Archive for the ‘Dorilus Morrison Park’ Tag

Quotes from “Arts and Parks”: Folwell on Museums

Thanks to everyone who turned out Saturday morning at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to listen to my thoughts on the people who created parks and a fine art society in Minneapolis in 1883. Special thanks to those who purchased a copy of City of Parks afterwards and introduced themselves. Thanks too to Janice Lurie and Susan Jacobsen for inviting me to speak and hosting the event. I want to remind everyone that all proceeds from the purchase of the book go to the Minneapolis Parks Foundation.

Quite a few of those who attended asked where they could find some of the quotes I used in my presentation, so I promised I would post them here. The most requested, especially from those who work with arts organizations, was William Watts Folwell’s remarks as reported in the Minneapolis Tribune at the laying of the cornerstone of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1913. I’ve provided an excerpt of his remarks from the July 31, 1913 issue of the newspaper, as well as quotes from Charles Loring and Horace Cleveland from earlier times as noted — most of which have appeared in other posts here over the years.

Minneapolis Tribune headline July 31, 1913

Folwell’s remarks included these observations on his hopes for the Institute:

The primary function of the institution will naturally be exhibition of works of art. I trust it will be the governing principle from the start that no inferior works shall ever have a place. Better bare walls and empty galleries than bad art. A single truly great and meritorious work is worth more in every way than a whole museum full of the common and ordinary. A few such works might make Minneapolis a Mecca for art lovers. Gift horses should be carefully looked in the mouth. I am almost ready to say that none should be received. Let benefactors give cash.

“The museum should appreciate and encourage the artistic side of all structures, public, domestic and industrial, and of all furnishings and appliances. ‘Decorative art’ should never be a term of disparagement here. Men have the right to live amid beautiful surroundings and to handle truly artistic implements.”
– William Watts Folwell, as reported in the Minneapolis Tribune, July 31, 1913.

Folwell was not one to mince words. It is noteworthy, especially considering his comments on decorative arts, that one of the influential people in the creation of the Society of Fine Arts and the Institute was interior designer and furniture maker John Scott Bradstreet. You can read much more about him here.

Other quotes from Horace William Shaler Cleveland:

“Regard it as your sacred duty to preserve this gift which the wealth of the world could not purchase, and transmit it as a heritage of beauty to your successors forever.”
–H.W.S. Cleveland, 1872

“If you have faith in the future greatness of your city, do not shrink from securing while you may such areas as will be adequate to the wants of such a city…Look forward for a century, to the time when the city has a population of a million, and think what will be their wants. They will have wealth enough to purchase all that money can buy, but all their wealth cannot purchase a lost opportunity, or restore natural features of grandeur and beauty, which would then possess priceless value, and which you can preserve for them if you will but say the word and save them from the destruction which certainly awaits them if you fail to utter it.”
— H.W.S. Cleveland, Suggestions for a System of Parks and Parkways for the City of Minneapolis, presented June 2, 1883  to the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners.

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

“No city was ever better adapted by nature to be made a gem of beauty.”
— H.W.S. Cleveland to William Folwell, October 22, 1890, Folwell Papers, Minnesota Historical Society

“I have been trying hard all winter to save the river banks and have had some of the best men for backers, but Satan has beaten us.”
– H.W.S. Cleveland to Frederick Law Olmsted on his efforts to have the banks of the Mississippi River preserved as parkland, June 13, 1889, Library of Congress.

The west bank of the Mississippi River Gorge from Riverside Park near Franklin Avenue to Minnehaha Park was not acquired as parkland until after Cleveland died.

“There does not seem to be another such place as Minneapolis for its constant demands upon the time of its citizens. Everyday there is something that must be done. I suppose, perhaps, this may be why we are a great city.”
– Charles Loring in a letter to William Windom, September 27, 1890, Minnesota Historical Society

It is worth noting that Loring was the president of the Minnesota Horticultural Society, vice president of the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, president of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners, president of the Minneapolis Improvement Association, and an officer in the Athenaeum and the Board of Trade. It could be said that he alone was one of the reasons Minneapolis was a great city.

Finally, the newspapers were active supporters of arts and parks through most of the history of Minneapolis. I pulled this quote from an editorial in the Minneapolis Tribune:

“While looking after the useful and necessary, let us not forget the beautiful.”
Minneapolis Tribune, June 30, 1872

Words we could all live by.

David C. Smith

Where do you think Andy Warhol got the idea?

This has nothing to do with parks.

From the Minneapolis Morning Tribune, October 30, 1915.

Artistic tomato cans and beer bottles? No, not now, but maybe in the future. Joseph Breck, director of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, intimated the possibility in an address before the art division of the Minnesota Educational Association today. “When some future historian,” he said, “comes to write the story of nineteenth century art, will he praise our tomato cans, our beer bottles, as the art historians of our day praise the vases of ancient Greece? I fear not. But our industrial arts are improving so rapidly and we have made such tremendous advances on the hideousness of the Victorian era that the time is not far off when the future historian will find much to occupy him in the decorative arts of the coming day. If my statement is borne out it will be largely because we have trained the children to know and to want what is beautiful.”

Beauty in a Can. Andy Warhol

Nothing to do with parks—except I came across the article while researching park issues, precisely the park board service of Leo Harris. Minneapolis developer Ray Harris once commented to me that there were many big battles on the park board in the days his father Leo served as a park commissioner (1915-1918). “It was not all sweetness and light,” Ray said. I was searching the Minneapolis Tribune for reference to some of those battles, when I found the tomato can quote.

One of Harris’s biggest fights was with park superintendent Theodore Wirth over what Harris considered faulty and inferior paving methods on parkways.

But there was some sweetness and light too. In 1916 Harris donated a 12-inch silver trophy that was awarded to the city’s Sunday League baseball champion each year. I don’t know what became of the trophy or how long it was awarded.

The best Leo Harris story I could find was from the Minneapolis Tribune October 27, 1914, subtitled “One Reason Why He Became a Candidate for the Park Board.” Harris said he was walking near his home in the eleventh ward the previous spring when he encountered an army of young children playing in the street. He tried to count them, but the crowd was too large and fluid, so he offered to buy them all ice cream cones. When it came time to settle, he paid for 49 cones. Harris said he became a candidate for the park board a few days later. Harris was quoted as saying, “I love the Park Lakes, the River Drive, the beautiful Minnehaha, but I also believe in giving the children in congested districts a place to play and play right. It is a shame for a city to give these kids only the streets to play in.”

Leo Harris resigned from the park board in 1918 to enlist in the U.S. Army during World War I.

I wrote in a post earlier today that the Minnesota Historical Society photo collection has a picture of almost everything. Here’s more proof: I searched for Leo Harris and while I didn’t find a portrait, I did find his business!

B.W. & Leo Harris Company, 2429 University Avenue Southeast, 1948 (Minneapolis Star Journal, Minnesota Historical Society)

Harris announced the creation of the business in an ad in the Minneapolis Tribune  April 23, 1922.

I should also add that the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, of which Mr. Breck was the director when he gave Warhol his inspiration, is located in a Minneapolis park, Dorilus Morrison Park. I knew there would be a picture of that in the MHS collection.

Dorilus Morrison’s home ca. 1900 (Minnesota Historical Society)

This was Dorilus Morrison’s home in about 1900, which his son, Clinton, donated to the park board in 1911 order to build this…

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, photographed in about 1920, was built in Dorilus Morrison Park. (Charles J. Hibbard, Minnesota Historical Society)

The new Institute opened in January, 1915 and was the site of Breck’s speech later that year. On the day the new building opened, January 7, 1915, a Minneapolis Tribune editorial called it “A New and Powerful Force for Good.”

Dorilus Morrison was instrumental in creating the park board and was a commissioner on the first park board in 1883. Even his son Clinton has a park named for him in a way. Clinton Park was named for its location on Clinton Avenue, but Clinton Avenue was named because it was the street on which Clinton Morrison resided, a block east of his father’s house.

David C. Smith

© 2011 David C. Smith

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