Archive for the ‘H.W.S. Cleveland’ Tag

H.W.S. Cleveland Trivia

I’ve restored a couple more Cleveland-related pages written long ago.

One pertains to the famous men Horace William Shaler Cleveland knew as his older brother’s best friends, including two men who have Minneapolis parks named for them. It is likely that the views of these soon-to-be famous men influenced Cleveland’s thinking on many issues. But it is also entirely possible that Cleveland’s experiences and observations as a young man — especially from his travels to the “West” — could have influenced them as well.

Another post provides Cleveland’s recommendations for books to read on landscape gardening. The list is taken from a letter he wrote to the secretary of the Minneapolis park board nearly 140 years ago — so some of the views expressed may seem oudated. All of the books Cleveland recommends, once scarce in the United States, are now available free on Google Books.

For a man without much formal education, Cleveland was an intellectual force.

Davd Carpentier Smith

Cleveland’s Property and Olmsted’s Fame

I mentioned a couple weeks ago the friendly relationship between Horace William Shaler Cleveland and Frederick Law Olmsted. While there is so much of note in that relationship, and dozens of letters exchanged between the men attest to it, one of Cleveland’s letters to Frederick Law Olmsted caught my attention because it referred to property Cleveland owned. Later while studying an old plat map of Minneapolis I stumbled across an undivided, 4.7-acre plot of land in South Minneapolis labelled as owned by Cleveland. Like finding a needle in a haystack, I suppose. Another slice of my research into Cleveland’s life which I had previously posted.

Epilogue: Even though he owned some property and worked well into his 80s, Cleveland’s money did run out. His former partner, William Merchant Richardson French, when he was the director of the Chicago Art Institute, sent a letter to Cleveland’s colleagues and friends–including Olmsted–asking for donations to help Cleveland pay his bills as an elderly man.

More to come.

David C. Smith

More Cleveland: Samuel Gale, Oak Lake, Kenwood Parkway

After writing about the Oak Lake Addition in North Minneapolis in 2011, I augmented what I knew about H.W.S. Cleveland’s relationship with Samuel Gale and his work at Oak Lake in “Horace Cleveland Hated Rectangles.” I also wrote more about Cleveland’s eventual work for the Minneapolis park board at Oak Lake and his ideas about Kenwood Parkway.

These are another two archived posts pertaining to Cleveland’s life and work that I just reactivated.

David C. Smith

Cleveland’s First Residential Commission in Minneapolis?

Today I’m reposting an article on the creation and demise of Oak Lake Park as a pricey residential neighborhood on the near north side of Minneapolis in the 1870s. Oak Lake itself sat exactly on the site of today’s Farmers’ Market on Lyndale Avenue. I wrote it in 2011 when the Minnesota Vikings were thought to prefer the Farmers’ Market site for a new stadium. Of course that new stadium was eventually built on the site of the old Metrodome, so that focus of the article is outdated. But the historical information on the site as one of Minneapolis’s first upscale residential developments is still accurate. Not many people know of the ritzy history of the site where the market now stands.

I had set this post aside originally because I had intended to make the case that Horace William Shaler Cleveland was likely the man who advised Samuel Gale on the layout of the new neighborhood. The curving streets adapted to the topography are certainly hallmarks of Cleveland’s work–as are the parcels of land set aside for parks. It is also clear that Cleveland and Gale knew each other. Cleveland’s participation in the Oak Lake development is informed speculation on my part; I have found no documentary evidence of his hand in the project.

The most intriguing part of this post is my surmise that what killed the upscale Oak Lake neighborhood was the creation of the Minneapolis park board. With the acquisition of shores on larger lakes as public park land, wealthy Minneapolitans suddenly had even more attractive sites for their new homes. Without buyers for the larger homes built at Oak Lake, they were eventually divided into rooming houses in a neighborhood that gradually became inhabited by arriving immigrants.

Oak Lake itself was eventually filled in by the park board after it became an unsightly and odiferous hazard.

David C. Smith

Cleveland’s Connections

What brought H.W.S. Cleveland to Minneapolis as a guest lecturer in 1872 may have been his connection to a famous family.

William Merchant Richardson French. Carte de visite photo taken in 1864 when he graduated from Harvard University. A few years later he became Cleveland’s business partner in Chicago. (Personal collection of the author. It’s amazing what you can find on ebay.)

Find the complete story here, an article originally posted in 2011. Since that article was posted, I learned that William’s father, Henry, and Cleveland almost certainly knew each other before Cleveland took on the young engineer as a partner in Chicago. Henry and Horace had both written on the subject of irrigation and were both active in Massachusetts horticultural societies. Their paths would have crossed.

Cleveland later proposed a collaboration in a Minneapolis park with French’s older brother, the famous sculptor Daniel Chester French.

David C. Smith

Cleveland and Olmsted Revisited

In my continuing effort to restore previously mothballed posts about Horace William Shaler Cleveland, I have reposted three articles from several years ago about the relationship of Cleveland and Frederick Law Olmsted. The question is often raised whether Olmsted designed any parks in Minneapolis. My answer is no — especially Washburn Fair Oaks. See why in these posts from Part 1 in 2010, Part 2, and Part 3.

Who designed these grounds? Olmsted or Cleveland? Washburn Fair Oaks mansion, probably in the 1880s. Looking west across Third Avenue South in foreground. (W.S. Zinn)

David Carpentier Smith

Frederick Law Olmsted and Minneapolis Parks: Part 2

One question is answered, but more are raised.

One of my first posts on this blog nearly three years ago examined the likelihood that Frederick Law Olmsted, the most prominent landscape architect in U.S. history, had designed any part of the Minneapolis park system. I wrote then that I didn’t think he had, not even the grounds of William D. Washburn’s Fair Oaks estate/mansion/castle, which later became Washburn Fair Oaks Park.

Frederick Law Olmsted (www.olmsted.org)

Frederick Law Olmsted (www.olmsted.org)

Many writers have attributed the landscape of Fair Oaks to Olmsted, but I have never found evidence to support that claim. As noted in my earlier post, an authoritative online resource guide to Olmsted’s projects, correspondence and plans listed an 1881 letter from the New York architectural firm McKim, Mead & White to Olmsted about the estate of W. D. Washburn. ORGO also listed a reply from Olmsted to that letter. I asked then if anyone knew the content of those letters.

To the rescue comes Dr. Gregory Kaliss, co-editor of Vol. 9 of Frederick Law Olmsted’s letters, which is scheduled for publication in 2015. After an exchange of emails with Greg about correspondence between Olmsted and H. W. S. Cleveland, I mentioned my curiosity about the contents of Olmsted’s communication with McKim et al. This week, Greg graciously sent scans of those letters, which are part of the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers at the Library of Congress. Thanks, Greg.

What I learned doesn’t exactly answer the question of Olmsted’s involvement with the landscape at Washburn Fair Oaks, but it does suggest a story about the design of Fair Oaks itself. There is a good mystery here for someone to solve.

Why did William Washburn part company with McKim, Mead & White and hire E. Townsend Mix?

The letter from McKim to Olmsted, dated June 2, 1881 — signed only “McKim, Mead & White”, so I’ll refer to it as the McKim letter — gives the impression that the job of designing Washburn’s mansion is a done deal.

Charles Follen McKim, William Rutherford Mead, Stanford White

Charles Follen McKim, William Rutherford Mead, Stanford White

“We have made plans for a large house for Hon. W. D. Washburn of Minneapolis,” the letter begins, “and he has asked us to advise him as to the laying out of the grounds, and we have suggested he consult with you.” The letter offers Olmsted the option of submitting a proposal through McKim or corresponding directly with Washburn.

The letter continues, “Our house is a large one and the grounds comprise, we believe, 10 acres in the heart of the city. The house will be rather severe in character — 15th Century Renaissance  — and we should think a more or less formal treatment of the grounds immediately around it would be in character.” Enclosed with the letter were notes from Washburn, the nature of which was not divulged.

Olmsted responded two days later. He wrote that because he had just moved to his Brookline, Massachusetts home for the summer, he didn’t want to travel “so far away as Minneapolis,” but added, “I can do so later if required.”

Olmsted continued,

“As the house is large and in the midst of town and of the architectural character you state, it is probable that the design of the grounds would be ruled by considerations of convenience and of suitability and support of the motives of the house rather by those of local topography and distant prospects. In this case, if Mr. Washburn will provide, as he suggests, a good topographical map of the property and a map of the city from which its neighborhood relations can be understood, I could probably agree, in consultation with you, upon what should be arrived at and advise as to site, aspects, entrances and approaches. For such consultation and advice my charge would be $100.”

He added, “I cannot well estimate the charges which I should incur for further planning without knowing more of the circumstances,” including the “degree of detail” that would be required of him.

Olmsted concludes his letter with comments that reveal his close relationship with the principals of the firm. “I need not say,” he writes, “that it would give me great pleasure to cooperate with you.” Olmsted then “warmly” congratulates “Mr. White” (Stanford White) on the “extraordinary success” of the monument he designed to honor Admiral David Farragut, which had been unveiled to critical acclaim the week before in New York’s Madison Square. (That project was the first collaboration between White and the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who created the sculpture of Farragut for the monument.) Olmsted called White’s monument a “distinct advance of our public monumental standards.”

Olmsted had a personal interest in the success of the young architects. Charles McKim’s father, James Miller McKim, had been, along with Olmsted, one of the principals in founding the magazine, The Nation. Olmsted was also a friend of White’s father, Richard Grant White, who had written for The Nation. (One common thread is that they were all staunch abolitionists; they were joined by Saint-Gaudens father as well.) Mossette Broderick writes in The Triumvirate: McKim, Mead and White that Olmsted provided counsel to Richard White on a professional path for Stanford and introduced the sixteen-year-old to his friend, famous architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who gave Stanford his first job, setting him on a path to fame and fortune as an architect who never finished high school.

Finally, in his response to the McKim letter, Olmsted added that he was returning Mr. Washburn’s notes. The paper trail linking Olmsted to Washburn ends as abruptly as it began.

William Drew Washburn

William Drew Washburn. Everyone had impressive whiskers!

There appears to be no evidence in Olmsted’s voluminous papers that he carried on any further correspondence on the project with McKim, Washburn — or with another architect, E. Townsend Mix. Mix matters, because he is the architect credited with the design of Fair Oaks in 1883. Mix was a highly regarded architect in Milwaukee who had done little or no work in Minneapolis before that year. How did Washburn meet Mix? And why did he have Mix design his grandiose residence instead of using plans already prepared by McKim, Mead and White who were on their way to becoming the most prestigious architects in the nation? Perhaps there is further evidence in the papers of Charles Follen McKim in the Library of Congress. Another item on the list of things to look up the next time I’m in Washington, D. C. I may have to move there!

Could Washburn have been dissatisfied with the “large…severe…15th Century Renaissance” house that McKim and company had designed for him? Instead he got from Mix a house that Larry Millet, in Once There Were Castles, describes as a “melange of Queen Ann, Tudor, Romanesque, and Gothic elements.”

Fair Oaks, about 1886. (Minnesota Historical Society)

Fair Oaks, looking southeast from E. 22nd Street and Stevens Avenue, about 1886. (Minnesota Historical Society)

In the past, some writers have presumed — mistakenly — from a letter Olmsted wrote to the Minneapolis park board in 1886 — after he had passed through town on his way to California — that he was somehow responsible for Minneapolis’s system of parks. So it’s possible that others could have made the leap from the exchange of letters with McKim to the conclusion that Olmsted does proceed to design the grounds of Fair Oaks. But does he? Dr. Gregory Kaliss : “Whether he actually does or not, I have no idea.”

It is hard to prove a negative — that he did not — but consider these factors.

From all I can learn about Olmsted’s visit to Minneapolis in 1886 on his way to California, he had not been to the city before, another argument against his active participation in the detailed layout of the Fair Oaks estate.

H. W. S. Cleveland never gives a hint in his letters to Olmsted (or others) that Olmsted had ever visited Minneapolis other than the brief stop in 1886. And Cleveland was upset with park board president Charles Loring on that occasion for taking Olmsted only to see Minneapolis’s lakes and not the Mississippi River gorge, which Cleveland considered to be the “jewel” of the city. If Olmsted had spent any time in Minneapolis to work at Fair Oaks he almost certainly would have seen both the lakes and the river gorge before 1886. And if he had designed Fair Oaks landscape from afar, you’d think he would have wanted to see his work, but the newspaper account of his visit (Minneapolis Tribune, August 24, 1886) gives no indication that he visited Fair Oaks.

I don’t know how often Olmsted designed landscapes — to any “degree of detail” — without visiting them first, but his reply to the McKim letter suggests that he was not offering to design a 10-acre landscape anyway. He seems to be offering his advice on the location and situation of the house on the property — “site, aspects, entrances, approaches” — rather than the design of the whole 10 acres. Moreover, I can’t imagine Olmsted doing much more than a cursory mansion site plan for a hundred bucks. That was considerably below the going rate at the time for planning a 10-acre estate.

For a landscape architect to design a pond, stream, bridge, extensive plantings, greenhouse, stables and the rest of 10 acres without visiting the site would have required extensive correspondence with someone and that correspondence doesn’t seem to exist. And there is ample evidence (reel after reel of microfilm at the Library of Congress) that Olmsted saved just about every scrap of paper that crossed his desk.

Olmsted also makes clear by his reference to arriving at a plan “in consultation” with McKim that he would prefer to “cooperate” with McKim rather than work directly with Washburn. His return of Washburn’s notes with his letter confirms that intent.

The pond, stream and bridge that later became well-known appear in an 1890-ish photo of Fair Oaks taken from 3rd Avenue. This is the section of the park that people want to attribute to Olmsted — even though the pond ceased to exist nearly 100 years ago.

Washburn Fair Oaks from 3rd Avenue about 1890 (Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis Collection)

Washburn Fair Oaks from 3rd Avenue, facing west, about 1890 (Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis Collection)

A much lusher version of a pond and fountain on the estate were featured on a postcard in about 1910.

"Washburn Park", meaning the grounds at Fair Oaks, about 1910 (Minnesota Historical Society)

“W. D. Washburn’s Park”, meaning the grounds at Fair Oaks, looking like a tropical garden — and with a different bridge — about 1910 (Minnesota Historical Society)

Now that I’ve had a chance to see the correspondence between McKim and Olmsted, I’m more convinced that Olmsted did not design the landscape of Fair Oaks.

I’d still appreciate hearing from anyone who can make a case for Olmsted on these 10 acres. I’d also like to know more about why Washburn switched architects after McKim, Mead and White had already drawn up a plan for the house. If you know anything, we’d love to hear it.

Thanks again to Dr. Gregory Kaliss for sending copies of the letters cited here. I look forward to seeing his project in print.

David C. Smith

Postscript 6/14/2013: Thanks to an email from Andrew Caddock who was directed to a source by Kerck Kelsey, author of Prairie Lightning, a biography of William D. Washburn, we find this passage in The Northwestern Miller, (1884-1885 Holiday Number, “A Miller’s Palatial Home,” p. 82.) about Washburn’s estate: “The grounds are splendid specimens of landscape gardening from plans by Cleveland who stands at the head of the list of American specialists in this line of work. Broad winding drives and walks lead up to the front and side entrances and end at a large and handsome stable in the rear at the southwest corner of the block.” The reference is almost certainly to H. W. S. Cleveland. This is the only reference I’ve seen to Cleveland designing a private estate in Minneapolis. Thanks, Andrew.

© 2013 David C. Smith

Recommended Reading from Horace W. S. Cleveland

We haven’t had much of a winter yet in Minnesota, but it’s inevitable. When it comes and you’re imprisoned in your cozy den, your thoughts may turn to spring and the gardens you’ll plant or visit. To get you thinking about warmer weather, I’m providing a reading list from the man who envisioned Minneapolis’s park system and designed the first parks acquired by the Minneapolis park board in the 1880s.

In 1886, the secretary to the Minneapolis park board, Rufus J. Baldwin, apparently asked landscape architect Horace W. S. Cleveland to recommend books on his profession. It’s not clear if Baldwin was interested in furthering his own education (he was a prominent Minneapolis attorney) or if he was acquiring books for the park board. Below is Cleveland’s reply dated 23 Sep. 1886.

(All of the books Cleveland cited are now available free online at Google Books. The links in the letter take you to the online volume of the work cited.)

In considering your request that I would furnish you a list of desirable works on landscape gardening I find the subject growing in my mind so rapidly and attaining such dimension that the chief difficulty lies in making a judicious selection. The literature of the last century was especially rich in the discussion of the principles on which the art is founded. “Repton’s Landscape Gardening” is perhaps the ablest and most elaborate of the works of that date, but I think I learned more of first principles from the “Essays on the Picturesque, By Sir Uvedale Price,” than from any book.

It is doubtful however whether either of these books can be purchased in this country unless by chance at a second-hand store. “Loudon’s Encyclopedia of Horticulture,” contains perhaps the most detailed, practical instructions of any English work and is still a standard of reference and can be had in England though it has not been republished here.

Downing’s Landscape Gardening” is at the head of all works on the subject in this country and is in fact a compilation and adaptation to our wants of all the essential principles of the best foreign writers. Next to that and in fact supplying much in which Downing’s work is deficient is “Country Life By Robert Morris Copeland.” He was for many years my partner and was a man of rare taste and skill, and his book is an admirable one. “Scott’s Suburban Homes,” is also an excellent treatise and full of judicious advice in regard to the arrangement of grounds and tasteful use of trees and shrubbery. These books can be procured of any of the leading booksellers or at the seed stores of the principal cities. In ordering Downing’s book, be sure to get the edition which has the appendix by Winthrop Sargent, which contains a vast amount of very valuable information.

I do not think of any other work directly devoted to the subject that would add to the value of what is contained in the above.

The Horticulturist during the time it was edited by Downing was rich in essays on different branches of useful ornamental gardening, but it is doubtful if a complete set could be had, and indeed the three works above enumerated comprise I think all the essential principles so far as they can be given by print and illustration.

If I think of others that would be desirable I will let you know.

The letter is signed, “Very truly yrs, H.W.S. Cleveland.”

(The original letter is in the files of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board at Special Collections, Minneapolis Central Library, Hennepin County Library.)

Amazing, isn’t it, that works Cleveland cited as unavailable in the United States in 1886 — or available at “the seed stores of principal cities” — are now free to anyone with access to a computer. Some people have a problem with a company such as Google having so much control over information — I just read The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry) by Siva Vaidhyanathan — and while I agree with concerns over the concentration of information control, the widespread availability of so much information, even as old and arcane as these texts, is an invaluable resource.

Happy reading.

David C. Smith

P.S. Minneapolis still doesn’t have a park named for Horace W. S. Cleveland — and we should. I’m still in favor of naming the west side of the Mississippi River Gorge for him.

Horace W. S. Cleveland’s Real Estate: Pleasant Avenue and West 44th Street

In a fascinating and sad letter to Frederick Law Olmsted, dated February 23, 1892, Horace W. S. Cleveland proposed that the two collaborate as writers on “professional themes.” (Frederick Law Olmsted Papers, Library of Congress.) Cleveland mentions that Olmsted had written in “complimentary terms” of Cleveland’s writing style and that Olmsted had also noted his own desire to write more, which was frustrated by many demands on his time and energy. (At the time, Olmsted was overseeing preparation for the grounds at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition and was about to take a six-month trip to Europe, in part, to regain his health.)

“Often the thought has come to me,” Cleveland explained, “that if I could join forces with you, we might together produce something that would be essentially serviceable to the public and your name would suffice to summon an audience who would not listen to me.”

Cleveland explained that his motive was primarily to make money.

“I have been able to do but little more than keep even with my expenses, but thank God I have done that and am entirely clear of debt, and own some real estate which I hope to dispose of whenever a new demand arises, and may be worth two or three thousand dollars. You perceive that in this situation it is impossible for me to fold my hands and wait the course of events. I am constantly trying to devise means to stave off the necessity of becoming dependent on others.”

There is no record of Olmsted’s response to Cleveland’s proposal, nor any evidence that the men ever did attempt to write anything together. The health of both men deteriorated rapidly over the next couple years. Witold Rybczynski in his biography of Olmsted, A Clearing in the Distance, notes that Olmsted was managing to save about $1,000 a year at the time.

The real estate Cleveland referred to was likely the two half-blocks of land northwest of the intersection of West 44th Street and Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis.

H. W. S. Cleveland is listed as the owner of 4.7 acres on West 44th Street between Pleasant and Harriet in the upper left corner of this section of an 1892 plat map of Minneapolis. (John R. Borchert Map Library, University of Minnesota. Go to http://map.lib.umn.edu/collections/digitizedplatbooks/minn1892index.htm for the complete map.)

If you know anyone who lives in the southern halves of the 4300 blocks of Pleasant, Grand and Harriet, they live on land once owned by one of the most important people in the history of Minneapolis.

The Washburn Park neighborhood at the bottom of the map above, often called “Tangletown,”  was laid out  by Cleveland.

David C. Smith

Horace Cleveland Hated Rectangles

Oak Lake Addition was a rare real estate development in Minneapolis because the streets followed the contour of the land instead of a grid pattern. While I’ve found no evidence of who was responsible for the layout of the addition in 1873, it is reminiscent of Horace Cleveland’s work in St. Anthony Park for William Marshall at about the same time and later in Washburn Park or Tangletown near Minnehaha Creek. Although I find no reference to the project in Cleveland’s correspondence, it is plausible that he was involved in the layout of Oak Lake Addition.

Oak Lake Addition, platted in 1873. 1892 plat map (John R. Borchert Map Library, University of Minnesota)

Samuel Gale, the man who platted the Oak Lake Addition, had his hands in nearly everything in the young city: School Board, Athenaeum and Library Board, Academy of Natural Sciences, Society of Fine Arts, Board of Trade,  City Council, the public lecture series, he even sang in the city’s most celebrated quartet along with his brother, Harlow, and it was later claimed that although nearly everyone speculated in real estate in those days, he was the dean of realtors in the city. Given his wide interests and involvement in civic affairs, it would be incredible if Gale hadn’t been one of those who welcomed Horace Cleveland to the city during his first visits in 1872.

In July, 1873 Gale was the chair of the Board of Trade’s committee on parks, which reported that several “public-spirited citizens” planned to devote considerable time to the issue of parks with “Mr. Cleveland, well-known landscape gardener” before the next Board of Trade meeting. (Minneapolis Tribune, July 18, 1873.) I think it is safe to assume that Gale himself was one of those who planned to meet with Cleveland. So it appears almost certain that Gale and Cleveland knew each other and had likely discussed park issues before Gale produced his plat for the Oak Lake Addition.

Absent information on who designed Oak Lake Addition, it’s fun to speculate that Cleveland may have had a hand in it, or at least influenced it through the book he published in early 1873, Landscape Architecture as Applied to the Wants of the West. In his classic of landscape architecture, Cleveland expressed his distaste for the grid pattern of streets in so many cities, because it ignored “sanitary, economic and esthetic sense.”

Every Western traveller is familiar with the monotonous character of towns resulting from the endless repetition of the dreary uniformity of rectangles,” he wrote.

While he singled out western cities — it was his book’s theme — it takes only a glimpse of a map of Manhattan to know that rectangularism was not a sin peculiar to the frontier. For New York, however, it was already too late to do anything about that “dreary uniformity”; the West still had a chance to get it right. Cleveland added that “even when the site is level” the rectangular fashion of laying out cities “is on many accounts objectionable.”

He suggested that if blocks had to be rectangular at least they should be Continue reading

Lost Minneapolis Parks: Oak Lake, Two Ovals and Two Triangles

Another convergence: the season of farmers’ markets is upon us and so is a decision on whether the Minnesota Vikings get a new tax-supported stadium. The site favored for a stadium by some Hennepin County commissioners is the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market on Lyndale Avenue just west of downtown and Target Field.

You’d never know by looking at it today, but the site is rich in history. The current market sits in the middle of what was once Oak Lake, one of the attractions of a semi-exclusive and progressive residential neighborhood late in the 19th Century. It was Minneapolis’s second-oldest park. A bandstand near the lake was built in 1881 to host some of the earliest outdoor concerts in the city. The gracefully curved streets of the neighborhood filled with the carriages of wealthier concert goers, while residents of the neighborhood and music lovers without carriages sat on the sloping hillside in what was called a natural amphitheater near the lake.

Oak Lake Addition, platted in 1873. 1892 plat map (John R. Borchert Map Library, University of Minnesota)

Some people say the Oak Lake Addition experienced gentile flight, then white flight, as the neighborhood went from mostly white Protestant to Jewish to black before it finally gave way to industrial and market uses. And it happened fast. But the trendy little neighborhood was probably doomed by something much more benign than ethnic, religious or racial bigotry; the creation of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners helped kill the Oak Lake Addition.

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And the answer is….French

In a post on December 29, 2010 I asked how these two pictures were related to the creation of Minneapolis parks.

Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D. C. (Jeff Kubina)

Minute Man, Minute Man National Historical Park, Concord, Massachusetts

Nobody has come up with the right obscure answer! So I’ll tell you.

The photos are of the most famous works of American sculptor Daniel Chester French. (The best example of French’s work in Minneapolis is the statue of John Pillsbury at the University of Minnesota.)

Here is the connection — and the key word is “related”:

Daniel Chester French’s older brother was William Merchant Richardson French. That’s this guy:

William Merchant Richardson French (Louis Betts, Art Institute of Chicago)

(Their father was Henry Flagg French who was the number two man in the U. S. Treasury Department. For eight months in 1881 he worked under Secretary of the Treasury William Windom, a U. S. Senator from Minnesota who resigned his Senate seat to become Treasury Secretary for President James Garfield. After those eight months, Windom resigned at Treasury and was elected to fill his own open seat in the Senate. He served as Secretary of the Treasury again from 1888 until his death in 1891.)

The important connection of William French to Minneapolis parks is that after graduating from Harvard in 1864 and a year at MIT studying engineering he moved to Chicago and met a man in the new and unusual profession of landscape gardening. It’s not clear how it came about, but in 1870 William French became the partner of a man thirty years older than he was. That pioneering landscape architect was Horace Cleveland.

Of course, young William, who was eager I’m sure to earn his keep with his much more experienced partner, went through his list of connections to identify potential clients. He likely recognized that one name on his list might provide useful contacts in a young city west of Chicago, Minneapolis. That contact was his cousin, George Leonard Chase, who was rector at the episcopal church in the small town of St. Anthony, which was springing up beside the falls of that name. Now it just happened that Chase had married one of the Heywood girls, Mary. And that was a funny thing because Chase’s best friend married Sarah Heywood, Mary’s sister. He and his best friend had lived together while they were students at Hobart College in New York. In fact, Chase had apparently had some influence with the regents of the University of Minnesota when they were hiring the university’s first president in 1869. Chase’s friend and brother-in-law by marriage was hired for that job. His name was William Watts Folwell.

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