Archive for the ‘Pershing Park’ Tag

The Streetcar through Linden Hills: 100 Years on Xerxes Avenue

Another centennial in our young city. On October 1, 1913 streetcars began running south through Linden Hills on Xerxes Avenue into the Fulton neighborhood. The extension of the Oak and Harriet line ran south on Xerxes from the streetcar right-of-way near 44th out to 50th Street. The hope at the time was that as population in the region grew, the line would be extended east on 50th from Xerxes to Penn and south from there. (The Xerxes line was extended east on 50th to Penn the following year, but the line ended there. The line that eventually ran south on Penn was the Bryant Avenue line.)

Articles in the Minneapolis Tribune (see October 2 and October 6, 1913 issues) gave much of the credit for the line extension on Xerxes to the Robert Fulton School District Improvement Association. The Harriet Heights Improvement Association had supported a six-year campaign for the line extension, but the Fulton association, created in the fall of 1912, “had for its avowed purpose the securing of the car line extension.”

Xerxes Avenue South looking south in the 4500 block. A street car line opened here October 1, 1913.

Xerxes Avenue South looking south in the 4500 block. A streetcar line opened here October 1, 1913, carrying passengers as far as 50th Street. Some rails still lie beneath the pavement. (David C. Smith)

The original idea had been to run the line out from Linden Hills on Upton Avenue or build a new east-west streetcar line along 50th to serve the area south of Lake Harriet. Both plans were “negatived” by the street railway company, the Upton Avenue route due to “mechanical” difficulties and the crosstown route because the company didn’t project enough traffic to make it profitable. (In a 1914 atlas of the neighborhood there were only 11 houses on Xerxes between 47th and 50th, but only a handful of empty lots from 44th to 47th.)

The problem with the Xerxes route was that the streetcar company wouldn’t lay track until the street was graded. The city council was willing to spend only $600 for the grading project, so the neighborhood had to come up with an additional $1,600 to do the job. The Fulton association raised more than three-quarters of that sum.

One of the contributors to the grading fund was Tingdale Bros. Inc., which was developing Harriet Manor, a subdivision that included those blocks of empty lots along Xerxes. A small park in Edina, where the Tingdales were later also active residential developers, is named Tingdale Park,

The economic success of the campaign to extend the streetcar line — and the Tingdale brothers contribution to the road grading fund that made the extension possible — is highlighted by the fact that a quite large, new Robert Fulton School was built at 49th and Washburn only two years later to meet the needs of the burgeoning neighborhood.

The land for Linden Hills Park at Xerxes and 42nd, mostly bog, was not acquired by the park board until 1921 and construction of the park wasn’t begun until 1924. The land for Pershing Field, further south, was acquired in 1922, but construction didn’t begin until 1931. Southwest High School near Pershing Field was built in 1940.

David C. Smith

© David C. Smith


A Thank You Note from John J. Pershing

After the park board named a new park and playground in southwest Minneapolis, Pershing Field, December 5, 1922, it received a thank you note from the man it was named for — Gen. John J. Pershing.

A thank-you note from General John J. Pershing to the park board for naming Pershing Field for him. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

I have a low resolution photocopy of the letter, which is in the display case in the commissioners room at park board headquarters, and I sent a scan of it to the two people who were the first to answer a question I posed in a posting earlier this week. But it’s so cool I thought everyone should see it.

One of the people I sent it to, Don Lehnhoff, provided this additional information on the letter — which makes it even cooler.

Thanks, Dave. That is very cool. I couldn’t help noticing the letterhead and, having once been an Army draftee myself, was trying to remember the significance. I was thinking of “General of the Army” (singular) which is a 5-star general … I believe there’s only one of those at any given time, and usually only during wartime. If Wikipedia is to be trusted, the Pershing rank of “General of the Armies” has only been conferred twice in history:

“Pershing is the only person to be promoted in his own lifetime to the highest rank ever held in the United States Army—General of the Armies  (a retroactive Congressional edict passed in 1976 promoted George Washington to the same rank but with higher seniority.)” Pershing holds the first United States officer service number (O-1).

That’s pretty serious stuff, and puts him in pretty rarefied company … Pershing and G. Washington. Any way … many thanks for sharing that.

Thank you, Don.

David C. Smith

Mystery Starters at Powderhorn Speed Skating Track

This photo is labelled “Olympic Speed Skating Team.” The only date on it is February 16, 1947. That seems too early to have already selected skaters for the 1948 Olympic team. Can anyone identify the skaters? Local skaters Johnny Werket and Ken Bartholomew represented the U.S. at the 1948 Olympics in St. Moritz and Bartholomew won a silver medal. Gene Sandvig and Pat McNamara represented Minneapolis and the U.S. at the 1952 and 1956 Winter Games. (I posted more about those skaters here.) They might all be in this photo.

Can you identify any of these people — skaters and others — at the speed skating track at Powderhorn Park? (MPRB) (Note 9/18: Reader Tom McGrath has identified the starter and the skaters in a comment below. Thanks, Tom and Brian.)

I don’t know the skaters, but I do recognize the fellow in the dark overcoat next to the starter. Anybody know who that is — and what his job was at the time?

I don’t know the guy with the starter’s pistol, but he looks entirely too jolly to be a regular race official. Seems more like a politician holding a noisemaker, but I can’t name him.

Name them all and you get a free lifetime subscription to (That’s the lifetime of the website, not you.) Be the first to name the man in the dark coat and I’ll email you a free, low-quality photocopy of Gen. John “Blackjack” Pershing’s letter to the Minneapolis park board in 1923 expressing his appreciation for having a park named for him. (More on that story later.)

David C. Smith

© David C. Smith

Pershing Field Scrapbooks

Pershing Park recreation supervisor Marc Holtey recently pulled out some old scrapbooks at the park. One scrapbook was a collection of “guest books” from the Southwest Activities Council’s (SWAC) Annual Meetings, Open Houses and Winter Carnivals in the 1950s and 1960s. Among those who signed the books were many former park commissioners and park board employees. I noticed that Felix Dhainin and his wife signed the guest book for a few events. Dhainin was the park board’s landscape architect for many years beginning in the 1940s. Many guests added their addresses after their signatures, from which I learned that the Dhainins lived barely a block from the park.  Another park board employee, Alice Dietz, one of the leaders of the recreation department since the early 1920s, also attended several 1950s events. If anyone can tell me more about Dhainin or Dietz, please do. They are two of hundreds of park board employees who were instrumental in building our park system.

Another signature that caught my attention in the Guest Book for the 11th Annual SWAC Winter Carnival, January 25 & 26, 1964: Mrs. Ray Rybak and children. We can surmise that  the present-day Mayor of Minneapolis was in attendance at about the age of eight.

A second scrap book contained clips about SWAC from 1957-1959 from the Lake Harriet Courier. Some highlights:

  • Attendance at 1958 Halloween parties sponsored by SWAC. Linden Hills: 250 children at an afternoon party; 225 teens for a dance that night after the Southwest-Roosevelt football game. Pershing: 350 children.
  • Attendance at Pershing Field for a Friday night dance in January 1958: 130 junior teens and 200 senior teens. Live music was provided by the Jazz Knights.
  • Attendance at the SWAC football banquet at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church: 320

I suspect that parks across the city had similar, staggering attendance at big events. Those may have been the glory days of park-sponsored activities for children. If you attended events like these in any park in Minneapolis, tell us about it.

Dick Yates was for many years a recreation supervisor at Longfellow, then Lynnhurst Park, before he became the head of special services for the park board in the 1970s. I interviewed Dick when I was researching City of Parks in 2007When the book came out I asked Dick what he thought of it. He had one complaint: he didn’t think I captured the robustness of the dynamic playground programs of the 1950s and 1960s. I had to agree with him. The number of kids who participated in playground programs in those years was truly incredible by today’s standards. So help me correct that shortcoming of City of Parks. Let’s capture here some of the vitality of playground events in years past. Tell us the story.

A third scrapbook at Pershing was a book of photos. Most of them were of unidentified children and didn’t provide much information of historical interest. The two that I found most interesting were these.

Goalies weren’t protected then as they are now. Photo from 1958 Annual Report of the Southwest Activities Council (SWAC) (Photo courtesy of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)



Memorial Day 1961, Pershing Park (Clair Peterson, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)


David C. Smith