Archive for the ‘RiverFIRST’ Tag

The First River Plans: Long Before “Above the Falls” and “RiverFirst”

“I have been trying hard all Winter to save the river banks and have had some of the best men for backers, but Satan has beaten us.” H. W. S. Cleveland to Frederick Law Olmsted on efforts to have the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis preserved as parkland, June 13, 1889 (Letter: Olmsted Papers, Library of Congress. Photo: H. W. S. Cleveland, undated, Ramsey County Historical Society)

Considerable time, effort and expense—$1.5 million spent or contractually committed to date—have been invested in the last two years to create “RiverFirst,” a new vision and plans for park development in Minneapolis along the Mississippi River above St. Anthony Falls. That’s in addition to the old vision and plans, which were actually called “Above the Falls” and haven’t been set aside either. If you’re confused, you’re not alone.

Efforts to “improve” the banks of the Mississippi River above the falls have a long and disappointing history. Despite the impression given since the riverfront design competition was announced in 2010, the river banks above the falls—the sinew of the early Minneapolis economy—have been given considerable attention at various times over the last 150 years. There’s much more

The Re-creation of Hall’s Island: Part I

Before he saved enough money to go to medical school, Pearl Hall’s job as a teenager in the mid-1870s was pitching wood onto a cart at a lumber yard near the Plymouth Avenue Bridge on the east bank of the Mississippi River. He remembered vividly from those days of hard labor what he called a little steeple of land sticking out of the Mississippi near the bridge. He could see the tiny patch of ground when he stood on top of his loaded wagon–and he saw the little steeple gradually grow.

Hall’s Island in 1903 plat book (John R. Borchert Map Library, University of Minnesota)

What Pearl Hall saw from his perch of pine was the beginning of Hall’s Island, the island that as Dr. P. M. Hall he would eventually acquire and turn over to the city, the island that became the site of a popular municipal bath house, the island that eventually was dredged onto the east bank of the great river, and the island that the Minneapolis park board will soon begin to re-create as the first step in its RiverFIRST development plan.

Hall didn’t think about that little speck of land again until he was elected to be Minneapolis’s Health Officer in 1901. Then he wrestled with the problem all health officers everywhere wrestled with and usually lost to: how to dispose of garbage. Not just coffee grounds, melon rinds, and chicken bones, but real garbage — offal, dead horses, night soil — where death could take took root and grow. Read more

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