Recently someone asked me if I knew anything about Lake Washington in Meeker County. I had to say, “nope, I know nothing’.
From The Lake Washington Improvement Association I learned some geographical facts.
“Lake Washington is located between the cities of Dassel and Darwin in Meeker County, Minnesota. The lake covers 2,639 acres with 10.6 miles of associated shoreline. The lake is relatively shallow with a mean depth of 8.6 feet, maximum depth of 17 feet and is known for its walleye and bass fishery”.
The Association does wonderful work improving the lake, protecting its shorelines and water. However, I went further afield to learn about the romantic history of the lake.
I have asked people, searched records at the museum, looked online. So far this is the information I have gathered.
I learned that Lake Washington was hopping back in the day. It held a number of resorts, some dance halls, fishing, picnics, swimming, boating, happy gatherings and wholesome fun.
The Idle-Wave Pavillion offered dancing to the music of The Dream Orchestra and Entertainers on Friday nights. They advertised new decorations, a fine dance floor, and fine music for an enjoyable evening of dancing and romance. C. Oscar Broberg provided real recreation with a morning or evening fishing trip for visitors to the Meeker County oil well (more on that another time). He said that Lake Washington was where a fella could always find hungry pike, pickerel, sunfish crappies and bass. He supplied boats and cottages for rent at a reasonable rate! You could spend time at Trails End Lodge, the Cottages, Gordan’s resort, Billy Millers Resort and do some more good dancing at the Avalon.
A few reputable sources mentioned that there may have been a little bit of bootlegging happening with visits from the gangsters of Wisconsin and Illinois. Money was made!
The lake had profitable Ice Houses before electricity came through, men cutting blocks of ice in the winter and storing the ice in insulated buildings for summer sales. Farms were many, log cabins more prevalent. In fact, the Swenson family cabin was dismantled in later years and rebuilt at the Forest City Stockade.
I often wish I could be a tourist back in the day, the early 20th century, the prohibition days, pre-World War II. Maybe I could have been a flapper or a bar owner. Maybe I could have spent long summer evenings just floating in a rowboat on the lake or sitting on the shore watching the multitude of stars above.
I miss those days in which I never lived.