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The Lyndale Hotels of Bde Maka Ska and Camden Place

Updated: Oct 13

That pleasant Minneapolis summer resort known as the Lyndale Hotel was opened for the season of 1884 yesterday morning… For some time a large force has been busy renovating and preparing the splendid house for the coming summer, and it presents now in every detail all the charm and merit which established it so firmly in favor last year. Every apartment has been fitted with all modern conveniences, and arrangements have been entered into for an illumination of the grounds and lake front of over one hundred electric lights… It is calculated that the twenty suites and seventy-five rooms will afford ample accommodation for 150 guests, while the dining room can comfortably seat double that number. The first Sunday dinner of this season will be given today at 5 o’clock, when an elaborate menu will be served.”


- The Sunday Tribune, June 1, 1884


The property which the Lyndale Hotel was situated on in the southeast corner of Bde Maka Ska is both rich and history and near and dear to the residents of Minneapolis. Prior to the advent of Euro-American settlement, the area was first inhabited as Reyataotonwe, a Mdewakanton Dakota community. In 1834, the Pond brothers erected what is considered the first Euro-American homestead west of the Mississippi River in Minnesota near the site of the hotel’s location.


The Pond cabin existed for a few short years until it was later torn down to be repurposed as a log barricade after increasing tensions flared between the Dakota and Ojibwe tribes that lived in the area. Although a skirmish never occurred at Reyataotonwe, the Dakota community left the area in 1839 and the Pond Cabin was never rebuilt. The site remained dormant until years later in 1877, Colonel William King’s Pavilion was built here, which was later remodeled into what would become the Lyndale Hotel.


King’s Pavilion


King's Pavilion in 1880. Courtesy of Hennepin County Digital Library.

The Colonel William King’s Pavilion opened to the public in June of 1877 on the southeast shore of Bde Maka Ska. The pavilion, funded by William King (King’s Highway in south Minneapolis adopted his namesake), promised to be “the most elegant as well as the most enjoyable occasion of the kind that has ever taken place in Minnesota.” The purpose of this pavilion was simple, southwest Minneapolis at the time had very little in the way of parkland or gathering spaces. The pavilion was a pleasant place for families and children to flock for entertainment. King’s Pavilion was a three-story structure home to a ballroom, billiards tables, a dining hall, and a rooftop veranda where orchestra quartets would serenade guests without the distraction of unpleasant interruptions or other annoyances. King’s Pavilion was a popular place in the burgeoning city; even being visited by the Chicago White Stockings and the St. Louis Brown Stockings, two teams from the National League - a precursor to Major League Baseball. By 1879, the Lyndale Railway Company laid track on what would later become the Como-Harriet streetcar line from downtown Minneapolis to King’s Pavilion.


For six years, the pavilion served the community as a community gathering place. However, with the advent of the Minneapolis Park Board in 1883, guarantees were made for newer, more grandiose parks at Bde Maka Ska. Thus, King’s Pavilion was sold in 1883 to make way for a new purpose: a first class hotel and resort on the shores of Bde Maka Ska.


The Lyndale Hotel


The Lyndale Hotel. Courtesy of Hennepin County Digital Library.

After modifications were made to add hotel room corridors to the three-story structure overseen by Philo Remington, Louis Menage purchased the hotel in February of 1883. Menage was a well known property investor at the time, having purchased swaths of property in both Cottage City and the Warehouse District. Menage invested approximately $65,000 (nearly $2 million today, adjusting for inflation), to add conveniences such as fine furniture, gas, water, electricity, and a steam-heating system to the hotel.


The Lyndale Hotel was known for its three wings and double frontage facing both Bde Maka Ska and Irving Avenue. The Lyndale Hotel featured a grand lobby and ballroom at the center of the hotel measuring forty by sixty feet. From the lobby, double french doors opened to the formal dining room which measured forty by fifty-five feet. To the right and left of the lobby ran corridors to the many suites and hotel rooms. The hotel was objectively the most regal resort in Minneapolis at the time. With Menage’s additions of utilities, the hotel was completed with a formal opening on the summer solstice of 1883.


The Lyndale Hotel from Irving Avenue. Courtesy of Hennepin County Digital Library.

After Menage’s management for the 1883 and 1884 season, Menage sold his hotel to Joseph and Kate Dawes of Minneapolis for the sum of $125,000 (over $3.5 million adjusted for inflation).


During its time, the Lyndale Hotel was the most popular hotel in Minneapolis with several famous occupants paying visit. Some of the hotel’s most famous guests included Christine Nilsson, a Swedish opera singer; Consul Hans Mattson, the fifth and ninth Minnesota Secretary of State and later U.S. Consul General of India; Professors Young and Williams, two aeronauts who launched their gas balloon, The Imperial, from the lawn at the Lyndale Hotel; H. L. Gordon, president of the First Minnesota Regiment of Volunteers; and Minnesota Congressman William S. King.


Although very popular amongst the public and its guests, the Lyndale Hotel suffered from financial difficulties. The largest hotel on the Chain of Lakes, the Lyndale Hotel was always busy during the summer time as many Minneapolis families and out-state tourists paid a fine price to spend their days beating the heat near the lake. However, the bitter cold added with the poor insulation and lack of fireplaces in many of the hotel rooms dismayed guests from staying during the wintertime. For nearly five months of the year, the Lyndale Hotel sat mostly vacant. As visited as the Lyndale Hotel was, it was often overshadowed by the more popular resorts to the west at Lake Minnetonka.


The Lyndale Hotel Inferno


On April 29, 1885, the hotel met its fiery demise just as it was gearing up for its third summer season. The fire was first discovered by a patron of the hotel around 6:30 that evening. At first, the fire was localized to the third floor of the wooden structure. However, the hotel lacked any form of fire suppression systems; the flames quickly lapped and climbed onto the wooden walls and furniture. In a few short moments, the entire roof of the Lyndale Hotel was ablaze.


An urgent phone call was made to the police headquarters, who passed the message to the fire chief that the Lyndale Hotel was engulfed in flames. When the two fire engines and three hose companies arrived at the scene of the inferno, their efforts to save the structure were in vain.


By the time the hose operators began to furiously pump water from nearby Bde Maka Ska, the flames were so intense that the firefighters had to keep a distance of over 100 yards from the fire, or else risk severe burns. Cinders and sparks from the inferno flew so thickly from the Lyndale Hotel that the fire crews had to quickly focus their attention on protecting the houses across the street from the hotel. At one point, the roof of the Creigh house on the opposite side of Irving Avenue briefly caught fire. Crews doused the flames at the Creigh house and proceeded to saturate the rest of the roofs and sidings of the several homes in close proximity.


The fire raged so brightly that witnesses claimed to see the red glow and smoke on the horizon as far away as St. Paul to the east and Hopkins to the west. Just thirty minutes after the fire began, the hotel was considered a total loss. By 8:30, the structure had completely collapsed and burnt down.


Fortunately, there were few occupants of the hotel at the time of the fire. The Stephens family was boarding in a second floor suite when the fire began. Mr. M. G. Stephens was a short distance away from the hotel practicing his sharpshooting with a friend on the shores of Bde Maka Ska when he first heard the alarm bells and saw the flames emerging from third story windows at the hotel.


Upon seeing the fire, Mr. Stephens and his friend burst into a sprint towards the hotel to save his family lodging on the second floor. With the help of several samaritans, Mr. Stephens was able to save his two children, two maids, and his pregnant wife just before the inferno became too hot and dangerous.


After the building had smoldered out the next day, the firemen began to search for the cause of the blaze. The origin of the fire was determined as unknown, as there weren’t any occupants on the third floor when the flames began. The newspapers at the time suggested that the fire could have possibly started from a woodfire oven in the hotel’s kitchen. Embers from the oven could have gotten caught in the main chimney and ignited kindling in a third floor fireplace.


But why wasn’t the Lyndale Hotel rebuilt? By spring of 1885, murmurs in the local newspapers began to ask the question if the hotel was going to be given a second shot. It was a curious question that many weighed in on. Perhaps the hotel wasn’t profitable enough to be rebuilt? Did Bde Maka Ska need a hotel when there were already hotels in downtown Minneapolis, on Cedar Lake, and at Lake Minnetonka? Did Minnesota’s biting cold months keep guests from booking rooms during the wintertime?

Before long, it became clear that the hotel would not be rebuilt. The Frank Forman family later purchased the property, using the substructure of the Lyndale Hotel as a framework to build their twenty-room mansion at 3450 Irving Avenue South. The cellar of the former hotel was repurposed into two bowling alleys, and the rest of the basement was used as a gathering room. The Forman Estate even paid homage to the Pond Cabin, having rebuilt a replica of the one-room log structure near the cabin’s original location on their property.


The Foreman Estate in 1955. Courtesy of House Novel.

In 1957, the Forman Estate was razed to make way for a new church. In the year that followed, St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church was built on the site.


St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church, 1984. Courtesy of Hennepin County Digital Library.

The Other Lyndale Hotel


For a brief time, another hotel adopted the namesake of the Lyndale Hotel (although not associated with the former hotel at Bde Maka Ska) in north Minneapolis at 4174 Washington Avenue North. What started as the Ames Hotel, the north Minneapolis hotel later adopted the name of the Lyndale Hotel - which operated from 1888 until 1913 when the city demolished the building.


The Lyndale Hotel at Camden Place.

This northern Lyndale Hotel was built in the Camden neighborhood at a time when a stretch of open countryside separated the fledgling community from the rest of Minneapolis. Due to the distance from downtown and lack of adequate transportation connecting Minneapolis to the far flung reaches of the Camden neighborhood, the northern Lyndale Hotel’s first years of operation were very successful as the hotel operated without much in the way of competition in the region.


As time wore on, the hotel steadily declined. Businessmen became tired of the long trip to downtown and chose to take up stays at hotels closer to Minneapolis’ central business district. The northern Lyndale Hotel’s reputation suffered and the patronage population shifted from businessmen to more nefarious guests. Activities of bootleggers, illegal gamblers, and prostitutes taking up stays at the hotel resulted in a multitude of police raids and arrests at 4174 Washington Avenue North. For the last few years, the hotel operated as a boarding house for mill and factory laborers until the hotel was purchased by the city and marked for demolition.


Sources


“The Fire Fiend’s Work” St. Paul Globe, April 30, 1885. P. 3.


“Christine Nilsson’s Reception” St. Paul Globe, June 8, 1884. P. 5.


“The Governor is at Camp Hubbard” Daily Minnesota Tribune, July 12, 1883. P. 4.


Johnson, Walter. “Insurance Firm Buys Calhoun Building Site” The Minneapolis Tribune, August 26, 1949. P. 21.


Johnson, Walter. “Mansion Falls to Wreckers: Dome of Church to Rise Where Cabin Once Stood” The Minneapolis Star, September 28, 1955


“The Balloon Trip” Daily Minnesota Tribune, August 29, 1883. P. 7.


“Opening the Lyndale” The Sunday Tribune, June 1, 1884. P. 8.


“Col. King’s Pavilion” The Minneapolis Tribune, June 16, 1877. P. 2.


“Pavilion Notes” The Minneapolis Tribune, June 21, 1877. P. 1.


“The Lyndale Hotel, at Lake Calhoun, Totally Destroyed by Fire” The Minneapolis Tribune, April 30, 1885. P. 4.


“Colonel King’s Grand Pavilion, Lake Calhoun” Hennepin County Digital Library, 1877. https://digitalcollections.hclib.org/digital/collection/MplsPhotos/id/51569


Bayliss, Kern. “Forman Residence” Hennepin County Digital Library, 1920s. https://digitalcollections.hclib.org/digital/collection/p17208coll16/id/254


Buechele, Andy. “St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church” Hennepin County Digital Library, December 1984. https://digitalcollections.hclib.org/digital/collection/MplsComPhotos/id/2251


“Lyndale Hotel, Lake Calhoun, Irving Avenue South near Thirty-Fifth Street West, Minneapolis” Minnesota Historical Society, 1883. http://collections.mnhs.org/cms/display?irn=10718747&return=count%3D25%26q%3Dlyndale%2520hotel%26tab%3Dresearch_items


“Lyndale Hotel, Thirty Fourth Street South, Minneapolis” Minnesota Historical Society, 1885. http://collections.mnhs.org/cms/display?irn=10715230&return=count%3D25%26q%3Dlyndale%2520hotel%26tab%3Dresearch_items


“Lyndale Hotel, Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis” Minnesota Historical Society. 1880. http://collections.mnhs.org/cms/display?irn=10719784&return=count%3D25%26q%3Dlyndale%2520hotel%26tab%3Dresearch_items


“Passing of Lyndale Hotel at Camden Place Closes Chapter in Development History of City” The Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, June 29, 1913. P. 3.


“3450 Irving Avenue South” House Novel, 1955. https://housenovel.com/single-property/3450-irving-avenue-south-minneapolis-mn-usa-home-history

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