The Washburn-Crosby mill on the west bank of the Mississippi River, producer of Gold Medal flour, helped Minneapolis claim the title of flour-milling capital of the world in the late nineteenth century. The industry and riverfront later declined, but the milling complex was repurposed a century later as the Mill City Museum. A new complex for the Guthrie Theater (2006) was built on part of a site where some grain elevators were demolished. The city planned to sell the rest, but William McGuire, CEO of United Health, pushed to create a park combining that parcel and Guthrie-owned land next to the theater. The William W. and Nadine M. McGuire Family Foundation leased both properties for ten years, retained landscape architect Tom Oslund and funded the park, which opened in 2007. In 2014, the nonprofit Gold Medal Conservancy purchased the Guthrie’s parkland and leased the city’s land for fifty years.
The central feature of the 7.5-acre park is a gently sloped, 32-foot-high hill that serves multiple functions: recalling the mounds of the Dakota, who inhabited this area long before Euro-Americans arrived; capping contaminated soil from the site’s industrial use; and providing panoramic views of the river for visitors following a spiral path to the apex. More than 200 large trees were planted for shade and immediate impact. Benches incorporate blue LED lights. Between 2015-7, the park received four sculptures from the Walker Sculpture Garden.
Across West River Parkway at the river bluff's edge is a memorial, also designed by Oslund, to those who died in the collapse of the nearby I-35W bridge.