Archive for the ‘Seven Pools’ Tag

The Two Pieces of Thomas Lowry Park

After an exchange of several e-mails with Bill Payne on the history of Thomas Lowry Park, I thought I should post the rest of what I know about the former Mt. Curve Triangles. (See the first of my exchanges with Bill in the comments section of the “About” page; and see the posts that generated his questions here and here.) After reading my posts and the historical profile of Thomas Lowry Park at the park board’s website, Bill questioned whether all of the park had ever been called Douglas Triangle before the park was officially named Mt. Curve Triangles on November 4, 1925. I think Bill is right that the larger part of the park—perhaps all of it—never had an official name until then.

On this 1903 map there is no “triangle” of land bounded by Bryant, Douglas and Mt. Curve, center right, at what would become Thomas Lowry Park. (John S. Borchert Map Library, University of Minnesota)

The questions arise because Thomas Lowry Park comprises two parcels of land acquired at different times: the tiny triangle—0.07 acre—bordered by Douglas Avenue, Mt. Curve Avenue and Bryant Avenue South and the much larger quadrangle—2.25 acres—between Douglas and Mt. Curve, Colfax and Bryant. This was before Bryant Avenue between Douglas and Mt. Curve was closed.

The 1903 plat map of Minneapolis at left doesn’t show a triangle of land at all east of Bryant. So it’s nearly certain that requests in 1899 from residents of the area, including Thomas Lowry, whose house is upper right on the map, that the park board maintain the grounds between Mt. Curve and Douglas apply to the lot between Bryant and Colfax. The park board denied that request because it didn’t own the land.

The park board’s first acquisition there is a bit cloudy. For all the details…

Keep Your Thomas Lowrys Straight

Just to be clear: the Thomas Lowry Memorial is not in Thomas Lowry Park. Neither is it in Lowry Place. (See February 25 post:  Lost Minneapolis Parks: Virginia Triangle.)

The Thomas Lowry Memorial, with his statue, was originally erected in 1915 on Virginia Triangle across Hennepin Avenue and a bit south from Thomas Lowry’s mansion on Lowry Hill. Thomas Lowry’s mansion was eventually purchased by Thomas Walker who then created the Walker Art Center on the site.

Thomas Lowry’s home in 1886 looking north over what is now The Parade and the Sculpture Garden. (Minnesota Historical Society)

When Virginia Triangle was erased in 1967 by freeway plans, Thomas Lowry’s statue was not moved to Thomas Lowry Park, because it didn’t exist yet, at least by that name. And it wasn’t moved to Lowry Place, also called Lowry Triangle, another lost park property, because it had already ceased to exist. Virginia Triangle was where northbound Lyndale and Hennepin avenues met at Groveland; Lowry Place was where they parted again at Vineland and Oak Grove.

Lowry Triangle is on the immediate left as you look north on Hennepin Avenue toward the Basilica. Oak Grove Street and Loring Park are on the right. Vineland Avenue, leading to the Walker Art Center, is on the left. Virginia Triangle and Thomas Lowry’s Memorial are directly behind you in 1956. (Norton and Peel, Minnesota Historical Society)

Lowry Triangle, officially named Lowry Place on May 15, 1893, was acquired by the park board from the city in 1892. The park board asked the city to hand over the triangle on November 2, 1891. It was slightly smaller than Virginia Triangle to the south. Lowry Place was at one time intended to be the home of the statue of Ole Bull that in 1897 ended up in Loring Park. Park board president William Folwell wrote to Thomas Lowry to ask if he objected to Ole Bull’s statue being placed across Lyndale Avenue from Lowry’s house on a park property that bore his name. Lowry replied that he appreciated the courtesy of being asked and had no objection. I don’t know why the statue was then placed in Loring Park instead. If you do, please tell. That’s not all I don’t know: I also don’t know why Lowry’s memorial was placed originally on Virginia Triangle instead of Lowry Triangle.

By the time the Lowry Memorial had to be moved in 1967 it was too late to shift it to the Lowry Triangle; that little patch of ground (0.16 acres) had already been acquired by the State of Minnesota in 1964 in anticipation of reconfiguring streets for the construction of I-94.

Moving the memorial to Thomas Lowry Park wasn’t an option then because at that time what is now Thomas Lowry Park at Douglas Avenue, Bryant and Mt. Curve was named Mt. Curve Triangles. That isn’t a typo, it was officially named Mt. Curve Triangles, plural, in November 1925 when its name was changed from Douglas Triangle. That was perhaps done to distinguish it from Mt. Curve Triangle, singular, which had been the name of a tiny street triangle at Fremont and Mt. Curve since 1896. That triangle was renamed Fremont Triangle in 1925, when the Mt. Curve name was shifted a few blocks east to Douglas Triangle. Mt. Curve Triangles was nearly 1.5 acres while Fremont Triangle was only .02 acre.

Thomas Lowry Park in 1925 when it was still Douglas Triangle, before it became Mt. Curve Triangles. You can find other images of the property at the Minnesota Historical Society’s Visual Resources Database, but only if you search for Douglas Triangle or Mt. Curve Triangle, not Thomas Lowry Park. (Hibbard Studio, Minnesota Historical Society)

To confuse matters, the popular name for the property was neither Douglas Triangle, nor Mt. Curve Triangles, nor Thomas Lowry Park, but “Seven Pools” after the number of artificial pools designed for the park by park commissioner and landscape architect Phelps Wyman in 1923.

Thomas Lowry and his name had nothing to do with Mt. Curve Triangles, other than the fact it was located on Lowry Hill near his old mansion, until residents in the neighborhood campaigned to have the park renamed for Lowry in 1984. (Lowry did ask the park board to improve and maintain the land in 1899, but his request was refused because the park board didn’t own the land then. It didn’t purchase the land until 1923.)

Given that there was no other place named Lowry to put the memorial to Thomas Lowry the park board chose Smith Triangle at Hennepin and 24th. That’s where it still is. The only connection between Smith and Lowry is that they probably knew each other.

Of course neither the Lowry Memorial nor Lowry Park are anywhere near Lowry Avenue, which is miles away in north and northeast Minneapolis. Lowry Avenue is much closer to the former site in Northeast Minneapolis of the Lowry School, which no longer exists either. Lowry School figured prominently in plans for Audubon Park in the 1910s. When Lowry School was built in 1915, Buchanan Street between the school and Audubon Park was vacated with the idea that the park would serve as the playground for the school.

Thomas Lowry School in 1916 showing Buchanan Street vacated between the school and Audubon Park at left. (Minneapolis Public Schools)

Those plans were never formalized. While the park provided space, it didn’t provide play facilities. Playground facilities weren’t developed at Audubon Park until the late 1950s. By that time Lowry School was already outdated and destined for closure. (For more photos of Lowry School click here.)

You can learn more about all of these park properties and how they were acquired, developed and named at the web site of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

David C. Smith

© David C. Smith