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6 Triangles and Other Tiny Parks

Midwesterners are accustomed to city streets that run north to south and east to west. When the land is relatively flat, laying out streets on a grid makes sense. But when those streets meet rivers, lakes, and steep hills, sticking to the grid can be difficult. Inevitably some streets end up intersecting at angles other than 90 degrees. Happily, those odd intersections often result in small green spaces.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board oversees nearly 40 “pocket parks,” almost all of which are triangular parcels of land. These mini-parks usually have few or no amenities, but they can provide a quick dose of greenery to those who seek them out. Here are six tiny parks of note (with links to find them on Google Maps).

1. The Smallest City Park

Orlin Triangle, at the intersection of SE Orlin Avenue & Melbourne Avenue S, holds the distinction of being the smallest park in Minneapolis park system. Measuring a mere 360 square feet, the park has exactly one tree, one boulder, 30 feet of sidewalk, and no grass to speak of. But it does have gardens, well maintained by the dedicated volunteers of the Prospect Park Garden Club.

Find Orlin Triangle: https://www.google.com/maps/@44.9662694,-93.2097985,19.00z?hl=en

2. A Humble Monument

Caleb Dorr Circle can be found on the east end of the Franklin Avenue Bridge, at the convergence of Franklin, East River Parkway, and 27th Avenue SE. While nearly all of Minneapolis’ tiny parks are called “triangles,” this city park is the only “circle.” Caleb Dorr was a Minneapolis lumberman who helped build the first log buildings at St. Anthony Falls as well as a wooden dam that spanned the Mississippi River channel between Nicollet Island and the East Bank.

Find Caleb Dorr Circle: https://www.google.com/maps/@44.9647855,-93.2207518,19.00z?hl=en

3. A Not-So-Humble Monument

Smith Triangle is wedged between South Hennepin and Emerson Avenues at West 24th Street. The park is named after lumberman Charles Axel Smith, but the park’s main feature is a monument to Thomas Lowry, a local real-estate magnate who headed the city’s trolley car system. Designed and executed by sculptor Karl Bitter, the monument originally stood a few blocks to the north. But when that area was cleared in 1967 to make way for the Lowry Hill Tunnel, the monument was moved to its current location.

Find Smith Triangle: https://www.google.com/maps/@44.9593456,-93.294321,19.00z?hl=en

4. A Historical Footnote

Humboldt Triangle is on North Humboldt Avenue, just north of Olson Memorial Highway. Created as a small park in 1897, this triangle became even smaller in 1939 when the state Department of Transportation widened the highway. David C. Smith, Minneapolis parks historian and the author of City of Parks, describes this humble patch of land as “one of the first small skirmishes in what would become a war between the park board and the highway department over the taking of park land for highways.”

Find Humboldt Triangle: https://www.google.com/maps/@44.9847814,-93.2984932,19.00z?hl=en

5. The Home Of A Not-So-Tiny Creature

Merwyn Triangle Park is located in the Seward Neighborhood, on East Franklin Avenue between 25th and 26th Avenues South. When you visit, be sure to watch out for Merwyn, a fantastical creature who lives underground but who’s constantly peering into the world of humans. While adults say Merwyn is a public sculpture, children know that he loves to be climbed on. Merwyn was created by local artist Marjorie Pitz in 2004 for the owner of the park, the Seward Towers Corporation.

Find Merwyn Triangle Park: https://www.google.com/maps/@44.9633513,-93.235729,19.00z?hl=en

6. The Most Aptly Named Tiny Park

Triangle Park, on the south side of downtown (415 South 10th Street), is best described as a swath of green balanced between two freeway ramps. Volunteers from the Friends of Triangle Park have worked with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the City of Minneapolis to transform a highway construction “leftover” into a welcoming park. It’s the perfect spot to have lunch with a friend, conduct a COVID-safe business meeting, or just lay in the grass and contemplate the honey locust trees.

Find Triangle Park: https://www.google.com/maps/@44.9709123,-93.2690112,19.00z?hl=en

To learn more about the many tiny parks in Minneapolis, visit:

Minneapolis Park Board’s Triangles and Other Tiny Parks

David C. Smith’s blog, Minneapolis Park History (search for “triangle”)

The Friends of Triangle Park

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