The thirteen miles of paths that connect parkways and five lakes in southwest Minneapolis stem from the vision of Board of Park Commissioners President Charles Loring and landscape architect H.W.S. Cleveland. Cleveland’s 1883 park system plan called for a parkway around Lake Harriet and most of Lake Calhoun; today the Chain of Lakes also includes connections to Cedar Lake, Brownie Lake, and Lake of the Isles.
Much of the land around the lakes was donated by local landowners, including 65-acre Lyndale Park, located between Lakes Calhoun and Harriet, which combined land from William King and nearby Lakewood Cemetery in 1890. The first parkways, around Lake Harriet and Lake of the Isles, opened in 1886. In his 1899 plan, Warren Manning called for extending boulevards and plantings along park edges. Superintendent Theodore Wirth built a municipal rose garden at Lyndale Park in 1906 and, through significant dredging operations, deepened and reshaped the lakes and enlarged the islands in Lake of the Isles from 1907 to 1931. Channels joining the lakes were constructed between 1911 and 1917, with grade-separated bridges overhead. In 1970 Eckbo, Dean, Austin and Williams and local landscape architect Roger Martin proposed reconfiguring circulation infrastructure, with walking paths near the lakes followed by two-way bike lanes and one-way parkways with parking spaces. In 1997 Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates developed water quality and circulation improvement recommendations, many of which have been implemented.