March 25: 1889: State legislation creates Duluth Board of Park Commissioners

On this day in 1889, the Minnesota State Legislature approved “An Act Providing for a System of Public Grounds for the City of Duluth.” This legislation created Duluth’s first Board of Park Commissioners and gave it broad powers to acquire land, make improvements, and adopt regulations to guide the use of parks. Along with the power to condemn and take land, the board could issue bonds to borrow money for purchasing land. It could also levy special assessments on nearby property that benefited from the development of the parks and parkways. Made up of William K. Rogers (president), John H. Upham (vice president), Frederick W. Paine (secretary-treasurer), Roger S. Munger, and Mayor J. B. Sutphin (as an ex officio member) the park board members met for the first time on May 22, 1889. They prepared a list of the land they intended to acquire, namely a narrow strip along the lakeshore and a corridor of land for a parkway (referred to then as Terrace Parkway, later Rogers Boulevard, and today as Skyline Parkway) that would extend from Chester Creek across the hillside to Miller Creek. The board immediately began work on the parkway—and spending money it didn’t have. In 1891 the legislation was changed to narrow the park board’s powers and could no longer have its own treasurer—all money had to remain in the hands of the city treasurer—and three new commissioners replaced everyone but Rogers: Luther Mendenhall, Bernard Silberstein, and Henry Clay Helm. You can read about most of Duluth’s parks in the Parks & Landmarks section of our History Archive, or all 170+ Duluth parks in our book Duluth’s Historic Parks: Their First 160 Years.


The official seal of Duluth’s first Board of Park Commissioners. (Image: Zenith City Press)