Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society’s goal deserves support.
» One hundred years ago this month, a 42-year-old Swiss-born landscape architect from Hartford, Conn., stepped off the Pioneer Limited #1 at the Milwaukee Road Depot — and was promptly informed that the Minneapolis city parks system he had agreed to head as superintendent was badly in debt.
Minnesotans can be grateful that Theodore Wirth did not get right back on that train.
Instead, Wirth settled into the new house built for him at Lyndale Farmstead Park, and set about giving Minneapolis a park system recognized since the 1920s as the most beautiful in the nation.
For the rest of his life, until he died in 1949, he lived and worked in the big house at 3954 Bryant Av. S., drawing inspiration from children playing on the sledding hill that was his backyard. It was there that he designed the Chain of Lakes, laid out the Lake Harriet Rose Garden, planned the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway and implemented his rule that no Minneapolis child should grow up more than six blocks from a park. It was there that he oversaw the growth of the city’s park system from 1,800 to 5,200 acres.
At a midday reception Thursday, a plaque will be unveiled at the Milwaukee Road Depot commemorating Wirth’s arrival. It represents the latest in a series of projects by a volunteer group dedicated to raising awareness of Wirth and, by extension, appreciation of the parks that he built.
That group, the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society, includes Wirth’s grandson and namesake Ted Wirth, a retired landscape architect who recently moved to Minneapolis to help lead the group’s efforts. His goal, and the society’s, is to open his grandfather’s house, especially its basement-level drafting rooms, for hands-on lessons in Minneapolis history by touring children and adults. It’s a goal that deserves the embrace of today’s stewards of the parks Wirth built. «
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