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Then and Now at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Mallard Pool, old bridges and dams - 7 Decades Apart - Plus 2015 update

In the photo below, we see Eloise Butler crossing the rustic bridge at the north end of the Mallard Pool. The year is 1932. She has physically weakened due in part to neuritis and from burns received in 1929 when a heating pad caught fire while she was sleeping. The development of this pool was long on gestation and short on actual building. She had dreamed for many years of creating a large sunlit aquatic pool for special plants and the site was to be at what was the north end of the Garden in her days, (North of the current back fence) where the wetland drainage and a stream from a spring join and drain towards an existing pond. An earthen dam was placed where the water from the meadows and wetlands in the south part of the Garden could accumulate, forming a small open pool. In 1917 Eloise had it replaced by a dam of concrete. That pool was too shady, hence her desire for another, but she could not move the idea of a large pool to reality until 1932 when the pool was quickly constructed by an unemployed man she hired and another was employed to build a rustic bridge of tamarack poles to span the small stream the flowed into the pool. When a mallard was soon seen in it, it became the “mallard pool.” Eloise had planned extensive plantings around the pool and these were completed by Martha Crone in 1933.

Eloise Butler at Mallard Pool

Photo above courtesy Minnesota Historical Society MH5.9 MP4.1 r354


Over some unknown period of time, but possibly even as early as the late 1930s, that area of the Garden returned to a wild state and was no longer maintained by the Garden Curator. The concrete dam still fulfilled its function however, creating a small pool and at some point a small bridge was placed across the water channel leading to that pool, in what is now the north end of the Garden wetland. That bridge was an old wood dock.

In the photo below, we see the 1990s version of a rustic cedar bridge that replaced the old wood dock. This bridge was installed in the winter of 1989/90. Not as elegant as the bridge of Tamarack poles that Eloise had, but it did the job. This bridge was installed in 1992 when the pool was dredged, a liner put in, a new rock dam put in place, and the back fence was re-aligned to its current position. The pool is under consideration for restoration again today, as the progress of time and changes in the environment have worked their ways on the area. In the time of Eloise Butler there was more water draining from the wetland and a spring was known to be there. This pool in the the current Garden wetland has taken on the name of "mallard pool", but should not be mistaken as for the original. It is though, not inappropriate - as mallards do use it as the photo shows.

Mallard Pool

Photo above dated April 16, 2008 - photo by G D Bebeau

Below: The rocky outcrop creating a dam at the pool edge - created in 1992 and seen here in 2008

Mallard pool dam

Photo Below - The cedar bridge when new - Spring 1990. Photo by Martha Hellander.

Bridge when new

Below: The pool area is still appropriately named, as these Mallards indicate. They were found scouting out the pool area on April 29, 2008.

Mallards at Mallard Pool

Cary George Wetland Project

Cary GeorgeAs a tribute to Cary George, the Friends of the Wildflower Garden raised funds to restore critical footpath structures in the Garden’s wetland habitat. These trail segments, including the wooden bridge next to "Mallard Pool" and the three wooden walkways south on Lady’s Slipper Lane, were popular among visitors and were very much in need of replacement. It was true for Cary, as it was for Eloise Butler, that the wetland is the heart of the Garden. We believe that this project in honor of the fourth Gardener to be a testimonial to his service as well as to the Founder and her vision.

These trail segments were redesigned and a boardwalk installed in July 2015 for safety and accessibility. Materials and workmanship of high quality will provide decades of use in this beautiful part of the Garden, where Cary worked so diligently to replant and nurture Eloise's Tamarack grove.

Details and Photos of the project

2015 boardwalk