2500 W 57th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55410
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Recreation Center: Armatage Recreation Center
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The 18-foot bronze Garden Party sculpture by Scott Wallace (2000) creates the Armatage Neighborhood Gateway. The sculpture features a seahorse, birds and a large swirl, resembling what the artist calls “a great big lollipop.” How many fish you can find in the sculpture?
Maude D. Armatage
Armatage was the first woman elected to the park board—and was the only woman on the board for her entire length of service. Armatage was elected to the park board in 1921 in the first general election in which women had the right to vote. She was vice president of the board from 1924 to 1927. She chaired the Privileges and Entertainment Committee in her early years on the park board and when a combined Playground and Entertainment Committee was created in 1928 she chaired that committee until her retirement from the board in 1951.
One of Armatage’s first special assignments as a park commissioner, perhaps reflecting stereotypes of women at the time, was to be responsible for the “artistic selection and arrangement of furnishings at The Chalet,” as noted in the park board’s 1923 annual report. The Chalet was the new golf clubhouse and shelter built at Glenwood (Wirth) Park. Armatage and her uncle, F. A. Dunsmoor, both contributed to the furnishings of the clubhouse.
Armatage was especially active in promoting cooperation between the school board and park board to avoid duplication of facilities and get the most out of spending by both boards. When the park boards and school boards were first considering cooperative development of facilities in the southernmost portion of the city after its annexation from Richfield in 1926, Armatage visited Detroit on behalf of the park board to view the results of cooperative efforts there. When the possibility of developing joint facilities was renewed after nearly two decades of depression and war, Armatage sponsored a joint resolution between the park board and school board in 1948 that led directly to cooperative development of Waite, Armatage, Kenny and Cleveland parks and schools.
Armatage lived near Lake Harriet in a nine-family community called the “Colony.” According to research by Tom Balcom, nine families built homes on land given to them in 1893 by Charles Loring in the 4600 block of Fremont Avenue in the hopes that initial development would lead to more families wanting to build homes in the area.
In addition to her work on the park board, Armatage was a local leader of Campfire Girls and was on the national board of directors of that organization.
Upon her retirement in 1951 at the age of 81, the park board passed a resolution honoring Armatage’s service on the board, noting that “it is to her, more than to any other person, that the people of the City of Minneapolis owe a debt of gratitude for the promotion of the integrated school and park idea.” The 1951 annual report also noted that she had “championed many activities and diversions for the recreation of youth which are commonplace in the recreation program of today.”
Acquisition and Development
The nearly nineteen acres for Armatage Park were purchased September 1, 1948 for $7,500. The land was planned from the outset as a combined development of a park and school following a joint resolution by the park board and school board to develop new park and school complexes together. The primary objective of those joint developments was to provide a park that would double as a playground for the school and a school gym that could be used by the park board when school was not in session. It was the second park and school—Waite Park was the first—developed together by the two boards.
Joint development of the property had been considered as early as 1926, when that section of Minneapolis was annexed from Richfield. With the annexation, both the park board and school board faced the challenge of providing facilities for the newest section of the city. In 1927, land in the neighborhood had been proposed for development as a park, but property owners in the area opposed the additional tax assessments that would have been needed to pay for the development. With the advent of the Great Depression, followed by World War II, the project was delayed until the late 1940s. When the park and school were finally built in 1952, they were paid for by assessments on property in the neighborhood.
The purchase price of the property paled in comparison to the cost of developing the land for a park and athletic fields. Leveling and grading the property and preparing playing fields cost about $400,000. Because the western border of the park was significantly lower in elevation than Penn Avenue on the east, a lot of earth had to be moved to create level fields.
The original park improvements, completed in 1954, included regional athletic fields, a wading pool, a battery of tennis courts and a warming house and shelter. In 1955 the final touches were put on the park with the blacktopping of a parking lot and the installation of five sections of ten-tier bleachers for the regional athletic fields.
Armatage Park’s shelter was enlarged in 1962-63 and replaced with a new recreation center in 1977. The baseball and softball fields at the park were rebuilt in 1979. Significant renovations to the park property began in 1997 with the addition of a new parking lot and a new gym attached to the school and recreation center. The new gym opened in 1999.
In 2000 Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) funds were used to commission an eighteen foot-high bronze sculpture by artist Scott Wallace, called “Garden Party,” which was placed in the park. Additional improvements to the playing fields and tennis courts were made in 2004 and a skate park was added. The skate park was one of four created in Minneapolis parks that year.
An irrigation system was added to the baseball/soccer fields at Armatage as part of a playing field upgrade in 2010-11. The hard courts at the park were also resurfaced in 2011.
Park history compiled and written by David C. Smith.