112 Williams Ave. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
Recreation Center: Luxton Recreation Center
Name: The name of the park was changed from “Prospect Field” to “George E. Luxton Park” on August 17, 1963. Throughout 1963 the board had received petitions to change the name of the park to honor Luxton. He died in late 1962 at the age of 82. George Luxton had been a reporter, columnist and photographer for Minneapolis newspapers for 60 years and had been president of the neighborhood improvement association in southeast Minneapolis. Moreover, as the board noted in its resolution to name the park for him, “his love of flowers brought him in contact with literally every gardening club and horticultural society in Minnesota.” He was called an “enthusiastic supporter” of the board’s efforts to beautify Minneapolis. In its 1953 annual report the board included a photo of Luxton receiving a scroll of appreciation from the park board for his interest in park floriculture. The scroll was presented to him during “George Luxton Day” at the park board’s annual chrysanthemum show at LyndaleFarmsteadPark.
Acquisition and Development
The 5.31 acres of land for Luxton Park, then called Prospect Field, was purchased in 1912 from Frank C. Nickels, R. J. Owens and others for $15,134. The purchase was in response to petition in April, 1912 from area residents for a playground in the southeast neighborhood, which, despite park developments throughout the city, had no play area closer than Van Cleve Park on the other side of the university. A petition in 1907 to acquire a playground adjacent to Motley School had been denied.
The petition in 1912 was approved immediately for the tract of vacant land. Condemnation proceedings began with the appointment of appraisers in May. Despite objections from Frank Nickels to the amounts awarded, the park board confirmed the appraisals. The board subsequently struck a deal with him for the bulk of the land for the park.
One reason for the prompt action on the petition to acquire the land was revealed in January 1913 when the Prospect Park Improvement Association thanked the board for the acquisition and promised that it wouldn’t ask for improvements to the land until bonds could be issued for that purpose. In those days of rapid expansion of the park system and demands from every quarter of the city for park improvements, the board was more inclined to acquire park land if residents of the neighborhood weren’t too insistent on spending scarce funds for immediate improvements.
Nonetheless, park superintendent Theodore Wirth proposed in his 1913 annual report an improvement plan for the park. The majority of the space was to be devoted to playing fields and playgrounds, including a fieldhouse. But a portion was set aside as a “picnic grove” with a “rustic shelter.”
With the city council’s agreement to rearrange some streets around the park in 1914, the way was cleared for improvements. In 1915 the upper field was completed, offering a “splendid” skating rink in Wirth’s words in his 1915 annual report. He noted that a warming house had been provided. Playground equipment was also installed. Wirth wrote that an additional $23,000 was needed to build the fieldhouse, walks, steps and a wading pool. All the park board approved was a modest sum to build tennis courts in the park in 1917.
Four years later, a small recreation shelter was added to the park. Wirth noted at the time that it was small and would only meet the most pressing needs, but hoped that it would stimulate demand for more. Wirth wrote that the shelter, which cost about $6,000, was constructed to be easily moved to another field when a larger recreation center was built at Prospect Field.
What Wirth pictured as a temporary structure would remain in place for a long time—nearly fifty years. The board’s post-World War II plans included improvements for Prospect Field, but city bond funding was hard to come by for any park projects in the decade after the war.
By 1957 it was obvious that proposed freeways in Minneapolis could have a significant impact on parks. A special study of the Prospect Field area was conducted by the park board’s planning division in “consideration of the new expressway system,” as the 1957 annual report phrased it. The phrase makes it clear that the board was already aware that a proposed freeway could have an impact on the park. And it did. In 1964 the state highway department claimed 1.3 acres of Prospect Field for the new I-94 freeway.
Once the boundaries of the park were certain, the board did proceed with the complete renovation of the park in conjunction with the city’s housing authority, which developed the Glendale housing project adjacent to the park. In 1969, a new recreation center was built at Luxton Park, finally replacing the old temporary shelter. The housing authority contributed money to build that center. The park was updated throughout, including construction of a wading pool. In 1976 the park board granted permission for the state highway department to build a noise-abatement wall between the park and I-94.
In 1990, the center was dramatically expanded with the addition of a gym and new playground equipment was installed.
Park history compiled and written by David C. Smith.