Victory Memorial Drive Historic District
Boundaries: A landscaped parkway extending north from the intersection of Theodore Wirth Parkway and Lowry Avenue to 45th Avenue North, then extending east to Humboldt Avenue North and the entrance to Webber Park.
Neighborhood(s): Cleveland, Victory, Webber-Camden
Date of Local Designation: 2003
Date of National Designation: N/A
Historic Profile: Victory Memorial Drive, a landscaped boulevard commemorating fallen World War I soldiers from Hennepin County, is recognized as the largest war memorial in the Twin Cities. As part of the Grand Rounds, a 50-mile tour of parkways and parks encircling Minneapolis, Victory Memorial Drive is a 3.8-mile stretch extending north along Theodore Wirth Parkway from Lowry Avenue North to 45th Avenue North and east to Humboldt Avenue North and the entrance of Webber Park.
Part of a nationwide commemorative movement following World War I, the concept for Victory Memorial Drive in Minneapolis was first conceived by Charles M. Loring, a nationally prominent park advocate. Together with park planner Theodore Wirth, Loring envisioned a two-way boulevard lined with a canopy of trees. Inspired by the City Beautiful movement, the plans for the parkway were intended to reflect "beauty, naturalistic constructivism, and classicism."
On June 11, 1921, more than 30,000 people lined the route of Victory Memorial Drive to witness the dedication ceremonies. Wooden flagpoles, 907 Moline elm trees and 516 wooden markers inscribed with the names and ranks of the fallen soldiers were dedicated.
A number of changes to Victory Memorial Drive have occurred since the dedication ceremony. The original wooden flagpole was replaced by a bronze pole in 1923; the wooden markers, intended to only be temporary, were replaced with bronze markers in the form of crosses (for Christian soldiers) and stars of David (for Jewish solders). The original Moline elm trees did not fare well in the Minnesota climate and were gradually replaced with hackberry trees. A bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln was donated in 1929, and granite walls and plaques were added in 1948. In 1954, the commemorative crosses and stars were embedded into the ground to avoid damage and theft.
In 2009, Victory Memorial Drive underwent alterations which included the installation of the Gateway Monument at the northeast entrance at Humboldt Avenue North, and pedestrian improvements including closing of select vehicle cuts, placement of sidewalks, and expansion of trails. Additional vegetation planting and installation of new light posts near pathways were also completed. The Flagpole Plaza was replaced and included new paving and stone benches. Additionally, commemorative interpretive elements, including the Civil War cenotaph, were installed for the Grand Army of the Republic circle near the Abraham Lincoln statue, where new gardens and walkways were placed.
1920, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
1921, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Hess, Roise and Compnay, "Victory Memorial Parkway Webber Park, and Webber Parkway: An Assessment of Significance," January 2005.
Jursik, Peter, "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form," 2003.
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, "Victory Memorial Regional Park Master Plan," August 2004.
Last updated Jul 28, 2020