621 N 29th Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55411
Recreation Center: Farview Recreation Center
Name: At the time it was acquired in 1883 the park was referred to as Third Ward Park after the political division in which it was located. After its acquisition, the park was named Prospect Park for its views, but in 1890 the name was changed to Farview Park. The name has caused confusion ever since, because many people think the name is Fairview with an extra “i” inserted. The view may have been “fair,” too, but the name was chosen because one could see “far” from the hill in the center of the park.
Acquisition and Development
Farview Park was one of the first parks acquired by the Board of Park Commissioners when it was created in April 1883. At its second meeting, April 20, 1883, the new park board appointed committees to recommend land to be acquired for parks in various sections of the city. The committee for the “northerly” part of the city was chaired by ex-officio commissioner Henry Morse, who sat on the park board because he was the city council member who chaired the council’s planning committee. Also on the committee to consider a park for the district were park commissioners Adin Austin and John Oswald. Oswald’s farm, Bryn Mawr, occupied the land that is now the Bryn Mawr neighborhood.
The committee worked fast. On May 12, 1883, the committee recommended acquiring thirty acres of land for a Third Ward Park. The land was familiar to at least one commissioner; the committee noted that it was recommending acquiring land that had recently been sold by commissioner Dorilus Morrison to Henry Beard. (Henry Beard later was the first landowner to offer to donate a strip of his land around Lake Harriet for a parkway. The park board also acquired from Beard the land that became Linden Hills Boulevard and Beard Plaisance west of Lake Harriet.) The site of the park was chosen, the board reported in its 1883 annual report, because it was the highest land in the city, offering panoramic views of downtown and the “Mississippi River for miles.”
The original proposal was to designate thirty acres of land that had been offered to the board for $75,000, but the board’s final purchase of land was only about twenty acres. The final purchase included ten acres that at the time was the site of the city’s small pox hospital, which the city council offered to the park board for $15,000. The total purchase price of the twenty-plus acres was $34,438, an amount that was assessed on property owners in the neighborhood, to be paid over ten years. Farview was the least expensive of the three parks the park board acquired in its first year, only one-third the per-acre cost of Logan Park and Central (Loring) Park. The neighborhoods around Logan and Loring parks were more densely populated, but the cost of the Farview land was also lower probably because the steep hill in the park made it less suitable for residential or commercial uses. Visionary landscape architect Horace Cleveland often said that some of the most desirable land for parks—hills, ravines and river banks—were often those parcels that were ill-suited to other uses. The price paid for Farview Park supported that claim.
Farview Park was originally intended to be the northern terminus of a parkway system envisioned by Horace Cleveland. Lyndale Avenue on the park’s west edge was to be a parkway that ran from Farview Park to the city’s southern boundary at 36th Street. The park board did designate Lyndale Avenue North as a parkway and maintained it as one until 1905. Cleveland suggested that the parkway would turn east at the southern edge of Farview Park on 26th Avenue North and cross the city to the far eastern boundary of Minneapolis at what became Stinson Boulevard. Although the “suggestion” by Cleveland of an east-west parkway across the north and northeast was eventually implemented in Camden and St. Anthony Boulevards farther north, the park board never pursued Cleveland’s proposal for a parkway east from Farview.
Cleveland was also hired to create a plan for the original park, which he completed in late 1883. His original plan for what was then still called Third Ward Park (Cleveland’s original drawing is owned by Hennepin History Museum) included a road to the top of the hill in the park. The hill provided an ideal location for sledding and the park board had a toboggan track built there in 1887.
In 1888 the park board commissioned an observation tower to be built on top of the hill. The observatory was completed in 1889. In that year, residents of the neighborhood also petitioned the park board to build a tennis court in the park. The first ice-skating rink was created at Farview Park in 1891. And when the park board installed its first toilets in parks in 1892, Farview was given two, complete with sewer connections.
Farview Park was the site of a celebrated event in park history in 1906 when newly hired park superintendent Theodore Wirth visited the park and instructed the park policeman on duty there to stop preventing children from sledding on the hill and, instead, assist them. It was an early step in opening Minneapolis parks to active recreation uses.
The first playground equipment was installed at Farview in 1906, a “Hartford” merry-go-round, the kind children push. The next year the board appropriated $1,000 for more playground equipment at the park, following the popularity of the merry-go-round and the success of playground equipment installed in 1906 at Logan and Riverside parks. Farview was one of five city parks at which Clifford Booth supervised the use of playground equipment in 1907, becoming the park board’s first recreation supervisor and instructor. Also in 1907 the park board offered its first free outdoor music concerts at Farview. The first basketball hoops were installed at the park in 1908.
The hilly terrain of Farview Park made it difficult and expensive to improve as athletic fields, however. This was especially true when contrasted with North Commons, the second major park in north Minneapolis, which was acquired in 1907. North Commons, on flatter terrain, became a much more heavily used park for sports and active recreation.
As recreation in city parks became more popular, the park board built its first fieldhouse at Logan Park in 1912. Theodore Wirth recommended that one be built at Farview the next year, and in succeeding years he recommended that Farview get a fieldhouse, tennis courts and ball fields, so the park would be “as useful and popular as Logan,” in Wirth’s words.
Finally, in 1917 the park board graded playing fields and put up a shelter that could be used as a warming house for skaters in winter. (The shelter was actually moved from Marshall Terrace Park, where it was underused, in the opinion of the board.) The improvements were paid for out of a bond issue, but they were never completed. Theodore Wirth proposed in 1921 and again in 1925 that the improvements begun in 1917 be completed. An inexpensive bandstand was installed at Farview, as in most other parks, in 1919 to avoid the time and expense of moving the board’s portable bandstand from park to park for free concerts.
In his 1927 superintendent’s report, Wirth presented a plan for the improvement of Farview, which eliminated all roads in the park except for the drive to the top of the hill from 26th Avenue North. The roads in the park had already been closed earlier that year when the park board approved a request for that action from the PTA at nearby Hawthorne School.
Despite the lack of improvements for active recreation, Farview Park excelled in another activity: singing. Farview won the “community sing” trophy from 1924 to 1927 and again from 1935 to 1937. The travelling trophy was awarded to the park that sang the best during summer music concerts. That string of three wins in a row “retired” the trophy, or allowed Farview to keep it. A new trophy was created for subsequent years for community sings, which ran in city parks from 1919 to the mid-1950s. By 1949, however, attendance at community sings had dwindled at Farview and Farview was replaced by Peavey Park on the roster of parks that participated in community sings.
In 1938, in the midst of depression, the park board again considered plans for substantial improvement of the park, including grading the park for athletic fields, but little money was available at the time. Finally in 1940, using WPA labor, four new tennis courts were built and the following year, once again with WPA labor, the board graded, resurfaced and sodded some areas of the park.
In 1953, a concrete wading pool was installed at Farview, but other than that and the installation of lights in the park in 1958 near the lookout tower, where teens often loitered, major improvements of Farview waited until 1959-1960 when the park was given a significant makeover at a cost of $260,000. Half the cost was financed by city bonds and half by assessments on neighborhood property. Improvements included grading fields, enlarging and resurfacing the tennis courts, replacing obsolete playground equipment, and constructing an “attractive shelter of unusual design,” according to the 1960 annual report. Bond funds that were not used for the Farview redevelopment were transferred the following year, along with funds from other parks, to a fund to acquire Seward (Matthews) Park in south Minneapolis.
During the recreation center building boom of the mid-1970s Farview was once again redeveloped. In 1976, substantial work was done in the park and a new recreation center was built. The recreation center was expanded in 1992 with the addition of a gym.
Farview Park was one of the first Minneapolis parks to have a computer lab, when computers were installed in the recreation center in 2001. The interior of the community center was remodeled in 2008 and a new fire alarm system was installed too.
A Nice Ride bicycle rental kiosk was installed at the park in 2011. Sturdy, three-speed, lime-green bikes are available to rent for short-term trips April through October each year, weather permitting.
A new wading pool completed with play and shade structures opened in 2012, along with a new, high-quality ball field paid for with donations from the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, Pohlad Family Foundation, Minnesota Twins Community Fund and Edward J. Phillips Family Foundation.
In 2014 the inaugural Hmong Flag Football Tournament was held on the new synthetic turf fields.
History through 2008 written by David C. Smith, with updates from 2009 to present written by MPRB.