Friends of the Wildflower Garden

Old Office Elosie Butler Garden Martha Crone Visitor's Shelter West View

The Martha E. Crone Shelter at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

-The Old "Office" Replaced-

Between 1912 and 1915 several small buildings were added to the Garden. First a tool shed was moved into the Woodland Garden. Then in 1915 a larger wood "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 sited on a flat area in the Woodland Garden. Eloise Butler named this area the "plateau," a natural terrace, about one-half acre in size, half way down to the wetland from the South entrance (a). It was for many years unheated but in 1944 Clinton Odell donated a small wood stove and stove pipe but 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 and the Board of Park Commissioners (b) furnished the kerosene.

The building was divided into two sections, one part serving as a tool room and the other 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;" shortly thereafter the name was changed to “Native Plant Reserve” but the sign was not changed until later when "Wild Botanic" was changed to "Wild Flower" in 1929 (c). When the Martha Crone Shelter was complete, the old "office" was moved to near the back gate where it remained for a number of years (d).

Over time several trellis were added to the outside, the most expansive, finished on June 8, 1922 incorporated a pergola. Eloise Butler had many plant species placed around and on the pergola and trellis. She frequently referenced this planting in her Garden Log and in a 1926 essay, she described the collection in some detail.

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.”

Click on images for a larger view.

Old Office 1948
Old Garden Office - Front view, SE side, June 24, 1948
Old Office 1950
Old Garden Office - Winter view, SE side, Feb. 16, 1950.
Old Office 1935
Old Garden Office - front view, SE side, 1935. Note: The settees the gentlemen on the left are sitting on were replaced in 1960 by a pair of limestone benches donated by Moana Odell Beim in honor of her father, Clinton Odell. The large stone at the right bears the memorial tablet to Eloise Butler.(See Garden Memorials for details.)
Odell Sketch
Clinton Odell created this sketch of the old office and titled it "Early Spring in the Garden. Undated but circa late 1940s - early 1950s. Image courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society, Martha Crone Collection.

Historical Photos: All historical 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, October 21, 1955. This is the last photo we have of the old office before it was replaced.

Old Office Fall view 1955

Below: Two old photos of the interior of the old Garden office. Photos - Friends of the Wildflower Garden.

old office interior old office interior
Martha Crone Shelter West View Martha Crone Shelter Inside View1 Martha Crone Shelter Inside View2 Martha Crone Shelter Inside View3 Martha Crone Shelter Front -North - View

The New Martha E. Crone Shelter

It would be without doubt that many people probably visualized over the years, and for various reasons, a replacement for the little "garden office". The Friend's Board of Directors must have been discussing it because Martha Crone wrote in her annual secretary's report for the Friends of the Wildflower Garden in 1967:

“We look forward to some day having an administration building housing an office, Museum and Herbarium of specimens.”

She wrote again in the Spring 1968 newsletter to the Friends membership: “A hope was again expressed that a more adequate building could be obtained for this lovely setting housing an office, Museum and Herbarium of specimens. We need places to teach the love of Nature, for he who loves the land will keep the nation strong.”

Thus, a project committee of the Friends of the Wildflower 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 Board of Park Commissioners 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.

Martha Crone Shelter Blueprint
Above: General plan of the Martha Crone Visitor's Shelter as prepared by Hiram Livingston. Click on image for a larger picture.

Funding by the Board of Park Commissioners 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 Board of Park Commissioners 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. Livingston for the shelter were approved by 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 to the design in order to deter vandals. At this meeting the Friends previous request to add the words “and Bird Sanctuary” to the Garden name was accepted with the name to be "Eloise Butler Wild Flower and Bird Sanctuary.” This was accepted by the Board of Park Commissioners. (3)

Martha Crone and Grandson
Martha Crone with her great-grandson, Alan Wander, age 3, on October 23, 1969, at the building site of the new shelter. Photo as published in the Minneapolis Star, Oct. 24, 1969.

Construction responsibilities were as follows in 1969:

Construction began in September 1969. By mid October the foundation and slab were completed so that building construction could begin. Funds needed for the project were not yet all in hand. There were pitfalls and miracles. Labor and lumber prices increased such that an additional $4,000 had to be raised. A large gift of $3,500 came in from Mr. H. J. Neils, former president of Flour City Ornamental Iron Co., and the Friends now had $23,260 for the shelter construction to be completed.

Friends President Cay Faragher wrote to the membership: "Put a circle around Thursday October 23, 1969. That morning at 10 o'clock Martha Crone will be hammering in a golden nail from the old building and Barbara Flanagan will be there with her photographers." (9) On that date, Martha Crone hammered the “golden” nail and Barbara Flanagan was there from the Tribune with photographers. (4) See photo at right. The old structure was moved to a spot near the back gate.

Barbara Flanagan wrote in her Friday column:

"And at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in Theodore Wirth Park Thursday, the Friends of the Garden dedicated a new $24,000 shelter house. Funds for it are being raised by the Friends. Anybody an contribute. When it's finished, the building will provide room for meetings. A terrace will give birdwatchers and wildflower fans a new vantage point in that lovely and leafy bower.

It's a top tourist site – and unique in our town. About 100,000 people, including schoolchildren, visited the garden this season. I'd say the Friends of the Garden deserve a big hand and any help we can give them." (pdf of full column)


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.
Miscel: $466.36.

Originally, heat was to be provided by a Franklin Stove, but a memorial gift (see memorials section below) allowed a fireplace, stone chimney, and copper hood to be installed.

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 City via the Board of Park Commissioners.

PDF File of documents referenced


In the Aug. 28, 1969 minutes it was noted that 21 Friends members had contributed $100 or more and 66 had given amounts up to $100. By the end of 1969 44 new members had joined.

A special custom book had been purchased with funds donated by Mrs. Gerald Burgess and lists of donors and memorials were hand inscribed on special pages by Mr. Otto Japs of Japs-Olson Printing. The book was kept on the large table in the new Shelter. Unfortunately, it was stolen and now we have a very incomplete record of who donated what except for what was referred to in the Friends board minutes. We know who paid for certain memorials - that is detailed in a section further below but the amounts are not known. As to other gifts, only the following can be discerned from the records:

At the Feb. 5, 1970 Friends Board meeting it was stated that funds collected now totaled $24,758 and came from 256 contributions of which 100 were memorials.

The Friends had just over $4,000 available to start so other than the gifts outlined above, over $13,000 was raised from many individual donors and members who are now the un-named unsung heros of the endeavor.

Shelter dedication plaque

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.

The dedication reads: The Martha E. Crone Shelter was planned, financed and erected by The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc and it was given to the City of Minneapolis through the Board of Park Commissioners and dedicated May 13, 1970 at 4:30 PM. [In 2023 the Friends modified their name by making “Wild Flower” into one word.]

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 funds came from non-members such as Mr. Neils. (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 Wild Flower 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." [In 1986 the Park Board modified the Garden name to make “Wild Flower” one word.]

Below: At the dedication of the shelter - in front left, Leonard C. Odell, master of ceremonies; center, Martha E. Crone; right, Hiram H. Livingston, architect. Minneapolis Star photo.

Shelter dedication

Additional details about the planning and development can be found in history years 1968, 1969 and 1970. The herbarium that Martha Crone had put together over the years was never housed in the new shelter. Martha Hellander speculated that the collection may have gone to the University of Minnesota Herbarium.

Exterior Views of the Martha Crone Visitor's Shelter (Click on any image below for a larger view.)

Martha Crone Shelter Front View
The front (NW) view of the Martha Crone Visitor's Shelter
Martha Crone Shelter Southwest view
A south view from the walking path to the shelter.
Martha Crone Shelter west side
The SW elevation as seen from the walking path.
Martha Crone Shelter View from the Prairie
The SE and NE elevation as seen from the Upland Garden

Interior Views of the Martha Crone Visitor's Shelter

Martha Crone Shelter Inside View 084
The information area with patron handouts, volunteer desk and library. Click on image for a larger view.
Martha Crone Shelter Inside View 082
The main room with display cabinets and table. Click on image for a larger view.
Martha Crone Shelter Inside View 081
The fireplace wall with door on left to the storage room. Click on image for a larger view.
Martha Crone Shelter Inside View 086
A display cabinet in the corner of the fireplace wall .

Martha Crone Shelter Inside View 085
Metal sculpture set into the front door of the Shelter

Memorials in the Shelter

The 81 x 42 inch walnut table (photo below) was a gift of Miss 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 fireplace and chimney were a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Dean. The exterior of the fireplace is cut limestone from Wisconsin. (The current heat ventilator was installed later). The large copper fireplace hood was also gifted by the Deans, all in memory of their daughter Kathleen Dean Hillman. Contributing to the memorial were her Girl Scout friends; Kathleen had died at age 25 in July 1968. The music system installed in the Shelter was a memorial for Mrs. H. H. Livingston, the architect's deceased wife who passed away in the Summer of 1969. 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.

Additional detail on the Shelter Memorials Here

Table in Shelter shelter bench

For sitting around the large table 5 benches were given to the Shelter. One each was funded by the
Kenwood Garden Club
Men's Garden Club of Minneapolis
Minneapolis Audubon Society
Minneapolis Bird Club
Woman's Club of Minneapolis.

All five have a dedication plaque attached. The Friends provided the sixth bench in 1976.

Shelter Volunteers

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 on JUne 5, 1969 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. Marian 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, Marian 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 to the Shelter

Moana Odell's path

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 Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board staff (c) 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)

Screen Door added to Shelter: 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 break-in 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 tendon 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.

Proper rain gutters - 2004: Steve Pundt and Pam Weiner showing one of the new copper gutters for the Martha Crone Shelter funded by the Friends.

Shelter Screen Door rain gutters

General Reference: Martha Crone papers and Friends of the Wildflower Garden papers, Minnesota Historical Society Collections.

Photos by Martha Crone are from her collection of Kodachromes that was given to the Friends by her daughter Janet following Martha's death in 1989.

(a) For details about the plateau, read this essay by Eloise Butler from 1916.
(b) In late 1969 the Board of Park Commissioners approved changing the name of the organization to "Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board." It would be a year or so before the change worked its way into the system, as the dedication plaque on the new 1970 shelter still refers to the "Board of Park Commissioners."
(c) Eloise Butler wrote in 1916 - “It was soon found that the term “Wild Botanic Garden” was misleading to the popular fancy, so the name was changed to “Native Plant Reserve.” (1926 Essay) In 1929 the Park Board changed the name to the Eloise Butler Wild Flower Garden.
(d) The Fringed Gentian Vol. 21 No 2, April 1973 and Friends Annual Meeting Minutes June 4, 1977.

Specific references from the general collection:
1. Project Committee meeting report September 5, 1968
2. Presidents Report to Project Committee January 28, 1969
3. Minutes of meeting March 25, 1969 between the Friends Building Committee and Superintendent Ruhe and staff. However, shortly thereafter the Park Board started using 'wildflower' as one word instead of 'wild flower' that had been used since 1929.
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 Wildflower Garden, June 5, 1969
7. The Fringed Gentian™, Vol. 30, #2, 1982
8. The Fringed Gentian™, Vol. 23, #4, 1975
9. The Fringed Gentian Vol. 17, #4, 1969

PDF File of documents referenced

Friends' Home Page

Friends History Archive

Garden History Archive