LOST: The original Lilac Park, after the beehive was moved to safety.

One of seven original 1939 Lilac Way parks, it had a beehive fireplace, picnic tables and two pond areas with waterfalls. It was located in NE corner of Highway 100 and Minnetonka Boulevard in St. Louis Park, MN.

In 2008, the beehive fireplace and one remaining table were saved,  and moved to a park a just south on Highway 100 and Highway 7. That park was restored and renamed Lilac Park.

Today, only the Rock Island section of the original Lilac Park remains.

LilacWay_PhotoAlbumInt-LilacParkORIG-2007

VIEW THE PHOTO ALBUMS

Lilac Park, original (Minnetonka Blvd.), 1939. Southern rock garden with pond and waterfall wall, beehive fireplace. Photo: MnDOT.

This rare early 1940s aerial photo shows the full 5-acres of the original Lilac Park.

Roll over the map points to see the park’s four features. The Minnetonka Boulevard bridge is just south of the park, Toledo Avenue is to right behind the park.

Only Rock Island on the north end remains today, hidden behind a highway wall. The beehive fireplace was saved from demolition in 2008, moved and restored in a new Lilac Park.

View the original, un-cropped, high-resolution photo at the National Archives.

Lilac Park, original (Minnetonka Blvd.), 1941. Beehive fireplace and picnic tables. Photo: MnDOT.

The National Park Service and MnDOT can document only two beehive-shaped fireplaces in the U.S. This beehive was moved and restored to its original beauty.

The other beehive, in Graeser Park in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, is just waiting to be restored.

Why was Rock Island nicknamed ‘Monkey Island’?

The north end of Lilac Park is called Rock Island. Its pond, island, 10′ footbridge and curved bench are all that remains of the original park.

In the 1930s, the WPA built seven parks along Lilac Way, as well as Como Park Zoo’s ‘Monkey Island’, barn and Main Zoo building. Rock Island’s nickname comes from Como Park’s ‘Monkey Island.’ Como Park renamed their island ‘Seal Island’ in the 1980s.

There is a growing community effort to preserve Rock Island.

Lilac Park, original (Minnetonka Blvd.), 1939. Rock garden pond and waterfall near bridge. Photo: MnDOT.

In 1997, a MnDOT inventory described the park before it was lost to road construction.

Lilac Park has a long, somewhat triangular shape and extends from Minnehaha Blvd. northward along the T.H. 100 right-of-way.

Plans and historic photos show that the site once had approximately

  • three rectangular fireplaces,
  • one beehive fireplace,
  • one refuse container,
  • 11 picnic tables,
  • and a rock garden in the picnic area near the park’s southern end.

The curved stone wall (existing) in the northern end of the park was once accompanied by a curving drive (probably with parking spaces).

The northern rock garden is north of the wall. There were originally flagstone-paved walkways extending from the southern picnic area to the stone wall, and along the northeastern edge of the park.

Read MnDOT’s 1997 Lilac Park Historic Structures Inventory

Facts about original Lilac Park on Minnetonka Boulevard
  • Also known as Minnetonka Boulevard Roadside Parking Area
  • Located on NE corner of Highway 100 and Minnetonka Boulevard
  • Built 1938-39
  • Mostly razed as part of Highway 100 reconstruction
  • Rock Island on the north end (AKA ‘Monkey Island’) still remains today
  • Original beehive fireplace and one picnic table was moved to Lilac Park in 2008, then restored
Historical info
  • One of seven original Lilac Way parks
  • Designed by Arthur Nichols, Landscape Architect
  • Built by Works Progress Administration (WPA) as part of one of Minnesota’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
Original Lilac Park History, 1939-64
Original Lilac Park, 2007

What did the WPA build in Lilac Park on Minnetonka Boulevard in 1939?

Limestone beehive at the original Lilac Park on Highway 100 and Minnetonka Boulevard
Lilac Park (original), Mtka. Blvd., 2007. Beehive fireplace.
Beehive-shaped fireplace
  • Located at center of the picnic area
  • Built of tan, coursed ashlar, rock faced limestone
  • Dark red mortar joints contrast with the light-colored stone
  • 23′ perimeter, 10′ tall, built on circular flagstone pad
  • Three rounded-arched fire opening, each firebox is lined with brick and has metal cooking grates
  • Between the openings are small limestone ledges
  • Moved to Lilac Park (formerly known as St. Louis Park Roadside Park) at Highway 100 and Highway 7/County Road 25, just west of Nordic Ware
Roadside Park, 2007. Now restored and renamed Lilac Park.
Stone picnic tables
  • Plans and historic photos show the park had eleven picnic tables
  • Each set sat on a flagstone pad
  • Three sets of stone picnic tables remained in 1997
    • One table south of fireplace had a 4′ by 5′ rectangular top
    • Table southwest of fireplace is in the shape of an elongated octagon (roughly 6′ by 5′)
    • Near the south end of picnic area was a table with 9′ by 3′ long, rectangular top
    • Tables were designed for stone benches that were supported by rock faced limestone pedestals
    • Table tops and seats are simple slabs that have rock faced edges
    • All picnic table sets were in poor condition in 1997, with stones missing, benches missing and broken, and flagstone pads breaking up
  • Tables and benches were built of tan, roughly cut limestone, most of which is coursed
  • Stones were carefully chosen and cut
  • There were two picnic table styles
    • Square tabletop supported by cruciform shape
      • Had four benches
      • The seat of each was supported by two stone block pedestals
    • Rectangular tabletop, with two stone benches that were each supported by three stone blocks
      • Tabletops and seats were simple slabs with rock faced edges
Lilac Park, original (Minnetonka Blvd.), 1939. Rock garden pond and waterfall near bridge. Photo: MnDOT.
Lilac Park, original (Minnetonka Blvd.), 1939. Southern rock garden with pond and waterfall wall, beehive fireplace. Photo: MnDOT.
Rock garden in picnic area on south end
  • Pond lined with stone border wall
  • Waterfall wall
  • Low half-moon stone bench overlooking pond, on north side
  • Two small rock islands in center of pond, possibly with water fountain features
  • Walkway around pond, not flagstone
  • Pond grasses in pond
  • Near Minnetonka Boulevard bridge
  • Removal date TBD
Limestone wall at the original Lilac Park on Highway 100 and Minnetonka Boulevard
Lilac Park (original), Mtka. Blvd., 2007. 162'-ft long curved wall, N of park.
Low stone wall
  • Located north of picnic area, near point where 29th Street meets Toledo Avenue
  • Buried deep within a group of lilac and buckthorn, not visible from roadway
  • 18″ thick
  • Built of tan, random ashlar, rock faced limestone
  • 62′ long, curved shape, runs at angle along crest of hill
  • Wall is anchored with stone piers at ends and at two pedestrian openings
  • Was originally longer and lined with a short, curved pull-off drive (from Toledo Avenue) that probably formed a parking area
  • Several feet of stonework from each end of wall were removed, and curved drive eliminated circa 1968 when an exit ramp from northbound Highway 100 was built through the site
Limestone walkway at the original Lilac Park on Highway 100 and Minnetonka Boulevard
Rock Island in Lilac Park (original), Mtka. Blvd., 2007. Pool, curved paths, 10'-long footbridge.
Northern Rock Garden (also known as Monkey Island and Hidden Park) – pool, island and path
  • Near north end of site
  • Elaborate rock garden is almost hidden by overgrown brush
  • Built of tan, mortared limestone rubble
  • Oval-shaped pool lined with stones and encircled by a flagstone path near south end of garden
  • In the center is an island (about 18-20′ in diameter) ringed with tan limestone rubble
  • A willow tree grows out of island
  • A 10′-long footbridge, comprised of two slabs of limestone on limestone piers, leads to island from east side
  • At south end of pool is a waterfall made of mortared rocks
  • There are curving limestone steps climbing the back of the waterfall
  • The garden’s curving paths are paved with flagstone
  • The lower path encircling the pool is edged with low, stone retaining walls
  • Another path, which runs at a higher elevation along the eastern side of the garden, is lined with stones that are set so the triangular ends point upward
  • The garden is overgrown and surrounded by mature evergreens, deciduous trees, and deciduous shrubs
  • Was separated from the rest of the park circa 1968 by the exit ramp from northbound Highway 100 to Minnetonka Boulevard which cuts through the park near north end
  • Remains today, but in poor condition
Limestone steps at the original Lilac Park on Highway 100 and Minnetonka Boulevard
Lilac Park (original), Mtka. Blvd., 2007. One of two entrance steps.
Northern Rock Garden (also known as Monkey Island and Hidden Park) – steps
  • Two sets of 5-6 stone steps lead down into rock garden from southeast and southwest corners
  • Side railings of small mortared rocks
  • Remains today, but in poor condition
Limestone bench at the original Lilac Park on Highway 100 and Minnetonka Boulevard
Lilac Park (original), Mtka. Blvd., 2007. L-shaped stone bench with a 2'-tall backrest.
Northern Rock Garden (also known as Monkey Island and Hidden Park) – bench
  • Small niche east of waterfall contains an L-shaped stone bench with a 2′-tall backrest
  • Remains today, but in poor condition

Read MnDOT’s 1964 Wayside Rest Area Inventory (JPG) for the original Lilac Park on Minnetonka Boulevard.

Read MnDOT’s 1997 Historic Roadside Development Structures Inventories (PDF) for the original Lilac Park.