Looking for some summer fun? Try packing camera and maybe a snatch of buttery Scandinavian treats for a climb up Norwegian Hill. It’s on St. Anthony Parkway near Fillmore in the peaceful and shaded depths of Deming Heights Park, a ten acre jewel of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Highways system. You’ll be viewing Minneapolis from one of the several vantage points purported to be the city’s highest peak, 963 feet above sea level. There are, of course, rival claims, including one that Waite Park School at 1800 34th Avenue rests at the pinnacle of the city; other locals aver that Johnson Street NE and 34th Avenue tops Norwegian Hill by a good ten feet!
No mind, on a clear day the legendary Norwegian Hill offers a fine opportunity to see forever. Though one can only surmise the origins of the name of this locally famous pinnacle everyone in Northeast seems to know just where it is and why it’s worth the trip.
The origins of Deming Heights Park are easier to trace. Portius C. Deming, for whom the park is named, was a park commissioner in the last years of the 19th Century and again from 1909-1919. When the land for St. Anthony Parkway, including today’s Deming Heights, was acquired in 1913 the park was first known as Grandview Park. It appears that Commissioner Deming thought the name aptly described the panorama. Apt as that name may have been, the elegant wooded area was re-named to honor the commissioner himself when he died in 1930.
The recognition reflects Commissioner Deming’s commitment to the development of the city, particularly his persistent support of the North and Northeast sections of the Grand Rounds. Capturing the vision of the commissioners and the genius of landscape architect Horace Cleveland with the informed support of community leaders Charles Loring and William Folwell the Grand Rounds thrive today as a hallmark of the City of Lakes.
Suffice to say, Portius Deming deserves the naming honor conferred on him. Construction of the Grand Rounds is a story of vision, yes, but also of intense politics, bartering, badgering, public/private sector negotiation, finances, land acquisition/donation, weather, equipment and more. This snippet from the definitive history of the parkway areas of Minneapolis offers a glimpse of the day-to-day business with which Deming and his fellow commissioners grappled.
Through the relocation of University Avenue, the State Highway Department has brought about a very satisfactory grade separation with the avenue passing underneath the boulevard. On September 25, 1924, the various commercial clubs of Southeast and Northeast Minneapolis staged a gals parade and dedication exercises at Columbia Park, marking the formal opening of St. Anthony Boulevard.
The entire St. Anthony Boulevard project, exclusive of the Armour Tract, was financed as follows: 3/9 city bonds, 2/9 city-wide assessments, and 4.9 benefited district assessment. Many favorable conditions during the construction period, such as available equipment, reduced cost of material, etc, made it possible not only to keep the total expenditure well within the estimates, but permitted the purchase of additional lots east of the parkway intersection at Central Avenue and at Deming Heights, which has greatly enhanced those sections of the Parkway
*It’s a story the depths of which I have yet not plumbed though it remains a goal for future posts to tell more of the story of the vision of Horace Cleveland and of the Commissioners that shaped the seven parkways that comprise today’s Grand Rounds.