2017: Year In Review

Steamboat
Photo courtesy of Mike Dinndorf
Dear Minnehaha Supporters: Another year of Minnehaha’s distinguished career has already passed. 2017 brought us a number of hardships, but we prevailed and ended the season successfully with a total ridership of 8,800 passengers. Fun times were had and much business was taken care of, and new friends were made while others are remembered. The following is a recap of just some of the past year’s major events. The season started in an unfortunate way. While the sale of the former Bayview property was pending, access to Minnehaha’s home dock and utility lines was limited. This led to the cancelation of cruises during Memorial Day weekend. The issue was thankfully resolved after the new owners completed the purchase, and by early June Minnehaha was able to begin operating as scheduled. Continue reading »

Archives Update

By Aaron Person

Archives

2017 was the year that the MLM finally established a proper archive for its collection of photos, videos, documents, blueprints, and memorabilia. The idea to do this began many years ago, but it was daunting. Volunteer Kathy Newman started the effort by moving the archives to their current location in 2013. Finally, in 2015, an official Archives Committee was formed (members included Aaron Person, Sherry White, Helen Sears, Dave Peterson, Chris Wolf, and Juli Englander). Over the next year the Archives Committee met with and received tours from representatives of the Minnesota Historical Society, Hennepin History Museum, and other organizations to learn the proper basics of archiving.

By 2016 the committee had decided that it would be best to hire a professional consultant for the initial phase of the project. With the expertise of volunteer Helen Sears, the committee received a $9,157 legacy grant from the Minnesota Historical Society for labor and supplies expenses. The committee interviewed three candidates that October and ultimately hired Rachel Garrett Howell as the consulting archivist. Work could finally begin!

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Remembering Leo Meloche

By Aaron Person

Leo Meloche
Photo courtesy of the Meloche Family

Leo Conrad Meloche was born in Escanaba, Michigan on December 17, 1931. After graduating from Washburn High School in Minneapolis in 1950, he went on to study at the University of Minnesota. He served in the United States Army for a time before embarking on a thirty-one-year career in sales at IBM Corporation.

During retirement in the 1980s, Leo eyed the hull of the streetcar steamboat Minnehaha sitting on shore near the edge of town in Excelsior. According to local lore, he and resident Bob Bolles looked at the hull after saving the former Blue Line Café ticket booth. It was then that they conspired to restore Minnehaha back to her original glory.

Leo helped form the Steamboat Division of the Minnesota Transportation Museum (the MLM’s predecessor) in 1990, which subsequently received title to Minnehaha’s hull. A barn near Excelsior public works was constructed later that year so that restoration could begin. After fifty-four years on the bottom of Lake Minnetonka and ten agonizing years on shore, Minnehaha was in rough shape. Nevertheless, the Minnehaha Restoration Project began. Leo would act as Director of the project.

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2016: Year In Review

Morgan Chapman
Photo 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.

Launch
Photo 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.

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2015: Year In Review

Sunrise

Dear 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.

Maintenance

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

Collage

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

Arezoo

By Mike McWilliams

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

Trappers Cabin

By Aaron Person

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.”

Trappers Cabin

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

Lake Muskoka

By Aaron Person

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.

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