In November 1890, a Minneapolis Park Board committee discussed the possibility of renaming “various parks, parkways and portions thereof.” Among the suggestions: Restore Lake Calhoun's original name, Lake Mendoza. A month later, the Minneapolis Tribune reported in the editorial below that the board had approved the change, along with several others.
Some of the new names have stood the test of time. Others faded from use within a year or two. The editorial writer correctly predicted such an outcome – but incorrectly reported two important points. According to Park Board records, Lake Calhoun's name was not among those changed. The writer also incorrectly reported that Calhoun was named for a "Lieutenant Calhoun of early days," and not for John C. Calhoun. The editorial writer may have confused the onetime secretary of war with James E. Colhoun, a member of an Army unit that surveyed the region in 1823.
[Since I posted this entry in 2011, Star Tribune reporter Steve Brandt dug into Park Board records to research the purported name change. In the meeting minutes, Brandt found no listing for Calhoun among the approved name changes, nor is Calhoun among the name changes listed in the board's annual report for 1890 or 1891. And, in an 1892 story in the Tribune, a Park Board commissioner insisted that the lake's name was never changed, despite what the papers reported. This introduction was revised on Dec. 14, 2017, to reflect that research.]
Yesterday’s meeting of the park board was a decidedly interesting one, as it was in the nature of a christening — and there is much in the bestowal of a name, as everybody will admit. The board honored its distinguished president, and in so doing honored itself, by changing the name of Central Park to Loring Park
. Mr. Loring protested, suggesting that it be called Hennepin Park instead, or, if it was to bear his name, that the honor be deferred until after his death; but his objections were of no avail, and Loring Park it is from now on. A handsomer or more appropriate compliment could not have been bestowed upon the man who has done so much to build up the magnificent park system that makes Minneapolis the envy of her sister cities of the West. At the same time the name is one of pleasing sound and a vast improvement over “Central,” which has become so common as to mean anything from a beer garden to a baseball field.
The board also wisely decided that Elliott, Steele and Murphy parks should retain their present names in honor of the liberal citizens who donated them to Minneapolis. The roadways at Harriet are to be named after the donors of the land. Hawthorne Park has been changed to Hawthorne Square. Many would have been better pleased had it been made a monument to the late Eugene M. Wilson and re-christened with his name. Kenwood and Superior boulevards will hereafter be known as Kenwood parkway — a change that will do away with much confusion. Saratoga Park becomes Glenwood Park. This is another change for the better. There is but one Saratoga entitled to the name; all others are imitations or impostures more or less rank. The tract offered by Col. W. S. King is to be named Lyndale Park when it shall be taken into the park system.
But the most striking change of all — one almost revolutionary in its character — is that by which Lake Calhoun becomes Lake Mendoza. Lake Calhoun was named, not after the great nullifier, but in honor of a Lieutenant Calhoun of early days. Mendoza* is a pretty name and is supposed to be the one used by Hiawatha in referring to the beautiful sheet of water now called Lake Calhoun, but for all that, it will not stick. After a whole generation has known a lake, a mountain or a river by some particular name that name will cling to it forever more. It may be Mendoza on the maps, on the records of the park board and on the minutes of the council, but on the hearts of Minneapolitans, old and young, it is indelibly stamped as Calhoun. The changes are nearly all for the better and yesterday’s work of the park commissioners will meet with general approval.
* Medoza, no "n," means "Loon" in the Dakota language; settlers apparently adopted the slightly different spelling.
These chaps posing on the banks of Lake Calhoun in about 1890 belonged to the Lurline Boat Club. The rowing attire of the day didn't leave much to the imagination. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)