bread loaf

Saint Paul Bread Club

We knead to bake!

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Park Ovens in Minnesota

Last substantial update to this pages was on 07/06/2013.

My excitement with brick ovens in parks began when I stumbled across the web site for Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto. The whole idea of a community oven was and still is very exciting to me.

(For cob ovens, I was excited when I found the site for Shell Lake Park. This showed how easy it be to build a cob oven in a park.)

Currently there are a few ovens in Minnesota that are in public parks. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the public cannot in general use these ovens.

Eventually I hope that St. Paul can have a community oven like Toronto (which, I believe, has ovens in at least seven of their parks).

Silverwood Park in St. Anthony, MN, had an oven from 2010 until 2012, but it was not available for public use.

Forts Folle Avoine near Danbury, WI built an oven while I have been maintaining these pages.

The future for park ovens continues to look promising.

There are efforts to get ovens into parks in Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

The Deep Past

On 6/15/2006 Ron Miller, Peter Glick, and David S. Cargo took a tour of 9 parks to see what features and facilities they had that might make one of them a suitable location for building an outdoor oven. At that time, the Saint Paul Parks and Recreation department liked the idea.

The parks department was willing to work with the SPBC to build an oven. Their main concern was security. Any oven that we build must be capable of being adequately secured.

Perhaps the neatest solution I have seen to this was shown in an oven built by Harrington and Hoyle Ltd. for Alexandra Park in Toronto.

They put a wrought-iron gate in front of the oven so that if you could not unlock the gate (physical security) you could not access the oven.

There is no question that security features will add significantly to the final cost of an oven.

The Current Situation

There is a proposal for a new park in Saint Paul, Victoria Park. The effort involves an advisory board and a lot of public input. A community oven is one of the features being considered for the park.

Park Oven Concerns

At present the SPBC does not have the money nor sufficient willing volunteers to make a park oven a reality in Saint Paul.

There are several outstanding questions that must be answered before a serious effort can start.

  • What are all the regulator sign-offs that must be gotten before an oven can be built?
  • Where should an (initial) oven be installed?
  • Should the oven be built or bought?
  • How big should the oven be?
  • What kind of oven should it be?
  • How often will it be used?
  • Who will it be used by?
  • Where will the wood used to fire the oven come from?
  • Where will the ashes created by the fire in the oven go?

The problem of determining where an oven should be built is very multidimensional.

  • An oven in the wrong location won’t get used.
  • A brick oven is durable but expensive.
  • A clay oven is much cheaper but not as durable.
  • A big oven can bake more, but takes more time and fuel to heat.
  • A small oven can bake smaller batches, but might not be big enough for the demand.

This means it’s much easier to make a wrong choice than a right one. It might only be possible to determine what the demand is by building an oven and seeing who shows up and how much there is to bake.

Recent and Existing Park Ovens

Historical Fort Snelling

Fort Snelling Brick Oven

Historical Fort Snelling contains a recreation of the oldest wood-fired brick oven in Minnesota. The original oven dated from 1827 (or earlier). It was used to bake 300 loaves of bread a day, enough for a loaf for every person at the fort.

The Minnesota Historical Society is responsible for running the fort. Sometimes they teach a class on baking bread in the ovens at the fort.

Some members of the Saint Paul Bread Club have taken the class.

If there were a class scheduled, it would be visible at this link.

Gale Woods Farm

Cob Ovens

Gale Woods Farm Pig Cob Oven

Tim Reese, the site manager for Gale Woods Farm decided to build a clay oven.

It was built during a “folk school” class at Gale Woods Farm in June and July of 2008.

This was a cob oven design based on Kiko Denzer’s plans.

There are a couple of photo galleries from two of the three weeks of oven construction.

The oven was built on a trailer so it can be taken into shelter when it needs it or out to where the oven needs to be for different events.

One of those events was a harvest festival on the weekend of Oct. 11 and 12, 2008. I was there baking Oct. 11 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. I made 40 lbs. of dough without a mixer for making calzones and bread.

The pig oven was eventually decommissioned so they could get their trailer back, but at least one more clay oven was built. It’s visible in one of the teaching gardens.

Temporary Ovens

In 2009, members of the SPBC also built a couple of stacked brick ovens at Gale Woods. There are photo galleries from that construction.

Date Link
06/30/2009 Field Trip to Gale Woods to bake bread and pizza
06/26/2009 Field Trip to Gale Woods to rebuild an oven
06/23/2009 Field Trip to Gale Woods to build an oven

There is now a video feature about our work building ovens on-line thanks to our local television station, KARE-11. This link provides access to the feature itself. There had been a page containing a promo for the feature, but they took that page off-line.

Grand Portage National Monument

Grand Portage National Monument has a “Quebec-style” wood-fired clay oven. Apparently they fire it up for their Rendezvous Days and Pow Wow.

In July, 2009, there was an oven-building class taught by Kiko Denzer sponsored by North House Folk School Earthen Oven Building and Baking (Preserving the Past), that apparently built multiple clay ovens.

clay oven form on left and clay oven on wagon at right a clay oven with a smoothed outer layer

These ovens used “several times a week May-Oct.”

The Landing

Stacked Brick Oven at The Landing

Jefferson Spilman, the site manager for The Landing, allowed SPBC members to build a stacked brick oven using brick available there.

Four of us did this on May 14, 2009. The oven was temporary, but worth recording. Some photo galleries (1| 2| record our efforts at oven building and bread and pizza baking.

In mid-June, 2009, the bricks that made up the oven oven were relocated to Gale Woods Farm.

Old Crossing Treaty Park

A Google Alert informed me of an event at Old Crossing Treaty Park near Red Lake Falls, MN. The article said in part, “Aug. 29 - 8:45 a.m.: Firing of the earthen bread oven. Bread baking throughout the day will be directed by Jane Vigness and Marjorie LaCoursiere.” (The full article from the Grand Forks Tribune went behind a pay wall.) The article said the oven was built in 2007 from local materials.

A picture of the oven and the article text indicate that the oven is a Quebec-style cob oven.

Silverwood Park

Silverwood Park Brick Oven

As part of a course at the University of Minnesota, Architecture 4282, Undergraduate Architecture Studio, Marcelo Valdes and 18 of his students built an oven at Silverwood Park for use by the park. As of May 10, 2010, the oven was completed and ready to use.

There was a pizza party for the architecture students who built it (and some of their classmates) on May 10, 2010, and a “Family Pizza Night” on May 14, 2010. (One person wrote on the Park’s Facebook page that they should have the pizza night every month.)

The Saint Paul Bread Club had its Third Annual SPBC Picnic at the Silverwood oven on Aug. 8, 2010.

Unfortunately, the park administration decided to move the oven. Sometime in 2012 they attempted to move the oven to one of the picnic grounds and broke it in the process. Because the current administration does not feel that a park oven is compatible with their long-term vision for the park, they are not interested in replacing it.

Some Park Ovens Elsewhere

Forts Folle Avoine

Forts Folle Avoine in Danbury, Wisconsin built a clay oven in 2009.

According to e-mail I received from Al Johnson the oven at the Fort is now available for public use by making a reservation at Forts Folle Avoine. There will be a minimal charge (to cover firewood and get a little for the Fort) and at least 1 person in the group will have to attend a training firing on the oven. Contact Al Johnson to arrange for a training day.

Location is at Forts Folle Avoine Historical Park located between Webster and Danbury, WI. on Co. Rd U. The address is 8500 County Road U, Danbury, WI 54830.

From Wisconsin 35 turn West on Co. U 3 miles on the right. If you get to the river you missed it! Twin Cities folks will probably take I-35 to Hinkley, MN-48 east to Danbury, and WI-35 south to U. (Don’t get lost at the Casinos; no clay ovens there!)

For more directions and a map go to (No info there on the project, though.)

Contact person at Forts Folle Avoine is Steve Wierschem, Director at the Fort, phone (715) 866-8890, weekdays 9:30-4:00.

Saskatoon Western Development Museum

I saw some “oven news” that mentioned a clay oven as part of the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon. After contacting them via e-mail, I was told that they indeed have a clay oven. Since I inquired they have created a page describing their oven.

So, if you happen to be in the right part of Canada, stop in for a visit.

Western Development Museum - 1910 Boomtown 2610 Lorne Avenue South Saskatoon, SK S7J 0S6

Phone: (306) 931-1910 Fax: (306) 934-0525

Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village

I saw some “oven news” that mentioned a brick oven as part of the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village but their web site didn’t give any details and they were not responsive to e-mail.