From 2021-2023, Graeser Park was beautifully preserved and restored by MnDOT’s Historic Roadside Preservation Program. They followed the National Park Service’s Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
The transformation is breathtaking.
Graeser Park features one of only two 1939 WPA-built ‘beehive fireplaces’ in the U.S. Located in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, it’s the only beehive in its original location. Its rock garden is one of only two in the state.
For the first time in 80+ years, historic preservation returned this park to its original beauty. MnDOT plans to convey the easement to the City of Robbinsdale, date TBD.
We are grateful this rare example of Lilac Way ‘parkitecture’ was preserved. Map
GRAESER PARK UPDATES
06.19.2023. Take a virtual walk down Graeser Park’s new ADA accessible sidewalk along Broadway Avenue, leading into the beehive fireplace area.
07.18.2022. Tour Historic Graeser Park’s picnic area, with preserved beehive fireplace and 11 rebuilt picnic tables.
MnDOT and the National Park Service can document only two beehive-shaped fireplaces in the U.S. Graeser Park’s beehive fireplace was restored and preserved in 2021-2023 according to National Park Service’s Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
The other beehive is in Lilac Park in St. Louis Park, MN which was renewed in 2009.
Summer 2023 Update: Graeser Park was constructed by and is still owned by MnDOT and managed under the Historic Roadside Property Program. MnDOT plans to convey the easement to the City of Robbinsdale, date TBD.
Visitors are always welcome in Graeser Park.
Graeser Park has been under the proud volunteer stewardship of the Robbinsdale Lions Club since 2008.
If you can see a stone path in Graeser Park today, it’s because a Robbinsdale Lion uncovered it. Joined by an army of volunteers, their stewardship was on hold while MnDOT completed their 2021-23 restoration project.
The Lions now wait for the park to be conveyed to the City of Robbinsdale, date TBD.
Graeser Park was a big part of Robbinsdale’s community.
Families grilled hot dogs, schools had picnics, and concerts were performed in the curved bandshell area. It was a popular neighborhood park.
Hand-built in 1939 with limestone quarried from the Minnesota River near the Mendota Bridge, this park had picnic tables, a beehive fireplace, four benches, and a waterfall.
What’s special about Graeser Park?
Graeser Park’s original plan called for
- three stone fireplaces (may have been beehive-shaped)
- stone oven-type fireplace
- 18 stone picnic tables
- four niches with striated limestone benches; benches are 2′ wide, 8′ long, and 18″ tall with a 2′ tall backrest
- rock garden with a waterfall that was integral to entire water system
- three stone refuse containers
- stone concourse
- rustic log roadside parking sign
- bituminous sidewalk
- flagstone walks
- 320′ of stone curbing
Graeser Park SOUTH in MnDOT’s 1997 inventory was listed as park land across West Broadway Avenue. This park had
- a council ring
- six stone picnic tables
- stone refuse container
- stone Roadside Parking sign
- stone fireplace
- water well with pump
Graeser Park Facts
- Also known as Robbinsdale Rock Garden Roadside Parking Area
- Built in 1939 as part of 12.5-mile-long roadside development project for Highway 100
- Built by Work Progress Administration (WPA) and Minnesota Highway Department
- One of largest federal relief projects in Minnesota
- One of only two remaining Lilac Way roadside parks
- Of two remaining beehive fireplaces, is the only one in original location
- Includes original beehive fireplace, curved overlook wall and rock garden
- Stone for park was quarried along the Minnesota River near the Mendota Bridge
- Originally designed to be a six to seven acre park, with space along east side for a cloverleaf that was never built
- Designed by Landscape Architect Arthur Nichols, who also landscaped Glensheen Mansion in Duluth, Minnesota
- According to Rollie Heywood, long-time historian at Robbinsdale Historical Society, there was a path from the main Graeser Park that went under the W Broadway bridge (and possibly the railroad bridge) to Graeser Park South
- Highway Engineer Carl Graeser supervised the building of Graeser Park while living at 4225 Unity Avenue North
- One of seven original Lilac Way parks
- Designed by Arthur Nichols, Landscape Architect
- Built by Works Progress Administration (WPA) as part of one of MN’s largest federal relief projects, 1934-1941
- Hand-built by unemployed men during Great Depression
- Significant in the state’s history of transportation
- Determined ineligible for National Register status
Historical News Articles
Just click the article and you will see an easy-to-read transcribed version.
Graeser Park, Robbinsdale Post, 10.31.1940
Graeser Park, Minneapolis Morning Tribune- Stone Cutter John J. Schulte.12.16.1941
Graeser Park has new signage
MnDOT’s Historic Roadside Properties Program hired Karen Laukkonen of Restore Lilac Way and Laukkonen Design in 2023. Working as a team with Andrea Weber at MnDot and Kristi Gibson at the Robbinsdale Historical Society, Graeser Park now has an informational sign near the parking lot.
Graeser Park 1988 Thesis Proposal by Peter Dombrowsky
In his Senior Thesis Project in Landscape Architecture at the University of MN, Peter W. Dombrowsky proposed building a library in Graeser Park. The beehive fireplace and Rock Garden would remain behind the library.
RESTORED: Graeser Park (NORTH, with beehive fireplace)
Read MnDOT’s 1964 Wayside Rest Area Inventory (JPG) for the main Graeser Park (NORTH).
Read MnDOT’s 1997 Historic Roadside Development Structures Inventories (PDF) for the main Graeser Park (NORTH).
LOST: Graeser Park (SOUTH)
Read MnDOT’s 1964 Wayside Rest Area Inventory (JPG) for Graeser Park (SOUTH).
Read MnDOT’s 1997 Historic Roadside Development Structures Inventories (PDF) for Graeser Park (SOUTH).