Quiet White Bear Lake was once a Minnesota vacation mecca

A picnic at Wildwood on White Bear Lake, August 1894.
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

Gov. Pawlenty kicks off the summer fishing season Saturday on White Bear Lake. The event will surely draw hundreds of people to the lake and the city that bears its name.

Manitou Island clubhouse
The Manitou Island clubhouse on White Bear Lake. It was leased by architect Cass Gilbert's family ca. 1895.
Photo by Cass Gilbert, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

Minnesota Public Radio's Tom Crann visited White Bear Lake Thursday morning and stood on the lake shore in one of the quiet neighborhoods that characterize the city these days. But there was a time when the lake was a major destination for St. Paul residents looking to get away.

In the 1860s, train service made White Bear an easy retreat from the city. By the 1870s, the resort town was so popular that trains ran hourly and special trains were commissioned to bring patrons to concerts and plays.

After the turn of the century, day-trippers could take the streetcar from St. Paul to Wildwood amusement park for a swim or a thrill ride.

Crann talked with White Bear Lake Area Historical Society Executive Director Sara Markoe-Hanson about White Bear's heyday and what drew so many people there.

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