Original article by Nate Leding – Wayzata Life – August 2018
Nestled off Wayzata’s Lake Street along the shores of Lake Minnetonka sits a house. It splits the water and the railroad tracks. If you’re one of the many who frequent Starbucks in town you may not even know the home exists between the coffee shop and the lake. But its there, obscured by a group of trees. Look closely its the color green. No it’s not a new build, either; this residence has been there over 100 years.
“The effort to recapture the lakefront and make it more meaningful and accessible to our residents sparked the plan to make the Section Foreman’s House into a center for learning about the ecology of the lake,” said Wayzata Mayor Ken Willcox. In 2015 Miller Dunwiddie prepared a comprehensive structures report on the home. The $10,000 study was made possible by the efforts of The Wayzata Historical Society and funded by the Burlington Northern (BNSF) Foundation. The report is the first step towards getting the Section Foreman House listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Wayzata Depot is already on the Register and with the Section Foreman house following suit the Wayzata Lake Effect park would be bookended by two historic structures preserved for future generations to enjoy.
The Section Foreman House was built in 1902. Theodore Roosevelt was President, the American flag had 45 stars, and it was the year famed aviator Charles Lindbergh was born. J.C. Penney and Pepsi-Cola Company were introduced to the country same year. Section foreman houses were popping up along the expanding James J Hill Great Norther Railroad to support the section foreman and their families. You could expect to see one every 20 miles or so along the track. The section foreman was in charge of keeping the rail line in good repair.
These were simple homes. The Wayzata house is no exception. The original home was originally 32 feet by 16 feet. It had two rooms each on the first and second levels. It cost $750 to build. The 1910 town census shows that the home was occupied by the section foreman and his large family. Through the years the Section Foreman House underwent several changes, but the integrity of the original home were never diminished. In 1926 electric lights were installed in the home. A 100 foot pipeline was installed to connect the house to city water in 1938. In 1943 the home was lifted to install a concrete foundation and basement. It was at this time the home was expanded to include first level bedroom and living level expanding the structure to 32 by 30 feet.
Dr. Charles Brooks bought the house from the railroad in 1962. The following year a new entrance and porch were added to the home. The City of Wayzata bought the home in 1980s and has owned the house since. The Section Foreman House is coupled with Wayzata’s history, but it also stands prominently in the city’s future. This historic home is part of the Wayzata Lake Effect initiative that will reclaim over 2000 linear feet of shoreline and 15 acres of parkland along Wayzata Bay from the Section Foreman’s House to the Wayzata Depot to the West.
The next time you’re driving or walking down Lake Street or running into Starbucks for triple mocha frappuccino look towards the lake and peek through the trees. You can catch a glimpse of local history, a window into Wayzata’s past. Better yet, if you can catch a view from a boat, You’l not only get a feel for the way things were, but also, a glimpse into the city’s future.
Andrew Mullin – Chair, Wayzata Lake Effect Conservancy. Please contact me to join this effort firstname.lastname@example.org