Star Tribune: Some are shutting door on plans for Wirth house

In an article subtitled “Theodore Wirth’s grandson wants his granddad’s former home turned into a museum for park history” journalist Conrad Wilson writes:

» One hundred years after his grandfather came to Minneapolis to design a world-class park system, Theodore J. Wirth arrived with a more modest mission.

Wirth, 78, and a park designer himself, wants to create a museum in his grandfather’s former home that traces the history of the park system.

“This is my last big project,” he said.

But the vision for a Wirth museum hasn’t gotten far with the home’s owner, the Minneapolis Park Board. «

Jon Olson, the board’s president, criticized the effort, saying, “Theodore Wirth wasn’t God. I’m getting tired of Theodore Wirth.”

» In fall of 1999, Joan Berthiaume, the co-founder of the Parks Legacy Society, called Wirth after the Park Board and other local organizations couldn’t answer her questions about park history.   …

The conversation led to a visit, and before long, Wirth was in the park named for his grandfather, asking people: Who was Theodore Wirth? No one knew.

Two other historic houses [the Longfellow House and Stevens House] owned by the Park Board are operated as museums by nonprofit organizations, and Wirth and Berthiaume thought the same arrangement would be appropriate for what the Park Board calls the Superintendent’s House.

The last superintendent to live there moved out in 1996, and it’s currently used for park staff and storage.   …

Last March, Berthiaume asked to lease the home from the Park Board. The Parks Legacy Society would operate the house at no cost to the city using funds generated from memberships and donations, Berthiaume said. «

Read the entire article at the Star Tribune web site.

3 thoughts on “Star Tribune: Some are shutting door on plans for Wirth house

  1. Chris Johnson Post author

    In the Star Tribune article, it tells about Theodore J. “Ted” Wirth and his efforts to get his grandfather’s home opened to the public in a manner similar to the John H. Stevens House and the Longfellow House. His grandfather’s home is the Historic Theodore Wirth Home and Administration Building, located in Lyndale Farmstead Park, and like the Stevens and Longfellow homes, belongs to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

    Despite years of work, the Park Board has consistently stymied the effort.

    Two quotes from the above article may illustrate why:

    Park Board President Jon Olson says: “Theodore Wirth wasn’t God. I’m getting tired of Theodore Wirth.”

    Park Board Commissioner Bob Fine says of Ted Wirth, the grandson: “He’s not from here. He didn’t grow up here. I think he found someone that is willing to take care of him.”

    Hubert H. Humphrey was not from here. Humphrey did not grow up here. He was from South Dakota.

    I think it’s high time we removed the statue of Humphrey from in front of City Hall, rename the Hubert H. Humphrey Metro Dome, and rename the Humbert H. Humphrey Institute at the University of Minneota — don’t you?

    Thank you, Conrad Wilson, for an excellent news story.

  2. Liz Wielinski Post author

    After many months hiding the Wirth House in planning, it is now newsworthy. Commissioners Fine and Olson jump in to make less than elegant comments about the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society’s plans. I guess I am not surprised at this, as it takes peoples’ attention away from the fact that they have just given nearly exclusive use of park property to a religious school, and are now proposing to buy an ice arena that was not profitable enough to make its mortgage payments to the city even with the help of dollars from pull-tab gaming. They have been shown to be unreliable enough that a major player in the health care industry is proposing to fund a riverfront park because they are too inept to handle it. I guess I too would be in the press making comments on a project about the visionary superintendent that designed the majority of our beautiful park system, if it kept the focus off of the less than adequate job I’m doing as an elected official on everything else.

  3. webmaster Post author

    Note that Jon Olson hadn’t yet tired of Wirth last fall, when, with Superintendent Jon Gurban, he selectively dipped into Wirth’s tome for his Nov. 4, 2005 response to Charles Birnbaum’s Nov. 2 Star Tribune op-ed:

    “While Birnbaum gives due credit to visionary Theodore Wirth, he apparently hasn’t read Wirth’s book ‘Minneapolis Park System, 1883-1944.’ Birnbaum criticizes the current Park Board for its revenue-generating initiatives. In a chapter titled “Revenue-Producing Activities and Kindred Accommodations,” Wirth proudly extols the benefits of income-generating facilities such as the boating and refreshment business that began in 1887 at Lake Harriet, and numerous others.”

Comments are closed.