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West Calhoun Neighborhood

West Calhoun Neighborhood

West Maka Ska, formerly known as West Calhoun, is a neighborhood in the U.S. city of Minneapolis. The neighborhood was general rural with a couple grain silos along the railroad track heading into Downtown Minneapolis until about the 1910s. Although the railroad still runs through the neighborhood, the neighborhood is now mainly homes, apartment buildings, and strip malls.

It is the southwestern-most neighborhood of the Calhoun Isles community in the western part of the city. The neighborhood is bordered on the east by East Bde Maka Ska, the north by Cedar-Isles-Dean, the south by Linden Hills and the west by the city of St. Louis Park. Its boundaries are Lake Street to the north, Bde Maka Ska to the east, 36th Street to the south, and France Avenue to the west.

History
In 2020, the neighborhood voted to change their name to West Maka Ska after the name change of Bde Maka Ska.

A history that continues to evolve
While our neighborhood had its beginnings in Dakota culture, it is now a wonderful melange of different people and heritages from around the world.

The area is known as West Maka Ska because it is situated on the western shore of Bde Maka Ska, a Dakota name meaning White Earth Lake or White Bank Lake.

Before Europeans settled this area, Bde Maka Ska and environs were populated by Dakota people, but in 1817 a U.S. Army survey party discovered the lake and renamed it Lake Calhoun to honor Secretary of War John C. Calhoun.

Prior to its abandonment in 1839 there was a Dakota farming village on the south shore of the lake known as Heyate Otunwe, or Cloudman’s Village. It was here that the Dakota language was first recorded in writing, by missionaries Samuel and Gideon Pond.

Early development

In the 1870s, Lake Calhoun, as it was then called, was a resort area. People came to the area to get away from the city. In 1874, Louis Menage developed a resort hotel on the western shore of Lake Calhoun, where the Minikahda Club stands today. The area was called Menage’s Lake Side Park. Visitors reached the park by a small steamer run by the Motor Line (which also ran trains to the area in hopes of cashing in on the resort business.)

The area was expected to “appeal to the super wealthy who would be able to commute to Minneapolis in their personal carriages.” However, Lake Side Park did not attract the super rich and the area was replatted in 1891 and the Minikahda Club was established in 1898. The golf course was opened as a nine hole course, but was expanded to eighteen holes by 1923.

Much of the land around Bde Maka Ska was swampland. By 1900, only five houses had been built in the area just north of the Minikahda Club. The area was dredged in the early 20th century. Virtually all of the park, beaches and boulevards are built on man-made land.

In 1914, the Minneapolis Park Board purchased two launches and offered scheduled trips around Bde Maka Ska and into Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake and Brownie Lake. Stops on the boat trip included 31st Street, 34th Street, Thomas Avenue, 36th Street (referred to as “Mineral Springs), “Spring Beach” (opposite the Minikahda Club) and Lake Street. The Park Board also operated a boat concession, renting rowboats and sailboats.

Honoring our Dakota heritage

It took almost 200 years before Minneapolitans began to question whether it was right to have a lake named after John C. Calhoun, given his reputation as a white supremacist and the nation’s most ardent and powerful defender of slavery. Whereas some Southern politicians had excused slavery as a necessary evil, Senator Calhoun called it a positive good in a speech on the Senate floor in 1837.

In 2017 the Park Board voted unanimously to restore the name of the lake as Bde Maka Ska. This decision was followed by legal challenges, but on May 13, 2020, the Minnesota Supreme Court ended the uncertainty by ruling in favor of the name change.

While the legal battle of the lake’s name was underway, the neighborhood council began surveying residents about their preferences for a neighborhood name. There was initially no consensus with about half of the surveyed residents not wishing a change and the other half favoring a change to either West Lake, after the light rail station that is now under construction, or to West Maka Ska. As we continued to survey residents and get more responses from renters and younger residents, sentiment began to shift in favor of a name change.

The police murder of George Floyd pushed the neighborhood council to take action. At a public meeting in July 2020, a motion was made to request that the city change the name of the neighborhood to West Lake. However, after hearing resident input in favor of honoring the neighborhood’s Dakota heritage with the name West Maka Ska, the council voted to request that name. In October 2020, Minneapolis City Council approved renaming of our neighborhood as West Maka Ska.

West Maka Ska has it all
Nowhere in the Twin Cities can you find such diversity of experiences, all within walking distance. From kayaking to windsurfing. From seafood to street food. From hidden gems to iconic landmarks. Shops. Restaurants. People-watching. Lake-walking. Trail-hopping. Holes-in-one and fun in the sun. An urban retreat in the middle of it all. And to top it all off, you get to live here.

Canoeing Minnehaha Creek
Did you know there are many canoe and kayak launches along Minnehaha Creek’s 22 mile route? The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) has a map that is full of good information about paddling the creek, what the watershed district is doing to improve the creek, and how you can help keep it clean.

In addition to checking the discharge rate at the creek’s headwaters at Gray’s Bay Dam, they recommend also checking the flow at Hiawatha Avenue in south Minneapolis where the U.S. Geological Survey operates a gauge. Because the creek receives runoff from stormwater pipes along the route, the rate of flow often increases the further you get downstream of the dam.

In some stretches, the creek is narrow and winding so it’s important to know how to navigate a canoe. But if you are a less experienced paddler or if you are paddling with kids, we recommend trying out the section from Gray’s Bay Dam to St. Albans Mill in Minnetonka or the section from Lynnhurst Park to Longfellow Lagoon in Minneapolis. These sections tend to have slower flowing water and fewer rapids.

The Bakken Museum
The Bakken Museum inspires a passion for innovation by exploring the potential for science, technology, and the humanities to make the world a better place. The museum offers exhibits, education programs, and an artifact collection all about invention, technology, and science.

Bde Maka Ska
Whether you enjoy kayaking, volleyball, paddleboarding or even just a fun day at the park, Bde Maka Ska (known as Lake Calhoun before restoration of the Lakota name) is a fantastic summer hangout spot for all ages.

The lake also features a 3.1 mile pedestrian and bike trail that intersect with Lake Harriet and Lake of The Isles trails, as well as Uptown.

Movies & Music in the Park
Every summer, Minneapolis celebrates in the great outdoors with a series of free concerts and movies in locations all around the city. It’s a great way to meet people and enjoy a night of entertainment under the stars.

References:

“West Maka Ska, Minneapolis” │ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Maka_Ska,_Minneapolis

“A History That Continues To Evolve” │ https://www.westmakaska.org/about-the-neighborhood

“West Maka Ska Has It All” │ https://www.westmakaska.org/why-we-love-it-here

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