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The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden

P. O. Box 3793
Minneapolis MN 55403

Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden Fencing - Historical Details

1932 winter scene
This winter view on Christmas Day 1932 shows part of Eloise Butler's original fence. Photo taken by Martha Crone.

The 1924 Fence

In order to really secure the Garden from large animals, vandals and people that just wandered in from all directions, it had to be securely fence and equipped with gates that could be locked. Eloise Butler even resorted to the newspaper on two occasions to state her case for a fence.

Ms. Butler's worst menace was "spooners". A headline in the Minneapolis Tribune in 1923 read: "Glenwood Park Wants Wire Fence to Keep Out Spooners." The article explained Ms. Butler's thoughts that cats and dogs may leave a trail in the vegetation but spooners were the real problem. The full text read as follows:

It’s not the wild, voracious mosquito-
It’s not the snooping vagabond dog -
Nor is it the pussy-footing feline -
But it’s the demon surreptitious spooner that's brought the need for an encircling barbed wire fence around the wild flower garden in Glenwood Park to save plants of incalculable scientific value from destruction. A stray cat will pitter patter into the garden and leave a narrow trail. A dog seeking food perhaps in the shape of a ribbit (sic) will snoop through and leave a wider wallow -
But the spooning couple -
(Eloise Butler quote) “For destructive properties the army of tussock worms is a piker when compared with the Spooner” (1)

In a 1924 newspaper article (pdf) during an interview Eloise was quoted saying “The fence is needed to keep our the few vandals who destroy in a few minutes the work of years and spoil the garden for the rest of the visitors.” Prior to 1924 the Park Board could not allocate funds to complete fencing. The article concluded - “Tired of waiting years for it to be built, she finally is having it put up herself.” (2)

In the Summer of 1924, Eloise contracted herself, at her own expense, to have the fencing completed for a sum of $696.10. She paid $400 down, gave a note for $200 to be paid within a month or when the fence was completed, and the final amount by a note to be paid in the spring of 1925. We believe it must have been completed prior to her annual Winter return to Malden Massachusetts in October.

One set of fences or two?
She could not afford to fence the entire area of the Garden as it totaled about 25 acres at that time (6 page 155), so we believe two enclosures were built which she referred to as the North Enclosure and the South Enclosure, the north protecting the wetland orchids, both enclosures are referenced with a “brook” running through them. She writes on July 16, 1924 "Lady Slipper meadow enclosed today, fence not yet completely braced." That meadow was in the northern part of the Garden below the outlet channel for the dam that formed a small open pool. On July 20 she begins planting near that fence; she writes "Planted from Glenwood Park, 51 Aster azureus near southeast gate of lady slipper enclosure." She notes on Aug. 1st planting in the “north enclosure.” This would imply that there was another enclosure, more southern, but she does not mention actually planting anything in this “south enclosure” by name until October 8, 1925, although there are numerous entries in the log prior to that of planting “near fence” without stating which fence. (3)

It would be within the "north enclosure" that the Mallard Pool would be constructed in 1932. She noted in her log on July 7, 1932 "Mallard Pool completed in north enclosure." That places the "north enclosure" north of the current back fence of the Garden in the wetland area that was once part of the Garden and has now grown wild.

Back in Malden, Eloise writes to the Crones (Martha and William) that she had informed Park Superintendent Wirth about what she did and never asked for reimbursement. She was pleasantly surprised to receive a note from him promising a check for the full amount by early December. Thus she says “You may believe that I am very happy.” (4)

1938 and Later

Some of the Eloise Butler's 1924 fencing may have been of a temporary nature because in 1938 a permanent chain-link fence was built by a WPA crew in the southern part of the Garden. But even then, the 1938 fence may not have enclosed everything in that part as it was reported to be 1,900 linear feet, enough to enclose about 5-1/2 acres. It was six feet high and of wire mesh, with 3 gates for entrance. As all of what today is the Woodland Garden seems to have been fenced in, the amount of fencing was probably much more than the 1,900 feet reported. The existing wire mesh fence is aged and presumably the same one erected in 1938. On January 18 1939, Martha Crone reported that the Park Board workers were in putting in a new fence in the "lower enclosure" which would seem to be the "North enclosure" as the North section of the Garden is of lower elevation. (5)

Below: The 1938 Fence, just completed, erected by a WPA crew. Photo ©Walter Dahlberg.

1938 Fence

The Upland Garden

When Clinton Odell proposed to the Park Board in 1944 to add the current upland area to the Eloise Butler Wild Flower Garden, Martha Hellander’s research found that Odell said to the Park Board that the northern area (which included the Mallard Pool) should never have been fenced and that it was swampy and should be abandoned in favor of an upland area which the garden did not have at that time (6 - pg. 104).

Gardener Cary George remembered that the chain link fencing that was used in the northern enclosure was removed and used to fence the new upland addition, because in 1944 wartime shortages of steel precluded new fencing being obtained (Conversation with author on May 18, 2018). Presumably there was a garden record of this, but it may have related to him by his predecessor Ken Avery who worked for Martha Crone for 4 years before taking over from her.

In her Annual Report to the Park Board for 1944 [Feb. 20, 1945], Martha Crone Wrote “The proposed extension of the fence enclosure, made possible through the efforts and contributions of Mr. Clinton Odell, to accommodate native upland and prairie plants will fill a long needed want. It is greatly appreciated and further development of this project is looked forward to with great interest.”

The barbed wire at the top of the fence was added in 1989 to prevent deer from jumping over. (7) Some of that chain link fencing has been replaced - principally in the area in the front (south) of the Garden where wrought iron fencing was added in 1990 when the front gate was redesigned, then more along the front approach to the gate in 1995. Also when the back gate area was reconstructed between 1991 and 1995, The Friends funded additional wrought iron fencing there. [Details]

A realignment of the Garden's back fence. was completed in 1992 when a new back gate design was conceived. The maps seen below show the changes at the back of the Garden. In the 1987 map we see that the old fence angled southward to where the dam was before reaching the back gate. The old tarvia path, going back to Eloise Butler's time, is shown following the fence line.

In 1993, the Friends petitioned to have an additional acre added to the Upland Garden. This was approved and enough fencing to enclose that was obtained by removing the old chain link fence that still ran across the hillside forming the separation between the old Garden and new 1944 Upland addition. The fence work was done by Able Fence Co, hired by the Friends for a net cost of $3,695.

The 2001 map shows the fence realignment with the fence moved northward, creating an open area between the dam and the fence. The old path outside the Garden space was moved to follow the new fence line. It is evident from viewing the texture and condition of the current path along the realigned portion of the fence that it is of newer age. Also there is an abrupt directional intersect of the old tarvia path, coming from the northeast toward the back gate, with the newer portion and the difference in pavement age is evident.

Below: 1st photo - the 1987 map section of the north end of the Garden. 2nd photo - the 2001 map showing the realignment of the fence. Maps courtesy Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

1987 map 2001 Map

Once the fence was realigned and the the new back gate completed in 1995, some of the same wrought iron fencing was used near the gate and finally the entire back side (north) was replaced with wrought iron in 2005 - all funded by The Friends.

(1) Minneapolis Tribune article, 1923. Minnesota Historical Society, Martha Crone Papers.
(2) Minneapolis Tribune article, 1924. Minnesota Historical Society, Martha Crone Papers. (pdf copy)
(3) Eloise Butler's Garden Log.
(4) Letter to the Crones, November 29, 1924 from Malden, Massachusetts (pdf copy) Also Ken Avery notes April 1973.
(5) Martha Crone's Diary - 1939.
(6) The Wild Gardener by Martha Hellander.
(7) Report by Cary George on July 20, 1989 at Board meeting of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden.

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