Archive for the ‘Minnehaha Falls’ Category

Accept When Offered: A Brief History of Minnehaha Parkway

Given recent discussion of the history of Minnehaha Parkway, I thought it might be useful to consider a brief timeline of when and why the parkway was acquired by the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners and how it was developed. I wrote some of this for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in 2008, but it is not presently accessible at minneapolisparks.org. Most other individual park histories, such as Minnehaha Park and Minnehaha Creek Park (the creek west of Minnehaha Parkway to Edina), are available there under the “History” tab on each park page. I would encourage you to read them.

Park board records do not reveal the origin of the idea of a parkway along the valley of Minnehaha Creek. The first mention of a park along the creek is in the park board proceedings of October 8, 1887 when, after hearing from “interested parties,” the park board resolved that when lands along Minnehaha Creek “are offered, they be accepted” between Lake Harriet and the Soldier’s Home. (The Soldier’s Home was then planned to be built at the mouth of Minnehaha Creek on the Mississippi River on land donated to the state by the city. Minnehaha Falls was not yet a park, although it was in the works.) As part of the resolution, the park commissioners expressed their intent to create a parkway beside the creek when they deemed best to do so—meaning if they ever had the money.

Mpls Parks Fig 00-02 Minnehaha Boulevard

An early 1900s postcard image of the parkway and path at an unknown location. Don’t you want to follow that path? It’s a favorite image I included in City of Parks: The Story of Minneapolis Parks

Today Minnehaha Parkway begins at Lake Harriet Parkway on the south shore of Lake Harriet and Continue reading

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Large Stone Fireplace in Minnehaha Dog Park?

Mary MacDonald recently wrote to ask for info on the large stone fireplace near the long path to the Mississippi River in the Minnehaha Dog Park off 54th and Hiawatha. She said she’s been unable to find any info on who built it and how old it is. Does anyone know? I don’t know anything about it. Leave a comment or e-mail me at the address below.

David C. Smith

Maybe it’s time for Puck to have a sniff.

Puck

Public-private collaborations that work: Sea Salt, Tin Fish and…Bread and Pickle?

The mention of Sea Salt restaurant in Alice Streed’s Minneapolis Park Memory: Treasure (below) is noteworthy. A relatively new development in our parks is mentioned in the same sentences as long-celebrated spaces and activities. The popular restaurant in the Minnehaha Park refectory — run as a private, for-profit business — is a marvelous example of the best of public-private collaboration. It proves that private enterprise can do some things, such as serving delicious sea food, better than a public agency. I believe it also demonstrates the silliness of claims that the sky is falling whenever an agency like the park board considers change.

Lest private enterprise advocates get carried away here, however, let me state quite emphatically that there would be no park system in which to place these wonderful little restaurants if we would have relied on private interests to create parks. Our parks prove that public agencies can do some things, such as creating a park system, that private enterprise will not do.

The debate over allowing businesses to operate in Minneapolis parks is old — and sometimes entertaining. The park board began granting concessions for boat rentals, then food sales, to private businesses at Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet very early in the history of Minneapolis parks. The park board assumed control of the boat rentals at Lake Harriet in the late 1880s when Charles Loring noted that the business could be easily managed by the park board. On other issues, however, the presence of private enterprise on park property was vigorously opposed.

Permit me to quote myself — and Horace Cleveland — from City of Parks:

(Cleveland) had also written (to William Folwell) of his disgust that the park board was considering permitting a structure next to Minnehaha Falls where people could have their photos taken beside the cataract. “If erected,” Cleveland complained, “it will be simply pandering to the tastes of the army of boobies who think to boost themselves into notoriety by connecting their own stupid features with the representation of one of the most beautiful of God’s works.”

You didn’t mess with Cleveland’s favorite natural landscapes — one of the things that made him one of the first great landscape architects. Fortunately, William Folwell, who was president of the park board at the time, agreed with his friend.

Another early private business on park property was a service to pump up deflated bicycle tires on the new bicycle paths created by the park board during the bicycle craze of the 1880s-1890s. The park board did exercise some control over the business, however, by stipulating that the business could not charge more than a penny for filling a tire.

The park board began to take over food service in park buildings after Theodore Wirth became park superintendent in 1906. Wirth, like many park executives of the day, believed that no private concessions should be operated in parks — although he seemed to make an exception for pony rides and probably would have for the polo fields and barns he proposed for Bryn Mawr Meadows. (And, of course, the sheep he brought in to graze at Glenwood Park in 1921 were not owned by the park board. Wirth wrote that he thought sheep grazing in a park was a cool visual effect and that the sheep would earn their keep by cutting grass, keeping weeds down, which reduced fire risk, and fertilizing. Unfortunately they didn’t mow evenly and ate other plants too, so the borrowed sheep were evicted in 1922. ) One of the few other historical examples of a private venture operating on park property was the Minneapolis Tennis Club, which operated first at The Parade and then moved to Nicollet (Martin Luther King) Park in the early 1950s when Parade Stadium was built.

Do you remember concession stands in parks? What about treats at the Calhoun, Nokomis or Wirth beach houses?  As good as fish tacos?

I have high hopes for Bread & Pickle, the new food service contracted for Lake Harriet next summer. I hope the Citizens Advisory Council that worked so hard on the recommendations wasn’t too conservative in forcing  a new service into old space.

David C. Smith

Minneapolis park scenes from more than 100 years ago

I found these postcards in a lot box at an auction. They intrigued me because I work for the park board. What I liked about them was that we always think that the world changes so much, but here was proof that we are still enjoying the exact same activity (having fun at Minnehaha Falls) that people did over a hundred years ago. Kind of reassuring in a crazy world.

Iris Pahlberg Peterson

Minnehaha Falls on postcards postmarked in 1906 and 1908

Minnehaha Glen below the falls, in postcards mailed in 1907 and 1911

West bank of Mississippi River with view of Lake Street bridge in 1908 postcard. This was the river bank before the Ford Dam created a reservoir of the river.

Did the Princess Depot burn down?

Most visitors to Minnehaha Falls have seen the little railroad depot, the “Princess” depot, that sits along the railroad tracks southwest of the falls. It was once owned by the Milwaukee Road but is now owned by the Minnesota Historical Society and operated by the Minnesota Transportation Museum. The little information available about the depot says that it was built in 1875. However last year while helping my daughter research a school paper we came across an article in the Minneapolis Tribune of March 7, 1891 that read in its entirety:

The Minnehaha Depot Burned
Shortly after 10 o’clock last night the Milwaukee depot at Minnehaha Falls took fire. Before the apparatus of the fire department could reach the place the flames had obtained too much of a start to be put out and the building, which was built of wood, was totally destroyed. It was a small structure, probably worth less than $1,000.

Subsequent searches of the newspaper revealed no more information on the fire or when the depot was rebuilt. Was the Princess Depot the one that burned or was there another Milwaukee depot at Minnehaha?

Not exactly a Minneapolis parks issue, but many visitors to the falls likely passed through that station.

David C. Smith