2430 Third Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Nearby Recreation Center: Whittier Recreation Center
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Home to the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia)
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Name: The park is named for Dorilus Morrison, one of the commissioners named in the Park Act of 1883, who once lived on the site of the park. The park is rarely referred to by its name; it is better known as the site of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Dorilus Morrison, like many of the city’s early leaders, came to Minnesota from Maine. His first business, like that of many others immigrants from Maine, was cutting timber along the tributaries of the Mississippi and floating logs down the river to sawmills at Anoka and St.AnthonyFalls. In addition to cutting timber, Morrison operated a lumberman’s supply store in Minneapolis. Both Loren Fletcher and his later business partner, Charles Loring, found their first employment in Minneapolis at Morrison’s store.
Morrison was known as one of the wealthiest Minnesotans at the time the park board was created and he had been elected mayor of the Minneapolis in 1867 and 1869. In his first inaugural address as mayor he advocated creating a park in Minneapolis, calling parks the “pride of cities east and west.”
Morrison was a prominent supporter of parks for many years before the park board was created. He was among those who called a town meeting in 1865 to consider acquiring a park for the city. In 1871, he was one of the founders of Lakewood Cemetery, which was in effect a privately owned park. In 1872, Morrison, William King, George Brackett and Richard Mendenhall, purchased forty acres near the present Minneapolis Institute of Arts that had been offered to the city council for a park, but which the council had refused to purchase. The four men held the land and each invested $1,000 to improve it as a park, hoping that the council would eventually agree to acquire it as a public park. Without action from the council, however, the men eventually divided up the land. The others sold their pieces of it, but Morrison built his house, Villa Rosa, on a portion it. His cousin, another prominent Minneapolitan, William Washburn, built his mansion, Fair Oaks, across the street from Villa Rosa.
Acquisition and Development
In the winter of 1911, Clinton Morrison, Dorilus Morrison’s son, approached the park board with an unusual offer: He would donate to the park board the home his father had built and the surrounding estate totaling more than eight acres. He had one condition, however: the land would be designated as the site of an art museum, which would be built with funds raised privately by the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts.
Morrison even drew up legislation authorizing the park board to accept the donation. The legislation also provided for the collection of a tax levy on all property in Minneapolis that would pass through the park board for the operation and maintenance of the proposed museum. The legislature approved the measure, the park board accepted the land, the Society of Fine Arts raised more than half a million dollars to construct the museum, and to this day the park board collects and passes on to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts the tax levy approved in the legislation. In 1959 the Minnesota legislature extended the museum levy to cover all of Hennepin County instead of just the city of Minneapolis.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts opened in 1915 in what remains Dorilus Morrison Park.
The donation of land by Clinton Morrison led directly to two other park acquisitions: Washburn Fair Oaks Park and Clinton Park.
Additional Sources: Information on the ownership of the land in the 1870s is drawn from correspondence and legal documents in the George A. Brackett Papers, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Park history compiled and written by David C. Smith.