Between 1912 and 1915 several small buildings were added to the Garden. First a tool shed was moved onto a flat area in the Woodland Garden south of the bog and downhill from the South entrance. Then in 1915 a slightly larger wooded "cabin" with two rooms was built to Eloise's specifications and she noted its completion in her log on April 9 of that year. It was at first unheated but later heated by a small wood stove and on cold days Martha Crone would report that water froze in the watering buckets, stove or no stove. Prior to the wood stove, Martha would bring a portable kerosene stove from her home to provide heat adn the Park Board furnished the kerosene.
That building served as office, visitor center, shelter and all other purposes until 1970 when the new shelter shown below was completed and dedicated to Martha Crone. It was known as "the little cabin" and as the "garden office" and originally sported a sign that read "Office of Curator - Wild Botanic Garden" and later "Botanic" was changed to "Flower". When the Martha Crone Shelter was complete, the old "offoce" was moved to near the back gate where it remained for a number of years.
Below are photos of the original 1915 wooden "office and visitor center" used by Eloise Butler, Martha Crone and Ken Avery, Garden Curators, until it's replacement in 1970. On June 10, 1951 The Minneapolis Tribune published an article on Martha Crone titled “City Wild Flower Gardener Rescues Plants From Bulldozers.” (PDF). Here's an interesting quote about the garden office:
“A tiny house stands in the center of the woods. In this ‘once upon a time’ atmosphere children might well expect the house to have a candy roof and be surrounded by gingerbread people. Actually it is not fairy-tale hut, but one of the smallest office buildings in town - - possibly the only one without electricity or a telephone.”
Historical Photos: All historical photos courtesy Martha Crone Collection, MHS. Color photos are from Kodachromes taken in the Garden by Martha Crone on dates noted. Click on any of the 4 smaller photos for a larger view. Photo below is taken from the east side of the old Office showing fall foliage, Oct. 21, 1955.
A project committee of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden was formed in 1968 to develop ideas for a plan for a new shelter, to replace the deteriorating current office. These ideas were presented to the Park Superintendent and his staff. The idea being that the Park Board would provide for the funding and construction of the Shelter. (1)
Friends Project Committee Members were: Catherine Faragher, Friends' President; Martha Crone, Secretary-Treasurer, editor of The Fringed Gentian and former Curator; Kenneth Avery, Curator; Mr. Alvin Witt, building fund; Mr. Wilbur H. Tusler, building chair; Mr. Harry Thorn; Mr. Robert Dassett.
Funding by the Park Board was not going to be available for a number of years, thus it was in January 1969, that the idea of the Friends planning and constructing a new shelter themselves solidified. At that time the Park Board turned down the request of the Parks Superintendent, Mr. Robert Ruhe, to provide funds for the shelter improvement, at least not before 1976. It was then suggested by Mr. Ruhe and staff that the Friends produce a design of their own, submit it for approval and raise the money. (2)
Mr. Tusler, well known Minneapolis architect, became chair of the building committee and hired Hiram H. Livingston, to be the shelter Architect. The construction plans drawn by Mr. Linginston for the shelter were approved by the Park Board Superintendent Mr. Robert Ruhe on March 25, 1969. It was agreed at that time upon request from the Friends that lavatory basins be installed in the restrooms and that water be run to them when water was run to the shelter. The shutters on the shelter were added in order to deter vandals. Also at this meeting the Friends requested a name change to the Garden by adding the words “and Bird Sanctuary”. This was approved by the Park Board. (3)
Construction responsibilities were as follows:
The cement slab and site excavation done by Park Board maintenance staff.
The foundation was laid by the Friends' contractor, Joe Peterson Construction.
Running electricity and water (water also to rest rooms) by Park Board and NSP.
All structure construction was done by the Friends' contractor.
Construction began in September 1969. By mid October the foundation and slab were completed so that building construction could begin. On October 23rd, Martha Crone hammered a “golden” nail from the old building into the new construction. Barbara Flannegan was to be there from the Tribune with photographers. (4) See photo at right. The old structure was moved to a spot near the back gate.
Total cost to the Friends was $25,168.92 not counting the work done by the Park Board staff. Friends cost was:
Architect H. H. Livingston $2002.56 (hourly rate - $12)
Joe Peterson Construction, 5215 Logan So. $22,700.
Furnishings and a library were provided. The list of furnishings on 9-28-70, including the bird song recorder and the library was valued for insurance purposes at $2,286.
The monthly newsletter for the employees of the City of Minneapolis, "Around the Clock", featured the Garden in the June 1971 issue and commented on The Friends, their construction of the Shelter and then its dedication to the Park Board.
The Shelter was dedicated on May 13, 1970 and named the Martha E. Crone Shelter. (Dedication plaque shown at right.) Leonard C. Odell, son of Clinton Odell, was master of ceremonies.
Mrs. Faragher reports in February 1970 when construction was virtually complete, that there were 256 contributors. She had earlier reported that at the time of approval of the plans from the Park Board, the Friends had $4,000 available. The remainder had to be raised. There were only 200 Friends members at the time, so some came from outsiders. (5)
Friends board member Betty Bridgman wrote a poem or the occasion of the dedication. (Read it here.)
Martha Crone wrote a thank you to the Friends in July 1970. She said:
"I take this opportunity to express my appreciation and extend my heartfelt gratitude to all members and friends who made possible the beautiful shelter building in the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary and dedicated it to me. I am most grateful to those who have given of their time and effort to make it such a success. This is really the culmination of many years of my life devoted to the Garden."
Memorials: The 81 x 42 inch walnut table (photo below) was a gift of Ms. Elizabeth Schutt in memory of her mother, Mrs. Clara M. Schutt, who was a good friend of Eloise Butler and from whose property, Eloise Butler acquired plant specimens for the Garden. The six benches, 36 inches long, were the gift of various garden and bird clubs. The funds for the heat ventilator fireplace and chimney were a gift, in memory of Kathleen Dean Hillman, from her Girl Scout friends and from her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Dean. (The current heat ventilator was installed later). The exterior of the fireplace is cut limestone from Wisconsin. The music system installed in the Shelter was a memorial for Mrs. H. H. Livingston, the architect's deceased wife. The lintel over the front door is inscribed in memory of Margaret Tusler, wife of building committee chair Wilbur Tusler. She had passed away in the Spring of 1969, just before construction began.
(Photo is of a metal sculptural insert in the main door).
For sitting around the large table 6 benches were given to the Shelter. On was provided by The Friends and one each from:
Kenwood Garden Club
Men's Garden Club of Minneapolis
Minneapolis Audubon Society
Minneapolis Bird Club
Woman's Club of Minneapolis.
The history of Friends members being volunteers at the Shelter goes back to the time of building the Shelter, It was suggested by Mrs. Faragher that a committee from the membership of the Friends be formed to arrange for members to serve as "hosts" at the shelter and to care for the library, as such an arrangement would involve more members actively. (6). Volunteers, many of whom are members of the Friends, provide daily staffing at the Shelter to this day. Mrs. Carl (Mildred) Olson took charge of setting up the volunteer program for the first year and into 1971, then she turned it over to Dr. Marion Grimes so that she could become editor of The Fringed Gentian™ when Martha Crone retired from that position in 1971.
Shelter "hosts" originally worked a 3 hour shift. The members of the first group to do this in 1970 were: Herman Arnott, Frank Carleton, Clark Chamerlain, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Dean, Lester Ericsson, Dr, Marion Grimes, Russell Gutteridge, Preston Haglin, William Hardacker, E. A. Hedenstrom, T. A. Hoffmeyer, Hildegarde Holtz, Constance Humphry, Elsie Johnson, Franklin Kerr, Henry Norton, Carl H. Olson, George L. Peterson, S. C. Reed, Mary Simmons, T. E. Stark, Oscar Vanlander, Edward Verbarg, Miss Marion Griffith, Miss Elsie Johnson, Miss Elizabeth Schutt, Mr. and Mrs. Don Miller.
The path leading from the front gate to the Garden Office was, for 60 plus years, a straight shot down a steep hill, and even for 5 years after the new shelter was built, replacing the old office, it remained so. In 1975 the gently winding path that you see today (photo) was finally laid out. Clinton Odell's daughter, Moana Odell Beim was president of the Friends at that time and she explains how it happened:
"My great desire as president was to lay out a new and practical pathway leading from the main gate down to the shelter. The original path plunged straight down the hill. It was steep and narrow and a real hazard, full of potholes and roots.
I longed for a more serene approach and envisioned a wide and gently winding pathway on which two could walk side by side, enjoying the sights and sounds of the woods. The Park Board helped us lay out its route, and the present path is the result. They did all the rough bulldozing. And then Ken Avery and I and my brother, Leonard Odell, pushed it along to completion. It took long hours and a lot of labor, mostly on Ken’s part. Its cost was funded about equally by the Park Board and the Friends. But its gently approach and beauty has been proving its worth ever since." (7)
Gardener Ken Avery had these comments about the new path:
"...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." (8)
Another Project funded by the Friends was completed in the fall of 2007. The shelter has had various screen doors over the years but there was research evidence that the original design for a door was never followed through on and various substitute doors were installed. One door was damaged in a breakin at the Shelter in the Winter of 1977 and was either subsequently removed and replaced with the existing door or was repaired and replaced. So to get back to a more original design, Volunteer and Friends Member Kathleen Connelly and Garden Curator Susan Wilkins took on the replacement project and worked to find artisans to create it. The door is a work of art constructed of quarter-sawn white oak with mortise and tenon joinery. The carpenter, John May, constructed the door while blacksmith, Tom Latane created unique metal hinges and door handle (see images here). The design fits perfectly with the architecture of the Shelter building and looks as if it were always a part of the Garden.
Martha Crone papers and Friends of the Wild Flower Garden papers, Minnesota Historical Society Collections.
Specific references from the general collection:
1. Project Committee meeting report September 5, 1968
2. Presidents Report to Project Committee January 28, 1969
3. Friends meeting minutes March 25, 1969
4. Letter from Mrs. Faragher to the project committee, October 2, 1969
5. President Mrs. Reginald (Catherine) Faragher letter to the membership, April 25, 1969
6. Board minutes, Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, June 5, 1969
7. The Fringed Gentian™, Vol. 30, #2, 1982
8. The Fringed Gentian™, Vol. 23, #4, 1975