Recreation by the waters of Lake Minnetonka had modest beginnings.
In the mid-1800s, Wayzata celebrated the Fourth of July in the area where CoV restaurant stands today.
In 1867, the first train arrived at Wayzata. That same year the first steamboat, the Governor Ramsey, began operation. This opened Wayzata and the entire Lake Minnetonka area to a steady stream of new visitors looking to beat the heat with some summer recreation.
It was around this time that more and more sailboats crisscrossed the big lake.
In the early 1920s the Village of Wayzata purchased the land now known as Shaver Park for $6,000. The lagoon nearest the lakeshore was dredged. In 1926, Wayzata’s first mayor, Rufus Rand, donated funds for a new municipal bathhouse and beach. Soon after, Wayzata acquired the land including the north lagoon. Around that time, the Wayzata Businessman’s Association collected $2,400 for a new walking bridge between the lagoons. This early development is what shaped the summer fun we still enjoy today.
Lifeguards were hired in 1929 and the American Legion provided a boat and oars in addition to lifesaving equipment consisting of several life jackets, ropes and lifesaving rings. A diving board was later installed on a raft just off the shore.
While the 20s were roaring, so were the motorboats on Lake Minnetonka. Motorboat racing was a big deal and thousands of people would pack the Wayzata waterfront to watch the racing boats. Many of those boats were made by local boat builders Moore, Wise and Swaggert. By 1925, Ramaley Boats called Wayzata home.
The flood of folks created a business opportunity — the selling of food along the waterfront. In 1935, Bill Prinz was awarded the concession stand at the beach. You can still grab a bite to eat today along the sandy shore at McCormick’s Beachside.
If you were a baby boomer raised in Wayzata, you likely took swimming lessons at the “H” docks off Wayzata Beach. The beach was the place to be in the summer for area youth. Charles “Chuck” Shoen’s 2004 book “History of Wayzata” captures what the beach meant to the younger generation during the 40s, 50s and beyond:
“The Wayzata Beach was the summer gathering spot for all youth in the school district, and a place to renew friendships with kids who were in private schools. Buses would bring kids from outlying parts of the school district and many a parent would come to town to shop before meeting their kids at the beach.”
Nearly 100 years after Wayzata Beach and the surrounding area started taking shape, it remains a popular destination during the summer months. It’s a great place for youngsters to swim, splash and build sand castles. Imagine listening to the waves lap the shore while reading a book in an Adirondack chair. It’s tough to beat the view on a beautiful summer day. The sunsets are especially spectacular.
Nate Leding grew up in Wayzata and now lives in Plymouth with his wife, daughter and two dogs. He’s a board member with the Wayzata Historical Society, the chair of the Wayzata Heritage Preservation Board and an officer at the Wayzata American Legion Post 118. The Wayzata Historical Society’s website is wayzatahistoricalsociety.org.