Garden Path to Shelter

History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden
and The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden

Winter 1974/1975

Ken Avery begins his 17th year as Gardener.

Note: All issues of the Friend’s Newsletter, The Fringed Gentian™, were numbered out of sequence this year. The correct volume numbers are used in the text. The "as printed" numbers are shown a the bottom of this page.

Great Medicine Spring
The Great Medicine Spring with fountain, as it was in 1939. Ken Avery refers to this spring in his text. (photo Walter Dahlberg)

In the newsletter, (Vol. 23 No.1 Jan 1975), Ken Avery has another update on the Great Medicine Spring just outside the Garden.

Guess What - - the spring is running again! The spring which I declared officially deceased in my report of March 1973 is running again. Actually I was wrong when I made my pronouncement as it never was completely dead, and even that year of 1973 it rose but it did so so late that I had already decided on its demise and had written its obituary. I think that the annual fluctuations of the spring are interesting and, assuming you will find them of some interest too, I will go back over its history.

The first time I remember seeing the spring was in 1951 when I went through the Garden with a class from the University. At that time there were four springs in the area that were running - - There was one at the lower end of the Garden, one just outside the Garden toward the picnic ground (where, I’m told, people used to have parties on spring water and gin), and there was one kitty-corner to the present spring at Glenwood Avenue and Glenwood Parkway.

By the time I started in the Garden in 1954, all had dried up except for the present spring, but the water level there was some five feet higher than it is now, and there was a fountain there at that time. There was also the tiniest trickle of water coming from the spring in the Garden. The next year the trickle in the Garden was gone and the plumbers didn’t replace the fountain.

old spring behind garden
The stonework of the old spring just east of the Garden back gate - referred to in the text. (photo G. D. Bebeau)

[Note - that statement indicated that Ken is referring to the Great Medicine Spring as the “present spring.” Long-time Friends member J. S. Futcher wrote in 1992 “when I was a kid, all three of the springs were running and available for people to come with their jugs and take the water. Besides the main one, there was the one on the northwestern corner of Glenwood Avenue and Theodore Wirth Parkway, and the one to the east of the back gate.” The one Mr. Futcher calls “on the northwestern corner of Glenwood and Wirth Parkway” is the one Avery calls “kitty-corner to the present spring” and what Mr. Futcher calls the one “east of the back gate” is the one Avery calls “just outside the Garden toward the picnic ground.” Mr. Futcher’s directions are exact as to where those two springs are. The only one Mr. Futcher does not mention is the one inside the Garden that Martha Crone had worked on in 1939 and where Ken Avery states (above) “there was also the tiniest trickle of water . . . ”]

During the next fifteen years the spring flowed at different rates depending on the rains and on the season. It dried up two or three times during droughts and each year the average level of the water was lower than the year before. Then in 1970 it dried up in midsummer during a little drought as it had done in the past, but it was establishing a new cycle. That year it didn't come back until mid-November.

Spring on Glenwood Ave.
The stonework of the old spring on the NW corner of Glenwood Ave. and Theodore Wirth Parkway (photo G. D. Bebeau)

Then the next July, just as it had the previous year, it dried up. This time we hadn’t even had a good dry spell, and it didn’t come back until the first week in December. The next year it ran a little less and then in 1973 it didn’t return until mid-April after I had declared it dead. Last spring it came back equally late but it lasted a little later into the summer before it dried up. Now it’s back running again. I found the first trickle of water coming from it on the 5th of December and it is running fairly well now. Until this year my feeling that the area was slowly drying up explained all but its actions this last year have me puzzled. I guess I can add that to that book I’m compiling of natural phenomena that I can’t explain.

This article gives additional information and photos of the springs.

It was also mentioned in the newsletter issue that Dorothy Binder, a founding member of the Friends, was now in a nursing home in Oakland California, near her daughter.

The Friends held a Board meeting on Jan. 20th at the home of Catherine Faragher, Gordon Morrison, Co-ordinator of Environmental Education of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and Gary Crider, Landscape Architect of the Park Board were both in attendance. The Park Board staff were there to discuss projects and cost estimates: New steps from the parking lot to the Garden gate, new gate, new railing along the steps and bike racks. The total estimated cost was $8,000.

Cay Faragher was on the 1976 Bi-Centennial Commission and she suggested that the Friends contribution to this project would be a Bi-Centennial Improvement Contribution from the Friends to the MPRB. That was agreed and the Board voted to approve $3,000. However, on Jan. 29 Mr. Morrison met with President Dassett and Alexander Dean in Mr. Dean's office and reported that the MPRB could not access some of the funds they expected to use for the $8,000 project and now the steps could not be put in. The Friends then amended their contribution to $2,000.

Frequent snow fell during the first months of the year, the Minneapolis Tribune (June 18) even referred to a "blizzard of the Century" on January 10 to 12, whereas the previous months of November and December were almost snow-free. Piles of snow led to a late Spring.

Spring 1975

bog path behind garden
The gravel path in the bog north of the Garden where the water pipeline went through. Friends photo.

The Garden did not open until mid-April due to adverse weather. The normal opening day of April 1st enjoyed a record low temperature for that date: 9 degrees F.

In The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 23 No. 2 April 1975) Ken Avery reported more about owls in and near the Garden:

Another thing that is happening is that the Great Horned Owl is busy having a family again. This may seem like a strange time to be sitting on a clutch of eggs but it is the time that the Great Horned Owl picks. I would think it would be a little uncomfortable, and I must say when I saw her half covered with snow she didn't have a terribly happy expression on her face; but she has no one to blame but herself. This is the third year in a row that we have been aware of the owl nesting in the area. I have no way of knowing if one nested there for the last 20 years, but since we have found it for the last three years and never did before, I wonder if during those high D.D.T. years they did manage to nest or if we simply managed to miss it. You know that the eagles have been having better nesting success these last few years since the D.D.T. has become less prevalent in the environment.

Ken also reported that during the winter Park Board crews were working the bog area just north of the Garden removing elms that had died of Dutch Elm Disease. Three of those were inside the Garden fence. To access this area with heavy equipment they cut a road through the boggy area where the water pipeline was that ran from the Picnic grounds through the bog and then into south Wirth. This would be the origin of the hardened gravel path that now bisects that boggy area beginning from the entrance road to the Wirth Pavilion and ending at the old paved path (the old tarvia path) that follows the back fence line of the Garden. The pipeline was constructed in 1957 and ran from Bassett’s Creek to Brownie Lake and was to be used to add water to the Chain of Lakes when necessary. Pumping began immediately in 1958.

X-ray flower image
X-ray image of Columbine. One of several images by Dr. Albert Richards in the Spring newsletter.

Friends President Robert Dassett wrote that the Friends had given $2,000 to the Park Board for the Friends share of the cost of a new ornamental gate to the front entrance, bulletin boards, some landscaping and a railing from the parking lot to the front gate. There was also an article about X-ray images of flowers that were the work of Dr. Albert Richards.

The Annual Meeting of The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden was held in the Garden, on Saturday May 17th, 1975, in the Martha Crone Shelter, 25 people attending on a beautiful May day.

Kenneth Avery gave his report of the status of the Garden, including that some Ram’s-head Lady’s-slippers were stolen along with some Maidenhair Ferns. He also summed up the early Spring weather in this note that was not published until April 1976:

We didn't even open until the third week in April. Oh, I made a pitiful attempt to open on the first, but a blizzard struck on the first weekend so I couldn't even get into the Garden until Monday and then "they" wouldn't let me have Sam until the 22nd so I worked afternoons seven days a week for the next two weeks trying to be open for the few hardy birders who would come. (Oh there was work to do so I didn't just wait for them). Finally we opened and the almost completely discouraged flowers began to bloom. It was probably the latest spring since I have been in the Garden.”

[“Sam” refers to his assistant Sam Baker. These comments were not reported until the April 1976 issue of The Fringed Gentian™.]

handrail along approach steps
The handrail along the steps leading the Garden Gate. This may be the one installed in 1975. The steps shown here were installed in the Fall of 1982. Photo G D Bebeau

President Dassett noted the Friends support for the Garden during the past year [Fiscal year ended April 30], which included the $2,000 mentioned above, plus the purchase of a chain saw, installation of lighting for the display cases in the shelter, fireplace glass doors for the shelter, repairing a projector and replacing a stolen tape deck [All except the $2,000 occurred in calendar year 1974].

Membership noted in the Secretary's report totaled 240. Friends assets totaled $3,902. Dr. Marian Grimes reported on the shelter volunteer (hosts) program with 38 people on list. Betty Bridgman, Marion Andren and Muriel Avery were the nominating committee for the Board of Directors slate.

Directors elected were: Moana Beim, Jean Chamberlain, Evie Chadbourn, Alexander Dean, Robert Dassett Jr., Marie Davidson, Dr. Marian Grimes, Catherine Faragher, Bruce Hooper, Walter Lehnert, Mrs. Mildred Olson.

Mr. Lehnert, who was an honorary director for the past several years, returns, replacing Wilber Tusler. Also Mildred Olson returns following an illness in 1974.

Ex-officio member: Kenneth Avery. The Honorary Board Membership list this year was: Marion Cross, Dorothy Binder, Russell Bennett, Mrs. C. M. Case, Whitney Eastman, Mrs. George Ludcke, Henry Neils, Leonard Odell, Leonard Ramberg, Mrs. Clarence Tolg and the Martha Crone as honorary life member.

At the Board meeting following the annual meeting, new officers elected were: Moana Beim, President; Alexander Dean, 1st Vice President; R. Bruce Hooper, 2nd Vice-president; Marie Davidson, Secretary-Treasurer.

Marie Davidson also had the duties of membership and editor of The Fringed Gentian™.

Summer 1975

Showy Lady's-slipper
Showy Lady's-slipper Cypripedium reginae ©G D Bebeau

The summer issue of The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 23 No. 3 July 1975) contained a report of the Friends Annual Meeting referenced above. Evie Chadbourn wrote about her birding trip to Morocco. John Murtfeldt, who was a nursery owner, wrote about growing wildflowers.

Ken Avery wrote that the Showy Lady’s-slipper just began to bloom on June 15th. The very latest date was June 28 1945. The Minneapolis Sunday Tribune Picture magazine ran a color illustrated article on June 1 about the Showy Lady’s-slipper and Ken was getting lots of questions about when it would bloom. The article gave a brief history of the Garden. The Great Medicine Spring was still running.

The Friends held a Board meeting on June 20 at the home of Mrs. Beim to discuss issues left over from the May 17th meeting.

Another meeting was held Aug. 5th at the Martha Crone Shelter. The Board had received a letter of resignation from Marie Davidson due to health reasons. There was continuing discussion on changing Friends membership renewal dates from the month of joining to a fixed annual date, such as April 1. Mrs. Beim and Mr. Dean were to meet with Parks Superintendent Ruhe on putting in a new path from the front gate of the Garden down to the Shelter. Mrs. Beim and Mr. Avery had laid out the path and Parks Staff had approved, it was only a matter of when it would be accomplished. Mrs. Beim told us in 2002:

I was the person who developed the nice wide path that goes from the front gate down to the shelter. The way I did it was to arrange a garden hose along the route I wanted it to go. I was sure happy to get rid of that straight down plunge that used to be there.

The Friends would make $1,000 available for the project. Mr. Lehnert offered to be temporary treasurer for a few months and Mr. Avery offered to put out the October newsletter with Mrs. Olson’s assistance.

Autumn 1975

Garden path to the Shelter from late 1990s
An older view of the winding path from the front gate down to the Martha Crone Shelter - probably from the 1990s as the wood edges have badly deteriorated. Note the 1917 birdbath next to the base of the twin cedars on the right edge. Friends photo.

In the Fringed Gentian™, (Vol. 23 No. 4 October 1975) Ken Avery reported the following about the changes happening in the Garden:

Change is a constant in nature but usually this change is so slow that it is all but imperceptible, and while if someone were to come into the Garden after an absence of five years he would be aware of many changes, the same person would hardly notice any change at all if he came in each month throughout this time. I am afraid that this slowly changing world has been replaced by one of strikingly rapid changes during this past year--some obviously by the hand of man and some apparently by nature but strongly influenced by man.

If tomorrow someone who has not been in the Garden since 1969 came in, he would wonder if he were in the same place. First where he would expect to find Miss Butler’s humble little office, he would see an area paved with stones and bordered with park benches. Over where the little half-tumbled-down shacks, that were used for tool buildings stood, stands the Martha Crone Shelter --not a large building as park buildings go but very grand indeed compared with anything that was to be seen here in the past. All of these happened five years ago but those of you who have not been in the Garden for one month will also notice· a few changes when you come in again. First at the top of the hill you will see a structure that looks a bit like a fort. It is a combination planter, bench, and bicycle rack. A sign should also be there before winter comes. You will also notice that a banister now follows the stairs down to the gate. The gate itself is very different and when you step inside the gate, you won’t recognize the path at all. Where the path used to hurry straight down the gully toward the shelter, it now meanders snakelike first one way and then another to the shelter. Do I like the changes? Yes, I do. The old path was a problem because of constant erosion as it tried to be a proper gully, and the new path is pleasant. We deserve a nice gate and the banister can be a valued friend as you walk up the steps.

Those changes that less obviously bear the weight of the hand of man are now evident by a large number of trees with red T's on them. I am sorry to say that these trees are either dead, or dying, of Dutch Elm Disease and will have to be removed before next Spring. I must now be a pessimist in regards to this. I believe that in three years we will not have any elms left in the Garden or even in Theodore Wirth Park. This will change the environment faster and more completely than any occurrence since Miss Butler picked this tamarack bog on the edge of town for her Garden, sixty-eight years ago. Those of us who work here will be very busy moving plants, chasing the proper environment, trying to keep our plants healthy and happy. Pray for us.

Current path to the shelter
The present (2018) path to the shelter, following the same contour but with new wood edging and cedar shaving. In 2000 the Friends provided funds for the edging materials. Photo G D Bebeau

Friends President Mrs. Beim reported on the path also, thanking Superintendent Ruhe for his quick response to the Friends August meeting with him and for his response in writing - “I am pleased to have met with you and want to reassure your club of our appreciation for the volunteer efforts you have historically given to this area.”

The Shelter was broken into again with a leather arm chair stolen. The positions held by Mildred Olson were temporarily filled as follows:
Secretary - Jean Chamberlain
Treasurer - Marion Andren
Editor - Evie Chadbourn.

Gordon Morrison, Coordinator of Environment Education for the Park Board contributed an article to the newsletter on the Kentucky Coffee-tree, in which he said:

Over the last century the Park Board has planted a number of these interesting trees throughout the city. Most parks have at least one of them. The largest of these are two Kentucky Coffee-trees growing on either side of Minnehaha Creek just upstream from the point where Lake Nokomis flows into the creek. They are very slow growing here in the North. They may grow quite rapidly their first four or five years but then slow down to an almost un-perceivable growth rate from then on. Those two near Lake Nokomis are only about one and a half feet in diameter though they are probably as much as seventy years old. Presumably those planted in the garden were planted many decades ago, perhaps by Miss Butler. [Note - Eloise Butler planted several in 1909. The majority were planted by Martha Crone beginning with 34 small ones in 1934.]

At a Friends Board meeting on Sept. 19th at the Martha Crone Shelter. Mrs. Beim brought in a picture of Mrs. Crone for the Shelter [presumably the ca. 1953 photo there now] The offer of $1,000 to help with the cost of the new path to the Shelter was declined by Superintendent Ruhe as he felt the paths in the Garden should be the Park Board’s responsibility. Mr. Morrison noted that two to five benches would be installed along the new path also.

Although Mrs. Beim had spent considerable time over the past two years researching alarm systems for the Shelter and then recommending one at this meeting, the Board voted to add an insurance rider for the Shelter contents to the Park Board’s insurance policy covering the shelter and to do nothing on an alarm system. [Note - years later an alarm system would be installed.] An inventory of shelter contents taken on October 20th totaled $3,320 of value.

Photo top of page: The path from the front gate to the Martha Crone Shelter as it was in 2008. 1975 was the year this path was laid out. Photo ©G D Bebeau

To History of: Previous Year ----------- Subsequent Year

Year chart - all years

Garden History Archive

Friends History Archive

Printable PDF file of this page.

Links to related pages:
- Abbreviated Life of Eloise Butler

- Martha Crone - 2nd Garden Curator

- Ken Avery - 3rd Curator and Gardener

- Cary George - 4th Gardener

- Our Native Plant Reserve - Short document on the origins of the Garden.

- Eloise Butler's writings, a selection of essays written by Eloise Butler on the early Garden years.

- Geography of the Garden- an illustrated tour


Meeting Minutes and correspondence of Friends of the Wild Flower Garden.

Archive of the Friends Newsletter The Fringed Gentian™
Vol. 23, # 1, January 1975, Marie Davidson, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 25]

Vol. 23, # 2, April 1975, Marie Davidson, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 25]

Vol. 23, # 3, July, 1975, Marie Davidson, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 25]

Vol. 23, # 4, October, 1975, Evie Chadbourn , Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 26]

Historical Climatology of Minneapolis-St. Paul Area by Charles Fisk.

Friends Home Page

©2019 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Photos are as credited and are used with permission for educational purposes, for which The Friends thank them and the organization providing the photos. Text and research by Gary Bebeau. "" - 112520