Archived Story

Todd Park coming up on 85 years

Published 4:14pm Saturday, June 2, 2012

This fall will mark the 85th anniversary of Todd Park. Over the years, it has evolved and changed with the times.

In 1927, a group of citizens approached the Water and Light Board, suggesting that the former Herzog farm, purchased by the city to use its springs as a water source, be named in honor of the municipal plant superintendent William Todd.

The community wished to honor Todd for his long service to Austin. Todd started as city engineer in 1881. He built the city’s first municipal electric light plant in 1899 and pushed for investment in springs rather than wells for water. Todd was also known for improving and maintaining a park, officially named Central Park, located on the grounds of the municipal plant.

An interesting side note, the first caretaker of Central Park was Anton Friedrich, the man who can be credited with ensuring that George Hormel founded his business in Austin. Friedrich owned a father-and-son butcher shop that burned down in the fire that swept Main Street in 1887. He suggested that Hormel, then a traveling salesman, settle in Austin and go into business with his son Albrecht Friedrich. Friedrich & Hormel, Butchers and Packers, opened in October 1887. The short-lived business was dissolved in 1891 when Friedrich took over the retail side and Hormel focused on meat packing, founding Geo. A. Hormel & Co, now Fortune 500’s Hormel Foods.

In the 1927 Austin Daily Herald article on the park, it is simply described as 100 acres. Another article by Dick Joyce from 1959 describes its features:

“It has 300 picnic tables and five pavilions, 33 stoves and 72 swings, 12 teeter totters and eight sets of horse swings, merry-go-rounds, 10 water fountains and four baseball diamonds–a reserve supply of firewood, a meandering creek and grassy knolls…Picnickers go to the park at night and sleep on a pavilion table to hold it for the next day. Or they come at daybreak to set the table and establish prior claim.”

William Todd died in 1931 of heart failure. Friends say that the 1928 tornado, which destroyed the utility plant, depleted his spirits and lead to his decline. He was survived by two brothers, three daughters and three grandchildren. More on his eldest daughter next time.

 Coming soon to the HHH

•Etiquette School for Young Ladies: Saturday, June 23, presented by an expert from the Minnesota Historical Society at 9 a.m. at the HHH. Recommend for ages 9-14, all ages welcome. Register with the HHH office at 433-4243, cost is $5 per person. A program of the Austin Public Library and the HHH.

•Free concerts in the Peace Garden: Monday, July 2 at 7 p.m. by the Austin Community Jazz Band and Tuesday, July 24 at 6:30 p.m. by Koo Koo Kanga Roo


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