On June 11, 1921, more than 30,000 people gathered together on Victory Memorial Drive to remember the 568 Hennepin County men and women who died during World War I. The drive, designed by Charles Loring and Theodore Wirth, stretches 3.8 miles in north Minneapolis. The drive was lined with the memorial trees highlighted in this program, along with a flagpole and hundreds of wooden markers.
In June 1921, World War I was still a very recent memory; the 30,000 people attending the dedication ceremonies were there because they had experienced firsthand the devastation caused by the War, whether on the battlefield or on the home front. Each of the 568 markers represented a real person, a Hennepin County resident who lost his or her life in the war. Many of their family and friends were among the audience on June 11, 1921.
In addition to speeches made by local dignitaries, national figures also sent in messages. “The opening of Victory Memorial driveway by the city of Minneapolis,” wrote President Harding, “with the realization of the beautiful idea of dedicating trees to the brave boys from that city who gave their lives in the great war is an occasion for congratulations to the people of Minneapolis upon having such an impressive, lasting, and useful tribute to the memory of those heroes.”
Victory Memorial Drive remains today, although it has evolved over the years. The original elm trees have mostly been replaced with hackberry trees, and the wooden markers replaced with bronze. Additional walls, plaques, and statues have been added over time. In June 2011, Minnesotans once again gathered on Victory Memorial Drive following the completion of an extensive campaign that repaired, rehabilitated, and updated the living memorial.
This program is part of the Museum’s World War I collection. We will also be sharing more of these materials throughout 2018 as we gear up to commemorate November’s 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.