Archive for the ‘Powderhorn Park’ Tag

Happy 99th, Don Johnson

Don Johnson, a great, but little-known Minnesota athlete, just celebrated his 99th birthday. I hope you will join me in wishing him many more.

Don was a champion speed skater at the leading edge of a generation of speed skaters that dominated American speed skating from the 1930s into the 1950s. That was a time when speed skating races at Powderhorn Park and Como Lake in St. Paul drew tens of thousands of spectators and speed skating was an official sport in Minneapolis high schools. The sport thrived in part due to support from the Minneapolis Park Board and the excellent skating track it maintained at Powderhorn Park, but also due to sponsorship and hard work by several American Legion posts. Speed skating had similar support in St. Paul.

Scan Don Johnson 1948 rev.

Don Johnson winning the 440-yard national championship in 1947, narrowly defeating his long-time rivals Ken Bartholomew on the right and another Minneapolitan, Bob Fitzgerald, on the left who tied for the silver medal at 500 meters in the 1948 Winter Olympics.  At that time in the U.S. speed skaters raced in a pack, instead of racing against the clock as was done in the rest of the world.  Pack-style racing was considered more entertaining for fans and resulted in much more strategic races. (Photo courtesy of Don Johnson.)

For another view of Don winning a race, check out this newsreel Clip of him winning the 880 in the 1948 national championships. (His is the second race in the newsreel.)

The first Minnesota skaters to break onto the national scene in that era and win national titles were James Webster of St. Paul, then Marvin Swanson of Minneapolis in the mid-1930s. They were followed by Johnson and Dick Beard, high school teammates at Minneapolis Central, then in rapid succession by Charles Leighton, future Olympic medalists Ken Bartholomew and Bob Fitzgerald, John Werket, Art Seaman, Pat McNamara, Gene Sandvig, Floyd Bedbury, and Tom Gray. All were national or world champions or Olympians. Women enjoyed a run of success nearly as impressive, led by Dorothy Franey, Mary Dolan, and Louise Herou of Minneapolis and Geraldine Scott, Janet Christopherson, Gwendolyn DuBois and Diane White of St. Paul, all of whom won national championships. (Women’s speed skating was an exhibition event at the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid and Dorothy Franey of Minneapolis was on the team. Women didn’t compete in speed skating again in the Olympics until 1960. Mary Lawler of Minneapolis made the 1964 team.) Many more Minneapolis skaters excelled — won national championships or set age group records — at junior and intermediate levels. Of course there have been many world-class speed skaters from Minnesota since the early 1960s as well, but by then the Twin Cities, especially Powderhorn Park, was no longer the center of the American speed skating world.

EPSON MFP image

This article from the New York Times, February 8, 1938 tells the story of Johnson’s victory. The rest of the article covers the other races held that night.

 

 

One of Don Johnson’s greatest triumphs was as a 19-year-old at Madison Square Garden where he won the Champion of Champions two-mile race at the Silver Skates tournament before a crowd of nearly 15,000 in 1938.

Johnson recalled that the celebrity starter for the race was former heavyweight boxing champ Jack Dempsey.

What makes Johnson’s victory particularly impressive was that he enjoyed some of his greatest successes at shorter distances such as the 440 and 880 highlighted above — and on longer outdoor tracks. If you’re a sports fan you know that Madison Square Garden is the most famous basketball arena in the world, meaning hardly large enough for a speed skating rink. The track was about the size of the hockey rink when the New York Rangers played in the famous arena. The track hardly had a straightaway. At 16 laps to the mile it was all corners. If there was a precursor to today’s short-track speed skating, MSG was it.

Two Weeks Pay

Johnson almost didn’t make it to New York for that meet. Right out of high school, he had gone to work for General Electric in Minneapolis. He couldn’t afford to miss two weeks of work to make the trip to first Michigan for the national championships and then to New York for the Silver Skates meet. The St. Paul newspaper that sponsored the race locally — he qualified by winning the race in St. Paul — agreed to pick up his pay for the two weeks he would be gone. (The outdoor nationals in Petoskey, Mich. were cancelled due to warm weather and rain showers.)

Johnson returned to MSG the next year, 1939, to defend his title along with his local rival Ken Bartholomew. As the New York Times reported on February 7, 1939 the two were among ten of the leading speed skaters in the country that took part in the event. The race had another capacity crowd in the Garden on their feet at the finish. The grueling race ended in what the Times called a “blanket finish” by the top four skaters. The judges deliberated for five minutes while the crowd awaited an announcement of the winner. The Times reported that spectators thought the delay was due to debate over whether Johnson or Vincent Bozich of Detroit had won or whether it was a dead heat. Ken Bartholomew had finished a hair behind them. The judges’ decision shocked everyone: Johnson, Bozich and Bartholomew were disqualified for “pushing on the turn.” The victory went to the fourth place finisher who represented New York in the race. Such was life in the rough-and-tumble world of pack-style racing — where “pushing” was part of racing.

Don Johnson 2014-9-4 (2)

Don Johnson when he was only 96.

Despite Johnson’s successes, he was not selected for the 1940 Olympic team. Neither was Bartholomew. The only Minnesota skater to make that team was Charles Leighton. Of course he never got to race in the Olympics due to WWII. By the time the Olympics resumed in 1948, although still highly competitive with the country’s best — as witnessed by the photo and clip above — Johnson did not compete in the St. Moritz Olympics, but attended the Games as an alternate.

Two of Don’s long-time competitors from Minneapolis, Ken Bartholomew, who married Don’s sister, and Bob Fitzgerald, who was an altar boy at Don’s wedding, tied for the silver medal in St. Moritz in the 500 meter race, the only Americans to win speed skating medals in those games. They proved that Americans could win medals even when they skated the less exciting European Olympic style. No pushing.

Happy Birthday, Don. We hope we’ve helped revive happy memories of good friendships with tough competitors.

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

Minneapolis Speed Skating Update

The articles I’ve posted on speedskating have been among the most widely read of all topics I have covered. Many readers also have added comments that are full of interesting information and reminiscences. So I would encourage anyone interested in the history of speedskating in Minnesota, especially at Powderhorn Park, to revisit those posts to catch up on the latest info. (Click on “Speed Skating” under “Popular Tags” at right for a list of articles.)

Along those lines, I got a recent note from Patrick Fitzgerald that the description of the photo of the 1948 Olympic team was correct even though it was taken in February, 1947. The 1948 team was selected based on results of the National Championships the year before.

Bob Fitzgerald was the first man named to the 1948 team as a result of his winning the Senior Men’s National Championship in January, 1947, a repeat of his 1946 title. Both times he edged out Ken Bartholomew, another Minneapolitan, for the title.

Who is this Bearcat skater?

Who is this Bearcat skater?

A reader sent me a copy of the 11 x 14 photo above of an unknown skater, which he had found at a local garage sale. He purchased the photo as well as the size 10 Riedell skates the man in the photo was wearing. We believe he is wearing the uniform of the Bearcats from around 1950. Can anyone identify the skater?

I hope to have more recollections of the Powderhorn skating scene from the 1940s sometime this fall.

David C. Smith  minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

© 2014 David C. Smith

Another Elite Powderhorn Park Speedskater

I’ve written before about the world-class speedskaters who skated at Powderhorn Park in the 1940s and 1950s and the high-level competitions held there. Now reader Gayle Mosiman Meadows has shared more information about speedskating at Powderhorn in the 1930s, especially involving her late father, Roger Mosiman.

She sent this image of a program from a meet in 1938 that featured her father who was then 14.

Program from 1938 speedskating event at Powderhorn Park, featuring photo of Roger Mosiman (Gayle Meadows Mosiman)

Program from 1938 speedskating event at Powderhorn Park, featuring photo of Roger Mosiman. (Gayle Meadows Mosiman)

Mosiman was likely featured on the program because at the time he held the juvenile boys national record for the fastest time in the 220 yard sprint. The national record for intermediate boys at the same distance was held at that time by Roger’s older brother, Earl Mosiman. The Bearcat American Legion Post was one of four posts that featured prominently as sponsors of speedskating teams.

Gayle also sent a copy of photo of Roger boarding a train for a skating competition in New York, likely the 1940 North American Speedskating Championship in Schenectady, NY. He is being seen off by his mother, Lillie, and his younger sister, Bernice.

Roger Mosiman boarding train for 1940 National Speedskating Championship in Schenectady, NY. Roger is being sent off by his mother, Lillie, and younger sister, Bernice. (Photo courtesy of Gayle Mosiman Meadows)

Roger Mosiman boarding a train for the 1940 North American Speedskating Championship in Schenectady, NY.  (Photo courtesy of Gayle Mosiman Meadows)

Roger, who attended Marshall High School in Minneapolis, finished the multi-event competition for the junior boys championship tied with Art Bulrice of Saranac Lake, NY. In a one-sixth mile race to determine the title, Roger fell and had to settle for second place. Winning the men’s title that day was future Olympian Leo Freisinger of Chicago.

After Marshall High School, Roger attended the University of Minnesota and became a navy pilot in WWII. In the 1960s, he moved to Gig Harbor, Washington. Roger died there in December 2011 at age 87.

Many thanks to Gayle for the program, the photo and the memories.

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

© 2014 David C. Smith

Sisters of Chuckie: Powderhorn Park 1926

How did the cherished toys of one generation become scary to their great-grandchildren?

This photo raises the question. Doll buggy parades were big events at parks decades ago, especially in the 1930s. I’ve seen several photos of such events, some as recent as the 1970s. Yet, I’ve seen girls of today react very negatively to pictures of old dolls like these. They find them creepy. But aren’t these dolls more realistic and less creepy than many of the “fashion” dolls that girls play with now?

Doll parade at Powderhorn Park, 1926 (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

Dolls on parade at Powderhorn Park, 1926 (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

Cool buggies, too. But with no children in sight? Yeah, they really are kinda creepy. The dolls look better with kids in the picture.

This Minneapolis Tribune photo from 1934, which includes girls from an unidentified park, is more appealing. (Minneapolis Photo Collection, Hennepin County Library)

This Minneapolis Tribune photo from 1934, which includes girls from an unidentified park, is more appealing. (Minneapolis Photo Collection, Hennepin County Library)

Do you remember these events? Do you still have the dolls?

David C. Smith  minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

Pushball at Powderhorn

Does anyone remember “pushball”? This photo was taken at Powderhorn Park, but the date isn’t marked. It looks like a fair number of kids were left standing and watching.

This is “Pushball.” The apartments in the background appear to be those on Powderhorn Terrace just north of the park. Date unknown. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

Any guesses on the date?

Do you remember any other playground games that aren’t played anymore? Got pictures?

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

The Statue of Liberty in a Minneapolis Park?

If you could put a replica of this statue anywhere in a Minneapolis park, where would you put it?

One of the most intriguing “might-have-beens” in Minneapolis park history was the proposed construction of a Japanese Temple on an island in Lake of the Isles. (If you missed it, read the story of John Bradstreet’s proposal.) But that was not the only proposal to spruce up an island in a Minneapolis park.

On March 15, 1961 the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners approved the placement of a replica of the Statue of Liberty on an island in another body of water.

Park board proceedings attribute the proposal to a Mr. Iner Johnson. He offered to donate and install the 10-foot tall replica statue made of copper and the park board accepted the offer — as long as the park board would incur no expense.

I can find no further information on the proposal or why the plan was never executed — or if it was, what happened to the statue.

The intended location of the statue was the island in … Powderhorn Lake.

Island in Powderhorn Lake from the southeast shore, near the rec center in 2012. The willow gives the impression of an entrance to a green cave. (David C. Smith)

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune of March 16, 1961 reported that Lady Liberty was to be installed for the Aquatennial that summer. Was it? Does anyone remember it? I’ve never seen a picture or read a description.

Another park feature from H.W.S. Cleveland

The man-made island was first proposed in the plan created for Powderhorn Park in 1892 by H. W. S. Cleveland and Son. It is the only Minneapolis park plan that carried that attribution. Horace Cleveland’s son, Ralph, who had been the superintendent of Lakewood Cemetery since 1884, joined his father’s business in 1891 according to a note in Garden and Forest (July 1, 1891).

More on Garden and Forest. Horace Cleveland contributed frequently to the influential weekly horticulture and landscape art magazine through his letters to the editor, Charles Sprague Sargent. Sargent was also the first director of Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum. Click on Garden and Forest to learn more about the magazine and its searchable archive. (Thank you, Library of Congress.)

Cleveland’s plan for Powderhorn Park featured a bridge over the lake, about where the north shore is now, and an island. The plan was published in the park board’s 1892 annual report. (Horace W. S. Cleveland, MPRB)

Horace Cleveland was 78 and finding the field work of landscape architecture physically challenging when he and Ralph joined forces to produce a plan for Powderhorn. Only a year later his doctor prohibited him from working further. The Cleveland’s were paid $546 for their work at Powderhorn, but the park board didn’t implement parts of the plan for more than ten years.

Horace Cleveland had been a strong booster for making the lake and surrounding land into a park. Powderhorn Lake had been considered for acquisition as a park from the earliest days of the park board in 1883. However, the park board believed landowners in the vicinity of the lake were asking far too high a price for their land. To learn more of the park’s creation see the park board’s history of Powderhorn Park.

After I wrote that history, I found a transcript of a letter Cleveland had written to the park board (Minneapolis Tribune, July 26, 1885) encouraging the board to acquire about 150 acres from Lake Street to 35th Street between Bloomington and Yale avenues, which was, Cleveland claimed, the watershed for Powderhorn Lake. (I can find no Yale Avenue on maps of that time. Does anyone know what was once Yale Avenue?)

The letter repeated Cleveland’s frequent message about acquiring land for parks before it was developed or became prohibitively expensive. But he also claimed that due to the unique topography around the lake that if it were allowed to be developed it would become a nuisance that would be very costly to clean up. (You can read the letter in its entirety by accessing the historical Minneapolis Tribune database at the Hennepin County Library website.)

I’ll quote a couple highlights from his argument for the acquisition of Powderhorn Lake and Park:

I am so deeply impressed with the value and importance of one section…I am impelled to lay before you the reasons …that you will very bitterly regret your failure to secure it if you suffer the present opportunity to escape.

The surrounding region is generally very level and the lake is sunk so deep below this average surface, that its presence is not suspected till the visitor looks down upon it from its abrupt and beautifully rounded banks. The water is pure and transparent and thirty feet deep, and its shape (from which it derives its name) is such as to afford the most favorable opportunity for picturesque development by tasteful planting of its banks…All the most costly work of park construction has already been done by nature.

Cleveland concluded his letter to the park board by writing,

I feel it my duty in return for the bounty you have done in employing me as your professional advisor, to lay before you this statement of my own convictions, and request, in justice to myself, that it may be placed on your records, whatever may be your decision.

On the day Cleveland’s letter was presented to the park board, the board voted not to acquire Powderhorn Lake as a park and Cleveland’s letter was not printed in the proceedings of the park board either. Still the lake and surrounding land — about 60 acres, or 40 percent of what Cleveland had initially recommended — were acquired in 1890-1891 and Cleveland was hired to create a design for the park. Cleveland’s proposed foot bridge over the narrow neck of the lake was not built, even though Theodore Wirth incorporated Cleveland’s bridge into his own plan presented in 1907. However Cleveland’s island was created in the lake in the ensuing years.

In a recap of park work in 1893, park board president Charles Loring noted in his annual report that a “substantial dredge boat was built and equipped and is ready to work” at Powderhorn Lake. “I hope the board will be able to make an appropriation large enough,” he continued, “to keep the apparatus employed all of the next season.”

Loring’s hope was really more of a wish because the depression of 1893 was already having drastic consequences for the Minneapolis economy, property tax revenues and park board budgets. Despite severe cutbacks in spending in 1894, however, the park board devoted about 20% of its $48,000 improvement budget to Powderhorn. Park superintendent William Berry reported that the dredge was active in the lake for 90 days. The result was about 1.7 new acres of land created by dredging and filling along the lake’s marshy shore. In addition, nearly 15,000 cubic yards of earth were moved from near 10th Avenue to fill low areas on the north end of the lake.

An island emerges

The next year, 1895, the island was finally created. The park board spent $10,000, one-third of its dwindling improvement budget, dredging the lake and creating the island. Another 7.3 acres of dry land were created along the lake shore and an island measuring just over one-half acre was created in the southern end of the lake.

An island being created by a dredge in Powderhorn Lake, 1895. Tram tracks were built on a pontoon bridge to carry the dredged material. The photo appeared in the 1895 annual report of the park board. Not a lot of trees around at the time. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

By 1897, the only activity at Powderhorn covered in the annual report was the “raising of the dredge boat,” which had sunk that spring, and watering trees and mowing lawns in the “finished portion” of the park. Two years later, Berry reported that the west side of the park was graded, another nine acres of lawn were seeded and 100 trees and 1600 shrubs were planted to a plan created by noted landscape architect Warren Manning. Horace Cleveland had left Minneapolis in 1896, moving with his son to Chicago, where he died in 1900.

It’s unlikely, due to his age, that Cleveland played any role in the actual creation of the island in Powderhorn Lake in 1895. And credit for the idea of an island may not be due solely to Cleveland either, but also to a coincidence in the creation of Loring (Central) Park in 1884. Cleveland’s original plan for Loring Park did not include an island in the pond then known as Johnson’s Lake. Charles Loring later told the story in his diary entry of June 12, 1884 (Charles Loring Scrapbooks, Minnesota Historical Society),

“In grading the lake in Central [Loring] Park the workmen left a piece in the center which I stopped them from taking out. I wrote Mr. Cleveland that I should be pleased to leave it for a small island. He replied that it would be alright. I only wish I had thought of it earlier so as to have had a larger island.”

The development of the island envisioned by Loring while supervising construction, then approved by Cleveland, proved to be a famous success. (The island no longer exists.) Four years later, on October 3, 1888, Garden and Forest published an article about Central (Loring) Park and concluded a glowing tribute with these words:

When it is considered that artificial lakes and islands are always counted difficult of construction if they are to be invested with any charm of naturalness, the success of this attempt will not be questioned, while the rapidity with which the artist’s idea has grown into an interesting picture is certainly unusual. The park was designed by Mr. H.W.S. Cleveland.

Given such praise, it is not surprising that Cleveland would be willing to try an island from the beginning in Powderhorn Lake. Between the time it was proposed by Cleveland and actually created three years later, decorative islands had also earned a faddish following on the heels of Frederick Law Olmsted’s highly praised island and shore plantings on the grounds of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. One landscape historian wondered whether Olmsted’s creation and treatment of his island in Chicago could have been influenced by his 1886 visit to Minneapolis where he would have seen Loring and Cleveland’s island in Loring Park.

The success of islands in Loring Pond and Powderhorn Lake likely also influenced Theodore Wirth when he proposed creating islands in Lake Nokomis and Lake Hiawatha. Both of those islands were scratched from final plans.

The island in Powderhorn Lake is one of three islands that remain in Minneapolis lakes — and the only one that was man-made. Only two of the four original islands in Lake of the Isles still exist. The two long-gone islands were incorporated into the southwestern shore of the lake when it was dredged and reshaped from 1907 to 1910. The two islands that remain were significantly augmented by fill during that period.

A handful of islands still exist in the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, although many more were flooded when the Ford Dam was built. Another augmented island — Hall’s Island — may be re-created in the near future as part of the RiverFIRST plan for the Scherer site upstream from the Plymouth Avenue bridge.

Although Horace Cleveland died in 1900, when the Minneapolis economy finally boomed again, the park board voted in April 1903 to dust off and implement the rest of the 1892 Powderhorn Lake Park plan of H.W.S. Cleveland and Son.

The lake was reduced by about a third in 1925 when the northern arm of the lake was filled. Theodore Wirth, the park superintendent at the time, contended that the lake level had dropped six feet for unknown reasons after his arrival in 1906. The filled portion of the lake was converted into ball fields — a use of park land that was unheard of in Horace Cleveland’s time. The lake that Cleveland estimated at 30 to 40 acres in 1885, when he recommended its acquisition as a park, is now only a little over 11 acres.

The northern arm of Powderhorn Lake was filled in 1925. I wonder if the folks who lived in the apartments on Powderhorn Terrace had their rent reduced when they no longer had lakeshore addresses? (City of Parks, MPRB)

Now about that Statue of Liberty. Does anyone remember it in Powderhorn Lake?

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

© 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 minneapolisparkhistory.com. (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  minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

© David C. Smith

Minneapolis speedskating: Bearcat 8mm film from 1950s

Adam Martin has posted some fun 8mm film footage of the Bearcat American Legion Post speedskating team in Minneapolis from the 1950s on youtube.

Bearcat American Legion Skating Team. Appears to have been taken at Powderhorn Park. (Adam Martin)

Adam’s father — John — and uncles — Jim, Tom and Michael — skated for the Bearcat team, as he related in a recent comment on my first speedskating post.

The Martin brothers who skated for the Bearcat team in mid-1950s. (Adam Martin)

Have a look at that post as well as others on speedskating, then click this link (or the youtube.com link in Adam’s comment):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8ewShuJeEo

The first clips were shot at Powderhorn, I believe, but I don’t recognize where the clips at the end were from. Can anyone identify the other rinks featured — or tell us anything else about the clips Adam has provided?

Thanks, Adam.

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

P.S. I just heard from Adam that his uncle identified the last clips as being shot in Winnipeg.

Comments on Lyndale Pond comments (and a very hard quiz on Minneapolis parks)

If you’re interested in the subject of a pond near Lyndale and Franklin, you might want to check out “comments” on the subject posted a few days ago. Some good information. Thanks to readers who responded and to Cheryl Luger for posing the questions in the first place.

I wanted to add that while investigating another subject I found an 1897 Minneapolis map produced by the city engineer that shows elevations. (A small section of that map is pictured below.) It’s also interesting to see where in the city you could get running water and why the city was installing water lines from a reservoir in Columbia Heights. Note the highest elevations in the city. To keep things in perspective the population of Minneapolis in 1900 was already more than 200,000. The 1890s was the first decade in four in which the population of Minneapolis didn’t nearly triple. Likely due to the depression set off in 1893.

Detail of 1897 Minneapolis map that shows parks, elevations, water lines and street car lines. (James K. Hosmer Special Collections Library, Hennepin County Library)

The complete map, as well as dozens more from around the state, are available at the Minnesota Digital Library, an excellent resource for researchers or the curious.

Unfortunately, this map has less topographical detail than the map suggested by Bill Payne in his comment on the previous article. It shows no remnant of the pond on earlier maps at Lyndale and 22nd, nor the depression that is noted there on the 1901 map Bill found. The 1897 city map shows elevation increments of 25 feet; the 1901 map shows increments of 20 feet, which may account for the difference.

Here’s the quiz

Many, many properties were added to the Minneapolis park system after this map was made in 1897. For instance, notice that there is no West River Parkway, nor a St. Anthony Parkway, nor a Victory Memorial Drive, and on and on. Most of the Grand Rounds hadn’t been built. (This map doesn’t even show Stinson Parkway, which did exist in 1897!) But there are three significant park properties on this map that are no longer park properties. Can you name them?

Click on “complete map” above, then zoom into various sections of the city to find the long-gone pieces of the park system. All were no longer park property by 1905. (Note: The island at the south end of Lake of the Isles is a good catch, but doesn’ t count because it’s still part of the lake and park. The same goes for the northern end of Powderhorn Lake, which once extended north of 32nd; it’s still part of the park. Same for Sandy Lake in Columbia Park; the lake is gone, but it’s still a park.)

Winner gets a free subscription to minneapolisparkhistory.com!

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

NOTE (June 1, 2012): The contest is now over and Adrienne was the  winner. She named Meeker Island in the Mississippi River as one park property on the map that is no longer. The other two were Hennepin Avenue South and Lyndale Avenue North. Both were parkways in 1897, but were given up by the park board in 1905. The city subsequently took responsibility for them as ordinary city streets.

This is why we love our parks: Powderhorn Art Sled Rally

Creative use of space. It is the true gift of parks. If anyone ever needed convincing of the incredible benefits of public spaces, they should have been at Powderhorn Park yesterday for the 4th Annual Art Sled Rally. Thrills, chills and plenty of spills. Marvelous creativity. Wacky fun. It’s what a creative community can do when it has a place to do it.

Cheers to South Sixteenth Hijinks for the idea and energy. Be sure to click the link above to learn more about the event and organizers. Especially check out the sponsors and please support them.

I didn’t see all the sleds, but among my favorites were the bear from Puppet Farm, (picture this bear sliding on its stomach, and, yes, there was a child seated on top of the bear sled, too) and a wild dinner table on a sled, which I believe was called “Dinner at the Carlisle’s.” Other favorites were a couple of dragons, a dragon fly, a bunch of eyeballs and a London Bridge, which did indeed fall down. Some pictures are already posted on artsledrally.com from Dan Stedman. I hope others will soon follow.

The greatest tribute to the event and the people who made it happen: as we walked away my daughter asked, “Can we make a sled next year?”

David C. Smith  minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

Powderhorn Park Speed Skating Track: Best Ice in the United States

Many years before Frank Zamboni invented his ice resurfacer (in California!?), Minneapolis park board personnel had to prepare the speed skating track at Powderhorn Park mostly by hand for international competition and Olympic trials. They were very good at it.

Olympic medalist speed skater Leo Friesinger from Chicago (whom you already met in these pages here) had this to say after he won the Governor Stassen trophy as the 10,000 Lakes senior men’s champion in the early 1940s:

“It is a pleasure for me to return to Minneapolis and skate on the best ice in the United States.”

That was high praise for Elmer Anderson and Gotfred Lundgren, the park board employees who maintained the track at Powderhorn using this sweeper, a tractor-drawn ice planer and a bucket of warm water.

The ice sweeper that cleaned the Powderhorn speed skating track in the 1940s. Elmer Anderson (left) and Gotfred Lundgren kept the track in top shape.

They began to prepare the track 3-4 days before a meet by sprinkling it with water a few times. Then they’d pull out a tractor and a plane — a 36-inch blade — to smooth out any bumps from uneven freezing. The biggest problem was cracks in the ice. So the day before the race, Elmer and Gotfred would spend 8-10 hours filling small cracks by pouring warm water into them.

At times their crack-filling work continued right through the races. When large crowds showed up, and for some races attendance surpassed 20,000, the ice tended to crack more often. If Elmer or Gotfred spotted a crack during a race they’d hustle out with a bucket of water after skaters passed and try to patch it. The sweeper was used to remove light snow from the track.

Elmer and Gotfred, who began working for the park board on the same day 18 years before this picture was taken, agreed that the most speed skating records were set when the air temperature was about 30 degrees, which raised a “sweat” on the ice and produced maxiumum speed.

(Source: an undated newspaper clip in a scrapbook kept by Victor Gallant, the parkkeeper for many years at Kenwood Park, Kenwood Parkway and Bryn Mawr Meadows.)

It’s no wonder that speed skating (as well as hockey) eventually moved indoors to temperature-controlled arenas. But wouldn’t it be fun to see a big race at Powderhorn again?

David C. Smith  minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

© David C. Smith

Minneapolis Park Memory: A Wonderful Gift

About two years ago, when our son-in-law was in the North St. Paul Library, he saw David Smith’s book about Minneapolis parks. He bought one and gave it to me for Christmas. We have enjoyed reading it and looking at the pictures.

Jim became acquainted with Minnehaha Park and Parkway when he came to freshman orientation at Hamline in 1948. He particularly remembers the beauty of the lilac trees. When we lived in Rosemount, we came to Nokomis Park to picnic, swim and sail with friends. When we moved to Columbia Heights, Jim started to bike daily, and a few times each summer, he biked the Grand Rounds. We biked it with a church group a time or two. We continued to do that when we lived in Champlin and in north Minneapolis.

The house we owned since 1985 was near Lake Harriet and we biked around that lake and  also Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. We slid in the snow and watched our grandson’s rugby games at Columbia Park. We enjoyed many picnics near each of those lakes and the Rose Garden, Hiawatha, Nokomis, Farwell, Powderhorn and Wirth. Sometimes there were only two of us; other times it was a family gathering. We celebrated many birthdays and events by having picnics at a park. Following Thanksgiving dinner at our house, most of the guests enjoyed a walk around all or part of Lake Harriet. A recent memory is walking with our five-year-old granddaughter to a bridge over Minnehaha Creek and dropping sticks into the water and watching them float away. We are glad that our new home is near the Parkway, Minnehaha Park and Lake Nokomis, so we can continue to enjoy our wonderful gift of parks.

Phyllis Minehart