Archive for the ‘Northeast Minneapolis’ Tag

Hall’s Island and a Baseball Field?

Some of our readers must have played here — the baseball fields next to Scherer Brothers lumber yard in northeast Minneapolis between Marshall Avenue and the Mississippi River in the 1950s. I’ve never heard anything about those fields — which are now Graco parking lots — but they’re hard to miss in this photo. Who owned or maintained the fields — dugouts and all? Who played there? Do you have memories of these fields on Sibley Street?

Note the baseball field on the right side of this photo north of Scherer Brothers’ lumber yard. Hall’s Island and the Plymouth Avenue bridge are at the bottom of the photo, which was taken looking north or upriver. The Broadway Bridge is in the middle of the photo. (Fairchild Aerial Surveys, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

I’ve never seen mention of the property in park board records, so I’m sure they didn’t belong to the park board. The nearest park board ball fields would have been almost a mile away at Logan Park. Diamonds at Bottineau Field were a bit farther away to the north. Dickman Park was the nearest park, but it had only recently been acquired and hadn’t been developed yet in 1955 — and wasn’t big enough for a full baseball field anyway.

The picture is one in a series of aerial photos of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis taken in 1955 by Fairchild Aerial Surveys. The photos were recently discovered in city archives and park planner Andrew Caddock shared them with me. I’ll be posting more information on them as time allows.

Halls’ Island appears in this photo probably much as it did in the mid-1960s when Scherer Brothers acquired it from the city and filled in the eastern channel to expand its yard. (I posted a history of Hall’s Island a few months ago.) The Minneapolis park board acquired much of the land from Scherer Brothers in early 2010.

Preliminary plans for the Scherer property, proposed by Tom Leader Studio/Kennedy & Violich Architecture, winners of the 2011 Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition, would dredge again the eastern channel and make a beach and kayak cove there and build a swimming pool/skating rink on the recreated Hall’s Island. (Among other things — I hope. Swimming and ice-skating opportunities are not a particular novelty in Minneapolis, where swimming in the Mississippi was abandoned nearly 100 years ago at the same location and park board ice-skating rinks throughout the city are strikingly under-used. I look forward to seeing more imaginative final designs for our $1.5 million cost to date.)

Some people have questioned why the park board didn’t develop parks along the river in north and northeast Minneapolis sooner. Another Fairchild Aerial photo from the same series as the one above — of nearly the same location — provides an answer. Railroads dominated the riverscape.

The Plymouth Avenue Bridge crosses Hall’s Island in the middle of the photo. (The photo was taken looking upriver, northeast Minneapolis on the right, north Minneapolis on the left.) Boom Island, lower right, was a railroad yard, as was most of the property west (left) of the river. Not a landscape very conducive to park development. Note also that Boom Island was no longer an island. (Fairchild Aerial Surveys, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

The history of park planning for the river upstream from St. Anthony Falls began more than 100 years ago. I’ll get to that story later this week.

David C. Smith


The True Story of Sibley Triangle, by Robin Russell

I started tending this garden in 2006, but really took it on in 2007. In 2007, I was living in St. Anthony East neighborhood, and I lost my home to foreclosure. I didn’t want to leave my perennials behind, so I moved them to the triangle. In this same time period, another house in the neighborhood was demolished after a fire, and I was disappointed to learn that when that happens, any perennials or shrubs are ripped out, too. In 2007-2008 time period a lot of houses were being razed on primarily the North Side, so I got hold of the list of properties to be razed and went ‘plant rescuing’ before the bulldozers got in. I remember one afternoon it seemed like me and the bulldozers racing around the streets together! For awhile I kept a blog of my ‘guerrilla gardens’ (haven’t been able to keep up with it that past two seasons) and for the purposes of that blog, I dubbed Sibley Triangle “Foreclosure Park.” There are a number of really great specimens in the garden that I got from these rescue trips. Especially the ‘Hope for Humanity” rose. Well, maybe it’s not that variety, but I don’t want to hear about it. I like thinking it’s a Hope for Humanity. It seems fitting.

Before I took over the park, it had been abandoned for quite some time. Before that, St. Anthony East had a neighborhood garden group that installed the granite pavers and built the raised bed. The indigo baptisia is the plant that remains from this group. Water had been provided by ‘Phil,” a nearby homeowner, but after he either passed away or moved away, and there was no easy water access, the park was no longer cared for by this group. This is why I am such a pusher and shaker when it comes to making sure we continue to have affordable water for this space. Downtown in the water permits department I have been referred to as “the particular woman with the particular garden!” LOL. I am copying Kathy Kittelson on this e-mail as she was part of the aforementioned gardening group and she may have pictures.

I was told that when Our Lady of Lourdes parochial school was across the street from the Triangle (where the public housing building is now), that the Triangle had marble pits where the kids (probably boys) played marbles. I was told that if I kept digging, sooner or later I would find marbles, and in fact I have two that I have found there! If there is a way to get pictures of Our Lady of Lourdes School, maybe there would be pictures of the Triangle there. That would be a fun research project.

It is such an honor to take care of this space. It is really cherished by the neighbors, and is a destination spot that people now walk to. I learned that one neighbor even referenced it as a neighborhood amenity to a new tenant in the area!

My blog is guerrillagardensne[dot]blogspot[dot]com

Robin Russell

Another view of Robin’s garden from my May 30 visit. David C. Smith

NOTE: Thanks so much, Robin, for telling the story and for taking care of a space that we all can enjoy.

Does anybody have any photos of Our Lady of Lourdes school — or know of any? Let me know where I could find them, or send them to me and I’ll post them here. David C. Smith

Sibley Triangle in Full Bloom

Last fall I apologized to Robin Russell, the volunteer park steward who maintains the lovely Sibley Triangle in Northeast Minneapolis, for not getting a picture of her superb work. This is to make amends. These photos were taken on May 30 after a week of rain. Beautiful.

Sibley Triangle, May 30, 2012. Washington St. NE is on the right, 5th St. NE on the left.

Sibley Triangle from the east (Washington St. NE).

I’d love to hear from Robin and park stewards who beautify other parts of our park system. Tell us the story of your garden — and send photos.

David C. Smith

NOTE: Please see “Comments” for information on other gardens.

Has the Park Board Neglected Northeast Minneapolis?

The argument is sometimes made, particularly by “Nordeasters,” that northeast Minneapolis is park poor and that the Minneapolis park board has neglected that part of the city.  “Underserved” seems to be the popular word. The idea even flowed as an undercurrent through the recent Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition. The thinking goes that ever since Minneapolis and St. Anthony merged in 1872, and took the name Minneapolis, power, money and prestige — not to mention amenities such as parks — have accumulated west and south of the river. (Read Lucille M. Kane, The Waterfall That Built a City, for a fascinating examination of why that might have happened.)

While writing recently about Alice Dietz and the marvelous programs she ran at the Logan Park field house I thought again about the perceived neglect of Northeast and whether it might be true. I concluded that it is not; northeast Minneapolis has been a victim of industry, topography and opportunity, but not discrimination or even indifference. What’s more, all those elements have now realigned, putting northeast Minneapolis in the position to get a far bigger slice of the park pie in the foreseeable future than any other section of the city.

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