Fond Memories of Robbinsdale’s Graesar Park
Two women who grew up near Graesar Park in Robbinsdale remember unemployed stonemasons building the park along Highway 100. Volunteers hope the park can be restored.
The Lilac Way….then and now
Today Highway 100 is a busy corridor, transporting thousands of cars and commuters to and from work every day. Taking a look at this road today, it’s hard to imagine what it used to be like when it was the perfect place to go for a peaceful Sunday drive.
“Everybody would have picnics back in the day,” remembers Helen Deysher, who grew up near Graeser Park. She remembers people lining up for picnics and jokes that back then people would eat steak instead of hamburgers at a picnic.
Helen and her sister Marion Dean remember watching WPA workers building the park in the late 1930s. The project gave unemployed stonemasons a job building fountains, benches, picnic tables and more at the seven parks along Highway 100. People called the 12.5 stretch of road Lilac Way because of the lilac bushes that lined the road. Creators drew inspiration from the cherry blossom trees in Washington DC and raised money to plant the lilac bushes.
“My dad’s property went down by the lake where the Robbins house was,” says Dean. “We’d play WPA and we’d get a shovel and lean on it.”
Parks along the Lilac Way
Originally there were seven parks along the Lilac Way. Over time, development and reconstruction of Highway 100 destroyed five of the parks. Graesar Park is one of the remaining parks and is in obvious disrepair. There’s crumbling stonework and the signature beehive fireplace is in bad shape. Vandals have left marks on the beehive, but it is still standing.
“Our goal, or primary objective is to get the park restored,” says Kent Brun, who is a local volunteer with the Robbinsdale Lions. “What we want to do is to get people who go by or hear about the park to quickly see the beauty of the park and envision what used to be and still is.”
You can catch a glimpse of the former beauty of Graesar Park by taking a short drive to the only other remaining park on the Lilac Way, Lilac Park. The park used to be called St. Louis Park Roadside Park. Volunteers restored the park and the only other remaining beehive fireplace in 2009.
Future of Graesar Park
People are actively taking note of Graesar Park. There is an online website chronicling the history of the Lilac Way and advocating for restoration. Volunteers and the city of Robbinsdale keep the park from being grown over. The park is currently under MN-DOT ownership, but the long, slow process to transfer ownership of the park to the city of Robbinsdale through the Met Council is underway.