Minnehaha Park reaches milestone

THURSDAY, AUG. 27, 2009

Food, crafts and music will honor history of ‘Little Italy of Spokane’

Minnehaha Park is turning 100 years old, and on Saturday the neighborhood council with the same name is putting on a daylong celebration.

The celebration will mark the anniversary of the city’s purchase of the park in 1909; it paid $30,000 for the land.

“We’ve looked into the history of the park,” said Shawn Mock, vice chair of the Minnehaha Neighborhood Council, “and we found that it was a health spa back in 1898.”

In the middle of the park stands a stone building that was originally the home of Edgar Webster, the spa owner. Webster also owned an electrical railroad, Mock said, running from downtown up to the park.

Mock added that Minnehaha means either laughing waters or waterfall.

“That was the name Edgar Webster gave it when it was a spa area,” said Mock.

On Saturday, community groups will put up informational and craft booths, there will be a vintage car show, and at 11 a.m. there will be a short rededication ceremony. Throughout the day there will be food, music and activities for children.

“We’re hoping the mayor can make it up here,” Mock said.

The park was also home to a silent movie studio, but the Minnehaha area was probably best known as the Little Italy of Spokane. Recent immigrants settled around the park in the early 1900s, and several small grocery stores – including Mauro’s, which closed in 2003 – were known across town for their Italian wares.

“The Italian Pioneers Club may be here on Saturday,” Mock said.

The park sits at the base of Beacon Hill, where the Fat Tire Trail Riders Club, a local mountain bike club, is spearheading a trail project, including cleanup, restoration of the trails and production of new maps.

“Minnehaha Park will end up being the trailhead for all the new bike trails up there on Beacon Hill,” Mock said.

Saturday’s events will be hosted by volunteers and do not involve any city funding, Mock said.

“We have zero dollars to do this,” Mock said, “it really is the neighborhood volunteers who have stepped up and turned it into a fabulous event.”

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