Forest Lake History Museum opens for eight-week run

Fishing, hunting, resort focus this year

A kitchen from the 1920s, set up for canning, is on display at the Forest Lake History Museum. (Photo by Mary Bailey)

Just in time for the Independence Day parade, the Forest Lake History Museum opened Monday, July 2 at 67 S. Lake Street.

Last year’s museum was huge. Timed to coincide with the celebration of Forest Lake High School’s 100th graduating class, it included hundreds of historical displays.

Housed in the former Hardware Hank building at 79 S. Lake Street, it was the first Forest Lake museum since the 1993 Centennial.

Like last year’s, the 2012 museum uses material on loan from residents. And once again, a building to house the displays was provided by Lake Area Bank of Forest Lake.  The building was recently the site of Forest Lake Embroidery, then Army Recruiting.

But this year the displays are focused on Forest Lake’s past as a resort town.

Glen Berg, executive director and curator of the Forest Lake Area Historical Society, said Forest Lake was settled for its timber, but when the railroad arrived in the 1860s, the city became a vacation destination. (The old railroad bed, now the Hardwood Creek Trail, still contributes to recreation in Forest Lake.)

Even the museum building is part of the history, Berg said.  Bob Johnson’s sporting goods store, Johnson Outboard Motors, was located there in the 1940s and 1950s. In addition to selling bait and fishing equipment, Johnson also rented cabins by the lake.

Some folks stayed in hotels.  Photographs show the Euclid Hotel in 1907, the Forest View Hotel in 1917, and the Hotel Vexio.

Museum Features

In keeping with the recreation theme, the museum displays artifacts from Forest Lake’s ice skating and roller skating past. Berg said Skateland, a local rollerskating rink, was owned for a while by the Vogels.  (Elsie Vogel was the author of “Reflections of Forest Lake,” a history written in 1993 that is consulted often by the museum workers.)

Ice Follies, a national touring company, was owned by residents Eddie and Lu Shipstad from the 1930s to the 1970s, Berg said.

Uniforms from the Forest Lake marching band and Clear Lake ball team can be seen.

Can you guess what these are? In the 1890s, when 30,000 acres west of Forest Lake were harvested for wire grass to make rugs, the horses working in the swampy area had to wear bog shoes to keep from sinking. Museum Director Glen Berg holds the shoes, which were made of heavy wooden blocks with metal bands. (Photo by Mary Bailey)

The canning kitchen has a 1929 GE Electric refrigerator that still works, and a gas stove from the late 1920s. Berg said the owner was still using it until three years ago, but stopped because it could bake only a dozen cookies at a time.

A Forest Lake Depot Morse code telegraph and RCA Radiola 16 are on display. Modern communication equipment is used to offer visitors a DVD show with photos and music.

The museum will be open until August 26.  Hours are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, noon to 5 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays 10 to 3.

Admission to the museum is free, but donations are welcome.

Volunteers are needed to help during the open hours. To serve as a volunteer, call Glen Berg at 651-464-6132.

A raffle to support the museum will be held on the museum’s last day this summer, August 26.  Tickets are $2 each, and prizes include an afghan, two tickets to a Minnesota Twins game, a St. Croix Winery wine and cheese basket, and a $25 gift certificate from Forest Lake Embroidery.