503 N Irving Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55405
Recreation Center: Harrison Recreation Center
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Name: The park was named for Harrison School adjacent to the park site. The school was named for William Henry Harrison, ninth president of the United States. The park board’s first involvement on the property, in 1958, was developing a playground for the school—even before the land for a larger park was acquired. At that time, however, the property was already referred to as Harrison Park. The name was never formally adopted.
Acquisition and Development
The park was purchased by resolution of the park board on August 5, 1959. The board approved paying the federal government $97,100 for the land, although later park inventories never reflected that price and indicated that the land was acquired from the Minneapolis Housing Redevelopment Authority (MHRA). The land was acquired as a part of the MHRA’s redevelopment of the Glenwood housing area. The park board had been reviewing the possibilities of playground development at the site with the MHRA since 1953.
In 1958, before the park was officially acquired, the park board approved creating a new playground on school property. The park board initially approved plans in 1959 to develop the park with funds to be obtained through assessments on property in the neighborhood. The MHRA informed the board that if assessments on property were levied for those improvements, the project would lose $80,000 in federal funds. The board then approved spending city bond funds for the entire cost of the improvements, which was $243,000. MHRA paid to have the new park land graded before it was turned over to the park board for development as a park.
The board used the bond funds in 1960 to construct a shelter with office space, develop ball fields and hard surface courts for tennis, basketball and volleyball, and install a wading pool and children’s play areas. The shelter was built to a design similar to earlier shelters constructed at Franklin Steele Square and Peavey Field, which had removable exterior walls for conversion from winter to summer use.
In 1975, the park’s tennis courts, walkways and walking paths were renovated. Additional improvements were made to the park in 1984 when the original shelter was renovated and fully enclosed.
From 1997-1999 a new secondary school and neighborhood center were built to replace the old school and recreation shelter. The new building housed a gym, a park board neighborhood center and the offices of the Harrison Neighborhood Association. The playground was updated and other improvements were made to the park in 2003-2004. The kitchen in the community center was renovated in 2008.
In 2015 a new wading pool opened. It was shifted closer to the neighborhood center and contains a number of colorful play features.
History through 2008 written by David C. Smith, with updates from 2009 to present written by MPRB.