There once was a little island in the Mississippi River underneath the Plymouth Avenue Bridge.
In 1902, Minneapolis Health Officer Pearl Hall homesteaded the island with the controversial ambition of building a garbage incinerator. When the city council doomed those plans, he proposed a sparkling idea to open a summer resort instead.
According to early city documents, It used to be that a dozen or so people would drown every year playing in the wild Mississippi. With the opening of the Gerber Bathhouse, which drew hundreds of thousands of each summer, there were no more fatalities.
Twenty years later, that bathhouse burned down. The Scherer Brothers Lumber Company purchased Hall’s Island in the 1960s, filling in the channel that separated it from the shore to create more space for its lumber yard.
In 2010, Minneapolis Parks and Rec bought the land back for the public. They tore down the Scherer Brothers’ buildings, paved a bike trail, and launched a competition to recreate Hall’s Island.
Work will finally begin next month. As part of its RiverFirst master plan, Parks and Rec will carve the island back out from the mainland, build it out a bit, and plant prairie plants all over as a pitstop for migrating birds. A backwater channel will nurture native mussels. Basking logs and rock ledges will provide refuge for reptiles and small mammals.
The island should reappear by next summer.
On the shore side, Parks and Rec is constructing a new gravel beach for watercraft and laying groundwork for pedestrian bridges that will eventually connect to Hall’s Island, allowing visitors to stroll the perimeter.