Category Archives: Newsletter

2016: Year In Review

Courtesy of Morgan Chapman

Dear Minnehaha Supporters:

2016 marked an important milestone in Minnehaha’s career and a significant achievement for the Museum of Lake Minnetonka as it was the twentieth anniversary of Minnehaha’s return to passenger service. We are very proud to say that, as of May 25, Minnehaha has now been in service longer in her second life than in her first. Furthermore, we are thrilled by the past year’s near-record ridership – approximately 11,500 – as it shows that, even after twenty years, Minnehaha and her story continue to inspire new interest and remain a beloved piece of the community. Thus, the legend continues! The following is merely a recap of the latest chapter in Minnehaha’s story.

Courtesy of Jim Douglas

To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the restored Minnehaha’s maiden voyage, the MLM hosted a party at Excelsior Brewing Company in May for volunteers old and new. It was a joyous evening with live music, good beer and food, and mingling between the earliest of early volunteers and newest of new recruits. On the morning of May 25 – exactly twenty years to the hour since the maiden voyage – a commemorative video entitled “Salvaged Memories” was published on the Steamboat Minnehaha Facebook page. This video was shared by 450 individuals and viewed nearly 30,000 times over the course of several days. To further commemorate this moment, a beautiful tribute by Meghan Davy was published in the Lakeshore Weekly newspaper.

For the third year in a row, the MLM partnered up with the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society for three “Tapping History” charters. In June, historian Scott McGinnis spoke about the history of Tonka Bay and the Lake Park-Tonka Bay Hotel. In July, historian Paul Maravelas spoke about the Native American history of Lake Minnetonka. Finally, in August, Todd Warner of Mahogany Bay spoke about Lake Minnetonka’s antique and classic boat community while several antique and classic boats cruised in tandem with Minnehaha. Furthermore, the MLM partnered with the Wayzata Historical Society in July for a single historical charter hosted by historian Joanie Holst and Captain Aaron Person.

Courtesy of Dan Gustafson (wayzata.com)

Per usual, Minnehaha participated in all of the major community events in Excelsior and Wayzata this year. Excelsior Art on the Lake, the Wayzata Art Experience, James J. Hill Days, and Excelsior Apple Day were all successes with good weather and lots of good people. Minnehaha also sailed up to Wayzata for five concerts at the depot in July and August. Performers this year included Jeff Dayton, Alison Scott, and the ever-outstanding Davina and The Vagabonds.

In conjunction with Minnehaha’s twentieth anniversary season, a new Oral History Project was launched to document the history of Minnehaha’s recovery and restoration through personal interviews. This project is being led by longtime volunteers Sharon Provost and Darel Leipold. Interviews began in August, but the effort is ongoing.

 

The Archives Committee has been hard at work over the past several months securing a nearly $10,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society and creating an inventory of materials. In October the committee hired a professional archivist, Rachel Howell, as a consultant for the project. Rachel will be working closely with the committee until June 2017. The committee’s goal is to improve the organization and storage of materials so that the archives can one day be open to researchers.

While reflection on the past twenty years has been an emphasis for the MLM in 2016, Minnehaha gained several new qualified crew members this year. Minnehaha has one new Captain, Linc Deter, and four new Lead Pursers: Cameron Guthrie, Bob Hilton, Katherine Schafer, and Mike Strommen. On a sadder note, Minnehaha’s longest-serving Captain, Bruce Tuttle, retired at the end of the season. Bruce was involved during Minnehaha’s restoration and has been a Captain for nearly all of the past twenty years. We wish him well and will forever be grateful for his service.

Courtesy of Jim Douglas

After Minnehaha came out of the water in October, the MLM hosted a final party at Wayzata Brew Works to commemorate the end of her twentieth anniversary season. Wayzata Brew Works, it should be noted, stands at the same location that Minnehaha was designed and had her original parts cut. It was a joyous way to end a joyous season.

Minnehaha is currently resting in her winter maintenance barn receiving her annual TLC. Major projects for this winter include opening the boiler for its biennial inspection and replacing the aft deck membrane. Other smaller projects continue as well. Be sure to check out the Steamboat Minnehaha Flickr page for excellent maintenance photographs and more by photojournalist Jim Douglas.

As always, we deeply thank all of our members, volunteers, donors, partners, and passengers for their continued enthusiasm and generosity. It has truly been a privilege having such dedicated supporters like you over the past twenty years. We wish you a Happy New Year and look forward to seeing the legend continue in 2017!

Sincerely,
The Museum of Lake Minnetonka

2015: Year In Review

SunriseDear Minnehaha Supporters:

Time has certainly escaped us as we can now say that it is the end of yet another year and yet another sailing season on Lake Minnetonka – and what a year it has been! 2015 saw higher-than-normal ridership on board Minnehaha, as well as some very special events, media coverage, and more. The following is a summary of just some of the happenings that have transpired over the past twelve months.

The Winter Maintenance Crew worked hard finishing up various projects before Minnehaha‘s launch in May. On top of the regular repairs and inspections that are made every year, two unique projects that took place were rebuilding Minnehaha‘s telescoping smoke stack and planing her bronze propeller. The smoke stack can now be raised and lowered more easily when needed, and the planed-out propeller (originally from the Express Boat Como) reduces stress on the steam engine and allows for a smoother ride.

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2014: Year In Review

Bold. That was the type of year 2014 was for the Museum of Lake Minnetonka. With an overhauled timetable, national press coverage, and another Captain at the helm, it was nothing short of this. Here we will reflect on this truly spectacular year.

New Passenger Experience

It began by asking the question “How can our passengers’ experience be more historical?” We realized at that point that the Museum had to reinvent itself – no longer could we simply provide a mere boat ride. Instead we would have to provide a fully historical, educational, and legendary experience. The first order of business was to overhaul Minnehaha‘s timetable with all new and unique cruises, each of which would cover a different part of the lake and highlight different stories from Lake Minnetonka’s past. Among these new cruises included Minnetonka’s Gold Coast, Legends of Big Island, and Victorian Gems, Cottage Treasures. An additional specialty cruise called The Grand Minnetonka Voyage was added as well. Departing only once a month, this two-and-a-half hour cruise would be by far the most inclusive experience the Museum had ever offered.

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Firing The Arezoo

Mike McWilliams, Engineer

In last year’s newsletter we featured an article about one MLM volunteer’s experience aboard the RMS Segwun, the oldest operating steamship in North America, which caught the attention of one of Segwun‘s engineers, Bryan Dawes.

This past summer the MLM received an email from Bryan Dawes seeking the expertise of an engineer in Minnesota who could help fire a newly built steamboat named Arezoo, a replica of an Edwardian gentleman’s steam launch. Arezoo, which means Wish in Persian, began life in 1994 when IMAX co-founder Robert Kerr designed her. Kerr’s “relentless pursuit of perfection” is evident in every detail of the vessel’s impeccable craftsmanship – it appears more like a piece of art than a functioning boat. Sadly Kerr passed away before construction of the vessel was complete, though his daughters Nancy and Barbara went on to finish the project shortly after his death. By 2011 Arezoo was ready to set sail with initial boiler tests and sea trials conducted by Bryan Dawes on Lake Ontario.

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Wayzata’s New Landmark

Aaron Person, Captain

Strolling through the woods of Shaver Park in Wayzata, visitors and local residents alike are bound to pass by a little log cabin that has seemingly appeared out of nowhere. If they read the plaque standing next to the structure, passersby might be shocked to discover that this unsuspecting shack is actually the oldest surviving structure in Wayzata and likely the oldest in the greater Lake Minnetonka area, possibly dating back to the 1850s. But it didn’t simply appear there spontaneously. Bolted to a boulder near the cabin’s entrance is another plaque that reads: “Through the dedication of Irene Stemmer this nineteenth century Trapper’s Cabin was saved in 2014.”

The “Trapper’s Cabin,” as it is called, was originally located east of town, just north of the railroad tracks off Bushaway Road, though the tracks probably didn’t even exist when the cabin was built. Although it is unknown who actually built the cabin, records show that Horace Norton was the original owner of the property it sat on. Norton purchased the land in 1855 from the federal government under the Act of Preemption. However, this does not necessarily mean that Norton built the cabin – property owners of the time often bought land without actually visiting it, and it was common for squatters to build small, primitive shacks on the land without any official record. One theory, although purely based upon lore, suggests that the cabin was built by a Black logger who was sent out from Saint Paul to clear the land. Another theory suggests that it was built by an early trapper, which is why the structure has been referred to as the “Trapper’s Cabin” since the early 1900s. One thing that is certain, however, is that the cabin was constructed out of timber from nearby tamarack swamps, almost all of which were depleted early on for use as railroad ties and other construction. Tests conducted by the Department of Forest Resources at the University of Minnesota have confirmed this hypothesis.

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2013: Year In Review

37 Water Street

We kicked off the 2013 Season with the Grand Opening of the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce‘s new Welcome Center at 37 Water Street, where we now have an office to act as a “home base” for our merchandise and archives. It was a lovely evening to get acquainted with the recently renovated facility, take crazy pictures with friends both old and new, and enjoy fine refreshments amid jazz in the background. The Welcome Center is currently open from 9 to 5 every week, Monday through Friday – stop by if you haven’t yet had the chance!

Art On The Lake & Wayzata Art Experience

Two annual Lake Minnetonka traditions held at the end of June are Excelsior’s Art On The Lake and the Wayzata Art Experience. Art On the Lake has become a staple in our “Special Events” schedule over the years with half-priced cruises departing the dock every hour. But 2013 was the first year that we had ever participated in the Wayzata Art Experience, a similar festival held at the other end of the lake. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate for either event as rain dampened the festivities in Excelsior and severe storms destroyed the Wayzata Art Experience. Despite all odds, however, Minnehaha steamed on and ran every cruise as planned. We even had local author and architectural historian Bette Jones Hammel narrate a special “Architectural Design” cruise out of Wayzata which showcased dozens of historic homes along Lake Minnetonka’s shoreline.

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Connections Abroad: RMS Segwun & The Muskoka Steamships

Aaron Person, Captain

Segwun, in Algonquin, means springtime. Thus, the first sounding of the RMS Segwun’s steam whistle marks the arrival of spring on Lake Muskoka. Muskoka, approximately ninety minutes north of Toronto, is a glimmering network of channels and bays hidden within the forests of Ontario. It is much like Lake Minnetonka in this regard. Muskoka is also a mecca among antique and classic boat enthusiasts with annual shows and rendezvouses being among the region’s biggest summer highlights. Crowning above all other historic craft, however, is perhaps the most well-known icon of the Muskoka region: the RMS Segwun – a gleaming white passenger steamship approximately 125 feet long, three decks tall, with a red and black funnel atop her superstructure. She cuts through the water ever so gracefully, blowing her signature steam whistle for onlookers waving from shore, just as she has done for over 120 years.

Built as the side-wheeler Nipissing in 1887, the ship now known as Segwun was put into service as a packet boat that would bring people and goods to and from a number of landings all around the lake, making stops at resorts and private docks along the way – a service which essentially mirrored that of Minnehaha‘s. All connections to civilization were tied in the communities of Bracebridge and Gravenhurst, where summer tourists and lake residents alike would arrive by train from Toronto, Montreal, New York, Detroit, and beyond. Continue reading

The Glidden Tour Of 1909

James Vair, Purser

Glancing at their cars you would never believe that just a few days before they had been brand new. Or had ever been clean. What had once been gleaming paint with intricate Edwardian-era detail and miles of freshly polished chrome was now obscured beneath layers of mud. Tall, smooth fenders had given way to countless dents and dings from rocks and other flying debris. Their thin tires and ornate wooden wheels had started the tour well, but were soon useless on the country roads, taking a toll from the mud and deep wagon ruts. The drivers matched their automobiles in this regard. With their cars’ open air designs they had been exposed to the elements and were caked in dust. Luckily their goggles were still holding up – but they still had another two weeks to go!

Who were these intrepid drivers? They were the members of the 1909 AAA Automotive Reliability Tour, or, as it is more commonly remembered, the Sixth Annual Glidden Tour. A test of vehicle endurance, performance, and driver stamina, the tour contestants had started their journey back in Detroit on a sunny July morning. Their destination was Kansas City, with the tour’s route specifically designed to prove to skeptical American buyers that automobiles were indeed a viable form of cross-country transportation.

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Remembering Kermit Stake, Recipient Of The 2013 ‘Hall Of Fame’ Award

Lori Cherland-McCune, Step-daughter

Kermit Stake’s love for the steamboat Minnehaha, Lake Minnetonka, and boats in general was no secret. Along with his wife, Audre, they volunteered many an hour toward Minnehaha’s restoration and its subsequent lake travels. Audre’s grandfather was Royal C. Moore, the designer and builder of the original streetcar boats, and although Moore died five years before she was born, the love of boats had become a family legacy ever since.

Kerm was born at home in Minneapolis on April 19, 1926 to Swedish immigrant Henrik Stake and his Swedish-American wife, Mildred Mark. He arrived prematurely, so his father rushed him to the hospital. He weighed only four pounds and was not expected to survive, but the nurses kept him warm in the hospital’s kitchen oven and named him “Arby” for “Our Baby.”

He grew up in South Minneapolis at 40th Street and 40th Avenue, not far from Minnehaha Falls. He attended Longfellow Elementary School and graduated from Roosevelt High. He spent his childhood summers in northern Wisconsin with his mother’s family, who were involved in the logging and sawmill industry. He and his friends took the streetcar all over the metro area to go fishing and to attend knothole games of the Minneapolis Miller baseball team. During high school he tried to enlist in the Army Air Corp, but they wouldn’t welcome him until he turned eighteen in 1944. So, he started flight school and was sent to field artillery, where they discovered that he was color blind. He then became a communication specialist in the First Army in the French Alps, but mustered out in 1946 to attend the University of Minnesota for a time.

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Orville S. McCormick, Steamboat Engineer

Kathy Newman, Marketing

Orville McCormick was Minnehaha’s first Engineer. He tended to the fire in her firebox, monitored the water level in her boiler, and oiled her engine from her first run in 1906 until her final run in 1926. The working conditions were cramped, hot, and dirty. The workday was long and demanding. As a third-generation steamboat engineer, Orville was the perfect person for the job. Orville’s father, Lewis Cass McCormick, and his step-grandfather, Silas T. Johnson, both owned and operated steamboats on Lake Minnetonka. Silas T. Johnson offered excursions aboard the Hebe while Lewis offered excursions aboard the Virgie. Both men had extensive experience as steamboat engineers on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers prior to moving to Excelsior, Minnesota sometime between 1882 and 1886. Orville may have started helping out at Dunlap’s Pavilion as a youngster and eventually served as an apprentice engineer, or striker, at the side of either of these two men.

For twenty years Orville would carry out his engineer duties as Minnehaha followed her daily route. Assigned to the Lower Lake, Minnehaha‘s route took her from Excelsior, to Wayzata, and back. Both Elite and Working-Class people depended upon Minnehaha to get to their respective jobs – the Working-Class to their jobs at the lake’s summer homes and resorts, the affluent to their jobs in the Twin Cities. Interestingly, employers would often board just as employees were getting off. Orville would meet his future bride, Minnie Ljungdahl, as a result of this social dynamic. Continue reading