There were seven Lilac Way parks along Highway 100 in the 1930s.

Today, only three of the parks still exist in some form.

Graeser Park was beautifully preserved and restored in 2021-23 by MnDOT’s Historic Roadside Properties Program following National Park Service Historic Preservation Standards.

Lilac Park (formerly SLP Roadside Park) was renewed in 2008-09, and features a beehive saved from demo.

Thankfully, on May 1, 2023, the St. Louis Park council voted to accept Rock Island Park from MnDOT, saving it from development. It is all that remains of the old Lilac Park.

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Lilac Way parks were revolutionary.

Families pulled their car off Highway 100, into a roadside park. They grilled hot dogs in the beehive fireplaces, relaxed at a picnic table and enjoyed a rock garden or reflecting pool.

Park structures were handmade from limestone, quarried from the Minnesota River near the Mendota Bridge.

Inspired by National Park Service Rustic Style ‘Parkitecture’

Research by the St. Louis Park Historical Society shows that the seven Lilac Way parks were designed by the Minnesota Central Design Office of the National Park Service and Landcape Architect Arthur Nichols.

Nichols adhered to the National Park Service’s “Rustic” style of architecture and landscape design, which required native materials to be used and for structures to look like they were roughly hand made rather than manufactured. These principles can be seen in the picnic tables and other structures in Highway 100’s Roadside Parks.

The stone structures were fashioned by unemployed masons out of limestone cut along the Minnesota River near the Mendota Bridge. Construction of this type required a lot of skilled labor. The quirky beehive-shaped fireplaces were created by Carl Graeser. His CFG initials appear at the bottom of each plan.

Two parks, plus a section of a third, have survived and are now favorite community destinations.

Graeser Park, June 11, 2024. Restored rare beehive fireplace with tables in picnic area.
PRESERVED AND RESTORED: Graeser Park
  • Location: West Broadway and Highway 100 in Robbinsdale, MN
  • MnDOT’s Historic Roadside Property Program completed a $500,000 restoration project, 2021-2023
  • Preserved according to the National Park’s Service’s Historic Preservation Standards and Guidelines
  • Features one of only two 1939 WPA-built ‘beehive fireplaces’ in the U.S., only beehive in original location
  • MnDOT will convey the park title to the City of Robbinsdale (date TBD)
  • Under the volunteer stewardship of the Robbinsdale Lions Club
  • MnDOT’s 1997 ‘Historic Roadside Development Structures Inventory’ for this park
REVIVED: Lilac Park (originally named St. Louis Park Roadside Park)
  • Location: 5505 MN 7 Service Road (SE corner of Highway 100 & Highway 7/County Road 25) in St. Louis Park, MN
  • Renamed Lilac Park in 2009 after beehive and picnic tables were moved here from the old Lilac Park, saving them from road construction
  • Carefully revived and renovated, 2007-2009
  • Not preserved according to the National Park’s Service’s Historic Preservation Standards and Guidelines
  • MnDOT’s 1997 ‘Historic Roadside Development Structures Inventory’ for this park
SAVED FROM DEVELOPMENT! Rock Island Park

Four parks, plus half of old Lilac Park, were lost to road construction.

LOST: Blazer Park
  • Location: West side of Highway 100 between Highway 55 and Lilac Way Drive North in Golden Valley, MN
  • Inventory completed for MnDOT’s 1997 Lilac Way ‘Historic Roadside Development Structures Inventory’
  • MnDOT’s other name for this park Golden Valley Roadside Parking Area
  • Property determined ineligible for National Historical Register in August 2006
  • Razed for 2001 Highway 100 reconstruction project
LOST: Excelsior Boulevard Roadside Parking Area
  • Location: Highway 100 at Excelsior Boulevard in St. Louis Park, MN
  • Not much is known about this park
  • Photos taken in 1953 show a large park with a beehive grill
  • Listed in MnDOT’s 1997 Lilac Way ‘Historic Roadside Development Structures Inventory’ as one of ‘at least two other parks along Highway 100 that had been demolished’ before the inventory
  • Razed for Highway 100 reconstruction, 1969
LOST: Glenwood Avenue Roadside Parking Area
  • Location: Highway 100 at Glenwood Avenue in Golden Valley, MN
  • Listed in MnDOT’s 1997 Lilac Way ‘Historic Roadside Development Structures Inventory’ as one of ‘at least two other parks along Highway 100 that had been demolished’ before inventory
  • Razed for road reconstruction in 1959
LOST: Lilac Park, original (south section)
  • Location: Northeast corner of Highway 100 and Minnetonka Boulevard in St Louis Park, MN
  • Included in MnDOT’s 1997 Lilac Way ‘Historic Roadside Development Structures Inventory’
  • Property determined ineligible for National Historical Register in August 2006
  • Beehive fireplace and a picnic table were relocated and restored at the new and revived Lilac Park (formerly Roadside Park) at Highway 100 & Highway 7/County Road 25
  • Most of park was razed for 2001 Highway 100 reconstruction project
  • The Rock Island area at the park’s north end remains today, awaiting a St. Louis Park council vote; we hope they vote to take ownership of this historic park.
LOST: Graeser Park South
  • Location: Northwest side of Highway 100 just south of Broadway Avenue and Burlington Northern Railroad in Robbinsdale, MN
  • Inventory completed for MnDOT’s 1997 Lilac Way ‘Historic Roadside Development Structures Inventory’
  • Property determined ineligible for National Historical Register in August 2006
  • Razed for 2001 Highway 100 reconstruction

View historic photos of Lilac Way parks, 1939-41