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May 20, 1907: Park commission proposes $50,000 bond for playgrounds

On this day in Duluth in 1907, Duluth’s park commissioners announced plans to issue $50,000 in bonds—about $1.5 million today—to “acquire more ground for park purposes and play grounds, and to beautify the city’s present holdings.” According to the Duluth News Tribune, “Considerable stress was laid upon the necessity of having play grounds for the children in the thickly settled parts of the city neat several school houses” and several attendees mentioned that “Parks are one of the best assets that Duluth can acquire.” While the idea never went much further, it was a sign of the growing playground movement championed the next year by Mayor Roland Haven. Haven invited Leo Hanmer, field secretary of the two-year-old Playground Association of America, to visit Duluth. In a speech, Hammer mentioned that “The conditions [of modern cities] have become such that the children have been crowded into small quarters, and it is here that juvenile crime starts. Moreover, these conditions are detrimental to the health of children. Play is the business of boys and girls…. In their play they develop physically, intellectually, and morally, and the importance of this development must be realized by the people of our cities.” Following Hanmer’s visit, a group of Duluthians, including members of the park board, formed a chapter of the Playground Association of America with Mayor Haven serving as president. Read a history of Duluth’s playgrounds and sporting facilities here.

Roland D. Haven. (Image: Duluth Public Library)