Summer Fun at Minneapolis Playgrounds

During the lazy days of summer, Minneapolis children in the early twentieth century enjoyed their local playgrounds. They played on the playground apparatus and the Giant Stride at Powderhorn Lake Park (top photos), the slides and swings at Longfellow Park (bottom left) or participated in playground activities like bubble blowing at Logan Park (bottom right).

The first recorded public playground in America was the Boston Sand Garden, built in 1886. Minneapolis began building playgrounds in 1906 by installing equipment at Riverside, Logan, Minnehaha, Van Cleve, and Fairview parks. Residents living near the parks quickly complained that the children were too noisy. The complaints stopped after many parents came to watch their children play and to try out the equipment themselves. In 1907, the Park Board hired Mr. C.T. Booth to direct programs in the five city parks with playground equipment. One year later, Booth was made the Supervisor of Playgrounds with a staff of five, one assigned to each of the five playgrounds. 

The demand for recreational facilities and programs for both children and adults continued to grow. Funding for Minneapolis playgrounds was first provided through bonds to acquire and improve lands. In 1915, the state legislature authorized a playground tax to help fund playgrounds and year-round recreation programs. 

Playground equipment has changed drastically over the years, from metal to wood to plastic. Safety regulations have also changed. A national safety group recommended removal of Giant Strides from playgrounds in the 1920s for safety reasons.

The playground apparatus photograph at Powerhorn Park is from the Minneapolis Park System book by Theodore Wirth. All other photos are from the Historic Minneapolis Photo Collection.