Submitted Lilac Way Stories
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“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.
“Our family lived at 3108 Salem from 1955-68. 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. Then cross Highway 7 and explore the ponds by the St. Louis Park Roadside Park (now restored and renamed Lilac Park) next to the railroad tracks. (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.”
“In 1950 my parents bought their first home on 38th Street in St. Louis Park, on the east side of Highway 100. I remember sliding on the hill near the original Lilac Park on the east side of Lilac Way’s Highway 100 back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was two lanes in each direction at that time.
So many homes were built at that time in Robbinsdale that the highway began expanding around 1950. My memories of sledding include the sounds of car tires with chains because everyone had them back then.”
“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 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 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 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’ve designed and am maintaining this restorelilacway.com website to maintain the legacy of the Lilac Way.”