Park History

From 1855 to 1933 the land on which Way Park now stands was part of an open pasture. It was purchased in 1882 by John S. Way, one of Northfield’s first settlers, who had made his fortune in the 1849 California gold rush. The land was used informally by early Northfielders as a spot for outdoor activities such as sledding, skating, and kite flying.

In 1933 the land was officially made a park, designed by noted Minneapolis landscape architects Morell & Nichols, whose blueprints called for a reflecting pool on the north half of the park and an ornamental sunken garden on the south end. Difficult economic times curtailed their original vision, and a more modest park was ultimately built.

In 1939 the new Northfield Hospital was erected on the south end of the park, where it served the community until its demolition in 2003. The north end of the park continues to be used by the community for outdoor recreation, as it has since the early 1930s.

Looking to the future, Way Park stands to be rehabilitated, although little of the work on this project has begun. The city council, reversing an earlier plan to build condos on the hospital site, has worked with local landscape architect Spencer Jones to create a plan incorporating "the vision of the original design," a garden park with some formal elements on the north end and a less formal south end for walking, sledding, and kite flying. The south end will also contain a memorial for the hospital, a rain garden, and an outdoor amphitheater for community events.

Excerpted from a three-part story about Way Park on The piece was written by Carleton College journalism student Maia Rodriguez, based on conversations with "Way Park Historian" and neighbor David Sudermann).

The Sudermann Files: Researched and written by David Sudermann

Way Park and the 1939 Northfield Hospital: Historical and Legal Aspects of the Case for Dedication, February, 2004 (7.8 MB PDF)

“Past as Prologue”: A Brief History of Way Park, Written in 2006, revised and expanded in May 2008 and January 2009 (500 KB PDF)

A Future for Way Park (+ Appendices), January, 2009 (850 KB + 675 KB PDFs)