Meet the Lilac Way beehive fireplaces.

Graeser Park, the original Lilac Park and Excelsior Boulevard Park had beehive-shaped fireplaces.

Blazer Park in Golden Valley had two tall, tapered fireplaces.

In the 1940s, families would pull off into a roadside park for a picnic, and roast hot dogs in these unique fireplaces.

The National Park Service and MnDOT can document only these two “beehive” fireplaces remaining in the U.S.

lilacway-lilac-iconThese are the last two beehive-shaped fireplaces in the U.S.

St. Louis Park, MN
Robbinsdale, MN

Lilac Way’s fireplaces were built in 1939 by unemployed local stonemasons as part of a WPA project.

Made of limestone quarried along the Minnesota River near the Mendota Bridge, each stone was cut by hand.

lilacway-lilac-iconBeehive-shaped fireplaces, 1939

St. Louis Park, MN
St. Louis Park, MN
Robbinsdale, MN

lilacway-lilac-icon

Tall, tapered fireplaces, 1939

Golden Valley, MN
Golden Valley, MN

Vern Johnson’s father worked on Highway 100 project

“My father would tell me about these beehives… There’d be two or three guys calling out a size stone that he wanted, so when the guy cut the stone he would put number 2 or 3, and that would go to a certain place on the fireplace, so they didn’t get them mixed up.

It was all cut with a hammer and chisel, by hand.”

Why are they called ‘beehives’?

Lilac Way fireplaces were nicknamed ‘beehives’ because they look like skeps—baskets placed open-end-down—used to house bees for more than 2,000 years. Initially made from wicker plastered with mud and dung, from the Middle Ages they were made of straw. In its simplest form, there is a single entrance at the bottom.

There’s no internal structure so the colony produces its own honeycomb, attached to the inside. Skeps have two disadvantages; beekeepers cannot inspect the comb for diseases and pests, and honey removal is difficult, often resulting in destruction of colony.

As of 1998, most US states prohibited skeps because they cannot be inspected for disease and parasites.

Here’s an interesting blog about keeping backyard bees in straw skeps.

Straw skeps were among the first hives provided for bees when people started domesticating bees