Submitted Lilac Way Stories
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I recall throwing coins in Graeser Park’s fountain as a little child on a picnic with my mom and cousins. I think the first time was with my mom and dad in the early to mid-1960s. We grilled burgers in the beehive grill. I have memories of grilled burgers with ketchup and mustard and Old Dutch Bar-B-Q chips!
“My family moved from California to Plymouth in 1974 when I was nine. The beehive fireplace in Lilac Park near Minnetonka Boulevard in St. Louis Park was one of the first memories I have of Minnesota. My dad arrived a few weeks early to get the new house ready. The rest of the family flew to Minneapolis. It was my first time out of California.”
“My mother, Lorraine Skelly (then of North Minneapolis), took this photo in June of 1944. The three ladies in the photo are some of her friends from Minneapolis Moline (Como Avenue plant), where she worked inspecting Navy shells during WWII. Unfortunately, the ladies in the photo are unidentified (and my mother died back in 1990), so I have no information on who they are. (more…)
It is wonderful news that MnDOT will install salvaged stone picnic tables in Graeser Park. I am proud of the cleanup work the Robbinsdale Lions Club has done. All of the benches were pretty overgrown when I cleaned up the park with fellow Lions. I had the thrill of uncovering one of the benches that I sat on as a kid—I just started clipping away at an edge and little by little – voila! There is much more to be done. (more…)
“I flew back to MSP for my Dad’s 80th birthday. My plan for weeks was that once I was in my rental car, I was going to take my husband to Graeser Park to check out your preservation efforts. I was probably 10-12 years old the last time I set foot in the park. I was looking forward to my “homecoming” tour. It was like walking back into my childhood home. (more…)
I attended the old Fern Hill School, corner of Minnetonka Boulevard and Ottawa in the 1950’s. We walked to the original Lilac Park for our fall leaf collecting walk and for the end of school picnic. It felt like a very long way. Love that park and its stone work. I am still friends with many of the people I have known since kindergarten at Fern Hill. After many years of living further out I am back in St Louis Park and it is a terrific community.
“I love the beehive fireplace now located in restored Lilac Park. My mom and dad and my brother and my auntie and I used it for picnics years ago when it was located in the original Lilac Park on Minnetonka Boulevard in the 1950s before it was moved to this park. We grilled hot dogs in the beehive fireplace. (more…)
“Growing up in Crystal, I remember a birthday party in Robbinsdale’s Graeser Park back in the 1960s. All the kids at the party lined up on one of the curved benches and we walked along it.
“I was born in 1939, grew up in Robbinsdale. My father had a sister who lived in Osseo with her husband and family, on a farm. Back in those days that was a Sunday trip for us. My mom would pack a picnic lunch and we would stop and eat at Graeser Park. I loved to go to there as a child and also as a teenager. We grilled hot dogs in the beehive fireplace, and I remember the benches and rock gardens.
As a teen in the early 1950’s we would pack a lunch and meet with friends and just sit around and chat or lay in the sun with blankets on the grass. (more…)
“I remember the original Lilac Park near Minnetonka Boulevard. We used to go there for family picnics in the late 1950s/early 1960s with our grandparents who lived in St. Louis Park on 33rd and Xenwood. We called it Monkey Park. (The nickname comes from Como Park’s ‘Monkey Island’, which was also built by the WPA.) Now it’s called Rock Island.
I was very young, but I remember thinking that it was such a cool place! We climbed around the rock gardens which were already starting to become overgrown and were crumbling, even by then. (more…)
“I remember the beehive fireplaces and picnic tables from childhood, but not the council rings. I was a very young child 3-4 years old. I have memories of running through the lilac bushes, I believe kids had worn paths between them. (more…)
“I’m 80 years old now. My dad would take my sisters and me to play at Lilac Park along Highway 100 and Minnetonka Boulevard. There was an island everyone called Monkey Island (now known as Rock Island) that we would play on, picnic tables etc.
This had to have been the late 1940s after World War II, when we moved to St. Louis Park. All of that area was altered due to Highway 100 construction.”
“Lilac Park near Minnetonka Boulevard was a favorite picnic place for my family when I was a kid in the 1950s. I was probably around five years old. My Dad used the beehive fireplace to grill for our picnics.
We picnicked on the south end of the park, near the beehive. There used to be a nursery nearby called Halla Nursery where we bought garden plants. After completing our stone house in Richfield, Dad built his own stone fireplace in the backyard.”
“Love Graeser Park! Grew up just a few blocks from the park on 44th and Welcome Avenue in the 1960s-70s. The park was my happy place, too! I would jump on my bike and go find a spot in the park to read. Or have brown-bag picnics with my sisters during summer. Never got to see the fountain working, but would imagine it was.
We were trying to keep the park nice, even as kids. We would spend time clearing out the old leaves and trash each spring. If I still lived in Minnesota, I would certainly be one of your volunteers, helping to restore the parks. Thanks for your efforts and hard work! Hope to bring my grandchildren for a picnic there sometime and visit the old neighborhood.”
“I remember those beehive fireplaces from when I was a kid. It was in the mid-1970s. I was living in south Minneapolis and as kids we rode our bikes everywhere. We would ride our bikes to Lake Calhoun and one day we decided to ride further and discovered the park with the beehive. It was one of our favorite spots. I had no idea of the name of the park.* We would ride there and pretend there were castles that we either defended or attacked, depending on which team we were on that day.
“We often had family picnics in Graeser Park in Robbinsdale. We always just called it ‘the picnic place on Lilac Lane’. My sister remembers it as I do—Highway 100 on one side and West Broadway on the other side.
“My Maternal Grandmother found our darling little home at 3108 Salem from 1955-68 for my family. It was and still is a lovely neighborhood. I was a “nature girl”, and back then our alley between Salem and Toledo led to a large wooded area. Lilac Way was like our backyard! The area around Highway 7 and Minnetonka Boulevard on Highway 100 was all woods, lilac bushes as far as the eye could see!
Those were very special times. I would sneak out of the house before dawn and wander along Lilac Way through the woods, checking on all the birdie nests. I spent endless hours and days wandering those woods, climbing the pine trees at the end of Salem Avenue and Highway 7. (more…)
“My brother and I loved it when my parents closed the store on Sunday afternoon to go for a ride, and my dad would drive us around and around the cloverleaf. After my father passed away in 1987, we’d pick up Eddy Arnold’s chicken and eat at Graeser Park on West Broadway with my mother and my two daughters.”
“I grew up in the early ’60s on Vernon Avenue in St. Louis Park. My buddies and I used to go sledding on the hill in the original Lilac Park, next to the Highway 100 bridge. The hill faced north, with Lake Street/Minnetonka Boulevard at the top of the hill. Sledding down into the park, we were just a stone’s throw from the limestone beehive fireplace and picnic tables.”
“I remember Lilac Way parks from when I was little! We passed by them on Highway 100 when my family drove me to Camp Fire Girls camp out by the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Once we stopped and had lunch on a stone picnic table in one of those little parks. I remember the beehive fireplace. I never knew what the name was, though. I remember the huge lilacs that were there, too.”
“We had a couple end-of-year class picnics at Monkey Island (now Rock Island) when I attended Fern Hill School in St. Louis Park in late ’50s and early ’60s.”
“How about a Lilac Way love story? I met a girl in 1974, we were both 15 years old. She lived on one side of Highway 100 in St. Louis Park, I lived on the other. Thirty five years later we found each other again, reconnecting on the Minnetonka Boulevard bridge near the original Lilac Park for our first kiss. So blessed to now call her my wife. (more…)
“Good times. Monkey Island (now Rock Island) was a hangout for us kids in the 2600 through 2900 blocks of Raleigh, Salem and Toledo during the late ’70s. That was where we stopped on our way back across Highway 100 to ingest the pure sugar bought at Rogers Gas Station and Park Market amongst the Stonehenge-like runes of Monkey Island.
I had no idea of the actual history of it, and was convinced that it was once inhabited by actual monkeys.”
“We grew up on 29th and Salem. My brother Steve McGregor and my younger brother Jeff hung out in the original Lilac Park, along with Steve and Paul Margraf, Howie Reynolds, Mike and Scott Lundin. GREAT TIMES! But you had to be careful sledding in the winter, because I do remember ending up in the northbound lane of Highway 100 once or twice.”
“I spent my formative years (ages 4-21, 1950-1967) one block away from the original Lilac Park and Rock Island, which we called “Monkey Island”. I lived at 2716 Toledo Avenue. I spent oodles of time at this park. Not only did I and friends play there, but annually our elementary school classes (both the former Fern Hill at 28th/Joppa and the former Ethel Baston (now Groves Academy) would trek there every spring for our annual school picnic outing. (more…)
“I spent my formative years (ages 4-21, 1950-1967) one block away from the original Lilac Park and Rock Island, which we called “Monkey Island”. I lived at 2716 Toledo Avenue. I spent oodles of time at this park. Not only did I and friends play there, but annually our elementary school classes (both the former Fern Hill at 28th/Joppa and the former Ethel Baston (now Groves Academy) would trek there every spring for our annual school picnic outing. In those days, the ‘entrance ramp’ from Minnetonka Boulevard to Highway 100 was not what we think of them as being today. In fact, I don’t think YIELD signs had even been invented, which meant that when one got to the bottom of said ramp, one had to stop for a stop sign before proceeding on to NB 100.
Further, in those days, West 28th Street was actually a cross street of Highway 100! The ramp entrance reference above was to the east of Monkey Island, and it separated Monkey Island from a triangular shaped park area between the entrance ramp and Toledo Avenue, where many great ‘sandlot’ baseball games were played.
I think I even recall a time when Monkey Island’s water features (water streaming down the rock façade??) were functional, and I always thought the actual little island in the middle, accessible by crossing the little footbridge was quite exotic.
Rock Island Park and the south section of the original Lilac Park across Toledo Avenue from St. George’s Episcopal Church (with its ‘beehive’ fireplace for cooking) were key elements in the wonder of growing up in St. Louis Park in the 1950s. Great times and great memories!”
Submitted 5.26.17 and 4.4.20
“I went to Park Hill Elementary School on Ottawa and Minnetonka Boulevard from 1958-1961. We used to walk to the original original Lilac Park and Rock Island for a picnic at the end of the school year! Great memories of playing hide and seek in all the lilac bushes. I grew up on Xenwood Avenue in St. Louis Park, and amazingly we used to run across Highway 100 in the mid-1960s (at that time I think Highway 100 was called Lilac Way) to play at that park. We also had a few family picnics there.”
“I grew up in Robbinsdale and live in St. Louis Park now. All family picnics were spent at Graeser Park at Highway 100 and Highway 52 (now 81). This is a photo of my 3rd grade class at Graeser Park – probably a school picnic at year end. (more…)
“I enjoyed picnics at Graeser Park on Sunday family drives. That was in the fifties. Many families packed picnic lunches and let the kids run and play. After the highway came through some picnic tables were left and some lilacs, but not like it had been.
I loved the beehive fireplaces. My Dad made a similar one for our backyard out of matching stone to our house in Richfield. Highway 100 changed so much of the country feel.”
“I remember going to Graeser Park many times back in the late 50’s and early 60’s. But more than Graeser Park we spent time at the picnic area on the west side of the train bridge and north of 43rd Avenue, on the west side of 100 (Graeser Park South). (more…)
“I had some of my best childhood school memories of Graeser Park when as a kid we would walk several blocks down West Broadway in Robbinsdale from Sacred Heart Catholic Grade School for our annual end-of-school picnic in early June from 1957-1965. (more…)
“I remember class picnics from Fern Hill School in St. Louis Park, where I attended 4th and 5th grade in 1950-51. The picnics were at Monkey Island (now Rock Island) during the last week of school in late May or early June. Monkey Island was actually a small Island (about the size of a kitchen) surrounded by a circular “moat” a couple yards wide and 2-3 feet deep. There was a little stone footbridge so a person could walk to the island. (more…)
“As a young girl, my family and I would get together in the latter 1950’s to picnic at Graeser Park. I remember my mother telling me to stay out of the fountain. However, I couldn’t resist wading around barefoot in the fountain. Much to my chagrin, I stepped on broken glass in the fountain and sliced my foot open. That was the end of my fountain wading!
In 1966-67, Graeser Park’s parking area became a favorite ‘parking and make-out spot’!!!”
“My husband used to walk our former dog, Ahmish, who looked forward to walking around the Graeser Park beehive fireplace.”
“I grew up in Golden Valley and “Lilac Way” was a big part of my childhood. Our family home from 1922 to 1968 was close to downtown Robbinsdale, but for whatever reason we didn’t visit Graeser Park during my childhood, and I don’t remember knowing about it until I was grown and married and living in Robbinsdale. (more…)
“My heart gives a little sigh when I see these old Graeser Park photos, my 10 year old self in black and white. In 1956 our family moved from the Paynesville, MN area to the Twin Cities. The first few years we went back three weekends a month. Stopping at the Graeser Park roadside attraction was right up my farmer background – FREE. (more…)
“I remember Graeser Park‘s pond, tables and beehive fireplaces. Our Girl Scout troop would go there for picnics, it was a very nice park. Our family went there too for picnics. It was a busy place back then, with families having fun.”
“We used to catch sunfish and crappies from Twin Lake, just down the highway by the old bridge that separated North Twin and Middle Twin Lakes. We would take the fish live in a bucket down to the fountain at Graeser Park. We did this in the late ’50s and through the mid-’60s.
The fountain would be shooting up in the air pretty high. The water in the pond was pretty clear.
The fish seemed to do quite well all summer. I don’t know who cleaned them out at the end of the seasons, but someone did.”
“Growing up in St. Louis Park, I always Ioved the lilacs on Highway 100. My dad remembered driving on the road in the 1940’s and 1950’s. He told me, ‘You didn’t drive on Lilac Way, you drove TO Lilac Way.’ It was more than just a highway—it was a destination.
All these years later, I now design and maintain restorelilacway.com, share history on the Facebook group, and partner with local volunteers to promote preservation of Graeser Park and Rock Island. As a team, we’re maintaining the legacy of the historic Lilac Way.”