THE BEST OF SOUTHWEST MINNEAPOLIS — brought to you by the Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association (LYNAS)
Lynnhurst Field Park
Location: Minnehaha Parkway and West 50th Street
Size: 8.11 acres
Name: A 1934 report on park names attributed the name to the Lynnhurst District in which the park is located. A report in 1975 speculated that that name was derived from the many linden trees in the area. It is as likely, however, that the name derived from Lyndale Farm, William King’s farm that once included most of Lake Harriet. King named his farm for his father Lyndon King. The Lynnhurst Field name was adopted April 20, 1921 shortly after the park was acquired. During acquisition proceedings the land was referred to as Remington Park, after the legal name of the subdivision.
Acquisition and Development
The land for Lynnhurst Field was designated for purchase by the park board on February 16, 1921. The park board paid $24,800 for the land. The purchase concluded four years after the park board first decided to acquire land in the area for a park.
The park board had first designated land for the park in late 1917. At that time the park board envisioned a much larger park than it eventually acquired, extending one block further north (toward Lake Harriet) than the present park and another block west to Knox Avenue between 49th and 50th. The resolution to acquire the land also included a resolution to improve the land, creating playfields. After the first designation of the land, the matter fell from park board proceedings for nearly two years until, in November 1919, the park board again designated land for the park (the same day it designated land for what became Linden Hills Field), but this time without the block between Knox and James, and deferred improvement of the land. The board simply stated that it did not need the extra block to create the park. The park board’s annual report of 1919 said it that was completing the acquisition of 19.1 acres for the park.
The acquisition proceeded smoothly until the appraisers appointed by the board made their report in late 1920. Owners of the property to be taken for the park appealed the award amounts in district court. The court then appointed three new appraisers and they couldn’t agree on the value of the land, although they all appraised it at a higher value than had the appraisers appointed by the park board. Faced with paying more than it had planned for the land, the park board abandoned efforts to acquire the two blocks north of the present park. It decided that the nearly ten acres at the present location were “sufficient” for a playground for the neighborhood. The sums involved illustrate the demands on park board resources at the time. The land it chose not to acquire would have cost an additional $7,500—and today is likely worth millions.
The official acquisition date for Lynnhurst Field, February 16, 1921, is when the park board approved the acquisition of the smaller area. The park board vacated Irving Avenue through the park and asked park superintendent Theodore Wirth to prepare plans for the park.
In the 1921 annual report Wirth published a plan for Linden Hills Field and noted that the plan for Lynnhurst Field was an exact duplicate of Linden Hills in its appointments, which included a community building, outdoor gymnastic apparatus with separate spaces for men and women, play areas for children, athletic fields, tennis and volleyball courts and horseshoe pits. Wirth noted that “early execution” of the plan for this “very fast growing district” was important because a park was needed as much as the school—Burroughs School—that had been built the year before across the street from the park near 50th and Humboldt. Wirth also wrote that a “sufficient” part of the grounds was devoted to plantings and lawns to give the field an attractive appearance.
As with many park plans generated in that time, the plan would eventually be modified. By 1925 the park had yet to be developed and in the 1925 annual report Wirth wrote that people in the neighborhood were “exceedingly anxious” to have the park improved and were circulating petitions among property owners to agree to be assessed for the costs of building the park. One of the problems was that, as was the case with so many other neighborhood parks, the property was “low, swampy land.” Wirth’s 1925 plan included a “larger proportion” of the ground for active service and a smaller part for “ornamentation” than in his original plan. Included in the plan were ten tennis courts.
Even with a new plan in hand, the park board didn’t proceed with improvements until 1927, when it hired architects Downs and Eads to design a shelter for the park. The park was finally developed in 1928 into playing fields and playgrounds, with a shelter to serve as a warming house for skaters. The original development included only two tennis courts, but eight more were added along 49th street in 1930.
Lynnhurst Field was singled out for improvements on the park board’s 1945 list of post-war projects— and it was one of the few projects on that list that was eventually funded. In 1948 those improvements began and the annual report of that year included an explanation of why they were necessary. The park had been built on peat that ranged in depth from six to thirty-seven feet. The peat had sunk over the years, which wreaked havoc on concrete slabs poured for tennis courts, as well as graded fields. The old courts were removed, the peat was excavated and the ground prepared for new courts. The old play areas were also enlarged and the wading pool, which had been built by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, was replaced. The makeover of the park was completed in 1949.
The first time that Lynnhurst offered full-time, year round programming at the recreation center was in 1958.
Noting an interest by community groups in improving the park, the park board reported in its 1963 annual report that plans had been drawn for remodeling the recreation center and outside facilities. But those plans were not implemented. Instead, by 1968 the park board had developed plans to re-develop the park dramatically in 1970 and 1971 with $450,000 in city bonds. The board reported at that time that the redevelopment of the park offered an “unusual opportunity” to blend the parkway and the outlet from Lake Harriet to Minnehaha Creek into a community park.
In 1970 the board took action to seize that opportunity. The board approved a plan that placed a new community center with a gymnasium south of West 50th Street on land leased from the school board adjacent to Burroughs School, and closed Minnehaha Parkway on the west side of the outlet from Lake Harriet to Minnehaha Creek from 49th to 50th to integrate the park with the overflow channel. In addition to building the community center across 50th from the main park, a toilet building and warming house were added on the park side of 50th and the old shelter was demolished.
The gym at Lynnhurst Park and Burroughs School was supposed to be step one of a two-step plan. The park board agreed to build the gym that could be used by Burroughs school and in return the school board would add a gym at Kenwood School for use by park programs. The second step didn’t happen until more than ten years later, when the school board finally renovated and expanded Kenwood School in the early 1980s.
Following a fire in the school building, the old school was demolished, and a new Burroughs school was built further west on the school board’s property in 2005. The school is no longer connected to the community center.
Most recently, the Lynnhurst playground equipment was replaced in 1996, and the community center was renovated.
© Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, 2008, Compiled and written by David C. Smith 151