690 13th Ave. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
Ice rinks are closed for the season.
Recreation Center: Logan Recreation Center
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Name: Before it was officially named, the park was known simply as First Ward Park. B. F. Nelson proposed in 1883 to name the park for Henry Sibley, the first governor of Minnesota, but the park board did not take action on the suggestion.
In 1887, with a reorganization of the political wards of the city, the park became known as Ninth Ward Park. In May of that year the Dudley Chase Post of the Grand Army of the Republic (Civil War veterans) proposed naming the park Logan Park, for John A. Logan, major general of Union Army volunteers during the Civil War. But the park board instead chose to name the park for the late General Cadwallader C. Washburn in July, 1887.
Washburn was the primary force behind the Washburn Crosby Company, the predecessor company of General Mills, and an innovator in wheat milling that led to Minneapolis becoming the flour capital of the world. Cadwallader Washburn had donated considerable money for the establishment of an orphanage in south Minneapolis near Minnehaha Creek. Cadwallader Washburn was himself a resident of Wisconsin, and once governor of Wisconsin, whose business interests in Minneapolis were managed in part by his brother William D. Washburn. William was a Congressman from Minneapolis 1879-1885 and a close friend of park commissioners Charles Loring and George Brackett. After the park was named for his brother, William Washburn was elected to the U. S. Senate and served from 1889 to 1895.
During his senatorial term, in 1893, the park board decided that Logan Park was a better name after all. The name was changed at the insistence of northeast Minneapolis resident and park commissioner Patrick Ryan. Ryan, a Democrat, had defeated Charles Loring for a park board seat in the election of 1890 and apparently didn’t like having the park in his neighborhood named for someone in the family of a sitting Republican Senator.
John A. Logan had been much more than the major-general of Union Army Volunteers during the Civil War. Prior to the war Logan had represented Illinois in Congress as a Democrat, but after the war he was elected as a Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was one of the managers in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. He was later elected to two terms as a U.S. Senator from Illinois. He was also the Republican nominee for vice president in 1884. He is credited with the idea of celebrating Memorial Day. Logan died in 1886.
Curiously, or perhaps shrewdly, Ryan preferred naming the park for a man who had been elected from both political parties in Illinois instead of the brother of the incumbent Republican senator from Minnesota. Whether having his family’s name removed from a Minneapolis park played a role, William Washburn was defeated in his senatorial re-election bid in 1894. Years later, Washburn High School was named for William D. Washburn. Washburn sold his eight-acre estate, now Washburn Fair Oaks Park, to the park board in 1911 for the appraised value of the land, or about $225,000. He threw in his mansion—one of the city’s largest—along with his stables and greenhouse, which were valued at an additional $400,000 at the time. The park board eventually demolished all of those buildings.
Acquisition and Development
Logan Park was one of the first three parks, along with Central (Loring) Park and Third Ward (Farview) Park, acquired by the park board after it was created in April 1883. The land was designated as a park May 12, 1883 upon the recommendation of a committee of B. F. Nelson, Samuel Chute and John S. Pillsbury who had been appointed to select a park in the “East Division” of the city. The decision to acquire First Ward Park was made even before landscape architect Horace Cleveland submitted his “Suggestions for a System of Parks and Parkways for the City of Minneapolis,” which provided the general blueprint for development of Minneapolis parks.
In the 1883 Annual Report, Charles Loring reported that $34,232 had been set aside to purchase the property, but noted that some landowners had appealed the condemnation awards that had been determined by appraisers. The board assessed nearby property owners a total of $52,422 for the purchase and initial improvement of the park.
Horace Cleveland was commissioned to create a plan for the new park in 1883—for which he was paid $150. Although Cleveland was generally opposed to “ornamental decorations” in parks—he said it was like a people buying expensive jewelry before they had nice clothes—preferring instead that money be spent on acquiring land, he did propose a fountain for First Ward Park. Cleveland likely proposed the fountain for First Ward Park because it was the only one of the original parks that did not have a special topographical appeal, neither hill nor lake nor river bank. Cleveland did not consider the fountain an urgent need, but thought it wise to account for the possibility of a fountain from the beginning. The fountain was not built until 1897 and was later converted into a wading pool.
Logan Park was the most developed of the first parks; it already contained several houses. In November 1883 the park board approved disposal or sale of the houses that already existed on the new park property.
In 1885, Logan Park became the first city park to have an ice-skating rink created on dry land. The only other skating rink in a park was on Johnson’s Pond in Central (Loring) Park. When the park board installed its first playground equipment in city parks in 1906, Logan was on its way to becoming the center of recreation programming in the city, a position it would retain into the 1950s. Logan and Riverside parks were chosen to receive the first equipment through an appropriation of $2,500 recommended by new superintendent Theodore Wirth. Clifford Booth, the physical director at the Minneapolis YMCA, volunteered to provide instruction and supervision on the new apparatus. With the installation of playground equipment in three more parks the following year, and supervision and instruction at all five parks by Booth, city parks had their first recreation programming. It was the beginning of a dramatic change in city parks over the next decades from passive to active recreational use.
In 1908 Wirth first recommended the construction of park fieldhouses and playing fields using Chicago parks as a model. He recommended Logan Park for the first fieldhouse. It took the park board a few years to act on Wirth’s suggestions, but in 1912 the board built a fieldhouse there. The total cost of the fieldhouse was $40,000, of which the library board paid $8,000 so it could use part of the building as a branch library. The building was intended to be a social center for the neighborhood, a goal aided by the donation of a piano in 1913 from a neighborhood organization. Wirth noted in his 1913 report that the building was heavily used in its first year. He wrote that the showers in the building were used by many men on their way home from work.
With the fieldhouse, Logan Park offered the first year-round recreation activities in the park system. Despite the tremendous popularity and success of the Logan Park fieldhouse, it was the only one built by the park board until the 1950s.
By 1921, the board’s annual report noted that the recreation program at Logan was run by Alice Dietz. Dietz would be a central figure in the development of recreation programming throughout the park system. The success of the recreation programs under Dietz led the board to convert the “social” room at the fieldhouse to a gymnasium for indoor games in 1922. It was the park board’s first indoor athletic facility. By 1927 Dietz had three assistants but the Depression that followed soon after led to significant cuts in park spending. By 1933, she was the only park employee at Logan Park and she had no supplies or equipment to work with. Wirth noted in his report of 1933 that due to unemployment the park was “overrun” with people. With the advent of the WPA, a depression era program to provide employment, the park board received scores of recreation supervisors to work throughout the system. They were trained and managed by Alice Dietz.
At the end of World War II, after the WPA program ended, Logan was one of only four parks in Minneapolis that offered recreation programs other than from June 15 to August 15. In 1946, Logan was one of five parks designated as community centers with a district supervisor to manage recreation activities.
Following a successful experiment at Loring Park in 1960, Logan was one of nine parks in Minneapolis that began a seniors club in 1963. The clubs sponsored activities one morning or afternoon each week.
By 1970, the venerable fieldhouse at Logan Park had become obsolete. New recreation centers had been built elsewhere in the park system by then. As the park board was beginning a dramatic building phase that created or renovated recreation centers throughout the city, it authorized demolition of the old fieldhouse and construction of a new one. What was probably the most successful building in the history of Minneapolis parks was torn down after fifty-eight years of distinguished service. The new building was one of nine “community” centers built in the 1970s and early 1980s. The park board’s designation of a “community” center meant that it had a gymnasium intended to serve a larger community than its immediate neighborhood.
Logan Park got a major makeover in 1997. In 2010 the parking lot was resurfaced and the community center was given several upgrades, including a high-efficiency boiler to improve energy-efficiency.
A Nice Ride bicycle rental kiosk was installed at the park in 2011.
A revamped, expanded Arbor Day Celebration was hosted at the park in 2016. More than 130 trees comprising 39 different species were planted during a community festival that featured live music, tree-themed games and activities and a beer garden.
History through 2008 written by David C. Smith, with updates from 2009 to present written by MPRB.