Archive for the ‘Harold W. Lathrop’ Tag
What does the Minnesota River have to do with Minneapolis parks? The Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners, in 1934, tried to help Minnesota Gov. Floyd B. Olson convince the federal government to acquire the Minnesota River valley from Shakopee to Mendota and make it a national park.
I only have the bare bones of the story, but I wanted to throw them out there so someone else could expand it if so inclined. I find this bit of history particularly interesting in light of important efforts by Friends of the Mississippi River and the National Park Service to protect and preserve our rivers. In 1934, Gov. Olson wrote to the Minneapolis park board asking for assistance. I’ve reproduced the letter in full.
Always willing to cooperate on park projects, the Minneapolis park board, with Supt. Theodore Wirth’s support, voted on May 2 to give Harold Lathrop, “an employee in the Engineering Department,” leave of absence with pay to go to Washington, D.C. “and spend such time as is necessary in the interest of the proposed plan.”
It’s obvious from Gov. Olson’s letter that he had already secured the assistance of Wirth and Lathrop, and the park board presumably, in creating a map of the “recreational possibilities” of the area. I have never seen such a map created solely for that purpose, but in 1935, the park board published Theodore Wirth’s Tentative Study Plan for the West Section of a Metropolitan Park System. That report contained a detailed map of all of Hennepin County and more, including the closeup below of the Minnesota River Valley. (The full report and map are appended to the park board’s 1935 annual report.)
I don’t know what became of Gov. Olson’s idea of a national park when Lathrop went off to Washington, D.C. An update came a month later when, at its June 6 meeting, the park board approved Wirth’s recommendation that Lathrop be given two months leave of absence without pay “to act as Project Director for the Federal Government in connection with the proposed Minnesota River Valley development.”
Barbara Sommer writes in Hard Work and A Good Deal that Lathrop was then hired by the National Park Service, which ran the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a federal work-relief program, to supervise CCC work in state parks in Minnesota. There is no indication that any of that work involved a potential park along the Minnesota River. The young National Park Service employee running the CCC program was Conrad Wirth, Theodore’s middle son. Conrad’s performance in that role set him on a trajectory to become the Director of the National Park Service in the 1960s.
I don’t believe Lathrop ever returned to the Minneapolis park board. From his job coordinating federal work in state parks, he was hired as the first director of Minnesota State Parks less than a year later in July 1935. He held Minnesota’s top state parks job until 1946, when he supposedly retired at age 45. Eleven years later, however, he became the first director of state parks in Colorado. Colorado’s first state park is named Lathrop Park.
That’s all I know of the proposed Minnesota River Valley National Park — an intrigue sparked by one letter from the governor in a correspondence file. If you know more, I’d be happy to hear from you.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
P.S. Timely! Friends of the Mississippi River is hosting a fundraiser tomorrow night — October 4 — at the Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis. Suggested donation $100. Worthy cause! Also read the current StarTribune series on threats to the health of the Mississippi.
The thirty annual reports produced while Theodore Wirth was superintendent of parks in Minneapolis — 1906-1935 — were rich in detail and illustrations. Those reports included 328 plans, designs and maps of parks and park structures. The publication of those plans usually coincided with the acquisition or development of new properties or the improvement of older ones, so they are a good guide to where to find some discussion of those park properties in annual reports or proceedings. So, long ago I catalogued all of those plans in one document to create a searchable guide to park development during those years. I have relied on that list for the last few years and assumed other researchers and park lovers would find it useful as well. I’ve already posted the first twenty years worth of plans, and today is Volume III, 1926-1935.
The plans published in annual reports were not the only plans created by the park board staff in the years Wirth was superintendent of parks. They are mostly conceptual plans, rather than working plans. The park board requested many of the plans specifically as park commissioners considered various park proposals and possibilities.
The number of employees in the park board’s engineering department are not published in every annual report, but in most years for which that info is provided, it appears that one or two draftsmen were employed. A few of their names appear as “Delineator” or “Del.” on the plans. Sometime in the near future, I’ll provide a guide to some of the names of the people who helped prepare plans.
The titles of the plans are verbatim as they appear on plans. I’ve also copied dates, names and titles as they appear, but have added some punctuation to make them easier to read. Parenthetical comments identify current park names or mention important plan elements.
The annual reports from 1931 to 1935 were not typeset in order to cut costs during the Depression. The reports also contained very few plans or illustrations, not just to reduce printing costs, but because the park board had no money to spend on improving parks.
1926 Superintendent’s Report
Dated: February 2, 1927
- John Deere Webber Baths Elevation (p. 24) Magney and Tusler, Inc. Architects and Engineers
- Plan of John Deere Webber Baths Floor Plan of Improvement (p. 25), 1926, Magney and Tusler, Inc. Architects and Engineers
- Map of Minneapolis Park System 1926 Showing Paved and Unpaved Portions of Parkways and of City Streets used as Connecting Links and Location of Golf Courses A – Existing, B – To Be Constructed (p. 26) Theodore Wirth, Sup’t, A.E. Berthe, Civil Engineer
- Riverside Park Field House (p. 89), 1927, Downs & Eads Architects
- Plan for the Improvement of the Tenth Ward Playground Providing both Summer and Winter Playground Facilities (near Cleveland Park, never acquired) (p. 90), January 1927, Designed by Theodore Wirth, Sup’t & Engineer, A.E. Berthe, Ass’t Engineer, C.F. Gosslee Delineator
- Suggested Plan for the Improvement of Washburn Fair Oaks (p.90a, very large fold out) (includes plan for “Esplanade” from Art Institute to Minneapolis Auditorium, in text Wirth explains that he hopes Wyman’s more elaborate 1923 plan can be substituted in future for this modest one), January 1927, Designed by Theodore Wirth, Sup’t & Engineer, A.E. Berthe, Ass’t Engineer, C.F. Gosslee, Delineator
- Plan for the Improvement of Lake Hiawatha Providing for a Golf Course and A Playground Etc. (p.94a, very large fold out) November 1926, Designed by Theodore Wirth, Sup’t & Engineer, A.E. Berthe, Ass’t Engineer, C.F. Gosslee, Delineator
- Plan for the Improvement of Clinton Avenue Playground Suggesting an Extension North and an Extension West as Alternates (p. 94b fold out), December 1926, Designed by Theodore Wirth, Sup’t & Engineer, A.E. Berthe, Ass’t Engineer, C.F. Gosslee, Delineator
- Lagoon Plan – Glenwood Park providing for the Excavation of Bassett’s Creek Straightening and Widening Its Channel and Raising the Adjacent Swampland (p. 96a, fold out) (Showing north, chalet, and south lagoons, north of Glenwood Lake) January 1927, Designed by Theodore Wirth, Sup’t & Engineer, A.E. Berthe, Ass’t Engineer, C.F. Gosslee, Delineator
- Plan for the Rearrangement of Franklin Steele Square Devoting One Half of Park Area to School Playground (p. 98) (closes 16th St. between park and Madison School), November 1926, Designed by Theodore Wirth, Sup’t & Engineer, A.E. Berthe, Ass’t Engineer, C.F. Gosslee, Delineator