Getting with the Program at Lake Harriet

After his amazing Pagoada Pavilion burned to the ground in 1903, The Park Board decided to give architect, Harry W. Jones another try. This time his pavilion was designed in the Classic Revival style. Affectionately known as “The Pavilion”, the facility featured two levels with changing rooms, a restaurant and lower level refreshment stand. There was enough room for for 2,000 concert-goers on the roof. If you didn’t get a seat up top you could always rent out a boat and catch the concert from the lake.

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Lake Harriet was host to all sorts of activities. During the summer months one might take in high diving exhibitions, sailing, touring cars rides, swimming, dining, theater and orchestral concerts and even ostriches on display. A pony ride track, ostriches, and taffy pulling machines entertained children and families at the Pavilion during the day. A fireworks display in 1911 was said to have brought 100,000 people out to the lake. That would have been about a third of Minneapolis at the time. Boating was so popular that hundreds of rental boats lined the west shore extending to 44th Street. It was almost 100 years ago, but the lanes were just as crowded with bicycle riders as they are today. Illustrations of the past Lake Harriet pavilions and a map of where they stood can be seen at the kiosk near the entrance to the band shell parking lot.

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Theodore Wirth was hired to be the new park superintendent in 1906. Wirth was never satisfied with the pavilion or Lake Harriet’s shoreline, which he found to be “regular and monotonous.” He proposed replacing the pavilion many times over the next two decades, even after the pavilion’s pilings in the lake were replaced in 1912 and the pavilion was renovated and rearranged by Harry Wild Jones in 1913.

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The facility didn’t suffer any real setbacks and remained popular until after the rooftop garden was declared unsafe for the weight of concert attendees. The bandstand was moved to the concourse. In 1923, the park board decided to build a new pavilion at Lake Harriet, but with many other projects then in progress, construction of the new pavilion was delayed. A severe storm in 1925 destroyed the old pavilion and scattered the debris of the building into Lake Harriet and forced the park board’s hand. A temporary bandstand was built to the east of the old pavilion, at a cost of $4,000, so the park board could continue to provide concerts at the lake. That temporary structure lasted 60 years, until it was replaced with the current bandstand and stage in 1986. The usual round up of unreliable sources have reported that remnants pavilion’s changing rooms remain beneath the summer green waters just off shore.

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