Introduction by Bette Hammel, author of Legendary Homes of Lake Minnetonka
Indeed, our Lake is mighty big, its sparkling waters extend along 125 miles of shoreline and over 14,000 acres of water gracing Wayzata, Excelsior, Deephaven, Maplewoods, Mound, Spring Park, Victoria and more.
Prior to Europeans arriving in the Lake Minnetonka area, the The Dakota Indians occupied the shores and found ample fishing and hunting. Much of the woodland areas around the lake were home to sacred Indian mounds.
The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux was signed in 1851 between the United States and the Upper Dakota Sioux banks. This opened Lake Minnetonka to European settlement and tremendous growth then ensued.
In 1852 Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey was amazed when he first saw the lake thanks to his fishing buddies. “Boys, we have just seen an inland sea!”
Ramsey would return later and visit the country residence of George Brackett in Orono in June of 1888 for a reunion with the surviving officers of the First Minnesota Regiment.
Historically, the lower lake has held most of the elegant mansions of Minnesota’s prestigious families, including those owned by the Pillsburys, Crosbys, Peaveys, and Heffelfingers. Other homes of significance were built on the upper lake including the Dutch Colonial constructed by Edmund Longyear in 1906 at Boulder Bridge Farm.
Samuel S. Gale and his wife Susan platted Cottagewood in Deephaven in 1876. Gale was a prestigous Minneapolis real estate agent and civic leader.
Gale’s daughter Anna (Mrs. Clarkson Lindley) described the virgin area in her journal, “In l834, the wooded shoreline is still unbroken, save for the Harrington and Holt farms across the lake, and from the small white farmhouse, we used to listen to the sounds oF THE big dinner bell floating across the water to us.” Nearby was the Gale cottage, the first house on Breezy Point.
Since Lake Minnetonka was first discovered, more and more business and cultural leaders have been attracted to the lake’s natural beauty and the enticing number of wooded lake shore properties.
As an example, Breezy Point and most of Maplewood is quite the site for new homes and other new modernist architecture. “Maplewoods is changing a lot today,” says Pam Vasquez, local Maplewoods architect. “Years ago it was like living in a park here. Now we are seeing many changes in the neighborhoods. People are still neighborly and content to get together,” she says with a smile.
The new homes going up in Maplewoods reflect a growing trend around Lake Minnetonka which is the further development and redevelopment of the properties abutting the shore.
Current trends include the use of expanded glass facades, wide open patios, landscaping to match the house and occasionally the bold use of color. Although traditional designs are still popular, many homes show the result of combining both styles.
As the lake continues to develop for residential use, an increasing number of lakefront dwellers affirm that preserving Lake Minnetonka’s beauty is a number one priority. Everyone, new or old resident, agrees, “it’s our lake”.