named by the Minneapolis park board but does operate through a lease agreement within a park. The center is named for Lachlan Reed, his wife Martha Sweatt Reed and her father Harold Sweatt, who founded InnerCity Tennis.

As for fake names, there were no Isles brothers to my knowledge only real islands, although the number of isles in the lake has changed a few times. The present islands, two in number, are known as Raspberry and Mike. I have no idea who Mike was and have not included the name in my list. Maybe she was the little sister of the Isles brothers.

City of Parks among “excellent books”

Many people who love urban parks are familiar with Alan Tate’s tremendous book Great City Parks (2001). It was one of the first books I bought when I began research for City of Parks in 2007. Tate provided an overview, beautifully illustrated, of 19 great urban parks from around the world and one urban park system—Minneapolis’s—which provided context for my own decade-long obsession. Among the individual parks he profiled in addition to the Minneapolis park system were some of my favorites: Central Park and Bryant Park in New York, Regent’s Park in London, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in Paris and Parque de Maria Luisa in Sevilla.

A second edition of Great City Parks was published in 2015. In the preface to that edition, Tate explained why he had decided to produce a revised edition. Among his reasons was that there had been “numerous publications bringing new perspectives on the subject.” He also noted that since he had written his book some “excellent books on the individual parks” had been written. He listed seven books “particularly.” One of them was “David C. Smith’s City of Parks – The Story of Minneapolis Parks.”City of Parks

I mention this for two reasons. One, you really should own a copy of City of Parks. I don’t get a penny from your purchase—I don’t get royalties—so all proceeds go to the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. Even if you disagree with Alan Tate, one of the world’s leading authorities on city parks, and don’t think the book is “excellent”, you’ll be supporting Minneapolis parks. Seems worth the risk to me.

The other reason I mention this is ego; writers love praise. So why didn’t I mention it before now? I just learned of it this week. I’m not sure, but some people are saying that the “lying media” has kept this from us. It wasn’t in the New York Times, was it?

David C. Smith

Straw Men, Women and Children

When I landed in Lusaka, Zambia in 1980, the country was a relatively stable island surrounded by wars and brutal governments. That meant it was a refuge for people fleeing death, destruction and brutality on nearly all sides. As the new Vice Consul at the American Embassy, I had a professional interest in those horrors. Part of my job was to implement a new U.S. State Department program of refugee resettlement from Africa. That experience informs my deep anger and embarrassment at the shameful, unnecessary and likely counterproductive ban on travel, immigration and refugee resettlement in the U.S. targeted at Muslims last week by President Trump.

Zambia shared borders with Angola, Mozambique and Namibia, all of which were war zones as those nations wrestled with their very recent colonial pasts. The fight in Angola in particular was complicated by the presence of Cuban and South African troops. To the south, Zimbabwe had just ended a long civil war against the rule of the white minority, which had displaced many people. To the east, Malawi was governed by a brutal despot and to the north Zaire was afflicted with periodic violent rebellions against an oppressive and corrupt regime. People sought refuge in Zambia in large numbers.

Overshadowing even this cauldron of displacement was the presence of the headquarters in Lusaka of the African National Congress, the outlawed opposition political party in South Africa. Many fleeing South Africans ended up in Lusaka, too, escaping through Botswana or Zimbabwe. Roads and riverbanks on Zambia’s southern and western borders were littered with land mines. Weapons had poured into the region from nearly every major power. In Lusaka, AK-47s were for rent by the night.

The first refugee resettlement program in Africa was a part of the United States humanitarian response to the situation that had overwhelmed the capacity of a country like Zambia to manage. While Zambia presented unique challenges for refugee resettlement, American embassies throughout Africa joined in the effort to resettle the most vulnerable and deserving refugees in the U.S.

With a strict cap on the number of refugees we were allowed to begin processing that year in Lusaka – fewer than two dozen, as I recall – we focused on the most deserving applicants. The experienced staff of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Lusaka was a valuable ally in sorting out legitimate refugee claims.

It was not easy to corroborate or confirm the individual stories we heard from refugees, but we followed a rigorous process. Our concern was not to weed out terrorists, of course – it was a different time – but we were intently focused on granting refugee status to those most deserving, not opportunists. Practically by definition refugees come from chaotic circumstances where record keeping has broken down or where government-sanctioned persecution and reprisals cast doubt on all official records. How were we to evaluate claims or verify details? You don’t send polite letters to dictators who routinely torture and kill their own citizens to ask if torture claims or death threats are true. Sometimes the evidence of torture was visible physically on refugee applicants; in others, it was evident in behaviors. In still others, experienced observers could distinguish fact from fiction. We evaluated claims and investigated as thoroughly as possible given the much more limited investigative tools of that day.

On our end – the screening process – we could rely on our eyes, ears and brains. The other end of the refugee resettlement process required heart and soul. The State Department worked with organizations around the country, mostly faith-based, to find sponsors for refugees. A group of people would provide a community and resources, both material and emotional, for scarred people lucky enough to have a fresh start, unlucky enough to need one. I learned from my State Department colleagues that one of the most reliable places in the U.S. to find generous sponsors for refugees was Minnesota.

In time, with help, we did our job of processing refugees for resettlement in the U.S, although far fewer than were worthy. I later received letters from some of those who established new lives in the U.S.; one worked in an Arizona copper mine, another was working full-time at two 7-11s, saving money for college. All were grateful, even as they were staggered by the incredible wealth of even average Americans. I suspect that the vast majority became contributing members of American society. I hope they healed.

I was proud to play a small part in implementing that humanitarian effort – and proud of the thousands of generous Americans who played their own parts in it for refugees from Africa and around the world.

My reaction was quite different last week when America symbolically discriminated against an entire religion, turning our backs on visitors, students, immigrants, refugees and fellow citizens for purely religious reasons. The oft-repeated defense of the travel and refugee ban imposed – that it didn’t apply to all Muslims – is nonsense, as is the argument that the order targeted only people from countries already identified by President Obama as potential threats. The government of the United States of America officially discriminated against people solely because of their religion.

The outrageous excuses defeated themselves anyway, because terror attacks by immigrants from the cited countries have not happened. So Trump’s “extreme” actions are a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist either because visitors, potential immigrants and refugees from those countries do not pose a threat or because the vetting system already in place has been effective. Whichever explanation you choose, Trump’s loudly proclaimed “extreme” solution is wrong and reprehensible, and more so because it is unnecessary.

A vetting system – “regular vetting,” I suppose – has been in place and improved upon for years since my days in the State Department. By all evidence, it has been successful. And please don’t forget that most of the people who have been doing the “regular vetting” are people like me who had family and friends at home to protect just as much as Donald Trump has ever had and were as patriotic as he has ever been. The people doing that “regular vetting” were not only doing so to protect their families and their country, but were often doing it at personal risk in dangerous places. Don’t tell me those people were unpatriotic or unconcerned about the safety of Americans. Don’t tell me that their “regular vetting” has made you less safe, because it hasn’t. They have succeeded spectacularly in helping to keep us safe without insulting or endangering millions of people who should be our allies and friends, and often are our neighbors

Trump’s “extreme vetting” is a meaningless, concocted term that has no substance and will likely lead to no change at all anyway. (Just think of the Goldman Sachs-plated Cabinet that is supposed to drain the swamp, or James Comey’s suspicious emails, or Mexican payments for a wall.) Why does Trump propose an “extreme” solution for an invented problem? Without “enemies,” without fear, Trump stands for nothing. So he creates straw men to knock down, to prove how tough he is, to show us he’s got our back. In this case, the straw men, women and children are Muslims, and not just potential terrorists from seven countries, but all Muslims everywhere. “They” are his enemy. President Trump has placed them all in the shadow of evil. He clearly asserts that if we cannot yet prove they are terrorists, we just have to look harder, extremer. (Maybe some extreme water-boarding would yield proof.)

The scary part of the episode? Who’s next?

As abhorrent as I find our government’s actions of the past week, I am truly baffled by only one thing in President Trump’s explanation of his edict on immigrants and refugees. Why did he single out Christians for preferential treatment, a group with which, by my observation, he has so little in common?

David C. Smith

I do not apologize for posting political and humanitarian comment on a site that has been largely apolitical. I have always recognized that people of different political beliefs can find common ground on many issues, such as managing and preserving public spaces. But the time comes when silence is not acceptable, when we all must use whatever means we have at our disposal to condemn policies that are so objectionable.

I will approve no comments on this post. If you agree with me, feel free to share my thoughts with others and add your voice. If you disagree, create your own blog.

I’ll return to my regular park-related topics soon.

100 Years Ago: Altered Electoral Map and Shorelines

What has changed in 100 years? A few times on this site, I have looked back 100 years at park history. I’ll expand my scope this year because of extraordinary political developments. Politics first, then parks.

The national electoral map flipped. The electoral map of the 1916 Presidential contest is astonishing. Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, won a close re-election against Republican candidate Charles Hughes, a Supreme Court Justice. Compare red and blue states below to today. Nearly inverted. The Northeast, Upper Midwest and Far West — well, Oregon — voted alike. Republican. And lost.

1916_electoral_map

The 1916 electoral map was nearly opposite of the 2016 electoral map in terms of  party preference. Unlike 2016, President Wilson won both the popular vote and the electoral vote, but his electoral-vote margin was smaller than Donald Trump’s. If the total of votes cast in 1916, fewer than 19 million, seems impossibly low even for the population at that time, keep in mind that only men could vote. (Source: Wikipedia)

While Minnesota’s electoral votes were cast for the Republican — although Hughes received only 392 more votes than Wilson out of nearly 400,000 cast — Minneapolis elected Thomas Van Lear as its mayor, the only Socialist to hold that office in city history. One hundred years later, Minneapolis politics are again dominated by left-of-center politicians.

The population of Minneapolis in 1916 and 2016 was about the same: now a little over 400,000, then a little under. Minneapolis population peaked in mid-500,000s in mid-1950s and dropped into mid-300,000s in late 20th Century. One hundred years ago, however, Minneapolis suburbs were very sparsely populated.

The world 100 years ago was a violent and unstable place. World War I was in its bloody, muddy depths, although the U.S. had not yet entered the war, and Russia was on the verge of revolution. Now people are killed indiscriminately by trucks, guns, and bombs. People worldwide debated then how to address the excesses of capitalists, oligarchs and despots unencumbered by morality. We still do.

One notable change? Many Americans campaigned in 1916 to put women in voting booths, in 2016 to put a woman in the Oval Office.

Continuing Park Growth: North and South

How about progress in parks? The Minneapolis park board added significantly to its playground holdings in 1916 and 1917 as public demand for facilities and fields for active recreation increased. In North Minneapolis, Glenwood (Theodore Wirth) Park was expanded and land for Folwell Park was acquired. In South Minneapolis, Nicollet (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) Park and Chicago Avenue (Phelps) Park were purchased and land for Cedar Avenue Park was donated. In 1917, the first Longfellow Field was sold to Minneapolis Steel and steps were initiated to replace it at its present location.

One particular recreational activity was in park headlines in 1916 for the very first time. A nine-hole course was opened that year at Glenwood (Theodore Wirth) Park, the first public golf course in Minneapolis. Golf was free and greens weren’t green, they were made of sand. In less than ten years, the park board operated four 18-hole courses (Glenwood [Wirth], Columbia, Armour [Gross], and Meadowbrook) and was preparing to add a fifth at Lake Hiawatha.

The Grand Rounds were nearly completed conceptually, when first plans for St. Anthony Boulevard from Camden Bridge on the Mississippi River to the Ramsey County line on East Hennepin Avenue were presented in 1916. Park Superintendent Theodore Wirth also suggested that the banks of the Mississippi River above St. Anthony Falls might be made more attractive with shore parks and plantings, even if the railroads maintained ownership of the land. One hundred years later we’re still working on that, but have made some progress including the continuing purchase by the Park Board of riverfront lots as they have become available.These have been the only notable additions to park acreage in many years.

One important result of the increasing demand for playground space in Minneapolis one hundred years ago was the passage by the Minnesota legislature in 1917 of a bill that enabled the park board to increase property tax collections by 50%. In 2016, the Park Board and the City Council reached an important agreement on funding to maintain and improve neighborhood parks.

 Altered Shorelines

In a city blessed with water and public waterfronts, however, some of the most significant issues facing the Minneapolis park board in 1917 involved shorelines — beyond beautifying polluted river banks.

The most contentious issue was an extension of Lake Calhoun, a South Bay, south on Xerxes Avenue to 43rd Street. Residents of southwest Minneapolis wanted that marshy area either filled or dredged — dry land or lake. There was no parkway at that time around the west and south shore of Lake Calhoun from Lake Street and Dean Parkway to William Berry Parkway. As a part of plans to construct a parkway along that shoreline, the park board in 1916 approved extending Lake Calhoun and putting a drive around a new South Bay as well.

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This drawing from a 1915 newspaper article shows the initial concept of a South Bay and outlines how it would be paid for. (Source: Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, June 20, 1915)

The challenge, of course was how to pay for it. The park board’s plan to assess property owners in the area for the expensive improvements was met with furiuos opposition and lawsuits. Many property owners thought that assessments they were already paying for acquisitions and improvements over the years at Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet and William Berry Park were too heavy. The courts eventually decided in favor of the park board’s right to assess for those improvements, but by then estimated costs for the project had increased and become prohibitive and the South Bay scheme was abandoned.

Instead land for Linden Hills Park was acquired in 1919 and the surrounding wet land was drained into Lake Calhoun in the early 1920s. Dredged material from the lake was used to create a better-defined shoreline on the southwestern and northwestern shores of the lake in 1923 in preparation for the construction of the parkway.

Flowage Rights on the Mississippi River and a Canal to Brownie Lake

Minneapolis parks also lost land to water in 1916. The federal government claimed 27.6 acres of land in the Mississippi River gorge for flowage rights for the reservoir that would be created by a new dam to be built near Minnehaha Creek. Those acres, on the banks of the river and several islands in the river, would be submerged behind what became Lock and Dam No. 1 or the Ford Dam. In exchange for the land to be flooded, the park board did acquire some additional land on the bluffs overlooking the dam.

The other alteration in water courses was the dredging of a navigable channel between Cedar Lake and Brownie Lake, which completed the “linking of the lakes” that was begun with the connection of Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun in 1911. The land lost to the channel was negligible and probably balanced by a slight drop in water level in Brownie Lake. (A five-foot drop in Cedar Lake was caused by the opening of the Kenilworth Lagoon to Lake of the Isles in 1913.)

Another potential loss of water from Minneapolis parks may have occurred in 1917. William Washburn’s Fair Oaks estate at one time had a pond. I don’t know when that pond was filled. The estate became park board property upon the death of Mrs. Washburn in 1915. Perhaps in 1917 when the stables and greenhouses on the southwest corner of the property were demolished, the south end of the estate was graded and the pond was filled. Theodore Wirth’s suggestion for the park, presented in 1917, included an amphitheater in part of the park where the pond had once been.

The Dredge Report

The year 1917 marked the end of the most ambitious dredging project in Minneapolis parks — in fact the biggest single project ever undertaken by the park board until then, according to Theodore Wirth. The four-year project moved more than 2.5 million cubic yards of earth and reduced the lake from 300 shallow acres to 200 acres with a uniform depth of 15 feet.

That wasn’t the end of work at Lake Nokomis, however. The park surrounding the lake, especially the playing fields northwest of the lake couldn’t be graded for another five years, after the dredge fill had settled.

Dredging may again be an issue in 2017 if the Park Board succeeds in raising funds for a new park on the river in northeast Minneapolis. Dredges would carve a new island out of land where an old man-made island once existed next to the Plymouth Avenue Bridge. But that may be a long time off — and could go the way of South Bay.

Park Buzz

One other development in 1917 had more to do with standing water than was probably understood at the time. The Park Board joined with the Real Estate Board in a war on mosquitoes. However, after spending $100 on the project and realizing they would have to spend considerably more to achieve results, park commissioners terminated the project. It was not the first or last battle won by mosquitoes in Minneapolis.

As we look again at new calendars, it’s always worth taking a glance backward to see how we got here. For me, it is much easier to follow the course of events in Minneapolis park history than in American political history.

David C. Smith

Comments: I am not interested in comments of a partisan political nature here, so save those for your favorite political sites.

Where’s Waldo? Minnesota, Lair of Giants!

I was researching other things last spring when I found two letters written by Ralph Waldo Emerson to his daughter Ellen from Minnesota in 1867—150 years ago this month.

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Emerson’s signature on his letter to his daughter Ellen in Concord, Massachusetts, January 31, 1867.  (Emerson Family Correspondence, ca. 1725-1900 (MS Am 1280.226) Houghton Library, Harvard University.)

Emerson was on one of his annual lecture tours to the West, but it was his first venture across the Mississippi River into Minnesota.

He seemed to like the place—even commenting in his letter that Minneapolis was “said to be of admirable climate.” Perhaps he was not willing to trust his own judgment on the matter as he was visiting in January and in an account of his visit published in Minnesota History, June 1930, Hubert H. Hoeltje wrote that Emerson travelled from LaCrosse to Winona in an open carriage on a day that the temperature tumbled to 20 below zero. Emerson was kind enough not to frighten his daughter with accounts in his letters of such extreme hardship.

Emerson likely knew something of Minnesota from his old friend Henry David Thoreau who had visited Minneapolis, residing for a time on the shore of Lake Calhoun, in 1861. We also learn from the letters that he had cousins here. And Hoeltje observes in his article that Emerson had purchased property in Wisconsin in 1856.

Despite these connections and a history of lecturing in other not-quite-so-exotic locales since 1852 when he first lectured in St. Louis, Emerson reassured his daughter in his January 31 letter from Faribault that he was “in good new country with plenty of robust people who take kind care of me.” Still he felt it “a little pathetic” that people “born to be delicate and petted” had “removed into this rough yeomanly lair of the giants.”emerson-excerpt-1867-01-31

Writing from St. Paul the next day he recounted for Ellen his meeting with his cousin Hannah Ladd Meyer and her children who lived in Northfield. Hannah, he wrote, “was as good & almost as handsome as in her youth.”

Emerson also recounted that his host in Faribault, grandson of the founder of the eponymous city, had taken him to visit eight “Sioux tepis (conical tents)” near town. He noted that the small village included only older men, women and children as the warriors had been “removed to Nebraska.” With Faribault, who “spoke Indian”, Emerson had visited the tents and in one had listened to two girls sing “quite prettily.” He also wrote that young Faribault, who was three-quarters Indian himself, had gone to school in Montreal and “was as handsome & as accurately dressed and did the honors as gracefully…as any youth from New York could be or do.” Emerson was disappointed that light in the tepis was provided not by burning pine-knots or birchbark, but by kerosene lamps. “I inquired,” he concluded, “whether I could see such another Indian picture between that spot and Boston and I was assured I could not.”

From Faribault, Emerson travelled to St. Paul, which he called a “proud, new, thriving town” of 12-15,000 people with handsome buildings and fine banks. Escorted by Governor William Marshall, he visited the State Capitol, but seemed most struck by the fact that Gov. Marshall was Swedenborgian by religion, a subject on which they conversed.

I do not wish to sow seeds of strife in these troubled times, but I am only here as a chronicler, and am compelled to cite Emerson’s comparison of my present home with my boyhood home.

“Thence to Minneapolis,” Emerson wrote two days later from there, “a town of greatest promise in all the northwest…If Edward [his son, recently graduated from Harvard] were to come west, let him come here. It is the house, St. Paul being only the front door.”

Emerson was not left alone much on his visit. His travelling companion from Faribault to St. Paul was Wisconsin Congressman and future governor, and famous miller, C.C. Washburn, and he ate Sunday dinner in Minneapolis with C.C.’s younger brother and future Minnesota Senator, William Drew Washburn. That day he also visited another cousin, Phebe Chamberlain, whom he had not seen in 30 years.

While in Minneapolis, Emerson lectured twice, once for the Athenaeum Library Association at Harrison Hall and again at the Universalist Church at 4th Ave. South and 5th St. Hubert Hoeltje noted that the only local newspaper coverage of the first Minneapolis lecture cited the time and place and a “large and attentive audience,” but concluded, “lack of space forbids comment.” A newspaper account of Emerson’s second lecture ended with the observation, “So great was the rush of people that scores were unable to obtain admission—among whom was the writer.” That struck me as one of the funniest things I’ve ever read in a newspaper.

As popular as Emerson was, he was not the biggest draw for the lecture series that year. Hoeltje reports, for instance, that Frederick Douglass drew an audience to St. Paul twice as large as Emerson’s. Perhaps Emerson’s star had faded somewhat by then. He had been lecturing for many years and was 63 years old, nearing the end of his lecturing career.

Emerson had nothing to do with Minneapolis parks apart from any influence his philosophy may have had on H. W. S. Cleveland’s view of nature and preservation of natural features of the landscape, especially in cities. Cleveland and his partner at the time, Robert Morris Copeland, had designed Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Emerson’s hometown of Concord, Mass. in 1855. Emerson was on the committee that commissioned their work and gave the address at the dedication of the cemetery. He was also buried there—along with Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louisa Mae Alcott. Cleveland and Emerson certainly knew each other. Cleveland scholar Daniel Nadenicek considers Emerson an important influence on Cleveland’s aesthetic. While there are similarities between the two men’s views, the more I have learned of Cleveland’s life, the less weight I have come to place on Emerson’s influence on Cleveland. But that’s probably subject matter for a book one of these days.

For now suffice to say that the frontier city of the northwest that held significant appeal for Emerson in 1867, was also the city in which Cleveland chose to live years later—and beautify with his vision, however it was shaped.

David C. Smith

© 2017 David C. Smith

Thanks Barbara MacLeish for correcting the date Thoreau lived at Lake Calhoun: 1861, not 1860. Corrections are always appreciated.

 

What were the first two names for Loring Park?

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.

eliot-park-donation-1st-condition

One condition of Jacob Elliot’s donation of land for Elliot Park in 1883 was the creation of fountain. Elliot Park was the first Minneapolis park named for a person. The clause pictured is a part of the original document donating the land. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

Additional recently found correspondence sought Dr. Elliot’s approval for the plaque he had specified.

EPSON MFP image

The fountain built as a condition of the donation of Elliot Park. From a postcard published around 1910. The “fountain” was a single standpipe in the middle of the pond. The Elliot Park pond was very similar to the one created in Van Cleve Park in the early 1890s.

EPSON MFP image

Elliot Park fountain and Asbury Hospital from a post card with an eerie pink tinge. A soccer field now occupies this section of the park.

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.

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Charles Loring suggested a Memorial Boulevard and pledged to create a trust fund that would provide an annual revenue of $2,500 for the perpetual care of trees along the drive. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

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

 

 

 

 

Shared History: Edina’s Early Days

Edina and Minneapolis share more than France Avenue—and history buffs aren’t restricted by city boundaries.

Henry Brown played an important role in the history of Edina as well as the history of Minnehaha Falls as a Minneapolis park.

There is a Chowen Park in both Edina and Minneapolis.

Minnehaha Creek flows through Minneapolis parkland  before it gets to Edina — and, of course, all of Minnehaha Creek after it leaves Edina on its way through Minneapolis to Minnehaha Falls and the Mississippi River is parkland.

The Interlachen neighborhood grew up around a golf course created by golfers who had outgrown their nine-hole Bryn Mawr course near downtown Minneapolis. 

That’s just a taste of the rich information on Edina history—and Minneapolis history— on the web site of realtor Ben Ganje. Go to the neighborhood directory on his site then look at the right margin for a list of Edina neighborhoods. Each of Edina’s 45 official neighborhoods is profiled with historical info and interesting bits of trivia.

I read about Todd Park because of my interest in famous diva Emma Abbott, a Minneapolis girl made good. Her father was one of those first interested in developing this part of Edina.

Why was I interested in Emma Abbott? She was buried next to her husband in Oak Grove Cemetery in his home town, Gloucester, Mass. Their monument is the most impressive in that cemetery, which I visited this fall.

Oak Grove, Emma Abbott Memorial

Emma Abbott’s memorial in Oak Grove Cemetery, Gloucester, Mass. Designing the cemetery was one of H.W.S. Cleveland’s first commissions as a landscape architect in 1854. (Photos: David C. Smith)

Laying out Oak Grove Cemetery was one of the first commissions Horace William Shaler Cleveland received as a landscape architect. Oak Grove, Emma Abbott WetherleyHe was hired for that job, with his young partner Robert Copeland, in 1854. The next year they tackled the design of the much more prestigious Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Mass., the eventual resting place of many of the great writers of early America: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife, Sophia, who was a childhood friend of Horace Cleveland.

More Edina History of Interest to Minneapolitans

Another Edina neighborhood profile I liked was Creek Knoll, which borders Minneapolis and was first promoted as a residential development for its nearness to Lake Harriet.

Also check out the profile of Morningside, a neighborhood that was also subdivided and developed partly because of the rapidly rising prices of residential lots nearer Lake Harriet in the early 1900s.

For those of you interested in park history in general, you might want to read about park development at Pamela Park, Bredesen Park and also the land once owned by four-term Minneapolis mayor, George Leach, that became Braemar Golf Course. The Lake Cornelia history also presents some of the challenges of park making as well as stormwater management that face cities as well as suburbs.

Can you still catch northern pike in Centennial Lakes?

Worth a look if you want to know more about our southwestern neighbor—and our metropolitan area from water management and freeways to shopping centers.

David C. Smith

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