Dec. 21, 1890: A new name for Lake Calhoun
- Blog Post by: Ben Welter
- June 28, 2015 - 5:33 PM
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 board approved that change, along with several others.
Some of the names have stood the test of time. Others, including Mendoza, faded from use within a year or two. This Tribune editorial correctly predicted such an outcome – but incorrectly reported that the lake was named for a "Lieutenant Calhoun of early days," and not for John C. Calhoun. The editorial writer was probably conflating the onetime secretary of war with the leader of an Army unit dispatched in 1817 to survey the region.
UPDATE: Since I posted this entry (a repost, actually; long story ...) on June 22, Star Tribune reporter Steve Brandt dug into Park Board records and found that the Tribune apparently got the central fact of this editorial wrong. In the board's Dec. 27 minutes that year, Calhoun is not listed among the 10 name changes approved, nor is it among name changes listed in the board's annual report for 1890. And, in an 1892 story in the St. Paul Globe, a committee member insists that the lake's name was never changed, despite what the papers reported.
Perhaps a correction is in order. If Steve can confirm that the purported change is also not listed in the board's annual report for 1891, we can safely say the change was never approved.
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.
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