Editor’s Note: Sunday, March 24, was the 130th anniversary of the signing of the articles of incorporation for the city of River Falls. The following are excerpts from a series of articles written in 1985 by Tim Ericson, formerly of UWRF, and now (1985) with the Wisconsin Historical Society, detailing the early history of River Falls.  “By the 1890s it was becoming clear that River Falls was in danger of losing a cherished part of its natural heritage: the untouched beauty of the Kinnickinnic River that had so captivated early settlers. Mills, dams, and other developments had gradually increased in number, and whereas in earlier days virgin scenery was a cheap commodity, the pressure of continued growth made it apparent that people would have to act if they hoped to save anything of the river bank’s natural splendor. At any rate, when Normal School Professor Warren J. Brier led a committee of residents into the council chamber on July 15, 1898, and proposed the purchase of a part of ‘Powell’s Woods’ for a city park., the time was ripe for such a move. The council listened to the proposition, and promptly voted to ‘purchase so much of the Powell Tract as lies on the summit of the hill, and down to the river … twenty and seventy-four one-hundredths acres more or less.’ The River Falls Journal later reported that River Falls was ‘now in possession of a new city park and is … entitled to put on metropolitan airs.’ There were some questions regarding what goals the city should set for its new park, and how to accomplish these goals. Popular sentiment favored making the park ‘tidy and ‘presentable’. There was never any thought about leaving it in its wild, natural state. After all, people wanted to use their new park, and in its present condition the entire area was so thick with brush that most picnickers preferred Clark’s Grove, or even the long ride out to the Monument rather than battling brambles in the glen. In order to make the park more attractive, planners suggested clearing paths, trimming trees ‘worthy of preservation’ and ‘cutting down the super abundant growths.’ The council appointed a group of park commissioners, and the Journal encouraged everyone to come out and participate in a ‘park bee,’ hoping that the enthusiasm which had brought about the establishment of the park could be harnessed to manicuring the grounds. Unfortunately, when it came to swinging a hatchet or scythe, community ardor waned, and the ‘bee’ failed to attract the number of workmen ‘as the merits of the case demanded.’ An obviously disappointed newspaper article lamented that only 17 men had come to help, even though the women had sent over ‘victuals enough for a hundred.’ For a time at least, this curious pattern of enthusiasm and apathy would continue in River Falls. A 1900 promotional publication gave the park special notice: ‘Nature, out of her abundance, has given to us many bountiful gifts. Among the many beautiful spots in and about the city, none possesses more attraction than the City Park. Situated on the south side of the Glen, with all of its picturesque scenery, extending so as to include the junction falls (sic), the sights are most pleasing to behold. Standing at the point where the two branches of the Kinnickinnic unite, one is held spellbound.’ People took this glowing prose to heart and the park was used frequently for picnics, reunions and other summer activities. One former resident recalled that on busy weekends, the train would bring ten to twelve carloads of ‘out of towners’ who came to River Falls for the sole purpose of enjoying an outing at Glen Park. The park commissioners had divided the area into ‘lots,’ each four rods square. Families then agreed to take responsibility for keeping one particular lot trimmed and neatly groomed. This system seemed to work well at first; it saved the city upkeep costs and generated friendly rivalries among lot-holders. The common council and the newly organized River Falls Improvement League both committed time and money to improving the grounds, grading a driveway and a bike trail, and planting large numbers of trees. The Improvement League also formed a committee to oversee the construction of a bridge across the South Fork, from the vicinity of Vine Street to the park. But problems developed -- several contemporary accounts alluded to ‘untoward circumstances’ which worked to the ‘detriment of friendly sentiment’ in the park.. Although the precise nature of the difficulties never was made clear, it seemed that some of the ‘friendly rivalries’ engendered between different families of volunteer groundskeepers developed into petty feuds. Despite pleas to ‘have peace and renew the harmony that promised to make the city park a thing of beauty,’ ill will and vandalism increased sharply. As the 1902 summer season approached the Journal painted a doleful picture of the once proud park. Its grounds were on the ‘borders of destruction,’ the kitchen had been ‘burglarized … the walls adorned with the immortal names of kids in coal etchings’ and all of the resident squirrels had been ‘wantonly shot.’ By this time even the optimistic C.R. Morse, who had been one of the most active supporters of community volunteerism, despaired. In early May the Common Council re-established the Board of Park Commissioners and shortly thereafter appropriated $100 which the board could use to improve the park grounds. Two months later the council moved again, passing Ordinance Number 48, which protected the park, prohibited damaging the buildings or grounds, and gave legal authority for enforcing all rules made by the park commissioners. Once this additional responsibility had been accepted, the city government proved to be an able administrator and it developed the grounds to suit a wide variety of recreational purposes.” Note to Readers: Scott Beske, of Best Key Properties, reports they have purchased the property at 216 W. Cascade, which is a couple of properties East of the Glenn Park swing bridge -- "I'm guessing the house is over 100 years old and along with its previous owners we have been working to restore a lot of its character. We are currently renovating the old barn/carriage house into our office. Do you know where I might find any old photos of the River Falls Cascade Ave area?" If anyone has any information or photos for Scott please email him at bestkeyprops@gmail.com.   Pat Hunter, Archivist phunter@rivertowns.net

       Editor’s Note: Sunday, March 24, was the 130th anniversary of the signing of the articles of incorporation for the city of River Falls.The following are excerpts from a series of articles written in 1985 by Tim Ericson, formerly of UWRF, and now (1985) with the Wisconsin Historical Society, detailing the early history of River Falls. “By the 1890s it was becoming clear that River Falls was in danger of losing a cherished part of its natural heritage: the untouched beauty of the Kinnickinnic River that had so captivated early settlers.Mills, dams, and other developments had gradually increased in number, and whereas in earlier days virgin scenery was a cheap commodity, the pressure of continued growth made it apparent that people would have to act if they hoped to save anything of the river bank’s natural splendor.At any rate, when Normal School Professor Warren J. Brier led a committee of residents into the council chamber on July 15, 1898, and proposed the purchase of a part of ‘Powell’s Woods’ for a city park., the time was ripe for such a move.The council listened to the proposition, and promptly voted to ‘purchase so much of the Powell Tract as lies on the summit of the hill, and down to the river … twenty and seventy-four one-hundredths acres more or less.’ The River Falls Journal later reported that River Falls was ‘now in possession of a new city park and is … entitled to put on metropolitan airs.’There were some questions regarding what goals the city should set for its new park, and how to accomplish these goals.Popular sentiment favored making the park ‘tidy and ‘presentable’. There was never any thought about leaving it in its wild, natural state.After all, people wanted to use their new park, and in its present condition the entire area was so thick with brush that most picnickers preferred Clark’s Grove, or even the long ride out to the Monument rather than battling brambles in the glen.In order to make the park more attractive, planners suggested clearing paths, trimming trees ‘worthy of preservation’ and ‘cutting down the super abundant growths.’The council appointed a group of park commissioners, and the Journal encouraged everyone to come out and participate in a ‘park bee,’ hoping that the enthusiasm which had brought about the establishment of the park could be harnessed to manicuring the grounds.Unfortunately, when it came to swinging a hatchet or scythe, community ardor waned, and the ‘bee’ failed to attract the number of workmen ‘as the merits of the case demanded.’An obviously disappointed newspaper article lamented that only 17 men had come to help, even though the women had sent over ‘victuals enough for a hundred.’For a time at least, this curious pattern of enthusiasm and apathy would continue in River Falls. A 1900 promotional publication gave the park special notice:‘Nature, out of her abundance, has given to us many bountiful gifts. Among the many beautiful spots in and about the city, none possesses more attraction than the City Park. Situated on the south side of the Glen, with all of its picturesque scenery, extending so as to include the junction falls (sic), the sights are most pleasing to behold. Standing at the point where the two branches of the Kinnickinnic unite, one is held spellbound.’People took this glowing prose to heart and the park was used frequently for picnics, reunions and other summer activities.One former resident recalled that on busy weekends, the train would bring ten to twelve carloads of ‘out of towners’ who came to River Falls for the sole purpose of enjoying an outing at Glen Park.The park commissioners had divided the area into ‘lots,’ each four rods square. Families then agreed to take responsibility for keeping one particular lot trimmed and neatly groomed.This system seemed to work well at first; it saved the city upkeep costs and generated friendly rivalries among lot-holders.The common council and the newly organized River Falls Improvement League both committed time and money to improving the grounds, grading a driveway and a bike trail, and planting large numbers of trees.The Improvement League also formed a committee to oversee the construction of a bridge across the South Fork, from the vicinity of Vine Street to the park.But problems developed -- several contemporary accounts alluded to ‘untoward circumstances’ which worked to the ‘detriment of friendly sentiment’ in the park.. Although the precise nature of the difficulties never was made clear, it seemed that some of the ‘friendly rivalries’ engendered between different families of volunteer groundskeepers developed into petty feuds.Despite pleas to ‘have peace and renew the harmony that promised to make the city park a thing of beauty,’ ill will and vandalism increased sharply.As the 1902 summer season approached the Journal painted a doleful picture of the once proud park. Its grounds were on the ‘borders of destruction,’ the kitchen had been ‘burglarized … the walls adorned with the immortal names of kids in coal etchings’ and all of the resident squirrels had been ‘wantonly shot.’By this time even the optimistic C.R. Morse, who had been one of the most active supporters of community volunteerism, despaired.In early May the Common Council re-established the Board of Park Commissioners and shortly thereafter appropriated $100 which the board could use to improve the park grounds.Two months later the council moved again, passing Ordinance Number 48, which protected the park, prohibited damaging the buildings or grounds, and gave legal authority for enforcing all rules made by the park commissioners.Once this additional responsibility had been accepted, the city government proved to be an able administrator and it developed the grounds to suit a wide variety of recreational purposes.”Note to Readers: Scott Beske, of Best Key Properties, reports they have purchased the property at 216 W. Cascade, which is a couple of properties East of the Glenn Park swing bridge -- "I'm guessing the house is over 100 years old and along with its previous owners we have been working to restore a lot of its character. We are currently renovating the old barn/carriage house into our office. Do you know where I might find any old photos of the River Falls Cascade Ave area?" If anyone has any information or photos for Scott please email him at bestkeyprops@gmail.com. Pat Hunter, Archivistphunter@rivertowns.net

    

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