Archive for the ‘Minneapolis parks’ Tag

Charles Loring’s Memorial Arch

In 1908 Charles Loring commissioned young architect William Gray Purcell to design a memorial arch. That project, revealed in Purcell’s papers at the Northwestern Architectural Library (a fabulous historical resource at the University of Minnesota), was a mystery to me.  Where was this memorial arch supposed to be located?

Soldiers Memorial Arch, Purcell

This “presentation rendering” created by William Gray Purcell for Charles Loring is from the UMedia Digital Archive. Additional information on the William Gray Purcell Papers can be found by following the above link — as well as this one from organica.com and Mark Hammons.

I might have found the answer to the location last year when I helped create a record of the archival documents being sent from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to the Minneapolis Central Library for permanent archiving and public access.  Continue reading

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Keewaydin Park Before and After — 1928

Like a lot of other people I’m curious to see the new look of Keewaydin Park and School. Construction is underway. It has to be an improvement over what was there a few years ago.

Keewaydin Park before — the first time c. 1928. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

Okay, it was a long time ago. In 1928-29 the park board hauled in 38,600 cubic yards of fill to bring the playing fields up to grade on one side. Clearly the neighbors tried to help by discarding their refuse there, too. The crate says “Morell’s Pride Hams and Bacon.” But that wasn’t enough; the fill kept settling. The park board continued to fill the former swamp in 1930-31. By 1932 the field had been filled sufficiently to be regraded and have tennis courts and a wading pool finished. By 1934 the grounds looked much nicer.

Keewaydin School and surrounding park in 1934. (Norton and Peel, Minnesota Historical Society)

Keewaydin was one of the early collaborative projects between the park and school boards. In the park board’s 1929 annual report it noted that the park had one of the best-equipped shelters for skating and hockey rinks due to the “well-appointed” basement rooms of the school. The doors on the lower level in this photo must have been the entrance to those rooms.

Anybody remember skating there or going to school there when it was new? Does anybody want to take a photo of present construction and email it to me? I forgot to zip over and take one Sunday when I was at Longfellow House.

David C. Smith

Minneapolis Park Hero: Alice Dietz

Early in my research of Minneapolis park history for City of Parks, Alice Dietz caught my attention. She had a forty-year career in Minneapolis parks, 1916-1957. She rose to prominence in the park system quickly from her start as a recreation director. In January 1918, the park board received a letter from an appreciative mother asking that Dietz be reappointed as recreation director at Maple Hill (Beltrami) Park. She was not reappointed at Maple Hill; in the park board’s annual report for 1918 Dietz was singled out for praise for her work at bigger, busier Bryant Square Park. The next year Dietz moved again, this time to the most visible and important recreation job in the city as the director of the Logan Park field house, the only year-round facility the park board operated.

Dietz needed very little time to establish her reputation at Logan Park. In an article on the opening of the 1920 summer playground season, the Minneapolis Tribune (June 20) commented that Dietz had already “taught the Logan Park neighborhood what a field house was really meant to be.” Apparently in the seven years between its construction in 1912 and Dietz’s arrival the field house had been less successful.

By the end of that summer the Tribune (October 17) provided an unusual glimpse of park life “in a community where there are a dozen nationalities struggling with the intricacies of life in a new country.” In that environment, the paper reported, Mrs. Dietz was trusted by “children and mothers alike.” As a result, Dietz was able to “buoy the self-confidence of the women who are awed by the greater facility of their children in the new tongue and to make the children realize what they owe to their parents.”

Among her responsibilities were teaching drama, dance and arts and craft classes, directing all athletic activities for girls, and putting on plays and pageants. The previous year she had also managed boys athletic activities developing “proficiency in boxing and football that surprised even herself” the Tribune reported. The paper continued that “almost to her regret,” a man had then been brought in to look after the boys and young men. In between all this she “listens to all the troubles that everybody tells her…and never turns a hair through it all.” The Tribune also praised the “Logan Park spirit” she had instilled noting that “the children have come to feel that the place belongs to them and they look over a newcomer with stern eyes.  He has to measure up to what they think is proper Logan Park behavior.”

Dietz’s work with pageants and performances at Logan Park led to her being handed responsibility for the citywide playground pageants staged at Lyndale Park at the end of each summer.

The first playground pageant on the hill above the Rose Garden at Lyndale Park attracted a crowd estimated at 10,000. (1918 Annual Report, Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners)

The first two pageants, “Mother Goose” in 1918 and “The Pied Piper” in 1919, were directed by Julia Beckman, a teacher at North High School, but from 1920 Dietz wrote and directed the playground pageants as they became one of the highlights of the summer playground program. Children from every Minneapolis park were involved in creating costumes and props for the program. Up to 1,500 children appeared in the pageants each year which were staged on the hill overlooking the Rose Garden in Lyndale Park. The two-night performances were attended by up to 40,000 people.  The popularity of the pageants caused the park board to consider more than once (first in 1930) the construction of an  amphitheater on the site. Except for a brief hiatus during the Depression, the pageants continued through 1941. The pageant was incorporated into the Aquatennial in 1940, the first year of that celebration. With the ascendancy of the Aquatennial, and with the nation at war, the pageant was discontinued a year later.

The pageants were original scripts written by Dietz. While she created small roles in her pageants for park commissioners, she never allowed commissioners to have speaking parts. After her second pageant in 1921, “Weaver of Dreams,” Dietz asked the park board to allow her to retain copyright of the pageant scripts. The park board agreed that she could retain those copyrights as her personal property. (I have seen no indication that Dietz ever licensed those or subsequent scripts for performances by others.)

I recently found in a scrapbook kept by Victor Gallant evidence that Dietz had a background in theater as a performer before she worked for the park board. I had found an item in park board proceedings that Dietz requested a leave of absence for a week in the 1920s to attend a dance workshop in New York at her own expense, which was granted by the board. From that reference I knew Dietz had an interest in dance beyond the classes she taught at Logan Park and the dances she had incorporated into her pageant scripts. But the undated newspaper clip that appeared at the time of her 40th anniversary of employment with the park board (her last year), mentions her own theater performances as a girl.

Alice Dietz in 1957 near the time of her retirement and as a child actor, from an undated newspaper clip.

The article that accompanied the photos above attributed the 1906 photo to a touring company of “Buster  Brown,” the 1910 photo to a performance of J. M. Barrie’s play, “The Little Minister,” with the greatest Broadway actor of that era, Maude Adams, and the 1912 photo to an Orpheum Theater production of “School Days.” In addition to performing with Adams — who originated the role of Peter Pan on Broadway in 1905 and was by some accounts the highest paid actor of her time and the most famous woman in America — Dietz also performed with Eddie Cantor, although that was well before Cantor’s fame on radio.

As the Director of Community Centers in Minneapolis parks, Dietz played a central role in the redefinition of recreation in the park context. The range of activities and classes offered at Logan Park was unprecedented in Minneapolis. In addition to expanding the range of activities provided for both children and adults, Dietz oversaw the conversion in 1922 of the large social room at Logan Park into a gymnasium for sports. The other recreation centers in Minneapolis at that time were little more than warming houses for skaters. They were later criticized by a national park expert as too big for warming houses and too small for anything else. (Weir Report, 1944.) Despite the phenomenal popularity of Logan Park under Dietz’s direction, the park board did not build another similar facility until the 1960s. Perhaps park commissioners feared that while they could replicate the field house they could not replicate Dietz.

Dietz’s role in the development of park programming in the 1920s at Logan Park was significant, but her greatest achievement may have been in training the army of recreation supervisors who worked in parks across the city in the 1930s. With the onset of the Depression in 1930 and the slashing of recreation budgets, Dietz lost her three assistants at Logan. Summer recreation positions in parks across the city were slashed from seventy-five to zero in 1933. When the American Legion tried to fill the void in eleven parks by providing volunteer supervisors, they were sent to Dietz for training.

That was just a glimmer of what would follow. For the 1934 playground season the Works Progress Administration inaugurated a recreation program that at its peak would place more than 240 recreation supervisors in Minneapolis parks and playgrounds. The WPA recreation program continued until 1943. During those ten years, thanks to federal and state work-relief programs, Minneapolis parks offered the most comprehensive, year-round recreation programming in the city’s history. The entire program, including the training of hundreds of new personnel, was coordinated by Alice Dietz from her office at Logan Park.

That experience served her and the city well after WWII when the park board was able to expand recreation programming and offer year-round activities at a handful of parks. Dietz was once again responsible for training the first generation of full-time, year-round recreation supervisors employed by the park board.

These are the outlines of Alice Dietz’s remarkable career in the recreation department of Minneapolis parks. I know little about Alice Dietz beyond what I have related here other than the fact that she was president of the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association in 1947. If you can tell us more about Dietz — or you have another person to nominate as a Minneapolis Park Hero — please comment here or contact me at the e-mail address below.

David C. Smith

© David C. Smith

Lost Minneapolis Parks: Virginia Triangle

Can you tell where this photo was taken? The land in the foreground is a lost Minneapolis park: Virginia Triangle.

Virginia Triangle 1938 (Minnesota Historical Society)

Virginia Triangle  was at the intersection of Hennepin and Lyndale avenues; the cross street is Groveland Avenue. Hennepin crosses left to right and Lyndale right to left. The photographer was facing north. That’s the Basilica straight ahead, St. Mark’s to the right, with the trees in Loring Park between them. To your immediate right (out of the picture) is Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church. On your left, just past the cross street, is Walker Art Center. Beyond that is The Parade, athletic fields when this picture was taken, but now the home of the Sculpture Garden.

Isn’t this view lovely compared to the freeway interchanges, tunnels, etc. of today? The park board put up and decorated a huge Christmas tree in the triangle each year. I don’t know when that practice began or ended, but I’ll try to find out. If you know, send me a note.

An important memorial was installed at Virginia Triangle in 1915. The park board did not pay for the memorial but agreed that it could be placed in the park triangle. Whose memorial was it? This photo was taken at the dedication. ( That’s Hennepin Methodist church across Lyndale Avenue in the background, Hennepin Avenue in foreground.)

Virginia Triangle in 1915

He had something to do with urban transit and his mansion was immediately to the left of the photographer when this picture was taken. An avenue in north Minneapolis is named for him. He donated part of the land for The Parade and paid to have it developed into a park.

Here is his statue as part of the memorial that was put on the triangle.

Virginia Triangle Memorial (Charles Hibbard, Minnesota Historical Society)

This is what Rev. Dr. Marion Shutter said when he spoke to the crowd gathered at the dedication above:

How grandly has the sculptor done his work! This heroic figure needs no emblazoned name to identify the original. It seems almost as if Karl Bitter (the sculptor) had stood by the door of that little Greek temple at Lakewood (cemetery), and had said: ‘Thomas Lowry, come forth.’

Virginia Triangle was acquired by the Minneapolis park board on the first day of the last century. A.W. French and his wife donated the property to the park board in a swap. The Frenches had originally donated a piece of land for Hennepin Avenue Parkway, but apparently wanted that piece back and offered what became Virginia Triangle instead. The park board accepted on January 1, 1900. The best guess is that the name of the triangle comes from “Virginia Flats,” the apartment building behind the memorial in the photo above according to a 1903 plat map.

Thomas Lowry was joined on the triangle by another statue for a time during the summer of 1931. The Knights Templar held their conclave in Minneapolis that year and requested permission to erect life-sized statues of knights on horses throughout the city. The request was approved by the park board on the condition that all park properties be returned to their original condition without cost to the park board at the conclusion of the conclave.

Knights Templar statue at The Gateway, 1931 (Minnesota Historical Society)

The statue at Virginia Triangle was probably similar to this one placed at The Gateway during the conclave. Other statues were placed at The Parade and Lyndale Park.

Virginia Triangle was eventually lost to freeway construction when I-94 was built through the city. With freeway entrances and exits needed for Hennepin and Lyndale, the triangle had to be removed even though the freeway itself was put underground below Lowry Hill and Virginia Triangle.

The state highway department paid the park board $24,300 for the triangle in 1966, plus the actual cost of relocating the Lowry Memorial. The park board chose another triangle about a half-mile south on Hennepin Avenue at 24th Street as the new site for Thomas Lowry. The low bid for moving the memorial to the new site at Smith Triangle in 1967 was $38,880.

The inscription on Lowry’s memorial reads:

Be this community strong and enduring — it will do homage to the men who guided its youth.

David C. Smith

© David C. Smith

Florence Barton Loring

Charles Loring was married to Emily Crossman for 38 years, to Florence Barton for only 27, but he probably knew Florence longer than he knew Emily.

The “Father of Minneapolis Parks” likely met Florence more than 30 years before he married her, but he may not have noticed her much at first. She was the daughter of his friend and business associate Asa Barton. Barton, like Loring, was an immigrant from Maine. (Barton also has his name on the Minneapolis map: Barton Avenue in Prospect Park.) Continue reading

The Case For Horace Cleveland’s Name on a River Gorge Park

“A continuous park…of such picturesque character as no art could create and no other city can possess.”

That is how Horace Cleveland described the park he imagined along the boulevard he recommended for the west bank of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. He went on to write in his Suggestions for a System of Parks and Parkways for the City of Minneapolis, which he presented to the first Minneapolis park board on June 2, 1883:

“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.”

Horace Cleveland had a special passion for the Mississippi River gorge. The banks of the river remain a beautiful and wild place thanks, in part, to his constant encouragement over nearly three decades for Minneapolis (St. Paul, too) to acquire the river banks downstream from St Anthony Falls to preserve them from ruin.

This photo of West River Parkway in about 1910 shows how wild the river banks were. The ruggged, wild banks of the river gorge, the only such place on the entire length of the Mississippi River, remain as beautiful today as during Horace Cleveland’s lifetime. (Hennepin County Public Library, Minneapolis Collection, M0129)

The park board finally acquired all the land along the west side of the gorge downriver from Riverside Park to Minnehaha Creek in 1902, more than a year after Cleveland’s death. Cleveland once said that he would feel that he “had not lived in vain” if the city would preserve the river bank in its natural state.

Cleveland wrote of the river banks:

“No artist who has any appreciation of natural beauty would presume to do more than touch with reverent hands the features whose charms suggest their own development. No plan for such work could be made.”

Cleveland not only appreciated the beauty of the river, but he foresaw that the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis would one day grow together. In his mind that probability made it even more important that the cities preserve some wild, natural places along the river that ran between them.

We should name a river gorge park for Cleveland just as a tribute to his descriptive powers, even if he hadn’t suggested, recommended, planned, cajoled, informed and educated a generation or two of the city’s leaders on land preservation and city building.

I believe the only name ever given to the land along the river was Mississippi Park. A bit plain. Winchell Trail and West River Parkway run through it, and those names can remain. It would cause no one any discomfort to officially name the rest of the west gorge for Cleveland. It’s not like renaming a street, which causes people to have to change their addresses and the city to put up new road signs. It’s just putting a name on a space that essentially has none now.

A marker or two along Winchell Trail and the parkway would suffice to let people know Horace Cleveland’s name. That couldn’t cost much. I’ll put up the first hundred bucks.

Horace Cleveland River Gorge Park. He’s why we have it, so let’s put his name on it. I think we owe him that.

David C. Smith

© David C. Smith

Sibley Field

One of the most heavily used playgrounds in Minneapolis for a few decades was Sibley Field at 39th and Longfellow in south Minneapolis. Now, thanks to the efforts of Annie Olson who worked at Sibley Field for several years, we have found some historic photos of activities at Sibley Field.

One of my favorites is this hockey team wearing Cloggy’s sweaters.

Cloggy’s 1952 hockey team at Sibley Field (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board). ** Please see the comments by Ron Jelmo below on this photo.

In more recent times, Cloggy’s was a bar at 34th and 54th, but that’s quite a distance from Sibley Field. Not exactly a neighborhood bar. The photo provides no identification of the players or coaches. Does anyone know the story of this Cloggy’s team or Cloggy’s sponsorship of teams in general?

Sibley Field cub hockey team, 1961 (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

Another group of unidentified players is this 1961 cub hockey team? Anybody know any of these kids?

Another picture that I found interesting is this one of unnamed staff or volunteers at Sibley Field. The year is also unknown, although I’m guessing early 1960s.

Sibley Park staff or volunteers, year unknown. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

I like this photo because of the “BPC” on the t-shirts. BPC was the acronym for Board of Park Commissioners, the official name of the Minneapolis park board until it was changed in 1969 to Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. The new name was intended to emphasize the significant responsibilities of the park board for recreation programs — something that didn’t exist when the BPC was created in 1883. I presume they are standing in front of the recreation center that was built in 1924 and stood until the current rec center was built in 1971. Can anyone identify the people in this picture and whether they were BPC employees or Sibley Field volunteers? Interesting composition in front of the men’s room.

Sibley Field was one of the most active parks in Minneapolis from 1946 when it was one of only five city parks that offered year-round programming. The other four year-round parks were Folwell, Nicollet (King), Logan and Loring; North Commons was added to that group in 1956.

Women’s craft class at Sibley Park in 1961. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

This series of photos (stapled together) suggests the wide range of activities offered — and groups served — at the park. Two years after this photo was taken Sibley Field became one of nine recreation centers in Minneapolis to offer programs for senior citizens, too. The seniors met one morning a week at the park. The program was modeled after a similar program that had first been tried at Loring Park in 1960.

A search of old Minneapolis Morning Tribunes reveals that the Cedar Avenue Heights neighborhood (the park was originally Cedar Avenue Heights Field) began to be developed in 1909-1910. Newspapers also reveal that petitions for a park in Cedar Avenue Heights, which the park board received in September, 1921, followed the creation of a neighborhood improvement association in March of that year (Minneapolis Morning Tribune, March 28, 1921). The Tribune reported that the neighborhood improvement association was founded primarily to promote the creation of a double track on the street car line on Cedar Avenue from Lake Street to 42nd Street and an extension of the line south of 42nd. (Park commissioners also appeared at the City Council to advocate extending the Cedar Avenue car line to serve the new bath house at Lake Nokomis.) The paper also speculated that day that the association would also support the construction of a new Nokomis High School, which was eventually named Roosevelt High School.

The impetus for the formation of the Cedar Heights Improvement Association in March, 1921 was almost certainly the opening of the new Miles Standish school in January of that year. The school quickly became the center of the community. The Tribune reported that 900 people attended the first meeting of the neighborhood improvement association at the school.

The new Miles Standish School facing what is now Standish Avenue at 40th Street in 1922. The school was significantly enlarged in 1923, just two years after it was built. (Minneapolis Public Schools)

Cedar Avenue Heights Field was not the first playing field in the neighborhood. Tribune articles about amateur baseball in 1909 refer to a baseball field — the home field of the Prince Realty team — at Cedar and 42nd Street. I’ve never seen a picture of that field. If you have, let me know where I can find one.

David C. Smith

Inspiration, Ideas and Ideals (Courtesy of William Watts Folwell)

Park history provides more than pretty pictures. Thanks to people such as William Folwell, it also gives us inspiring words. Such inspiration has perhaps never been needed more than now when political discourse is dominated by petty self-interest and shallow swagger.

“We owe it to our children and to all future dwellers in Minneapolis to plan on a great and generous scale. If we fail to accomplish, let them know it was not for lack of ideas or ideals.”

— William W. Folwell, President, Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners, Eighteenth Annual Report, 1900

William W. Folwell attended the dedication of facilities at Folwell Park, July 4, 1925. He was 92. (Minnesota Historical Society, por 12574 r18)

David C. Smith

Minneapolis Park Memory: A Memorable Silence

I was the editor of the Minneapolis Municipal Hiking Club’s monthly newsletter for many years, up through the last month of the club’s existence in October 2010.

One hike I particularly remember took place on Wednesday, September 12, 2001. The Club had an evening hike scheduled for the neighborhood around Bossen Field in south central Minneapolis. Many planes fly over this area approaching the airport, but this was the day after 9/11 and all U.S. civilian planes were grounded by federal decree. It was quite a sensation walking in this area, expecting to hear planes fly over, but hearing none.

George Bridgman

Minnehikers was a popular club. Annual banquet, 1938. (Norton and Peel, Minnesota Historical Society, GV1.22 p87)

Editor’s note: The Minnehikers, as the club was known, was originally organized by the park board’s recreation staff in 1920. According to Theodore Wirth (Minneapolis Park System 1883-1944), the first hike took place on January 10, 1920. Minneapolis Mayor J. E. Meyers, Judge Edward Foote Waite and Wirth led 83 hikers 3 1/2 miles from Minnehaha Falls to Riverside Park.

Twenty-nine years later, the park board named a park for the juvenile court judge who participated that day: Waite Park in northeast Minneapolis.

Waite Park and Waite Park School, the first joint school/park development in Minneapolis in 1949, were named for Judge Edward F. Waite, pictured here with students and teachers at the school in about 1955, when he was 95. (Newburg Studio, Minnesota Historical Society, por 5807 p8)

The mayor’s name is on a park too, the J.E. Meyers Memorial Park in Mound on Lake Minnetonka. Internet sites list it as both a boy’s camp and a cemetery. A mystery to be solved. Of course, we know that Wirth has a park named for him, too.

I would tell more about the Minnehikers, but I hope former members of the group will do that themselves with first person accounts. The club sponsored its last hike in October. Changing times.

David C. Smith

First shipment of merchandise by air lands in a Minneapolis park

Another first for a Minneapolis park: The nation’s first commercial air shipment landed at The Parade near downtown Minneapolis on May 8, 1920.

This entry in the proceedings, or minutes, of the Minneapolis park board on May 5, 1920, had puzzled me from the time I first saw it a couple of years ago.

Petitions and Communications

From Dayton Company —

Requesting permission to have the two airplanes bringing freight from New York to overcome the embargo to land on The Parade Friday morning.

Commissioner Gross —

Moved that the request be granted under the supervision of the Superintendent of Parks.

Adopted

Dayton’s Express air merchandise shipments arrived from New York at The Parade, May 8, 1920 (Charles J. Hibbard, Minnesota Historical Society, HE1.21 p53)

Only recently did I look up newspapers from the time to see if the event was mentioned. When I read the coverage in the Minneapolis Tribune, I knew I had seen a photo of the event somewhere and went straight to the Minnesota Historical Society’s Photo Collection, one of the most interesting places on the Internet. Sure enough, there were two photos of the event recorded by the superb photographer Charles Hibbard.

Dayton’s air merchandise shipment was unloaded after the plane was towed, minus wings, from The Parade to Dayton’s store on Nicollet Ave., May 8, 1920. The man on the plane is likely Ray S. Miller, the pilot who flew from New York via Buffalo. (Charles J. Hibbard, Minnesota Historical Society, HE1.21 p52)

This is the story of a retail innovation by Dayton’s (now Target) and another small part in history played by Minneapolis parks.

In April 1920, a wildcat strike by railroad switchmen in Chicago eventually spread to railroads and rail yards throughout the country causing a near shutdown of national transportation. Even after the strike had ended goods had piled up around the country threatening food and fuel shortages in a kind of gridlock from New England to the Pacific Northwest. While the Interstate Commerce Commission, White House and Congress grappled with the problem and eventually reinstituted some World War I-era government controls on railroads, the department store of George Draper Dayton developed an innovative plan: it would ship goods from New York City to Minneapolis by airplane.

The Minneapolis Tribune announced Dayton’s intentions April 30, 1920 along with the news that two airplanes had already left the Curtiss airplane plant in Buffalo, New York bound for Roosevelt Field on Long Island. The planes would commence their journey west as soon as they were loaded. The Tribune also noted the interest in the flight by Minneapolis Postmaster E. A. Purdy, who asked the company to give him all particulars on the flight. United States airmail service from Chicago to Minneapolis was scheduled to begin two months later on July 1. And none too soon. The Minneapolis post office had just set a record on April 8: the first time it had handled 100,000 packages in one day.

Dear Target, Thank you. Yours Truly, FedEx and UPS

In the next day’s edition, the Tribune reported that the plan to fly merchandise to Minneapolis had attracted considerable attention. The New York American had carried a story of the flight by which a half-ton of goods was to be transported aboard two Curtiss Oriole airplanes. “The plan is described as a pioneer step in shipments of goods by plane,” the Tribune reported, “and is  declared to bear the possibilities of an extensive development of the use of aircraft for freight-carrying purposes.”

On May 2 the Tribune ran photos of the two dapper pilots, Ray Miller and Charles Keyes, who had traveled to New York to pilot the planes back to Minneapolis. In this edition the Tribune claimed that the effort by Dayton’s had attracted the attention of both New York and Chicago retailers.

Perhaps the weather was not good or it took a long time to load 1,000 pounds of merchandise, but the planes didn’t depart New York until May 6. The May 7 Tribune reported that the pilots had flown through a blinding snowstorm over the Mohawk Valley before arriving in Buffalo the night before and were expected to arrive in Minneapolis the morning of May 8.

“Permission for the airplanes to land on The Parade grounds has been granted by the Board of Park Commissioners,” the Tribune reported. “The wings will be removed and the airplanes will be towed through the streets to Dayton’s store.”

And they were — as Charles Hibbard showed us.

While Target’s history website portrays the air shipment as a response to empty shelves in Dayton’s store, and it may have been, it was also a carefully constructed publicity campaign — from the daily press coverage, including photos of the pilots, to painting “Dayton’s Express” on the fusilages. The planes could have landed at the Speedway Airport, later Wold-Chamberlain Field, and the merchandise trucked to the store. Landing the planes in a park in the center of the city and then hauling them wingless into downtown for unloading made a good story that much better. Very clever.

Of course, in later years the park board became heavily involved in aviation. In 1927 the park board acquired the land of the fledgling Wold-Chamberlain Field in Bloomington and built it into a world-class airport. The park board turned the airport over to the Metropolitan Airports Commission in 1944, but retained title to about 600 acres of land at the center of the airport.

This was not George Dayton’s first encounter with the park board. When the Street Railway Company’s pavilion on park land beside Lake Harriet burned down in the spring of 1903, George Dayton was on a committee for the Retailers Association that worked with the park board and Street Railway to build a new pavilion. The Street Railway Company decided not to build a new pavilion itself but to contribute the $15,000 it collected in insurance on the burned building to the park board. The remaining $15,000 the park board needed to build a new pavilion? It was loaned to the park board on attractive terms by Dayton and the other retailers.

(See earlier post on the original plans for The Parade by Warren Manning.)

David C. Smith

© David C. Smith

Powderhorn Park Football

A recent visit to Powderhorn Park and a chat with recreation coordinator Dave Garmany turned up an excellent photo of the Powderhorn football team from 1925. Unusual for its time, it was labeled with the names and positions of the players.

1925 Powderhorn Football Team at The Parade (Basilica in background). First Row L-R: Helmar Larson OB, Claude Casey FB, Manley Peterson LT, Kenneth Johnson RH, George Carlson RG. Second Row, L-R: Lee Blood RT, Joe Listered LE, John Larson RE, John Martin LE, Ed Mandeck LE. Third Row L-R: Frank Shogren LG, Hersel Johnson RE, Howard Shenessy Capt., Leonard Herlen RG, Walt Nordstrom LH, Al Dunning RH. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

The best part of the photo — for those not related to the players — is the location at The Parade, which is obvious because of the Basilica looming in the background. The year the photo was taken, 1925, was the year that the north end of Powderhorn Lake was filled in to create more athletic fields. I’ve spoken with one woman who remembered skating on the lake before the north end was filled. Do you remember that or know anyone who does?

The only other photo I’ve seen of early Powderhorn football players is this one from the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Powderhorn football team, 1908 (Minnesota Historical Society)

Have you seen others? Let us know.

David C. Smith

The Myth of Murphy Square

One of the great stories of the creation of Minneapolis parks appears to be little more than myth.
 
 In 1910, Charles A. Nimocks wrote a pamphlet entitled The Early History of the Minneapolis Parks From 1857 to 1883. Many people studying the history of the city’s parks, including me, have cited Nimocks’ booklet, which describes early efforts to create parks in the city. After all, Nimocks was present at the creation of the park board. He was a newspaperman (the manager of the Minneapolis Journal) who helped draft the original legislation creating a Board of Park Commissioners for the Board of Trade in 1883. He then was elected as a park commissioner and served 1884-1886 and again 1907-1913.

In Nimocks’ pamphlet, he tells the story of Edward Murphy who donated the first park to Minneapolis in July 1857—what is now Murphy Square near Riverside Avenue. 

 

Murphy Square had plenty of trees when this photo was taken about 1905 (Sweet, Minnesota Historical Society)

“For years,” Nimocks wrote, “the land was used as a cow pasture, but on April 16th, 1873, Mr. Murphy secured an appropriation of $500 by the City Council for the purpose of fencing and setting out a row of trees around the park. Mr. Murphy expended this amount and a warrant was drawn on the City Treasurer to pay the same, which Mayor Ames refused to sign and the warrant was never paid.”

The event was cited as one of many examples in the early history of Minneapolis in which noble proponents of parks were exasperated by nefarious obstructers of progress. Theodore Wirth repeated the story in his 1945 book, Minneapolis Park System, 1883-1944, and so did I in City of Parks. But now I find that the story’s ending may have been fable—and false.

While searching early issues of the Minneapolis Tribune recently (thank you, thank you Hennepin County Library) I came across this four-sentence article in the July 3, 1874 edition.

 The Murphy Bill

The Council voted on Wednesday to instruct the City Clerk to deliver to Mr. Edward Murphy his order which has been in chancery for the last year or two. Mr. Murphy called and received the order yesterday, and City Treasurer Laraway at once paid him the money thereon, principal and interest. The interest amounted to almost one hundred dollars. Mr. Murphy declares that as the Council has finally done tardy justice to him, he now proposes to improve and care for the park at his own expense.

The article makes little sense without the knowledge that Mr. Murphy had not been paid for his work at Murphy Park a year earlier. And even then, it’s not until the last sentence that we can infer what he may have been paid for: the improvement and care of a park. As Murphy’s park was the only one in the city at the time, the article offers evidence that Murphy was reimbursed for some work he did there.

Perhaps because the article appeared in the Tribune, not his Journal, Nimocks chose to overlook it. Next chance I get at the library I will see if the Journal made a similar report. On the other hand, Nimocks wrote his pamphlet nearly forty years after the event. He may have “misremembered”—at least the resolution of the problem.

There is little doubt however that someone planted trees in the park, because newspaper stories that mention the park in subsequent years refer to it as Murphy’s grove, as in “Swedish Lutheran Sabbath School will have a picnic in Murphy’s grove,” from the Tribune, July 3, 1880.

Still it’s nice to know that Edward Murphy, a civic-minded man with foresight, was not cheated by the city that benefited from his generosity. One other note: Edward Murphy was a member of the City Council that finally did him “tardy justice.” He was not without some influence.

Bravo Augsburg College and Park Board!

For anyone who missed the news in October—I did—Murphy Square will be maintained for the next five years by Augsburg College. The college will provide routine maintenance, such as mowing the grass and shoveling the sidewalks.

The college, which established a campus next to the undeveloped park in 1872, nearly surrounded the park by the 1930s. But what really made the park appear to be a part of the campus was the construction of I-94 in the 1960s. The freeway and its imposing sound wall formed a barrier at the south end of the park and the freeway prevented access from the residential neighborhoods to the south.

 
  

Card players at a table in Murphy Square about 1946. Buildings in background do not appear to be Augsburg College. (Phillip Dittes, Minnesota Historical Society)

 

Does anyone from the Franklin Avenue neighborhood south of Augsburg College — or Augsburg College students before the 1960s — remember the park before the freeway was built? Tell us your story.

David C. Smith