Spring is finally upon us despite a stubborn debut, with many of us beginning to enjoy what so many Minnesotans dream of during those dark and frigid winter months…. being outside! We are fortunate to have an amazing park system in our city; as a matter of fact, a beautiful and historic park sits right across the street from the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Known as Washburn Fair Oaks Park, it’s situated in the Washburn-Fair Oaks Historic District.
Washburn Fair Oaks Park was the original site of United States Senator (1889-1895) William Drew Washburn’s home named “Fair Oaks.” The surrounding residences designed by famous local architects such Ernest Kennedy and William Channing Whitney showcase the architecture trends of the time. Other famous homeowners included the Pillsbury and the Turnblad families. While amassing their fortunes, these prosperous families built magnificent mansions still standing today, many dating back to 1870.
These stately homes occupied this neighborhood located on what was then an outer boundary of the city, yet close enough to its hub of business and entertainment venues to easily become the most prestigious and desirable addresses in Minneapolis.
The streetcar system added to the the area’s growth continuing through about 1930. Included in this development of course is the Minneapolis Institute of Art, originally known as the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, beginning in 1883. The esteemed New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White designed the original building housing the museum that opened its doors to the community in 1915.
Also noteworthy is building housing the Hennepin History Museum at 2303 Third Avenue South on the east side of the park. This was originally the home of Carolyn McKnight Christian, first president of the Friends of the Institute, who built it and lived there for almost 40 years. Having many philanthropical interests, Carolyn hosted many fundraisers and musical concerts in the Great Room of her home. In later life, she donated the house as well as her art collection to Mia in 1956. In 1957, Mia sold the home to the Hennepin County Historical Society.
With this home and the surrounding neighborhood being such an integral part of Friends history, the centennial committee is proud to co-host an evening with the Hennepin History Museum on June 15. Save the date for a “Friends Homecoming” evening reception at the Hennepin History Museum will be from 5:30-7:30 p.m. with remarks at 6:15. See the original rooms of Carolyn McKnight Christian, enjoy displayed photographs and personal artifacts throughout, as well as live music, wine, and appetizers right within the formal reception room where Ms. Christian entertained her guests. Ticket price is $50 or purchase a centennial patron ticket for $100. Watch for your evite soon from the Friends office.
Plan on attending the “Friends & Neighbors of Mia and Hennepin History Museum Walking Tour” of the Washburn Fair Oaks Park neighborhood, focusing on architectural and historic information, as well as ties to Mia and Friends. Get a taste of the period, bringing our minds back to how people lived at this time. Midway through the tour there will be a quick refreshment stop at the Gale Mansion, home of the Minneapolis branch of the American Association of University Women. End the tour at Mia by walking into the Cargill Gallery exhibit highlighting past Art in Bloom and view Eugene Delacroix’s extraordinary Still Life with Dahlias, Zinnias, Hollyhocks, and Plums. Guests must be able to walk for one hour. Choose tour dates from either June 23 or June 24, with tours at 10-11:15 as well as 1-2:15. Tickets will be available soon.
Summertime takes us to Martha Head’s home on Lake Minnetonka for the enchanting Friends Centennial Garden Party on July 14 from 5-7:00 pm. Join Friends for a tour, wine, and light summer fare. To allow best viewing of the gardens, space is limited to 50 guests. Attendee tickets are $50 and centennial patron tickets are $100. All profits support the Friends Delacroix commitment. Watch for your evite this summer from the Friends office.
We hope to see many of you during these events. For any questions about these and other Friends events, please call the Friends office at 612.870.3045. Also, a reminder to pick up your Friends for 100 Years, A Lasting Legacy in the Friends office. Many of you have kindly praised this publication, which we appreciate.
Since we began this column about spring, let us end it with an update about the exquisite dahlia Sue and Larry Bagge have cultivated for the Friends centennial. As per Sue, “The dahlia has been well received by the public when it was judged last year.” It was successfully judged at the Minnesota State Fair as well as the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The Bagges are looking forward to the magnificent blooms again this year.
Vincent van Gogh said it best: “…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”
The Friends History Publication Committee
Pamela Friedland, Linda Goldenberg, Mary Merrick, Suzanne Payne, Connie Sommers