Archive for the ‘Theodore Wirth Park’ Tag

Lost Minneapolis Parks: The Complete List, Part I

I’ve written about several parks in Minneapolis that are no more. Since then I’ve been asked if there is a list of those “lost” parks. The short answer is, “Not until now.” Here’s the first part of an alphabetical list I’ve compiled from park board proceedings and annual reports.

19th Avenue South and South 1st Street. 1.0 acre. The park board’s 1948 annual report noted that the site near Seven Corners had been graded and frames had been installed for swings, teeter-totters and slides for small children. The plan was to complete the playground in 1949. This parcel was leased specifically for use as a playground. I don’t know the terms of the lease, but it was still included in park inventory as leased land in the 1964 annual report. The U of M’s West Bank softball fields are now near the site. 19th Avenue South at that point is the approach to the 10th Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River.

Bassett Triangle. 7th Avenue North and 7th Street North, 0.03 acre. Acquired from the city council December 3, 1924. Returned to the city council in 1968, after the board hired appraisers in 1967 to try to sell the property. The site is now occupied by a Wells Fargo Bank. The property was named for Joel Bean Bassett, who owned much of the land in the vicinity in the 1800s. Bassett’s Creek, underground not far away, is also named for him.

Bedford Triangle. Orlin Avenue SE and Bedford Avenue SE, 0.01 acre. This little triangle in Prospect Park was still carried on the park board’s inventory the last time I checked, but it was listed as “paved.” There is no visual evidence of the triangle. Read more about this and other triangles in the meandering streets below Tower Hill.

Brownie Lake (partial). Theodore Wirth Park west of Brownie Lake and south of Highway 12, 32 acres. The land was sold in 1952 to the Prudential Insurance Company for $200,000 and some additional land.

The southern end of Theodore Wirth Park west of Brownie Lake got a makeover when the Prudential Insurance Company purchased the land for its regional headquarters in 1952.  It was the largest section of park land the Minneapolis park board has ever sold. Construction is underway in this 1954 photo. (Minneapolis Star Journal Tribune, Minnesota Historical Society)

The park board bowed to intense public pressure to sell the land beside the lake. Prudential had made it clear that the site adjacent to the lake was the only site it would consider for its offices in the city. Ultimately the park board was convinced that the benefit to the Minneapolis economy was a greater good than keeping the land as a park. The board justified its action in part by asserting that with the growth of traffic on Highway 12 (now I-394) and the widening of that road, the land west of Brownie Lake had already been isolated from the rest of Wirth Park anyway.

Cedar Avenue Triangle. Cedar Avenue and 7th Street South, 0.02 acre. The triangle was offered to the park board by Edmund Eichorn on April 15, 1891. After delaying a decision for a couple of months, the board agreed to pay Eichhorn $2,394 over ten years without interest. The triangle, adjacent to what is now the Cedar Avenue exit ramp from I-94 westbound, was sold to the state highway department in 1965 for $1,000. In April of that year the board approved a resolution to sell the property for $1,000 plus “other valuable considerations.” Later that year the board approved dropping the “other valuable considerations” clause.

Crystal Lake Triangle. West Broadway and 30th Avenue North, 0.05 acre. The triangle was supposedly purchased July 21, 1910 and sold to the state in 1962 for $2,700. It once sat at the edge of what is now the hideous intersection of Theodore Wirth Parkway, West Broadway (County Highway 81) and Lowry Avenue. Imagine if Phelps Wyman’s 1921 plan for that complex intersection had been used. What a difference it would have made in that part of Minneapolis. It would’ve been gorgeous.

Dell Place. Dell Place between Summit and Groveland avenues, 0.04 acre. Transferred from the city council April 27, 1883 when the park board was created. Citizens near the tiny lot petitioned the park board in 1907 to plant and maintain the grounds, which the park board agreed to do — if residents of the area would first pay to have the parcel curbed and filled to street grade. The street triangle was sold to the Minnesota highway department for I-94 interchanges in 1964 for $1,350. The park board had rejected the state’s first offer of $450. The park board’s appraisers valued the land at $2,250, but the park board accepted an internmediate figure instead of proceding to court with litigation.

Elwell Field I. East Hennepin and 5th Avenue SE, 3.7 acres. Purchased in 1939 from the Minneapolis Furniture Company for $5,000. Sold to Butler Manufacturing in 1952 for $55,000. The somewhat isolated field, surrounded by industrial buildings, was sold with the promise to the neighborhood to acquire another playground nearer Holmes School. Eventually the land adjacent to the school was purchased as a playground. The school on the former Holmes site, built in 1992, is now named Marcy Open School.

The first Elwell Field, 1952. Across the field is a building of the Butler Manufacturing company, which purchased the field the year the picture was taken. (Norton and Peel, Minnesota Historical Society)

Elwell Field II. 9th Avenue SE between SE 4th Street and SE 5th Street, 1 acre. The former site of Trudeau School was acquired February 4, 1953 in a trade with the school board. The park board gave up Sheridan Field next to Sheridan School at Broadway and University Avenue NE for the Trudeau property. The second Elwell Field was condemned by the state highway department for I-35W in 1962. The park board accepted a negotiated payment of $125,000 for the park in 1966.

Franklin Triangle. Franklin Terrace and 30th Avenue South, 0.05 acre. Transferred to the park board from the city council August 13, 1915 and accepted and named by the park board September 6, 1916. Taken by the state highway department for I-94 in 1962 in exchange for $1 and “other valuable considerations” again.

The beautiful cover of the park board’s 1915 annual report depicted the fountain at The Gateway. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board)

The Gateway. Hennepin and Nicollet avenues, 1.22 acres. There is still a Gateway park property at Hennepin and 1st Street South, but it’s not in the same location, so I consider this original Gateway a lost park. I have already provided the outline of the story for the original Gateway on the history pages of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s website at minneapolisparks.org.

Groveland Triangle. Groveland and Forest avenues, 0.21 acre. The triangle was purchased in November 1910 for $8,979. It was sold to the state highway department for the construction of I-94 in 1964 for $8,900.

That’s all for Part I of Lost Minneapolis Parks. Part II — H-R — will be out soon.

Historical profiles of all existing Minneapolis parks can be found at the website of the Minneapolis park board.  Each park has its own page with a “History” tab.

If you remember anything about any of the lost parks mentioned here, please send me a note so we can preserve something of those parks — especially the property beside Brownie Lake. Any memories before Prudential moved in?

David C. Smith 

© David C. Smith

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Another Colorful Name Lost

The official record of the Minneapolis park board, the published “proceedings,” often don’t tell the whole story. Example: the proceedings of the park board meeting of June 6, 1910 record that the board voted that the “small lake in Glenwood Park between Western Avenue and Superior Avenue” be named “Birch Pond.” That’s been the name ever since.

What the official proceedings didn’t tell us I learned by accident while researching another issue. The June 7, 1910 Minneapolis Tribune noted the previous name of Birch Pond — the vastly more intriguing “Devil’s Glen.” I wonder how the little lake got that name.  Probably a good story. But I imagine it was more offensive to some people than a lake named for John C. Calhoun.

The pond was renamed as the parkway beside it was being built by a crew of forty railroad workers imported from Hungary. The previous year, scheduled construction at North Commons and East River Parkway was postponed due to a labor shortage in Minneapolis. The park board took no chance with its new parkway through what was then Glenwood Park, now Theodore Wirth Park, and imported the workers to build it.

David C. Smith

Glenwood Toboggan Slide II: 1887

Since posting a newspaper photo of a toboggan slide on “Glenwood Hill” in 1887, I found this photo in the Minnesota Historical Society Visual Resources Database. This photo is purportedly of the same toboggan chute on the same hill in the same year, but they are obviously different places. The photo clipped from a newspaper had trees right up to the sides of the track.

The North Star toboggan chute on Glenwood Hill, 1887. (Minnesota Historical Society)

Looking up the hill instead of down, gives a completely different prespective on the possible location of the slide. I doubt that the slide in this photo is in the same location as the ski jumps that were built after the park board acquired land in the vicinity. Any guesses as to the location of this toboggan slide? Or the other one? Which one is the real “North Star” chute?

In the same wonderful photo collection, I found this picture of the St. Paul toboggan slide in front of the State Capitol, which I referred to in my earlier post.

A 1957 photo of the toboggan slide I rode as a kid, a few years later, in front of the State Capitol. (Minnesota Historical Society)

David C. Smith

Glenwood Toboggan Slide: 1887

It’s an old, wrinkled photo clipped from an unidentified newspaper, but it’s also the oldest photo I’ve seen of a toboggan slide in Minneapolis.

A privately run toboggan slide on “Glenwood” hill in 1887, years before the park board acquired land in the area.

The newspaper caption calls it the “North Star” chute and puts the date at 1887. That was two years before the first land (64 acres) was acquired for what was then Saratoga Park. The park was renamed Glenwood Park in 1890 and was renamed for Theodore Wirth in 1938. The majority of the land for the park we know today was acquired in 1909. I suspect that this hill was a part of that acquisition. Although I’m not certain, I think this slide was located near where the ski jumps were later built.

At different times the park board operated toboggan slides at Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, Glenwood (Wirth) Park, Columbia Park and Minnehaha Park. I don’t believe any of them were operated after the 1940s, but as always its difficult to discern from park board records when such services or programs were stopped.

The only toboggan slide I remember from growing up in the Twin Cities was the long slide erected on the approach to the State Capitol in St. Paul. I remember it being operated as a part of the St. Paul Winter Carnival. It was one of the highlights of winter life as a boy in St. Paul.

David C. Smith

Minneapolis Park Memory: A Friend of Loring Park

After arriving in Minneapolis in September 1941, the first city park I became familiar with was Loring. I had come to enter nurse’s training at Eitel Hospital, and the park was right across the street. The park provided a beautiful view from patients’ rooms. It was also an oasis for student nurses, a place to relax in the summer or go skating on the lagoon in winter. Every nurse who has graduated from Eitel would have special memories of Loring Park.

The park looked different back in the forties. Old, tall trees grew along the edge of the lagoon. Now they are gone and tall grasses grow at the edge of the water. Bright red cannas blossomed in flower beds on the west side of the park. Now, “Friends of Loring” have created a large round garden on the northwest side called “Garden of the Seasons.” A variety of trees and flowers are in the center with benches and a brick path around it. Bricks can be donated in honor or memory of someone. A brick on the east side reads: “Eitel Hospital Nursing School — Class of 1944,” given in tribute to classmates, many of whom had served in the Army Nurse Corps in World War II.

In later years, my family and I enjoyed picnics at Minnehaha Park and viewing the beautiful Falls. Performances by the Aqua Follies at Theodore Wirth Park, and pop concerts at Lake Harriet on Sunday afternoons were great fun. My son as a teenager spent many winter evenings skating and playing hockey at McRae Park. On July 4th, we watched fireworks at Powderhorn Park. The park system provided something special for every season. My husband often said, “Minneapolis is the prettiest city I’ve ever seen.”

Ardelle Lande

Looking west across Loring Park from Eitel Hospital, 1375 Willow Street, in 1939. (Norton and Peel, Minnesota Historical Society, NP129145)

Editor’s note: For more photos of Eitel Hospital visit the Photo Collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.

If you have a Minneapolis Park Memory, send it to minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com. If you have a digital photo to accompany your memory, we’d love to see it.

Minneapolis Golf Clubs Go To War

One more bit of information about the oldest golf courses in Minneapolis, then I’ll move on.

I found this item in The American Golfer, June 1917:

“Four private golf clubs in Minneapolis are going to utilize a portion of their grounds for raising foodstuffs this summer. At the University Club more than 25 acres will be plowed up. The Minneapolis Club has set aside 4 acres for potatoes, and Interlachen and Minikahda will devote all available spaces to small garden truck. One hunderd caddies of the Town and Country Club have organized a military company.”

The actions were in response to the United States entry into the “Great War” in April 1917.

The golf course at the University of Minnesota and the first public golf course in Minneapolis—at Glenwood Park, now Theodore Wirth Park—had only opened in 1916. Both courses were nine holes at that time.

After the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners opened the Glenwood golf course in June, 1916, The American Golfer noted that only Oakland and Portland among “western” cities did not have municipal golf courses.

David C. Smith

The Mother of All Minneapolis Golf Courses: Bryn Mawr II

When the golf and social activities of the Bryn Mawr Club shifted to the newly opened Minikahda Club at Lake Calhoun in July 1899, the Bryn Mawr golf course and club house didn’t stand empty for long. Two weeks after the Minikahda Club opened—and promptly became the hub of Minneapolis social life—golfers were already at work to get back on the Bryn Mawr links.

The Minneapolis Tribune on August 9, 1899 attributed the interest in reviving a golf club at Bryn Mawr to “young businessmen who find the Minikahda links at too great a distance from the city.” The paper speculated that the organizers of the new club also expected that the links could be used “at comparatively little expense.” A meeting of those interested in organizing the new club was announced at the West Hotel.

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