Category Archives: Newsletter

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.

Continue reading

Remembering Kermit Stake

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.

Continue reading

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

An Engineer’s Day Aboard The Steamboat Minnehaha

Fred Fey, Engineer

An Engineer’s day aboard the steamboat Minnehaha begins about an hour before the rest of the crew even shows up. After checking the condition of the engine, boiler, and bilges, he reads the log book for any problems from the last run. Then he starts following a checklist. The first thing on the list is to position various valves necessary for operation and to start the diesel generator which supplies electricity. He then checks fuel and water levels and makes notations on the log sheet. After making sure the boiler water is at the right level, he switches the boiler to the low fire position to warm the system up. The boiler is a Cleaver-Brooks oil-fired package boiler that provides the engine with 180 pounds of steam. While the boiler is coming up to operating pressure, he will add makeup water to storage tanks and begin oiling the engine.

When the boiler pressure reaches about 90 PSI, a boiler water sample is analyzed and, if necessary, chemicals are added to protect against corrosion and deposits which could affect heat transfer. When pressure reaches about 150 PSI, it is time to begin warming the engine. The boiler’s steam isolation valves are opened and steam is allowed to flow into the engine. The engine is in neutral at this point and steam condenses as it warms the cold engine. The engine’s cylinder drains are then opened to allow the condensate to drain to the condenser. The engine is a “triple-expansion condensing steam engine,” which means the steam expands as it travels from a high pressure piston to an intermediate piston, and then to a low pressure piston. Each piston is larger than the one before it. The exhaust steam is then directed from the third cylinder to a condenser. The condenser contains tubes which are cooled by lake water to condense the spent steam, which is then pumped back to the boiler to be reheated to 180 PSI. Continue reading

Connections Abroad: Donimik Sasim Of Warsaw, Poland

James Vair, Purser

From avid accumulators to their casual counterparts, the process of amassing items with a shared theme is a near universal experience. It’s an activity that can transcend generations and all types of interests and backgrounds. Since virtually everything has the potential to be collected, the sky truly is the limit. Some items like stamps, currency, comics, and stuffed animals will forever be synonymous as popular collector’s items. Regardless of the size and shape of a collector’s prized possessions, however, there is always a story behind what motivated him to begin collecting.

Donimik Sasim of Warsaw, Poland is by no means an exception. For more than five years, Sasim has been accumulating museum pins and badges from across the globe. The Museum of Lake Minnetonka first heard his story last summer, when he requested that we send a little piece of the lake to him. According to his most recent count, Sasim’s collection has approached nearly 1,500 unique pieces, nearly half of them being from outside of Poland.

Like many things, Sasim’s current collection began while working on a previous project.

My hobby began with the collection of post stamps together with my father,” Sasim explains in an interview with Concord’s Point Lighthouse in Maryland (to which he had also requested a pin). “Later I switched to badges and label pins from various museums.” A museum’s location or specialty doesn’t deter Sasim. “My collection expands mainly thanks to exchanges with other collectors as well as via internet auctions. My friends and colleagues also remember my hobby and often bring these small souvenirs for me from their domestic or international voyages. Additionally, I often visit museums myself in search of new gadgets for my collection.” Continue reading

Lewis Cass McCormick, Steamboat Captain

Lewis Cass McCormick was born March 17, 1856 to William Thomas McCormick and Susan B. Paxton in Rochester, Missouri. On February 27, 1877, Lewis McCormick and Katherine May Martin were married in Shawneetown, Illinois. Katherine was only sixteen years old. Her mother, America Spoors, gave her consent for the marriage.

Lewis and Katherine would have seven children – three boys and four girls:

  • Willie McCormick, born November 23, 1877 in Shawnetown, Illinois
  • Gertrude McCormick, born July 11, 1879 in Shawnetown, Illinois
  • Bessie McCormick, born November 24, 1882 in Alma, Wisconsin
  • Orville McCormick, born July 28, 1886 in Excelsior, Minnesota
  • Estelle, born January 2, 1890 in Excelsior, Minnesota
  • Addison, born June 27, 1892 in Excelsior, Minnesota

Minnehaha’s Connection To History (1/4)

George Kissinger, Secretary

When the Express “Streetcar” Boats first began operation on Lake Minnetonka in May of 1906, the Twin City Rapid Transit dock facilities in Excelsior were not yet completed. As a result, Minnehaha and the other TCRT boats operated out of dockage at Minnetonka Beach on Lafayette Bay, just west of an area known as Arcola.

Minnetonka Beach had once been known as the location of the famed Hotel Lafayette, the largest hotel ever to have existed on Lake Minnetonka. The Hotel Lafayette had hosted many prominent guests during its life. On one occasion in 1883, President Chester Alan Arthur and key members of his cabinet visited the hotel to celebrate the connection of the Saint Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway with Seattle and Puget Sound. Former President Ulysses S. Grant was also a visitor of the hotel.

Hotel Lafayette, built by the Saint Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway

By 1906, however, the Hotel Lafayette was only a memory, it having been destroyed by a fire in 1897. The hotel regularly closed for the winter months, and the fire occurred shortly after the fall closing of its fifteenth season. Staff and guests had already gone home and there was no one present to fight the blaze. By the time flames were detected, it was too late, and the huge wooden structure was completely destroyed. Continue reading

Minnehaha’s Connection To History (2/4)

George Kissinger, Secretary

Why have streetcar service to Lake Minnetonka in the first place? To answer that question you need to go all the way back to the mid-1860s, when one had to ride a stage coach from Minneapolis to Minnetonka Mills to reach Lake Minnetonka. There, passengers would transfer onto a small steamboat that would take them further up Minnehaha Creek (which was actually navigable at the time) and out to the waters of Lake Minnetonka.

The Saint Paul & Pacific Railroad established rail service from Minneapolis to Wayzata in 1867. In 1881 the Minneapolis and Saint Louis Railroad reached Excelsior and Tonka Bay (the right-of-way of which exists today as a regional biking trail). In 1882 the Minneapolis, Lyndale & Minnetonka narrow gauge rail line (the “Motor Line”) was extended from Lake Harriet to Excelsior. This was originally a steam powered streetcar line that ran on Nicollet Avenue, but underwent several major expansions in response to population growth in the area. The Motor Line’s Excelsior division lasted until 1886, when the Great Northern Railroad purchased the right-of-way, laid standard gauge track, and ran a rail line around the south side of Lake Minnetonka out to Saint Bonifacious and points west. In 1887 the Milwaukee Road reached Deephaven and the Hotel Saint Louis. However, the Hotel Saint Louis closed by 1901, and service on those tracks subsequently ended.

At this point in time the Twin City Rapid Transit company (TCRT) and its streetcars entered the picture. TCRT bought and electrified the former Great Northern (ex-Motor Line) right-of-way to Excelsior in 1905. In 1907, it leased and electrified the Minneapolis & Saint Louis right-of-way, reaching to Excelsior, Tonka Bay and Wildhurst. TCRT also purchased and electrified the Milwaukee Road right-of-way serving Deephaven, thus completing the company’s position for doing business in the growing area west of Minneapolis. Continue reading

Minnehaha’s Connection To History (3/4)

George Kissinger, Secretary

Research recently turned up an MIT engineering study on White Bear, one of TCRT’s Lake Minnetonka “Express Boats” (and sister of Minnehaha). The 1910 engineering study was written and based on scientific observations made in July of 1909, when a “Service Trial” and “Progressive Speed Trials” of the “Steam Passenger Boat Whitebear [sic]” were conducted.

White Bear was virtually identical in overall design, dimensions, weight, and propulsion to Minnehaha. As a result, the detailed study of White Bear provides key insights and confirmation of how nearly exact the historic restoration of Minnehaha truly is. Several revealing 1909 photos of White Bear were also part of the thesis.

From the study, it is now known that Marine Iron Works of Chicago, Illinois built White Bear’s steam engine. The engine is described as a vertical, condensing, triple-expansion steam engine. Although Minnehaha’s original engine was removed before the vessel was scuttled in 1926, today’s engine is of the same type, size, and style as the engine described and pictured on board White Bear. Continue reading