One important Frogtown landmark on Minnehaha Avenue is the West Minnehaha Recreation Center. “West Minne” is one of the city’s older recreation centers. The original Platteville limestone recreation center building was erected in 1937-38 as one of many Works Progress Administration (WPA) buildings in Saint Paul. The WPA was a federal program that provided badly needed jobs during the Great Depression. Many historic Saint Paul buildings, walls and other structures were built as a result of the WPA.
West Minne was one of numerous city parks buildings designed and built during Clarence “Cap” Wigington’s tenure with the City of Saint Paul. He is regarded as the nation’s first African-American Municipal Architect. His creations are all over the city and include the Highland Park Water Tower and the Harriet Island Pavilion.
The building has had additions and renovations over time but the Wigington building is still quite distinctive.
The playground itself dates from the 1920s and was served in its early years by a small wood frame building, which was used largely as a warming house for skaters. The wood warming house was later replaced by a small concrete structure for a time. The playground had more than one skating rink during much of its history. Men would push snow into banks to make a large pleasure skating rink. Boards and a net comprised the smaller hockey rink. Frogtown youth played hockey or skated to music. The rinks were lit for nighttime use. Music was played on a record player or phonograph in the warming house, for the pleasure rink.
As the neighborhood’s largest public space, West Minne Playground has hosted countless events over the years. Those range from neighborhood festivals to Frogtown Football teams.
The Frogtown Festival, ethnic festivals and Saint Paul Winter Carnival events were held there. Recreation center and area school sporting events and practices have also been held there. West Minne has long been used by Saint Agnes School and was used by other neighborhood schools in the past.
It’s estimated that more than two dozen kinds of sports have been played at West Minne, in the gym and on the fields, over the years.