Historic nature of Soldiers Field Memorial Park under consideration
May 21—ROCHESTER — A historic review of Soldiers Memorial Field Park has led to a recommendation that the nearly 100-year-old park be removed from a list of potential Rochester landmarks.
The review, conducted in connection to a federal grant funding
, will be reviewed during a Heritage Preservation Commission meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The grant required a federal review that included surveying the park and evaluation based on National Register criteria to determine whether the park has historic significance based on federal standards. The goal was to ensure that any proposed work would not have negative impacts on historic structures.
The federal report was reviewed by Minnesota's State Historic Preservation Office, as well as several tribal historic preservation offices.
"The SHPO determined that the property is not eligible for National Register designation," a report to the Rochester commission states.
The federal report also points out that no tribes voiced concerns about planned changes to the park.
While some of the work outlined in the park's master plan seeks to incorporate historic design elements into the park, the city's evaluation of state and federal findings recommends removing the park from a list of potential landmarks for future review.
"While the park has historic significance per several aspects of the adopted (landmark) criteria, the recommendation is that, due to lack of historic integrity, the park should not be designated as a landmark," the
Removing the park from the list of potential landmarks doesn't change the land's use by the city, which is still planning an estimated $20.1 million in upgrades that include the creation of a new aquatics center.
The park was developed based on planning that started in 1926, when the local American Legion post formed a committee seeking to develop a park on what was the southern edge of the city. The legion committee secured 160 acres previously owned by Dr. Christopher and Blanche Graham, which was later sold to the city for $30,000.
The park was initially conceived of including golf, a picnic area and an athletic field along with a tree-lined memorial drive.
The city's evaluation report states that the legion committee chairman said the primary goal was "to provide play and recreational facilities 'for all citizens and children of the city' and to be a memorial to veterans of all wars."
While the report states the golf course was a "by-product" of the project, the park construction started with a small golf clubhouse in 1926, which served a nine-hole course.
Further development of the park continued a year later under the guidance of Minneapolis landscape architect Hugh Vincent Feehan, with work that extended into the 1930s on athletic facilities, a pool and expansion of the golf course.
Additional work occurred in the 1950s, but major changes were made in the 1990s, which included constructing a new club house, adding foot bridges in the golf course and starting the redesign of the main entry to include the memorial wall.
The local evaluation points to changes throughout the decades as a key factor in the state office's determination that the park lacks the historic integrity needed for federal historic status.
"While the physical spatial arrangement of the golf course, sports and athletic facilities and memorial areas remains the same as original, all other built aspects of the park have been altered, some to a great extent," the local review states. "Only hints of Feehan's original design intent can be seen in the park today."
The city's Historic Preservation Commission will be asked Tuesday whether it wants to accept the staff recommendation to remove the park from the city's list of potential landmarks needing further review.
Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of May 22 include:
* City Council study session, 3:30 p.m. Monday In council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE. The meeting will livestream at
and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.
* Fire Civil Service Commission, 10 a.m. Tuesday in room 104 of City Hall, 201 Fourth St. SE.
* Heritage Preservation Commission, 5 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers of the Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.
* Planning and Zoning Commission, 6 p.m. Wednesday in council chambers of the Government Center.
* Citizens Advisory on Transit, 4:30 p.m. Thursday, in room 104 of City Hall.
* New commissioner introduction to Property Records and Licensing, 4 p.m. Tuesday at 2122 Campus Drive SE
Destination Medical Center
* DMC Corp. Board, 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the Mayo Civic Center, 30 Civic Center Drive SE.