Historic Wirth Home OPEN HOUSE

The Theodore Wirth Home and Administration Building, National Historic Site will be open on Saturday, July 15, 2006. The Historic Wirth House is at 3954 Bryant Avenue South in Lyndale Farmstead Park. The program at Noon will be followed by tours until 4PM. Grandson, Theodore J. Wirth will be present for these tours.

The following July 3, Southwest Journal article article will tell you why it is important to attend.


Ted Wirth works to rekindle the memory of his grandfather, Theodore Wirth, a visionary behind the city’s park system

Retired landscape architect Ted Wirth, 80, speaks softly. Usually, he totes a portable microphone to amplify his barely audible words. His hands are shaky. He is struggling with Parkinson’s disease.

Today, Ted will do his best to talk loudly enough without it. He is sitting in a meeting room of the Lyndale Farmstead Park building, clutching a cane topped by a silver, well-worn carving of a bird – against the backdrop of the house he played in as a child.

The 1910 house – called the Theodore Wirth Home and Administration Building – is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The home at 3945 Bryant Ave. S. is the center of a final project for Ted. It was home to his grandfather, Theodore Wirth, who is largely credited with designing the city’s parks. It was also Ted’s childhood playground.

The Dutch colonial house tucked onto the hillside of Lyndale Farmstead Park currently serving as a temporary office space for park staff was constructed to lure Theodore from Hartford, Conn. to Minneapolis in 1906. The same house drew Ted to Minneapolis from Billings, Mont., a century later.

His mission is to restore the home’s fading memory and shed light on the early park movement his grandfather helped shape. Ted wants to turn the house into a museum. To accomplish it, he has formed the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society (MPLS) with his friend and business partner Joan Berthiaume, a Linden Hills resident.

Ted, whose namesake is his grandfather (his full name is Theodore), also grew up to be a landscape architect. He was the oldest grandchild and the third and last generation in the family to uphold a career in parks. Ted’s father, Conrad, was the longest-serving director of the National Park Service.

Minneapolis Park Board Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom said the Wirths’ contributions are untold.

“It’s very telling that he [Ted] made the journey back to Minneapolis. He came to improve the park system just as his grandfather did. It’s a pilgrimage that runs in the family,” she said. “It’s a great testament to their belief in parks and this place and in parks in this place.”

A life in the park

During his tenure as the park system’s foremost landscape gardener from 1906 to 1936, Theodore tripled park property, cultivated the nation’s first rose garden at Lake Harriet, created playgrounds and dredged the lakes. As a testimony to his vision, Minneapolis parks have been rated number one by the Playground and Recreation Association of America since 1928.

Theodore and a team of draftsman labored in the basement where big windows afforded a picturesque view of the park, where children sledded and played soccer. His and other Wirths’ gravesites are also in view of the park, at Lakewood Cemetery.

Last year, the house attracted more than 1,000 visitors in a handful of tours. MPLS reconstructs Theodore’s office according to old photos. Some artifacts come from Wirth descendants around the world.

On July 15, from noon-4 p.m., tourists walking through the house can see the Wirth children’s sleeping room, the cabinet where Theodore secretly stowed his liquor during Prohibition days and offices where many of the plans for the city’s parks were drawn. «

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