Archive for the ‘Stone Arch Bridge’ 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

More Spirit Island

Since posting a few Spirit Island photos, I pulled two more from the website of the Minnesota Historical Society. For any research on Minnesota history, the MHS collection is always a great place to start.

Just to be clear, Spirit Island no longer exists. It was destroyed completely when the Upper St. Anthony Lock and Dam was built in the early 1960s.

The destruction of Spirit Island. (MInnesota Historical Society)

The destruction of Spirit Island. (Minnesota Historical Society)

In the photo above, it appears that the limestone cap on Spirit Island has been shattered, but not removed. The bridge in the background is the 10th St. Bridge. The land in the foreground is that land between the west side tail races and the main channel of the river. This is a puzzling photo because it doesn’t appear as if the limestone has been quarried or cut. It appears to have collapsed. Was the limestone undercut by a flood, instead of man? If it had been done intentionally, why was the limestone left?

Frank O’Brien, a Minneapolis newspaperman, claims that it was done by man. In an article in the Minneapolis Tribune, January 7, 1900, he relates that within the memory of pioneers still living then, Spirit Island had extended all the way to St. Anthony Falls. His article was illustrated by a photo of St. Anthony Falls from the 1860s by A. H. Beal, whom he described as a “pioneer photographer..now of Los Angeles, Cal.”

O’Brien notes that the photo was taken from Spirit Island,

“That beauty spot of nature which has so recently disappeared by the uncompromising hand of man, to make room for the (paddle) wheels of progress.”

The destruction of Spirit Island downstream from St. Anthony Falls. (Minnesota Historical Society)

The last limestone being removed from Spirit Island. (Minnesota Historical Society)

This photo leaves no doubt. The limestone is being removed. Someone went to the trouble of putting a track out to the island, instead of what appear to be planks in the photos I posted earlier today. I can’t tell from this photo if that track ran to the west bank or the spit of land between the tail race and the river.

The Minnesota Historical Society lists the dates of the two photos as “ca. 1895.” However, because two of the photos posted earlier had the precise date of May 27, 1899 and Spirit Island appeared to be intact in those photos, I  would place the date of the first photo above at 1899 or later.

The second photo appeared in the Minneapolis Tribune, May 6, 1900 and was attributed to the “Tribune Staff Photographer.” The caption reads:

“Cutting away Spirit Island, one of the landmarks in the vicinity of the Falls, to make room for improvements.”

The newspaper does not make clear what “improvements” were anticipated. And note that the photo appeared four months after Frank O’Brien claimed that the island had recently “disappeared.” Obviously, there is more to the story.

David C. Smith

Friday Photo: Before the Mills Were Ruins

Let’s go down to the river one more time. I have many favorite pictures of the riverfront when it was the economic engine of Minneapolis, but this is probably at the top of my list.

The west bank of the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, just below St. Anthony Falls, in 1885. (Minnesota Historical Society)

The west bank of the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, just below St. Anthony Falls, in 1885. (Minnesota Historical Society)

You can see just a dash of the still-new Stone Arch Bridge on the right margin of the photo. The channel here is all tail race — the water that ran out of the mills after generating power.

My favorite part of this photo though is the trestle and railroad tracks that ran between the mills and the river at essentially the level of city streets. Those tail races coming out of the mills are now a part of Mill Ruins Park. The trestle and tracks are gone, but I don’t know when they were torn down. Anybody?

Below are two shots (a 3-for-1 Friday Photo!, the biggest Friday Photo discount ever) of the tail races as they appeared probably in the 1950s.

Tail races, some of which are now visible in Mill Ruins Park. (MPRB)

Tail races, some of which are now visible in Mill Ruins Park. (MPRB)

A closer look at the trail races adn water returning tothe river after its work was done. (MPRB)

A closer look at the trail races and water returning to the river after its work was done. (MPRB)

Both photos are undated. They show the water coming out of the tail races. They give a much better sense of the management of water power. I’m not sure of the functions of structures and workers at this point in the water power process.

These structures were razed and covered when the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam was built in the 1960s.

For a marvelous 360-degree panorama of Mill Ruins Park and the adjacent lock and dam go here, courtesy of the National Park Service. Learn much more about the lock and dam — one of the biggest mistakes Minneapolis and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers ever made — at the pages of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

Have a look around the park — if spring ever comes. The transformation is amazing — and thought-provoking.

David C. Smith

© Copyright 2013

Friday Photo: West Riverbank from the Stone Arch Bridge

I don’t want to overdo the Stone Arch Bridge, but will run that risk with this photo found by Andrew Caddock at the park board. I showed the picture recently to a group of local history buffs and asked for guesses on when it was taken. Guesses ranged mostly from 1930-1960s. The real answer is ….

View from the Stone Arch Bridge 1980 (Riverfront News)

View from the Stone Arch Bridge. Click for larger image. (Jim Keane, Riverfront News)

…1980. Not that long ago.

The piles of sand and aggregate in front of the old mills were used to make concrete and were owned by Shiely Co. The materials  were mixed on site and used in downtown construction projects; the sand and gravel could be transported at much lower cost by barge than by truck. The company first used the area for aggregate storage when it was making the concrete to build the upper lock and dam — on the right of the bridge — which was completed in 1965. Train traffic on the Stone Arch Bridge had stopped a couple of years before this photo was taken.

The photo appeared in the December 1980 issue of Riverfront News, a publication of the Minneapolis Riverfront Coordination Board, which included representatives of the major agencies of Minneapolis government.

The land under the sand piles is now Mill Ruins Park. The Guthrie Theater would be near the left edge of the photo

David C. Smith

Friday Photo: How A Stone Arch Was Made

The Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis is becoming one of the iconic images of the city. Have you ever wondered how those arches were made? I have. So I found this photo of the bridge under construction. The deck of the bridge is maintained by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, so let’s call it a park. Day and night the bridge provides the best views of the city. A hike over the bridge between Mill Ruins and Father Hennepin Bluffs, in either direction, is a must for visitors and residents.

This stereoscope image shows the stone arches being built over forms in 1883. (Henry Farr, Minneapolis Historical Society)

This stereoscope image shows the stone arches being built over forms in 1883. (Henry Farr, Minnesota Historical Society)

The two-track railroad bridge was being built at the time the park board was created in 1883.

The Stone Arch Bridge deck being completed in 1883. (Burlington Northern, Minnesota Historical Society)

The Stone Arch Bridge being completed in 1883. (Burlington Northern, Minnesota Historical Society)

This is another favorite shot of the bridge as it neared completion

David C. Smith

A Railroad Town

To reinforce recent articles that addressed the dominance of railroads and mills along the Minneapolis riverfront, I find these photos from about 1920 fascinating. Both are from the photo collection of the Minnesota Historical Society, a fabulous resource for understanding how our city and state came to be. The collection includes other aerial photos by Paul W. Hamilton of Minneapolis and St. Paul from the same time. They’re worth a look.

The west bank of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis looking downriver from above St. Anthony Falls. Nicollet Island is far left, the Stone Arch Bridge upper left in about 1921 (Paul W. Hamilton, Minnesota Historical Society)

North Minneapolis at Plymouth and Washington looking east toward the Mississippi River and Plymouth Bridge in background. Railroads consumed a lot of land in about 1920 on the west bank. (Paul W. Hamilton, Minnesota Historical Society)

When you look at these pictures it’s obvious why the Civic Commission and the park board were interested in reclaiming the riverfront 100 years ago.

David C. Smith

Low River Redux

The dry weather this year is evident on the Mississippi River at St. Anthony Falls. A couple weeks ago I posted an aerial photo of St. Anthony Falls when it was very dry in 1955. The water levels on the river appear to be similar now. Larry Dillehay sent this photo taken on the afternoon of October 2. The concrete apron at the Falls isn’t quite dry, but there’s not enough water flowing to make a ripple at the bottom. The horseshoe dam above the falls is now completely out of the water. What a gorgeous day — again.

St. Anthony Falls in a very dry year, as seen from the Stone Arch Bridge, October 2, 2012. (Photo: Larry Dillehay)

Horseshoe dam exposed, with Nicollet Island in background. From 3rd Avenue Bridge just upriver from St. Anthony Falls, October 2, 2012 (Photo: Larry Dillehay)

David C. Smith

Where is De Soto Harbor?

With the completion of the High Dam, now the Ford Dam, on the Mississippi River just upstream from Minnehaha Creek in 1917, the Minneapolis park board was pressed to name the new reservoir that formed behind the dam. Without explanation, it settled on the odd name of “De Soto Harbor” on July 3, 1918. I have found no evidence that the name was ever changed, rescinded — or used.

The “High Dam” nearing completion in 1917. It became known as the Ford Dam in 1923. This was before the Ford Bridge was built later in the 1920s. (from City of Parks, Minnesota Historical Society)

The harbor was named for Hernando de Soto, the Spanish explorer who was believed then to have been the first European to see the Mississippi River about 1540. De Soto’s expedition never got anywhere near Minnesota, however, crossing the Mississippi near Memphis, Tennessee. De Soto’s story is one of some “firsts” in European exploration of North America, but also considerable brutality toward native people.

Other names the park board considered for the reservoir were Lafayette Lake, Liberty Lake, Lake Minneapolis and St. Anthony Harbor. (Minneapolis Tribune, June 27, 1918.)

The name chosen was unusual because the park board had not, for the most part, named park properties for people not connected with the history of the city or state. (Logan Park was a notable exception.) The decision to name parks only for people of local historical significance was adopted as an official policy of the park board in 1932. The policy was revised in 1968 to enable Nicollet Park to be renamed Dr. Martin Luther King Park.

Of course, some park features on the Minneapolis map — such as St. Anthony Falls, Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, Minnehaha Creek — predate by decades the creation of the park board in 1883.

The park board had been involved in issues surrounding dam construction for years by the time it named the reservoir, first with the Meeker Island Dam and later the “High Dam.” From as early as 1909 the park board had sent representatitives to meetings on high dam construction held by the US Army Corps of Engineers and in 1910 had requested that the park board receive half the electricity generated by the dam in exchange for “flowage rights” over land the park board owned. The government did not agree, even though the park board lost 27 acres of land for the reservoir in 1916. Included in that acreage were several islands in the river. The park board granted rights to cut down timber on one island in the river to a local charity before the trees were submerged. The board noted that neither the park board nor the Corps of Engineers wanted a stand of dead timber in the middle of the new reservoir.

Few photos I have seen give a good picture of water levels in the Mississippi before the dams were built. One of the most dramatic is this one of the Stone Arch Bridge in 1890.

Stone Arch Bridge 1890, before any dams downstream created reservoirs. (Minnesota Historical Society)

I don’t know what month the photo was taken, although foliage says summer. Perhaps the river was unusually low in late summer, but to see the Stone Arch Bridge nearly completely out of the water is unusual.

David C. Smith