Archive for the ‘William Watts Folwell’ Tag
The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago hosted the debut of Minneapolis’s most famous sculptural couple, Hiawatha and Minnehaha, in 1893.
Hiawatha and Minnehaha greeted visitors to the state’s pavilion in their modest plaster costumes nearly two decades before sculptor Jakob Fjelde’s pair took their much-photographed places on the small island above Minnehaha Falls in their bronze finery in 1912.
Jakob Fjelde was largely responsible for two other sculptures in Minneapolis parks. He created the statue of Ole Bull, the Norwegian violinist, in Loring Park in 1895. He also created the drawing that Johannes Gelert used after Fjelde’s death to sculpt the figure of pioneer John Stevens, which now stands in Minnehaha Park. Fjelde also created the bust of Henrik Ibsen, Norway’s most famous writer, that adorns Como Park in St. Paul. Fjelde’s best-known work other than Longfellow’s lovers, however, is the charging foot soldier of the 1st Minnesota rushing to his likely death on the battlefield of Gettysburg.
These thoughts and images of sculpture in Minneapolis parks were prompted in part by my recent post on Daniel Chester French, but also by another letter found in the papers of William Watts Folwell at the Minnesota Historical Society. Just two years after Fjelde’s successes with his sculptures for Gettysburg and Chicago, he wrote a poignant letter to Folwell in July 1895 seeking his support for an “extravagant” offer. Fjelde proposes to the Court House Commission, which was developing plans for a new City Hall and Court House, that he create a seven-foot tall statue of the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Marshall, and a bronze bust of District Court Judge William Lochren, both for the sum of $1,400. Fjelde calls the price of $1,000 for the Marshall statue “1/3 of its real value.” He explains his offer to Folwell:
“Anyone who knows a little about sculpture work will know that the sums above stated are no price for such a statue but as I for the last six months have been unable to get any work to do at all and have wife and four children to take care of and in spite of utmost economy, unable to make both ends meet, I am obliged to do something extravagant, if only I can get the work to do.”
Fjelde adds that $400 for a bronze bust of Lochren would only pay for the bronze work, meaning that he would be creating the bust free. He writes that he is willing to do so because by getting Lochren’s bust into the Court House, “it might go easier in the future to get the busts of other judges who could afford to give theirs, so I would hope that would give me some work later on.”
He concludes his plea by noting that with his proposition, “The Court House would thereby get a grand courtroom hardly equalled in the U.S.”
Although I have not searched the records diligently, I have not come across anything to suggest that the Court House Commission accepted Fjelde’s offer. That may be because barely two weeks after writing his letter, the Norwegian Singing Society, led by Fjelde’s friend, John Arctander, began to raise money for a statue of Ole Bull. Fjelde began work on that statue in 1895. When all but the finishing touches were completed on the image of the Norwegian maestro the next spring, Fjelde died. He was 37.
I can’t leave another sculpture story without returning a moment to Daniel Chester French. In a longer piece on French a couple of weeks ago, I noted that when his Longfellow Memorial at Minnehaha Falls didn’t materialize, he moved on to create an enormous sculpture for the Chicago World’s Fair. Here it is in its massive splendor. It stood 60 feet tall,
French’s Chicago sculpture was much larger than Fjelde’s, but Fjelde’s sculpture eventually found a home at Minnehaha Falls, where French’s proposed sculpture of Longfellow did not.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
© 2015 David C. Smith
H. W. S. Cleveland and Daniel Chester French Make a Plan: A Tribute to Longfellow at Minnehaha Falls
When one of America’s leading landscape architects teams up with one of its greatest sculptors to celebrate one of its most popular authors in an iconic landscape, you’d expect great things. Horace William Shaler Cleveland did.
On April 10, 1891, Cleveland, the landscape architect who had created the blueprint for Minneapolis’s already highly regarded park system and designed many of its first parks, wrote to his friend William Folwell of a memorial he had in mind,
“I can hardly find words to tell you how my heart stands still at the thought of the possibility of my living to see its realization in the place I had designed for it.” He went on to write that it would be the “joy of the rest of my life” to prepare a site for the memorial. (Folwell Family Papers, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota)
The sculptor was Daniel Chester French. The subject was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The site was Minnehaha Falls.
Cleveland was 76 — and what was to be the joy of the rest of his life was never made possible The memorial was never created. We have only a photo — and some letters — that tell of a memorial planned for installation in the limestone cliff beside the Falls that Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha had made famous.
Cleveland’s copy of the photo he raved about is gone. He left no known papers of his own, although his letters to others survive scattered in libraries and museums. Following a trail from letters to William Folwell, however, I found a reference to what seemed like a promising photo in Chapin Library at Williams College, which is the repository of archival photographs and documents from Chesterwood, French’s summer home and studio in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, now a National Trust Historic Site. The photo was labelled only as being from an “unrealized” Longfellow project in 1891.That description and the date matched the Minnehaha Falls project, so I requested a copy of the photo. When it arrived, I was astonished; it was the photo above — which matches enough other clues in the correspondence that I have no doubt it is the same image that Horace Cleveland held as he wrote to Folwell during an April snowstorm in Minneapolis in 1891.
“I long to have you see it,” Cleveland wrote to Folwell who lived across town, “but I want to be very chary of showing it and think we cannot be too careful to avoid its being talked of or brought forward till the right moment arrives.” The right moment hasn’t yet arrived — and we’re getting on to 125 years, so I will cast caution aside and talk of it myself.
The Little Brother
William Folwell knew French, too. When Dan French made his first a trip to Minneapolis in June 1890 to discuss the Minnehaha project, he stayed at Folwell’s home near the University of Minnesota campus created by Folwell when he had been the first president of the university. In a thank-you note sent to Folwell following that visit, French wrote, “I am glad to feel that I am so much better acquainted with Will’s valued friends.” He was referring to his older brother, William Merchant Richardson French, then the director of the Art Institute of Chicago. Will had stayed with the Folwells in Minneapolis many times when visiting from Chicago as Horace Cleveland’s business partner in the 1870s and early 1880s.
(Cleveland did not move from Chicago to Minneapolis until 1886. For more on the relationships among Cleveland, Folwell, and the French brothers, read “And the answer is…French!”. It is also likely that H.W.S. Cleveland knew Henry Flagg French, father of William and Daniel, as early as the mid-1850s. They were both active in the nascent American Pomological Congress — Cleveland was an officer — and attended some of the same early horticultural conferences and they both wrote on the subject of using drainage tiles to improve productivity on farms. That was probably not a club with a large membership.)
Cleveland first mentioned Dan French to Folwell in a letter in 1875 on the occasion of the dedication of Dan’s first prominent commission, the “Minute Man” in Concord, Massachusetts. Cleveland noted that his young partner William French had left Chicago to attend the dedication of the statue.
French went reluctantly. “French did not mean to go home,” Cleveland wrote, “but I told him he would regret it all his life if he failed to do so, and urged him till I made him do it, which of course he wanted to do, but his conscience stood in the way growling like a great bulldog, as you know consciences are apt to do if you point your finger at ’em, but just march boldly by without notice and they’ll keep quiet enough. I am sure he will enjoy it with all his heart and it will add greatly to his father’s pleasure to have him there and the occasion will be a delightful reminiscence to him as long as he lives.”
Cleveland likely recalled his own professional debut as he urged William French to attend the unveiling of his brother’s sculpture in Concord. Cleveland’s professional breakthrough as a landscape architect had taken place just a half-mile down the road from Dan’s Minute Man at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where Cleveland and Robert Copeland, his first partner, had essentially launched their careers.
William’s attendance at the dedication of the sculpture is particularly noteworthy because his brother did not attend. Dan was studying and working in Italy at the time.
No one could have guessed that the “Minute Man” would stand, despite a brilliant career, as one of Daniel French’s best-known sculptures, surpassed only by the massive, brooding Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The Newest Minneapolis Park
The impetus for Dan French’s trip to Minneapolis in 1890 was the recent acquisition by the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners of the beautiful waterfall made famous by Longfellow’s epic poem in 1855. Minnehaha Falls and 120 surrounding acres were added to the Minneapolis park system in 1889 when the state of Minnesota couldn’t come up with the money to purchase the land for the nation’s second state park, so Minneapolis stepped in and bought the secluded falls in the state’s place.
Cleveland had eagerly awaited the opportunity to design a park at Minnehaha Falls. He had helped sell the prospect of a park at the Falls to Minneapolis Park Commissioners and citizens for years, laying the groundwork for the decision by Minneapolis leaders to spend the $92,000 needed to purchase the land when the legislature couldn’t afford it. Minnehaha Falls had not been part of Cleveland’s original blueprint for the city’s park system in 1883 only because the falls was then outside city limits. He later wrote that he thought it would be “exceedingly desirable” to create a park there someday.
While Cleveland was waiting for the purchase of the Falls as a park to be completed, he was hired in 1888 to landscape the grounds of a Soldiers’ Home being built for Civil War veterans on the bluff at the confluence of Minnehaha Creek and the Mississippi River. The fifty acres for the Soldiers’ Home were about a half-mile down the creek from Minnehaha Falls and surrounded by the park, so Cleveland knew very well the parkland acquired. He had also served as an advisor to the five-person committee appointed by Minnesota’s Governor to select land for the park — before the state realized it couldn’t afford it.
Cleveland’s sense of personal accomplishment and his anticipation of the coming work was evident in his letter to Frederick Law Olmsted of June 13, 1889. “We have secured Minnehaha,” he wrote, “but have got to have a fight in the courts over it before we can begin improvements.” Two days later, however, the Minneapolis park board appropriated $5,000 for the immediate improvement of the park.
Cleveland’s subsequent participation in the design of the park is not clear, despite widespread belief that he was principally responsible for the layout of the park. There is no record in annual reports or the proceedings of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners that Cleveland was ever asked to produce a design for the park or that he was ever paid to do so. Cleveland’s work in many other parks in Minneapolis was specifically authorized by board action as recorded in park board proceedings, and payments to him for that work were recorded in the proceedings and, in many cases, annual reports. No such records exist for any work he might have done at Minnehaha. Cleveland’s handwritten instructions for the implementation of his plans have survived in park board records for other parks, but none exist for Minnehaha Falls. The only record of his involvement with the layout of Minnehaha Park comes from his letters to Folwell, who in 1888 had been elected to the park board himself and became the leading advocate for Cleveland’s original vision for a Minneapolis park system.
On September 5, 1889 Cleveland wrote to Folwell, “I have had no official orders in regard to Minnehaha, but as (park superintendent) Mr. Berry and two or three park commissioners have talked with me as if they took it for granted that I was to design the arrangement I have been studying and working upon it with an interest I never before felt in any similar work.” Yet, two weeks later he again wrote to Folwell, “Can’t we arrange to go together some day to Minnehaha? I should like you to see the beginning we have made and get a general idea of what I hope to accomplish.” The implication is clear that he was at least advising Berry in spending the $5,000 appropriated by the board for immediate improvements.
Still it appears that his involvement with any work at Minnehaha was the result of his own close relationship with Berry and it was done informally. After another two weeks passed, Cleveland weighed in with Folwell again, “It would be well for the Commission to order the engineer to survey and cross-section the grounds at Minnehaha or at least the low grounds so that I can make my notes this Fall and work up the plan during the Winter.”
But Cleveland by this time was apparently beginning to have doubts about the speed of improvements to be made at the park. “If no other work is done next year,” he cautioned, “than thinning and opening the wood, the lines of roads must be determined beforehand and in fact the plan of the arrangement should be fixed in all its essential features before any work is begun on the low ground or the heights beyond.”
Folwell dutifully proposed at the first park board meeting in October that the engineer be authorized to conduct that survey and it was approved. But there was still no commitment to hire Cleveland to design the park. The park board, meanwhile, had spent more than the $5,000 appropriated for the park — and none of it had been paid to Cleveland. We have no record of what work was done or who was responsible for determining what should be done.
Cleveland’s impatience began to show in another letter to Folwell on October 21 in which he wrote that he had just sent a letter to the Minneapolis Tribune, “which I hope may have some effect in awakening popular interest in the development of Minnehaha Park by reminding our people that the whole world will be interested in what we do there, so that it assumes a degree of importance far beyond that of a mere city ornament & place of recreation.”
In that letter, published in the Tribune two days later, Cleveland wrote of the new park at Minnehaha Falls,
“A moment’s reflection will serve to show the essential importance of preserving the natural features which constitute the attractive charm of the place, and any attempt to increase them by artificial decoration would be simply an act of desecration.”
This was Cleveland at his finest. For more than two decades already he had evangelized for preserving natural landscapes, for touching with “reverent hands” what was already there.
In his “Suggestions” to the park board in 1883 he made the point quite clearly.
“All expenditure for ornamental gardening, and especially for artificial structures in the form of rustic buildings, bridges, grottoes, fountains, statues, vases, etc. is not only needless as being out of keeping with the rude condition of the surroundings, but while so many urgent demands exist for works of actual necessity, would indicate such incongruity and deficiency of taste as that of the individual who adorns his person with jewelry before he is provided with comfortable clothing.”
His often eloquent and impassioned language against “ornamentation” or “embellishment” of nature, and the influences on his thinking, are presented very well by Daniel Nadenicek and Lance Neckar individually (see end notes), as well as together in the introduction to the 2002 reissue of Landscape Architecture as Applied to the Wants of the West. Cleveland’s well-established belief in “natural” landscapes, makes the conclusion of his letter to Folwell that October day in 1889 — and what ensued — difficult to fathom. In that letter, Cleveland mentioned for the first time Dan French’s possible participation in a Minnehaha project. “I have written Dan French & sent him a photo of the cliff at Minnehaha,” he wrote, “and told him we should probably notify him ‘ere long that we should want him to come out here.”
Could Cleveland have been planning the “desecration” of Minnehaha Falls? To which “cliff” at Minnehaha was he referring? Would he have attempted to engage Daniel French if the memorial he envisaged was not to have a prominent place — perhaps in the same field of vision as the famous falls?
An Incongruous Plan for Ornamentation
Cleveland’s recruitment of French for the project is not supported by any recorded discussions in park board meetings of hiring French or of any plans for a memorial of any kind at Minnehaha Falls. The only allusion to a memorial I can find was an article in the Minneapolis Tribune of March 16, 1890, which commented on a Longfellow Memorial that “was talked of sometime ago.” The Tribune writer suggested that the “most appropriate and conspicuous” memorial would be a “magnificent arch” at the entrance to the park. Later that month, Cleveland demonstrated that he had not abandoned his plan. “The proposition to get Dan French here was so cordially met last fall that I hoped it would not be suffered to fall through,” Cleveland wrote to Folwell, “and as he is to be in Chicago on the 27th at Wm’s wedding it seems as if the opportunity ought not to be lost of having him here.”
That opportunity apparently was lost because Cleveland wrote to Folwell again on June 6, 1890 with good news. Dan French was once again in Chicago and Samuel Gale, a greatly underappreciated contributor to the development of Minneapolis, including its parks, had agreed — at Cleveland’s request, I presume — to pay French’s expenses to come to Minneapolis.
French stayed with Folwell and his daughter — the Clevelands were repainting and papering their house and were sleeping on sofas — on a Friday night and visited Minnehaha the next day, planning to catch an evening train back to Chicago. He tells the rest of the story in his letter to Folwell dated June 24, 1890.
“Mr. Cleveland has probably told you that I relented and stayed over till Sunday afternoon to see the wonderful parks that he has been making…(he) seemed so very flatteringly disappointed at my going away without seeing his great work that I decided to reconsider. I had supposed before he explained the scheme to me that I had seen the principal part of the work at the Falls of Minnehaha. After walking in the forenoon and driving in the afternoon, I have a realizing sense of the extent of the undertaking and I am very glad I did not come away without becoming acquainted with this remarkable feature of your beautiful city.”
We have to assume that French grabbed a spare sofa on Saturday night at the Clevelands’.
French must have departed Minneapolis with expectations of receiving a commission. Evidence that specific plans were being developed for a memorial to Longfellow at Minnehaha Falls was provided by Cleveland’s letter to Folwell on November 1, 1890. Explaining that he had been called away to a meeting in St. Paul, he left instructions for how Folwell could see “French’s letter and model” in Cleveland’s office while he was out.
“Please read the letter and look at the model and drawing,” he urged Folwell, then added, “Since seeing it I have thought that instead of a grotto or a cave, a mere niche might be made in the face of the rock somewhat like this model with a statue of Longfellow as the central figure & Indians at the side.”
The description predicts precisely the photograph in French’s Chesterwood papers.
The notion of scaling back from a “grotto” to a “mere niche” in the rock is staggering given that no plans for such an undertaking are known to exist. It’s hard to imagine Cleveland going this far without suggesting possible layouts or designs and showing them to some of his confidants or supporters on the park board — at least Folwell. I am also surprised that Cleveland would proceed this far without authorization or funding, whether from the park board or private supporters, such as Samuel Gale. It is surprising as well that French would put so much work into a project if he hadn’t been assured of some compensation.
The greatest challenge though, especially for admirers of Cleveland’s vision of nature, landscape and art, is to conceive a rationale for Cleveland justifying such extreme embellishment as sculpture and grotto in any setting so idyllic and symbolic. Perhaps the key is to appreciate Cleveland’s own past and his personal attachment to what Longfellow represented.
In the Tribune letter quoted from above, Cleveland also wrote of the “halo of poetic association” worn by Minnehaha Falls due to Longfellow’s poem. To Cleveland, that “halo” encompassed far more than a poem, far more even than literature. It was personal. That halo encircled his aunts and uncles, his mother and father, his brother, his friends, his childhood, his memories, him. But that is a subject for another time.
Daniel Nadenicek explored Cleveland’s attachment to Minnehaha in his excellent article that takes its title from the same Cleveland letter to the Tribune cited above, “Commemoration in the Landscape of Minnehaha: “A Halo of Poetic Association.” I believe that it would take more than “personal acquaintance” or an intellectual bond between men of “like mind,” as Nadenicek suggests, to explain Cleveland’s radical departure from his articles of professional faith in advocating blasting a hole in the limestone beside a mythical waterfall to insert a sculpture of anyone.
As near as Minnehaha Falls is to the confluence of the Mississippi River and Minnehaha Creek, it was also near the confluence of many streams in Cleveland’s long life. Perhaps he simply couldn’t resist the possibility of creating a memorial to his own past, in a sense to himself, along with his friends. He was, after all, 76, an age when legacies are contemplated.
Back to the Studio
While the Minneapolis park board took no action at Minnehaha in 1890, French continued work on the memorial in his studio because on November 29, Cleveland wrote to Folwell that he wanted to show him a new photo from Dan French.
By early 1891, French had developed a model for the sculpture. Cleveland wrote to Folwell on March 9 that he had just received more letters from French. “As no action has yet been taken in reference to the development of the Minnehaha Park, is it not better,” Cleveland wonders, “for me to ask French to keep the model for the present & send me only a photo of it, or perhaps two or three to give away?”
Folwell must have concurred because it was only a month later that Cleveland wrote that he had received a photo from French that evoked his emotional response.
“I tremble to think that it may prove only a vision & I implore your aid in its consummation, which would do more to make the name of Minneapolis sacred in the mind of the best element of humanity everywhere, than all the ostentatious display of wealth she can offer.”
That letter is the last word I can find on the subject of a Longfellow Memorial at Minnehaha Falls. Sixteen years later “Fish” Jones opened his private park, Longfellow Gardens, complete with zoo, across the street from the Falls. There he installed a sculpture of Longfellow that he commissioned and he built for himself a two-thirds scale replica of Longfellow’s house in Cambridge. The statue still stands worn and forlorn, unrecognizable, in a meadow. The house, after a long journey that included thirty years as a branch library, has been moved closer to Minnehaha Falls and now holds the offices of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. Several verses of The Song of Hiawatha have been inscribed into a circle of cut stone that serves as a garden memorial to Longfellow near the falls. But the marvelous image of Longfellow created by French never found a home there.
We have no official record of why the memorial was never created just as we have none that it was ever contemplated. But the reasons it was never made are not hard to imagine. To begin with, the memorial was a terrible idea depending on where Cleveland and French hoped to install it. If anywhere in the bowl created by the falls, it would have been awful. If a bit downstream — a destination in Longfellow Glen — it might have worked, but it certainly would have changed the nature of that wild glen. To its detriment, I think. I would vote No.
The second good reason the memorial was never built is that the park board couldn’t afford to pay for either its creation, installation, or maintenance. A memorial couldn’t have lasted long if set into the very soft sandstone layer near the falls so the “mere niche” would have had to be cut into the limestone. It would have been a big undertaking at a time that the park board was stretched for money. Heeding Folwell’s advice in 1890 to extend the parkway system into northeast and north Minneapolis as Cleveland had suggested originally, the park board purchased the first parts of Glenwood (Wirth) Park in north Minneapolis and Columbia Park in northeast, in addition to the east bank of the Mississippi River downstream from the University of Minnesota all the way to the St. Paul city line. Powderhorn, Van Cleve and Moulton (Windom) parks were added as neighborhood parks and more new parks were routinely proposed. Shortly after those acquisitions, the Panic of 1893 severely damaged the economy of Minneapolis as well as that of the rest of the nation. The park board had so little revenue that it stopped mowing the lawns in parks and laid off all park employees except the park police in the mid-1890s.
Minneapolis park commissioners may have also listened too well to Cleveland’s sermons on acquiring land instead of ornaments. One of the remarkable characteristics of early park management in Minneapolis was that there were so few superfluous expenditures. Owing to Cleveland, William Berry and Charles Loring, the first president of the park board, Minneapolis had created an impressive array of parks in less than a decade. By 1890, Minneapolis parks were attracting praise from around the country and the park board had not paid for a single sculpture or park decoration. Even a few years later when John Scott Bradstreet proposed to build, at his own expense, a Japanese Temple on an island in Lake of the Isles, the park board allowed the proposal to die quietly. Cleveland had taught the city well.
A final reason that Cleveland’s plan may not have caught on is that Cleveland’s influence seemed to be waning. Several times in the early 1890s, various commissioners proposed that Cleveland be engaged for design work at this park or that only to have those motions tabled until the board could get an estimate of what his services would cost, never to be pulled off the parliamentary table again. Gone from the park commission were many of the original park commissioners who had fought long and hard, with Cleveland at their side, to create a park system. Even Charles Loring, known already then as the Father of Minneapolis Parks, left the park board at the end of 1890. While Folwell remained on the board throughout the 1890s, Cleveland didn’t have the relationships with park commissioners he had enjoyed the decade before.
The Future of French
Fortunately, Daniel French seemed to suffer no hardship for the time he had invested in designing and making models of a Longfellow Memorial at Minnehaha Park. He would return to both Minnesota and Longfellow.
French very soon moved on to the creation of the enormous statue, “Republic”, for the Columbia Exhibition in Chicago in 1893, which would further establish his name. But he would return to Minnesota in less than a decade to create a sculpture of one of founders of the University of Minnesota, John S. Pillsbury. Pillsbury was one of the Regents responsible for hiring William Folwell as the first president of the university and he was also one of the original twelve Minneapolis park commissioners in 1883. It was John Pillsbury who, at the inaugural meeting of that park board, made the motion to hire Horace Cleveland for his advice on creating parks. Dan French attended the dedication of the Pillsbury statue in 1900. Horace Cleveland had moved to Chicago to live with his son by then and would die later that year at the age of 86. Folwell was still actively teaching at age 67, and had not yet begun to write his four-volume history of Minnesota, which he wouldn’t finish until he was 95.
French would return to Minneapolis for two more projects, both at the State Capitol in St. Paul. He created six figures for the interior of the Capitol, depicting Bounty, Wisdom, Prudence, Courage, Truth, and Integrity in 1900. He also created the human figures for the gold Quadriga in front of the Capitol dome in 1907.
French also returned to Longfellow as a subject when he was hired to create a memorial to Longfellow across Brattle Street from Longfellow’s former house in Cambridge, Mass. in 1914. The memorial stands today in what was once Longfellow’s front yard. I have not studied the story of the creation of that piece of public art, but French clearly drew on his 25-year-old design for Minnehaha Park.
French’s design for Cambridge is a weak imitation of his original concept with only a bust of Longfellow instead of the eager, dynamic, seated Longfellow about to burst from his chair that French had modeled for Minnehaha Park. French did expand the range of characters in relief behind Longfellow’s bust to include his most famous characters — from Miles Standish, at far left, to Evangeline standing next to Hiawatha at far right — rather than only characters from The Song of Hiawatha.
From the vantage point of 125 years, I’m glad that Cleveland and French’s design was not realized at Minnehaha Park. What would have become of the sculpture over the decades in the humid bowl of the falls? What would it have cost to maintain? Would it have changed the naturalistic setting of the glen below the falls and the wilderness walk down the creek to the Mississippi? Or would it have been neglected and sunk into the desolation unique to public art that is not maintained?
I prefer the falls the way it is. Altered by time, but unadorned. And I prefer H. W. S. Cleveland — one of the men I admire most — as a defender of nature, as a preacher of preservation, as an artist of rocks and trees and topography, in other words as he was, with all his flaws, before I found the photo of the memorial he and Daniel Chester French imagined for the limestone face beside Minnehaha Falls.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
© 2015 David C. Smith
All letters from Horace William Shaler Cleveland and Daniel Chester French to William Watts Folwell are in Folwell Family Papers, Correspondence, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota
Letter from Cleveland to Frederick Law Olmsted in Frederick Law Olmsted Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Cleveland, Horace William Shaler, Suggestions for a System of Parks and Parkways for the City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1883. These “Suggestions” were published as a pamphlet, but also were appended to the First Annual Report of the Board of Park Commissioners for the City of Minneapolis.
— The Aesthetic Development of the United Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, An address delivered in Dyer’s Hall, April 20, 1888, to the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, (Minneapolis, Minnesota, A.C. Bausman,1888)
— “The Park System”, Minneapolis Tribune, October 23, 1889
Nadenicek, Daniel Joseph, Emerson’s Aesthetic and Natural Design; A Theoretical Foundation for the Work of Horace William Shaler Cleveland, Nature and Ideology, ed. Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1997)
— Commemoration in the Landscape of Minnehaha: “A Halo of Poetic Association”, Places of Commemoration: Search for Identity and Landscape Design, Volume 19, Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn, (Washington, D.C., Dumbarton Oaks, 2001)
Neckar, Lance M., Fast Tracking Culture and Landscape: Horace William Shaler Cleveland and the Garden in the Midwest, Regional Garden Designs in the Untied States, ed. Therese O’Malley and Marc Treib, (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1995)
Thanks to everyone who turned out Saturday morning at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to listen to my thoughts on the people who created parks and a fine art society in Minneapolis in 1883. Special thanks to those who purchased a copy of City of Parks afterwards and introduced themselves. Thanks too to Janice Lurie and Susan Jacobsen for inviting me to speak and hosting the event. I want to remind everyone that all proceeds from the purchase of the book go to the Minneapolis Parks Foundation.
Quite a few of those who attended asked where they could find some of the quotes I used in my presentation, so I promised I would post them here. The most requested, especially from those who work with arts organizations, was William Watts Folwell’s remarks as reported in the Minneapolis Tribune at the laying of the cornerstone of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1913. I’ve provided an excerpt of his remarks from the July 31, 1913 issue of the newspaper, as well as quotes from Charles Loring and Horace Cleveland from earlier times as noted — most of which have appeared in other posts here over the years.
Folwell’s remarks included these observations on his hopes for the Institute:
“ The primary function of the institution will naturally be exhibition of works of art. I trust it will be the governing principle from the start that no inferior works shall ever have a place. Better bare walls and empty galleries than bad art. A single truly great and meritorious work is worth more in every way than a whole museum full of the common and ordinary. A few such works might make Minneapolis a Mecca for art lovers. Gift horses should be carefully looked in the mouth. I am almost ready to say that none should be received. Let benefactors give cash.
“The museum should appreciate and encourage the artistic side of all structures, public, domestic and industrial, and of all furnishings and appliances. ‘Decorative art’ should never be a term of disparagement here. Men have the right to live amid beautiful surroundings and to handle truly artistic implements.”
– William Watts Folwell, as reported in the Minneapolis Tribune, July 31, 1913.
Folwell was not one to mince words. It is noteworthy, especially considering his comments on decorative arts, that one of the influential people in the creation of the Society of Fine Arts and the Institute was interior designer and furniture maker John Scott Bradstreet. You can read much more about him here.
Other quotes from Horace William Shaler Cleveland:
“Regard it as your sacred duty to preserve this gift which the wealth of the world could not purchase, and transmit it as a heritage of beauty to your successors forever.”
–H.W.S. Cleveland, 1872
“If you have faith in the future greatness of your city, do not shrink from securing while you may such areas as will be adequate to the wants of such a city…Look forward for a century, to the time when the city has a population of a million, and think what will be their wants. They will have wealth enough to purchase all that money can buy, but all their wealth cannot purchase a lost opportunity, or restore natural features of grandeur and beauty, which would then possess priceless value, and which you can preserve for them if you will but say the word and save them from the destruction which certainly awaits them if you fail to utter it.”
— H.W.S. Cleveland, Suggestions for a System of Parks and Parkways for the City of Minneapolis, presented June 2, 1883 to the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners.
“The Mississippi River is not only the grand natural feature which gives character to your city and constitutes the main spring of prosperity, but it is the object of vital interest and center of attraction to intelligent visitors from every quarter of the globe, who associate such ideas of grandeur with its name as no human creation can excite. It is due therefore, to the sentiments of the civilized world, and equally in recognition of your own sense of the blessings it confers upon you, that it should be placed in a setting worthy of so priceless a jewel.”
– H.W.S. Cleveland, Suggestions for a System of Parks and Parkways for the City of Minneapolis
“No city was ever better adapted by nature to be made a gem of beauty.”
— H.W.S. Cleveland to William Folwell, October 22, 1890, Folwell Papers, Minnesota Historical Society
“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 his efforts to have the banks of the Mississippi River preserved as parkland, June 13, 1889, Library of Congress.
The west bank of the Mississippi River Gorge from Riverside Park near Franklin Avenue to Minnehaha Park was not acquired as parkland until after Cleveland died.
“There does not seem to be another such place as Minneapolis for its constant demands upon the time of its citizens. Everyday there is something that must be done. I suppose, perhaps, this may be why we are a great city.”
– Charles Loring in a letter to William Windom, September 27, 1890, Minnesota Historical Society
It is worth noting that Loring was the president of the Minnesota Horticultural Society, vice president of the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, president of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners, president of the Minneapolis Improvement Association, and an officer in the Athenaeum and the Board of Trade. It could be said that he alone was one of the reasons Minneapolis was a great city.
Finally, the newspapers were active supporters of arts and parks through most of the history of Minneapolis. I pulled this quote from an editorial in the Minneapolis Tribune:
“While looking after the useful and necessary, let us not forget the beautiful.”
– Minneapolis Tribune, June 30, 1872
Words we could all live by.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
This bear cage was built in Minnehaha Park in 1899 to house four black bears and one “cinnamon” bear. The 1899 report of the Minneapolis park board describes this bear “pit” built for the bears acquired by the park board over the previous few years. The cost of the construction was about $1200. It was built years before the private Longfellow Zoo was operated by Robert “Fish” Jones upstream from Minnehaha Falls. Many people believe, mistakenly, that the zoo in Minnehaha Park was Jones’s zoo. The park board began exhibiting animals in Minnehaha Park in 1894. Jones didn’t open his Longfellow Zoo until 1907, after the park board decided to get rid of most of the animals in its zoo. Jones spotted a lucrative opportunity to expand and profit from his own menagerie in the vacuum created by the park board’s decision.
The park board’s 1894 annual report contains the first inkling of what would become a sizable zoo. Superintendent William Berry reported,
“A deer paddock was enclosed, 50 feet square, and shelters built for deer. Two deer were added making a herd of three. Five eagles were presented to the park for which were made a cage covered with heavy wire netting.”
The financial portion of the report noted among maintenance expenditures at Minnehaha Park: Meat for eagles, $15. The next year the park board purchased three elk and accepted gifts of three more deer and three red foxes. For the deer and elk, “a portion of the glen was enclosed with a strong woven wire fence eight feet high, the length of the circuit being 2,950 feet.”
The gifts of animals kept coming and several animals were purchased, too, requiring new accommodations in Minnehaha Park. The 1897 annual report included this information from Berry, “A tank was made and enclosed for the retention of an alligator presented to the Board by the Grand Lodge B. P. O. E.” The alligator had been brought to a national convention of Elks in Minneapolis by the New Orleans delegation and left behind as a gift.
The unusual gift, matched by another free alligator the next year, lead to one of the oddest entries in the financial records of the board over the next few years. Each year the Mendenhall Greenhouse submitted its bill, increasing from $10.50 in 1898 to $14 in 1903, for “Keeping alligators in winter.” A tank in a greenhouse was the only place a warm weather creature could be housed for a Minneapolis winter. Native animals were left outside at Minnehaha, while non-native animals and exotic birds spent the winter in the park board barns at Lyndale Farmstead. Berry noted in 1899 that, “the collection of animals at the barns have proved quite an attraction and a large number of people visit them.”
By then the “collection” had become sizable and the costs had become significant, too. In the 1898 annual report William Folwell wrote,
“A list of animals now owned and kept in the parks is appended. They have been acquired by gift or at slight cost and form an attraction of no small account in the Minnehaha park. The expense of feeding and care has become considerable. A zoological garden is a great ornament to a city and is a most admirable adjunct to school education. The child who can see and study a moose, an eagle, an alligator, or any other strange beast of the field gets what no book can ever teach. It may be proper to continue the present policy, silently developed, of occasional additions to the collections as can be made at slight expense, but the matter ought not to go much further without a definite plan and counting of the cost.”
The list of animals Folwell mentioned shows that it was more than the “petting zoo” that some people think it was:
4 Black Bears
1 Cinnamon Bear
1 Dwarf Monkey
1 Gray Squirrel
1 Black Squirrel
16 Wild Geese
1 Mountain Lion
2 Sea Lions
2 Timber Wolves
3 Red Foxes
1 Silver Gray Fox
1 Wild Cat
5 Guinea Pigs
6 Guinea Hens
1 Blue Macaw
1 Red Macaw
It should be noted that not all of the birds lived at Minnehaha park. The swans and some other birds spent their summers at Loring Park. The sea lions and alligator were given new outdoor digs, which included a concrete swimming pool four feet deep, at Minnehaha in the summer of 1899. By then the park board was spending more than $2,000 a year on the care and feeding of its menagerie.
This was all a little too much for landscape architect Warren Manning who was asked to review the entire park system and make his recommendations in 1899. His sensible advice was to get rid of the exotic animals and keep only animals that could live outdoors in “accommodations that will be as nearly like those they find in their native habitat as it is practicable to secure.” Manning was ahead of his time in more than landscape architecture.
It was difficult, however, for the park board to divest a popular attraction. The park board did begin selling excess animals — including several deer to New York’s zoo — but Folwell wrote in the 1901 annual report,
“It is possible that as many people go to Minnehaha park to see the interesting animal collection as to view the historic falls.”
It took the coming of a new park superintendent in 1906 to resolve the issue. Theodore Wirth did not like the animals at Minnehaha, or in his warehouse all winter, and he felt the cramped conditions of some animals was cruel. As was his custom, he minced no words on the subject when he addressed the issue with the park board for the first time on February 5, 1906, barely a month after he took the job as park superintendent. The Minneapolis Tribune quoted Wirth in its February 6, edition:
“The present status of the menagerie is a discredit to the department and the city of Minneapolis…(it is) not only out of place and inharmonious with the surroundings, but to my mind even offensive to the highest degree. I am confident that H. W. S. Cleveland, who through his true artistic love, knowledge and appreciation of nature’s charms and teachings gave such valuable advice and suggestions for the acquirement and preservation of those grounds, would second my opinion in this matter and advise the removal of the menagerie from this spot.”
I’m sure Wirth was right about Cleveland; he would have detested the zoo. Wirth got his wish a little more than a year later when the park board reached agreement with R. F. Jones on his use of land above Minnehaha Falls for his private zoo. Ultimately the park board nearly followed the advice of Warren Manning: it kept the deer and elk in an outdoor enclosure similar to their natural habitat, but it also kept the bears in their pit and cages that didn’t resemble anything natural.
Evicting many of the animals from the zoo did not mean, however, that the park board quit acquiring animals altogether. The next year, 1908, the park board acquired a buffalo, on Wirth’s recommendation, and also acquired more bears. Of course, both animals could survive Minnesota winters outdoors. The hoofed animals remained in the park until 1923. I don’t know when the bear cages were closed or removed. The last information I have on bears in the park comes from the newspaper article in 1915 that reported Dewey’s demise. Theodore Wirth’s plan for the improvement of Minnehaha Glen, published in the park board’s 1918 annual report, still shows the bear pit beside the road to the Falls overlook.
Although the park board sent its exotic animals to R. F. Jones’s zoo in 1907, that was not the last time exotic animals were tenants on park board property. For the winter of 1911 Jones decided not to ship his “oriental and ornamental” animals and birds south for the winter. Instead he kept them in Minneapolis, where he could continue charging admission to see them, I’m sure. He found the perfect spot for such a winter display in the very heart of the city.
Jones rented the Center block at 202 Nicollet on Bridge Square from the park board. The park board had acquired the property for the new Gateway park in 1909-1910, but couldn’t develop the property until tenants leases expired in the buildings it had purchased. As those leases expired, the park board certainly had ample empty space for which a temporary tenant would have been welcome. Jones needed short-term space in a heavily travelled location, and likely got it cheap. The Minneapolis Tribune reported October 22, 1911 that “Mr. Jones thinks that trouble and money can be saved by keeping (the animals) here throughout the entire year.”
A final thought. Minneapolis Tribune columnist Ralph W. Wheelock was more than a little suspicious of R. F. Jones famous story about a sea lion escaping from his zoo down Minnehaha Creek, over the Falls and out to the Mississippi River. This is what he wrote on July 10, 1907, shortly after Jones established his zoo:
“Prof. R. F. Jones, of the New Longfellow Zoo at Minnehaha Falls, announces through the press in a loud tone of voice that he has lost a sea lion. While we would not doubt the word of so eminent a scientific authority, when we recall the clever devices of the up-to-date press agent we think we sea lion elsewhere than in the river.”
This is probably the first story written about Jones in 100 years that did not mention that he wore a top hat and went everywhere with two wolfhounds. He was a colorful character, eccentric entrepreneur and shrewd showman, but he was not the first or only one to run a zoo near Minnehaha Park. The park board beat him to it by 13 years.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
© David C. Smith
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
Here’s an exclusive club: William Watts Folwell, Thomas Sadler Roberts and Edward Foote Waite. Each has had a Minneapolis park property named for him, and each also received an honorary degree from the University of Minnesota.
William Watts Folwell
1925 was a big year for Folwell when, at age 92, he received the first honorary Doctor of Laws degree ever awarded by the University of Minnesota and Folwell Park was dedicated in his honor. The name for the park had been chosen in 1917, but it took eight years for the park to be finished and dedicated.
Folwell was hired as the first president of the University of Minnesota in 1869. He was elected to the Minneapolis park board in 1888 and served on the board — many years as its president — until 1906. He was the first to propose the name “Grand Rounds” for the city’s ring of parkways.
He is pictured in 1925 when he received his honorary degree, apparently in ceremonies at Memorial Stadium. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society.
Roberts was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Minnesota in 1940, when he was 82. In the photo, taken sometime that year, he is perusing a book of Audubon prints.
The Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird Sanctuary in Lyndale Park near the north shore of Lake Harriet was named in his honor in 1947, a year after his death.
Roberts was a doctor known for his extraordinary capacity to diagnose unusual diseases and illnesses largely due to his prodigious memory. He retired from medicine in his 50s and devoted his time to ornithology. He taught at the University of Minnesota and was a director of the Museum of Natural History. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society.
Waite received his honorary degree from the University of Minnesota and had a Minneapolis park named for him in the same year — 1949 — when he was 89. His Doctor of Science degree honored a legal career best known for years of service as a juvenile court judge in Minneapolis. But he was far more than a wise and compassionate judge; he helped shape the field of juvenile law in the United States.
Waite is less well-known for his five-month stint as Minneapolis’s police chief in 1902. It was not an easy job in the wake of a scandal known nationally as the “Shame of Minneapolis,” centered around corrupt Mayor Albert Ames and his brother Fred, whom he had appointed police chief. David P. Jones was appointed mayor to replace the fugitive Mayor Ames and turned to his friend, Waite, an assistant district attorney with no police experience, to clean up a corrupt police force and restore public faith in law enforcement.
Waite Park was developed along with Waite Elementary School as a joint project between the park board and school board from 1949-1951. The park and school opened for the 1950 school year but final improvements to the site were not completed until the following year.
Waite is pictured snowshoeing in about 1945 at the age of 85. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society. (See another photo of Waite at the school named for him.)
From this very exclusive list it would appear that the good do not die young.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
If you’re researching early Minneapolis history, particularly parks, you absolutely must know about this resource: hathitrust.org.
HathiTrust is a digital library that has millions of books from university and public libraries. Most of the books are no longer copyrighted so they are in the public domain. (This includes most books published before 1923.)
What is most useful is that the volumes are searchable. Fortunately the annual reports and the proceedings of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners were widely sought after nationally and widely distributed. In old park board files, there are many cards and letters from individuals and institutions around the country requesting copies of the annual reports. Hathitrust has scanned most years of the park board’s annual reports and some proceedings up to 1923 either from the collections of the New York Public Library or the University of Michigan. The University of Minnesota also participates in Hathitrust.
“No other city gets out such artistic and complete records of its park work as does Minneapolis.”
Warren Manning’s magazine, Billerica (“The Fugitive Literature of the Landscape Art,” Vol. IV, March 1916, No. 10, Part 2), singled out the annual reports of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners for praise. The article particularly recommended the Fourteenth (1896) and Eighteenth (1900) annual reports, which were “notable for their illustrations.”
Both reports were produced while William Watts Folwell was president of the park board. As a historian Folwell understood well the value of documenting the efforts of an organization such as the park board.
HathiTrust also allows you to create an account and establish your own “collections” from its vast catalog. It’s easy to set up a guest account. Here’s what I did: I put all available issues of the park board’s annual reports and proceedings, as well as most of the early books about Minneapolis history, such as Isaac Atwater’s and Horace Hudson’s histories, into a single “collection.” I can then search the collection for any terms I want. That means I can search for Lake Harriet or Powderhorn Park and find every reference to those park properties in park board documents — and other books — over many years. Such a capability saves hours of research because the park board annual reports and proceedings in the early years did not have indexes.
Annual reports are not available for some years in the Minneapolis park board’s first decade, but all annual reports 1895-1922 are available. HathiTrust also has many issues of the Minneapolis City Council proceedings, which provides for another layer of research. HathiTrust has also scanned many park board annual reports from 1923-1960. Due to copyright restrictions the full text of those reports is not available online, but a search will reveal if and how often terms do appear in those volumes. Not as helpful as full-view text searches, but still a big time-saver. You can then go straight to the pages you want in a library.
Give hathitrust.org a try. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll be able to find. The digitization for HathiTrust was done by Google, but the collection is far more extensive than what is available at Google Books.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
In a post on December 29, 2010 I asked how these two pictures were related to the creation of Minneapolis parks.
Nobody has come up with the right obscure answer! So I’ll tell you.
The photos are of the most famous works of American sculptor Daniel Chester French. (The best example of French’s work in Minneapolis is the statue of John Pillsbury at the University of Minnesota.)
Here is the connection — and the key word is “related”:
Daniel Chester French’s older brother was William Merchant Richardson French. That’s this guy:
(Their father was Henry Flagg French who was the number two man in the U. S. Treasury Department. For eight months in 1881 he worked under Secretary of the Treasury William Windom, a U. S. Senator from Minnesota who resigned his Senate seat to become Treasury Secretary for President James Garfield. After those eight months, Windom resigned at Treasury and was elected to fill his own open seat in the Senate. He served as Secretary of the Treasury again from 1888 until his death in 1891.)
The important connection of William French to Minneapolis parks is that after graduating from Harvard in 1864 and a year at MIT studying engineering he moved to Chicago and met a man in the new and unusual profession of landscape gardening. It’s not clear how it came about, but in 1870 William French became the partner of a man thirty years older than he was. That pioneering landscape architect was Horace Cleveland.
Of course, young William, who was eager I’m sure to earn his keep with his much more experienced partner, went through his list of connections to identify potential clients. He likely recognized that one name on his list might provide useful contacts in a young city west of Chicago, Minneapolis. That contact was his cousin, George Leonard Chase, who was rector at the episcopal church in the small town of St. Anthony, which was springing up beside the falls of that name. Now it just happened that Chase had married one of the Heywood girls, Mary. And that was a funny thing because Chase’s best friend married Sarah Heywood, Mary’s sister. He and his best friend had lived together while they were students at Hobart College in New York. In fact, Chase had apparently had some influence with the regents of the University of Minnesota when they were hiring the university’s first president in 1869. Chase’s friend and brother-in-law by marriage was hired for that job. His name was William Watts Folwell.
William Watts Folwell was an accomplished man: Union Army engineer, first president of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis park commissioner for 18 years, author of a four-volume history of Minnesota. The list goes on and on. Not least, he is one of my heroes.
Many photographs of Folwell exist, including some posted on this site, but today I will follow Folwell’s advice. In 1911, when Folwell was 78, he wrote to Minnesota Historical Society President Warren Upham:
“Let me make a suggestion in regard to portraits of men in all your publications. Don’t print “old man pictures,” but show the men as they were in their best days if possible. The likeness of General Sibley in General Baker’s book is atrocious. Sibley was a splendid figure in his prime, and ought so to be remembered.”
(Wiliam Watts Folwell: Autobiography and Letters of a Pioneer of Culture, Ed. Solon J. Buck. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1933)
So here is William Watts Folwell dressed for his wedding to Sarah Heywood when he was 30 in 1863. At the time he was an enlisted engineer in the Union Army. While it appears from his shoulder patch here that he was a captain at the time, he attained the rank of lieutenant colonel, the highest possible for an enlisted man, and commanded an engineering company of 450 men in several important Civil War battles. Folwell was hired as the first president of the University of Minnesota six years after he was married.
David C. Smith, minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com
Park history provides more than pretty pictures. Thanks to people such as William Folwell, it also gives us inspiring words. Such inspiration has perhaps never been needed more than now when political discourse is dominated by petty self-interest and shallow swagger.
“We owe it to our children and to all future dwellers in Minneapolis to plan on a great and generous scale. If we fail to acomplish, let them know it was not for lack of ideas or ideals.”
— William W. Folwell, President, Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners, Eighteenth Annual Report, 1900
David C. Smith, minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com