The Minneapolis Park Board at Minnehaha: 1900’s, part 1

LHHSG02054vers.02
A fine lace curtain of water.

Here’s a (likely) 1900’s image with the Falls of Minnehaha, just exactly framed.  Everyone likes to photograph the waterfall: They always have and they always will.  But look for the little details in the backgrounds and corners, those incidental features in these old pictures tell the interesting history.

An early bridge across the creek, probably built by the Park Board.
An early bridge across the creek, probably one built by the Park Board.

That’s not an especially sturdy construction, compared to the stone bridge that sits there today.  In fact, in September of 1903, the bridge across the stream as well as the dam upstream above the falls washed away in heavy rains.  The Park Board noted, “The bridge was a great convenience to the patrons of the park, and one to take its place of the proper kind and in the right location is one of the problems that we have to solve.

The Board instructed Superintendent William Berry to have a temporary bridge built across the creek above the falls in April of 1904.  Though construction was reportedly underway nearby for a permanent and sturdy bridge, the temporary bridge collapsed on May 29, 1904, dropping people into the water.  One woman nearly went over Minnehaha Falls.

And in 1906, Theodore Wirth was superintending the parks system and was out to make a big splash in his first year.  He declared that “the low wooden footbridge above the falls is a cheap crude structure and should be replaced with a cut stone bridge, or, better yet, a reinforced concrete structure with a boulder arch-ring and rubble stone parapet walls.”

It’s unknown if this picture shows the bridge that washed away in 1903, the temporary bridge that collapsed in 1904, or the sturdy replacement under discussion in 1906.  It could even be an earlier bridge yet, from the 1890s.

barbedwire02
Part of the creek was blocked by barbed wire.

Between the bridge and the Falls, the Park Board installed a barbed wire fence, just barely visible here.  Perhaps then, as now, people threw pennies into the creek and this was to keep people from trying to reach them when the water was low.

stonework
Perhaps this stonework was meant to stabilize the top of the Minnehaha gorge.

A Park Board groundskeeper was busy raking the grass just above this now-long-gone stonework and iron railing.

barbedwire01
Early crowd control?

Peeking into the depths of this picture, we see that more barbed wire fence was installed.  Who knows why, as it looks like this fence just wanders across the park.

viewing the falls, 1890’s, part 1

These solid citizens commemorated their pleasant dat at Minnehaha Park with a photograph.
These solid citizens commemorated their visit to Minnehaha Park with a photograph.

This undated photo from some time in the 1890s shows a place to sit built into the edge of the park board platform.  That seating seems not to have lasted into the 20th century (see images in older posts, below).

Stone construction is hard, heavy work.  Probably this was rebuilt because of the basic instability of the site.


 

viewing the falls, 1900’s: part 2

platform2
Vandalism? Disrepair? Deterioration? Someone named Will Taylor poses before Minnehaha Falls.

This photo is was taken on June 11, 1904, and shows that the Park Board’s viewing platform wasn’t holding up as well as one might hope.  This looks like a combination of vandalism and deterioration, with groundwater probably playing a part in the crumbling edge.  The land where this platform was looks like this today:

Continue reading “viewing the falls, 1900’s: part 2”