Thanks to the many sources of
information for this page:
Jim McNulty, great-grandson of
Westwood Hills Golf Club founder James A. McNulty, sent us
numerous photos and information.
7th grade student Emily C.
Krause shared the research she did for her "St. Louis Park
Then and Now" school project.
Debbie Ellsworth wrote a profile of
Bob McNulty for the neighborhood newsletter.
Joe Bissen wrote an article on
"Lost Golf Courses" in a 2010 issue of Minnesota
Golfer Magazine. Joe recently contacted us:
"I am expanding my research greatly and am in the
process of writing a book about lost golf courses in
Minnesota. Westwood Hills will be a primary chapter in
the book. I have talked with Jim McNulty and his mother,
Helen, and have interviewed more people who remember
the course. I have walked the grounds multiple times. I
have probably more material on Westwood Hills than any
other lost course in Minnesota. I would be
interested in hearing from people who remember the
course. They could email me at
Please feel free to
contact us with
additional information you may have.
As was much of St. Louis Park, the area that would become
the Westwood Hills Environmental Education Center was
primarily populated with dairy farms. The acreage included
Westwood Lake. It was roughly bordered by what is now I-394,
Highway 169, and Texas Ave.
1928, the Westwood Hills Golf Course opened with 27 holes
and 9,405 total yards. It was owned and operated by
James A. McNulty (photo at left). Ralph Forbes was the
first manager and Pat Johnson the first groundskeeper.
Lester Bolstad was the first pro, succeeded by Gunnard
Johnson. The golf course was open to the public.
It was the only 27-hole course in the Twin Cities. The
course was continually improved throughout the 1930s.
Through the years, many famous golfers played the links
there. The course was a family business that included
James' son John C. and his wife Mildred, and John's sons
Robert James McNulty and John, who ran the golf course for a
number of years until Robert redeveloped the property in the
Joe Bissen notes in his "Lost Golf Courses" article that veteran golfer John Hubbell called it a fun course,
but said that there was a lot of peat and could be kind of
Photos courtesy of Jim McNulty
In 1955, the golf course was no longer profitable, and given
the rush to build houses in St. Louis Park, the family began
to develop the land for housing.
The Murri-Mac company was formed by Robert McNulty to do the
land development and he involved Lyle Murray as a partner.
The Westwood Hills Construction Company was formed by Robert
for the actual home construction. It was a successor to
Hyland Homes, which had been the building company of his
father, John, and grandfather James A. McNulty. In the
fifties the name was changed to Robert J. McNulty Company,
and then in 1956 the name was changed to McNulty
Construction Company, under which name it continues today.
Ted Dietrick and others suggested to
the City Council that the City buy up a fair number of the
McNultys' 500 acres for a park.
The clubhouse suffered a fire in 1956. It was put out but
reignited, burning the building to the ground. The fire
caused $100,000 in damage.
An article in The Minneapolis Sunday Tribune on
August 5, 1956, reported that R.J. McNulty and L.A. Murray,
president and vice president of the Westwood Hills
Construction Co., had purchased
300 acres from the McNulty family for development into
residential tracts. 225 acres of the parcel was going
to be divided into sites for 630 homes, a nine-hole golf
course, clubhouse, tennis courts, swimming pool and other
recreational activities. Houses were to be in the
$20,000 to $30,000 range, high-end for the time, and subject
to architectural approval. The plan changed somewhat
as it progressed through the approval processes and various
additions; the pool part of it did not became part the
development. The other 75 acres, which
had not been part of the golf course, were planned to be
developed as Westwood Hills first and second addition, with
space for 240 houses.
Courtesy Jim McNulty
The Westwood Hills 1st subdivision, with 149 housing sites, was
recorded on September
27, 1955, and was located on the site of four of the golf
course’s 27 holes. At this point the golf course was still
operating with 18 holes. Westwood Hills 2nd, with 5 housing
sites, was recorded on July 9, 1956. Westwood Hills
3rd, with 10 sites on Westwood Hills Drive, was recorded on
September 12, 1957. A brochure put out by McNulty
Homes offered to take your present home in trade.
In 1957, Murri-Mac bought 117 acres and proposed
to develop 400-500 homes on 68 acres of the parcel from the golf course
and the rest from further north (or possibly east of Texas?). A “Save the Green”
committee was formed, with 450 members, trying to stop
residential development. The City decided to look at
purchasing some of the property.
A referendum was held in the spring of 1958 and the City did
buy 90 acres of the property. 30 acres were set aside for
Westwood Jr. High School, which was originally to be called
Westwood Hills Jr. High. This part of the property east of
Texas was not part of the original golf course.
In 1959, Westwood Hills was used as a parking lot for the
PGA Championship being held at the Minneapolis Golf Course.
(Note: James A McNulty had earlier sold the land to the
Minneapolis Golf Club upon which they built their clubhouse
and golf course.)
On August 17, 1959, the Parks and Recreation Advisory
Commission recommended to the City Council that the City
acquire Westwood Hills Park. The City offered Murri-Mac
$200,000. Murri-Mac countered with $230,000. The
Council authorized the City Attorney to offer no more than
A note in the City Council minutes says that the City leased
the Westwood Hills Golf Course in 1960 and 1961. The
property was also used for day camps, picnics, and winter
The golf course was gone by the early sixties - it does not
appear in the 1961 directory.
Development continued in the area. In 1959/60, a housing
development was started on Westwood Hills Drive. A water
pipe broke on Franklin Ave., and Westwood Lake started to
fill up and flood, killing surrounding trees. Water backed
up through the Highway 12 culvert onto Brookview Golf
Course, and into Basset Creek. In 1963, the City Council
required the developers of Westwood Estates 2nd Addition to
ensure that the water of Westwood Lake was controlled by an
Also see the City's web page for the
Westwood Hills neighborhood.
WESTWOOD HILLS NATURE CENTER
In 1971, the City was looking at 150 acres, including
60-acre Westwood Lake, to be developed into what would
become the Westwood Hills Nature Center. Borders of the area
were Highway 12, Westmoreland Lane, Flag Ave., and Utah Ave.
22 acres of that land was owned by the City of Golden
Valley. 16 acres south of the lake belonged to Robert
McNulty, and there were six other acres east of the lake.
The property was acquired with Federal, State, City, and
private money, including donations from Northwestern Bell,
the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce, and Rotary.
Acquisition apparently took a long time, as the Westwood
Hills Nature Center didn’t open for another ten years. In
the meantime, the site was used for summer day camp.
was a devastating fire in September
1976 that required the services of many fire departments in
the surrounding area.
The first building of the Nature Center started construction on January 16, 1980, and was
completed in February 1981. The first director, Pat Parker,
was named in 1982. Honeywell donated an alarm center in June
1982, but vandals caused $1,700 in damage that September.
Two houses came with the site, both built in 1935.
The "Brick House" (1324 Westwood Hills Road) sits on a
glacial morraine, one of the highest points in St. Louis
Park. The houses are used for housing for interns, and
cannot be sold.
Some of the activities that were sponsored by the Center
included making maple syrup, an Easter egg hunt, making
apple cider, and beekeeping. A honey bee observation apiary
was constructed in 1995, and a puppet theater was added in
2000. Over 10,000 school children, public and private,
visited the center during 1982-83. The Center was also a
site for the Hennepin County Youth Program, where young
people between 14 and 21 were paid minimum wage to build
Also see the
Westwood Nature Center's web site
and a timeline that they