Archive for the ‘Oak Lake’ Tag

Lost Minneapolis Parks: Highland Oval

The elegant neighborhood on the hills surrounding Oak Lake — now the site of the Farmer’s Market off Lyndale Avenue — has been gone for decades. Oak Lake itself was filled in 100 years ago. You can read the whole story here. The latest news: I finally found a picture of one of the five small parks in the Oak Lake Addition. I give you Highland Oval.

The title on the photo is "Highland Avenue, Oak Lake Division." but the open space in the middle of the photo can only be Highland Oval. The view is looking northwest. (Photo by Charles E. Tenney, used with permission of owner.)

The title on the photo is “Highland Avenue, Oak Lake Division”, but the open space in the middle of the photo can only be Highland Oval. The view is looking northwest. Tiny, isn’t it? But the effort to preserve any open green space in rapidly expanding cities was a novel concept. (Photo by Charles A. Tenney)

The photo was probably taken in the mid-1880s, before the park board assumed responsibility for the land as a park. The land was designated as park in the 1873 plat of the addition by brothers Samuel and Harlow Gale. Although I have no proof, I believe it likely that H.W.S. Cleveland laid out the Oak Lake Addition, owing largely to the known relationship between Cleveland and Samuel Gale. The curving streets that followed topography and the triangles and ovals at street intersections were hallmarks of Cleveland’s unique work about that same time for William Marshall’s St. Anthony Park in St. Paul and later for William Washburn’s Tangletown section of Minneapolis near Minnehaha Creek. It was also characteristic of Cleveland’s work in other cities.

Photographer Charles A. Tenney published a few series of stereoviews of St. Paul and Minneapolis 1883-1885. He was based in Winona and most of his photos are of the area around that city and across southern Minnesota.

Highland Oval was located in what is now the northeastern corner of the market.

As happy as I was to find the Highland Oval photo, my favorite photo by Tenney tells a different story.

10th Avenue Bridge. Charles E. Tenney.

10th Avenue Bridge. (Photo by Charles A. Tenney)

At first glance, this image from Tenney’s Minneapolis Series 1883 was simply the 10th Avenue Bridge below St. Anthony Falls, looking east. The bridge no longer exists, although a pier is still visible in the river. What makes the photo remarkable for me are the forms in the upper left background being built for the construction of the Stone Arch Bridge. (See a closeup of the construction method here.) The Stone Arch Bridge was completed in 1883 — the same year the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners was created.

Nearly 100 years after the bridge was built, trains quit using it and several years later the park board, Hennepin County and Minnesota reached an agreement for the park board to maintain the bridge deck for pedestrians and bicyclists, thus helping to transform Minneapolis’s riverfront — a process that continues today.

Note also the low level of the river around the bridge piers. This was long before dams were built to raise the river level to make it navigable.

David C. Smith

© 2015 David C. Smith

Lost Minneapolis Parks: The Complete List, Part II

This is Part II — H-R — of an alphabetical list of “lost” Minneapolis parks. These are park properties that were officially acquired or improved by the park board, but then were sold or given away. (If you missed  Part I — A-G — click here.)

Hennepin Avenue South. 17.5 acres. The main parkway link from the city — Loring Park — to Lake Harriet was supposed to be Hennepin Avenue.  The park board spent considerable effort and money to establish Hennepin Avenue as a parkway, beginning in 1884, but it was too heavily used as a commercial route and thoroughfare to be the beautiful and tranquil parkway the park board desired. Instead, Charles Loring created a route to Lake Harriet out Kenwood Parkway, then around Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun, an integral part of what would become the Grand Rounds. The park board returned ownership of Hennepin Avenue South, from Lyndale to Lake Street, to the city in 1905. I’ll write more of the Hennepin Parkway story eventually.

Hiawatha Triangle. Minnehaha Avenue and East 32nd Street, 0.5 acre. Purchased September 6, 1910 for $2,975. In 1960, the City Planning Commission informed the park board that the triangle was to be rezoned, probably as residential. I don’t know if that played a role in the subsequent sale of the property. On September 7, 1960 the park board accepted bids on several parcels of land, including an oral bid by Lawrence Hauge of $35,500 for  Hiawatha Triangle, or Lots 1-4 of Block 7, Rollins Addition. Hauge’s bid was accepted. He purchased the land for what became McDivitt-Hauge Funeral Home.

Highland Oval. Highland Avenue in Oak Lake Addition, 0.058 acre. (See Oak Lake.)

Hillside Triangle. Hillside Avenue and Logan Avenue North, 0.6 acre. Transferred from the city council September 20, 1892. The park board granted a request from the school board to use the triangle as a playground for Lowell School in 1921. Title for the land was transferred to the school board in 1953. Lowell School closed in 1974. Houses were built on the former triangle and school site.

Iagoo Triangle. Hiawatha Avenue and East 45th Street, 0.05 acres. Donated to the park board by William Adams and wife, March 17, 1886, along with Osseo Triangle. The triangle was named for the story-teller in Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha. Sold to the Minnesota highway department in 1966 for the proposed Highway 55 freeway. The purchase price is not contained in park board records.

Kenwood Triangle. Penn Avenue South, Oliver Avenue South and West Franklin Avenue, 0.02 acre. Transferred from the city council to the park board June 3, 1907 when Kenwood Park was acquired. This is another triangle still on park board books, but listed as “paved.” The traffic intersection was altered in 1981, when the park board and school board collaborated on the construction of the recreation center attached to Kenwood School.

Lakeside Oval. Lakeside Avenue in Oak Lake Addition, 0.32 acre. (See Oak Lake.)

LaSalle Triangle. LaSalle Avenue and 13th Street South, 0.05 acre. Transferred to the park board from the city council June 7, 1922. The triangle was returned to the city in 1976 as a part of street reconfiguration.

Longfellow Field I. Minnehaha Avenue and East 26th Street, 4 acres. Purchased in 1911 for about $7,000. Sold in 1917 for $35,000. That’s only the beginning of the story. Read the rest and see more photos here.

The playground at the first, “lost” Longfellow Field in 1912. (Minneapolis Collection, Hennepin County Library)

Lowry Triangle. Hennepin, Lyndale and Vineland Place, 0.16 acre. Transferred from the city council November 28, 1891. Lost to I-94 in 1964. See much more detail here. The highway department’s initial offer of $1,500 for the triangle was rejected by the park board and the board instructed its attorney to oppose that valuation in court. By September 1967 the offer for the triangle had increased to $5,000 and the park board still wasn’t biting. Park board proceedings and annual reports never reported the final sale price of the property. Someday I’ll look through Hennepin County records to see what I can find.

Lyndale Avenue North. 16.65 acres. Lyndale Avenue North was intended to be the primary parkway into North Minneapolis in what later became known as the Grand Rounds. It was too much a commercial avenue ever to serve the purpose of a parkway connecting Loring Park to Farview Park, however. After twenty years of trying to make it a parkway between Western (Glenwood) Avenue and 29th Avenue North, the park board gave up and turned it over to the city to maintain as an ordinary street in 1905. The park board abandoned Hennepin Avenue South at the same time.

Lyndale Farmstead (partial). The half-block south of West 40th Street between King’s Highway and Colfax Avenue, 1.78 acres. Acquired from James J. Hill and Thomas Lowry in 1909 as part of the land donated for a superintendent’s house. Theodore Wirth  recommended selling the land in the 1912 Annual Report and using the proceeds to build a laundry at the Lyndale Farmstead shops for washing the napkins and table cloths from park refectories, and towels and swimming suits from the bath houses. Other uses were later proposed for revenue from the sale of the 14 lots platted there. In 1922 the board decided to sell the lots, asserting that no park use was ever intended for that land. All of the lots were sold by 1925. Annual report figures for those years only show revenue of $17,155 from land sales, but that likely understates total revenue as the lowest listed sale price I can find for any single lot was $1,750. All revenues from sales went into a fund for the operation and improvement of Lyndale Farmstead. Curiously, in the midst of the sale of those lots, Wirth published a plan for the improvement of Lyndale Farmstead in the 1924 Annual Report that included building four tennis courts at the corner of King’s Highway and West 40th St.

Market Square. Main Street and today’s Central Avenue. Transferred to the park board April 27, 1883. The city council had acquired the land in exchange for the assistance it had provided in constructing a dam to protect St. Anthony Falls. On January 22, 1886 the city council voted to cede the land to the Minnesota Industrial Exposition as part of the ground to be used for an Industrial Exposition Building.

Midway Triangle. University Avenue and Bedford Street SE, 0.03 acre. Acquired from the city council, October 1, 1919. The park board noted at its meeting November 1, 1944 that the triangle had already been paved over as part of the widening of University Avenue and, therefore, transferred title back to the city council. See more detail on this and other Prospect Park triangles here.

Mississippi Park. Land was lost on both sides of the Mississippi River when the Meeker Island Dam and later the Ford Dam were built. The park board also lost several islands in the river, including Meeker Island, which were submerged in the reservoirs behind the dams. The story of the construction of the dams and their impact on Minneapolis parks deserves more detail than I can give it here. The west side of the river gorge from Franklin Avenue to Minnehaha Park should be named for Horace William Shaler Cleveland, the man who did so much to ensure that the river banks became a park.

Oak Lake. Lakeside and Border avenues in Oak Lake Addition, 1.33 acres. Oak Lake and other parks in the Oak Lake Addition — Highland Oval, Lakeside Oval, Royalston Triangle and Small Triangle — were donated as parks in the original plat of Oak Lake Addition by Samuel C. Gale et al., October 22, 1873. The Farmers’ Market on Lyndale sits on what was once the first Minneapolis lake to become a park. The story of the little lake and Oak Lake Addition is fascinating.

Oak Street Triangle. Officially part of East River Parkway at Oak Street, but known as Oak Street Triangle. Sold to U of M in 1961 for a price that is not recorded in park board records.

Osseo Triangle. Hiawatha Avenue and East 46th Street, 0.03 acres. Donated by William Adams and wife, March 17, 1886 along with Iagoo Triangle. In keeping with the Longfellow theme in the neighborhood named for him, the triangle was named for another character in The Song of Hiawatha; Osseo was the Son of the Evening Star. Sold to Minnesota Highway Department for Highway 55 freeway in 1966 for an unknown price.

The dedication of Pioneers Square in front of the post office was held November 13, 1936 to honor, Charles M. Loring, the “Father of Minneapolis Parks.” It would have been his 103rd birthday.(Minnesota Historical Society)

Pioneers Square. Marquette Avenue and Second Street South, across from the post office, 2.5 acres. The land was purchased and developed by the park board at the request of the city council. The U. S. Postal Service wanted to construct a new post office in downtown Minneapolis, but insisted that it be set in attractive environs, a park. The park board rejected the plan of the city council to assess the nearly half-million dollar cost of acquisition, demolition and improvement mostly on the surrounding property owners at the onset of the Great Depression in 1930. The park board finally agreed to the deal in 1932 when the city council authorized $320,000 in bonds to cover about 80 percent of the cost of the land. The remaining costs were assessed on property owners.

The Pioneers Statue being assembled in front of the new post office.

The new post office and Pioneers Square — and The Gateway, a couple blocks west — did not lead to urban renewal in the area. (With the snow melt at the end of the winter of 1953, maintenance crews picked up 70 bushel baskets of empty wine and whiskey bottles from The Gateway. One Monday morning in the summer of 1953, crews picked up 62 empty wine and whiskey bottles from the grass at Pioneers Square. [Charles E. Doell Papers, Hennepin History Library]) The city condemned Pioneers Square and The Gateway in 1960 in a new round of urban renewal. The Pioneers Monument was moved to a small triangle in northeast Minneapolis in 1967, which the city sold to the park board for a dollar. The statue was moved across Marshall Avenue to the B. F. Nelson park site in 2011.

Rauen Triangle. Eleventh Avenue North and Fifth Street, 0.027 acre. Purchased in 1890. Turned over to the city in 1939. (See more of the story and photos here.)

Royalston Triangle. Royalston Avenue and 6th Avenue North in Oak Lake Addition, 0.20 acre. (See Oak Lake.)

I’ll post Lost Minneapolis Parks: The Complete List, Part III soon.

Do you remember anything about any of these former parks? If you do, send me a note so we can preserve some recollection of them.

David C. Smith

© David C. Smith

More Horace W. S. Cleveland: A Bit of Oak Lake and More of Kenwood Parkway

Since I wrote about Oak Lake and speculated whether Samuel Gale might have hired Horace Cleveland to lay out his Oak Lake Addition to Minneapolis — it had the look of Cleveland’s work — I have been digging through notes to see if I could find a connection between the two men. I couldn’t find anything that put the two of them together in 1873 when Gale was platting Oak Lake, but I did find two interesting pieces of paper linking Cleveland with Oak Lake and with Gale in 1886.

One connection between Cleveland and Gale in 1886 comes from the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers at the Library of Congress. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading