Archive for the ‘Graco Park’ Tag

Hall’s Island Redux

With the Park Board’s request yesterday for input on plans for the new Graco Park at Hall’s Island, I thought it might be a good time to pull out of mothballs my original post on the history of Hall’s Island. The following was originally published in 2012 as The Re-creation of Hall’s Island: Part I. I have restored the link to the original post here, if you’d prefer. I had removed the post from the website because I intended to write much more about changes to the river, but that project is on hold for now and I think this information may be useful as background to those considering the history and the future of the island and surroundings. I must admit that this is one of my favorite posts.

The Re-creation of Hall’s Island: Part I (originally published March 14, 2012)

Before he saved enough money to go to medical school, Pearl Hall’s job as a teenager in the mid-1870s was pitching wood onto a cart at a lumber yard near the Plymouth Avenue Bridge on the east bank of the Mississippi River. He remembered vividly from those days of hard labor what he called a little steeple of land sticking out of the Mississippi near the bridge. He could see the tiny patch of ground when he stood on top of his loaded wagon–and he saw the little steeple gradually grow.

Hall’s Island in 1903 plat book (John R. Borchert Map Library, University of Minnesota)

What Pearl Hall saw from his perch of pine was the beginning of Hall’s Island, the island that as Dr. P. M. Hall he would eventually acquire and turn over to the city, the island that became the site of a popular municipal bath house, the island that eventually was dredged onto the east bank of the great river, and the island that the Minneapolis park board will soon begin to re-create as the first step in its RiverFIRST development plan.

Hall didn’t think about that little speck of land again until he was elected to be Minneapolis’s Health Officer in 1901. Then he wrestled with the problem all health officers everywhere wrestled with and usually lost to: how to dispose of garbage. Not just coffee grounds, melon rinds, and chicken bones, but real garbage — offal, dead horses, night soil — where death could take took root and grow.

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