4635 Brook St. in 1980. The cabin was later remodeled into a residence.
Credit: Molly Hasek
From Cabins to Homes (1950-1975)
A Time of Transition
From 1950 to 1975, the Independence Beach neighborhood was gradually transitioning from cabins and cottages to year-round residences. There was a housing shortage after WWII, so some of the cabins were converted to full-time homes. Many of the families that became year-round residents started out with very small homes by today’s standards - 20 ft x 30 ft cabins, gradually adding rooms over time. Some of today’s existing houses were built around the original cabin. By 1975, many of the family cabins had been remodeled and expanded for year-round use, and some cabins had been replaced with full-size homes. That year there were approximately 90 residences: 60 year-round homes, 20 family cabins and 10 rental cabins.
In the 50’s, the atmosphere was casual: one family rented boats and sold bait from their garage in the summer; a guy was living in an old streetcar; another lived in a trailer. One cottage on the lake was a hodge-podge of logs, lap siding, concrete block and stucco, painted yellow and pink. For awhile, there was a shortage of lumber so three houses (two on Lake Ardmore and one on County Rd 19) were built of concrete block.
On County Rd 19, a familiar landmark was a house, owned by an artist named Felix, with a cartoon of Felix the Cat on the garage door. Property values were so low, the Great Minneapolis Surplus Store on Nicollet Ave. advertised a promotion to give away four Independence Beach lots.
The resorts began to disappear in the 50's. Maple Hill Farm stopped renting cottages around 1952 but continued to be a popular locations for picnics and group events. The only remaining resort with a main building, cabins and boat rentals was Glampe’s (formerly Gertz’s). There were still a handful of other rental cabins owned by Independence Beach residents.
The former Wilson’s Resort had been sold and was now called Lakeview Pavilion. The dance hall continued to be a popular Saturday night destination, with cars parked all up and down Lakeshore Ave despite the "No Parking" signs. The two-man volunteer police force had their hands full handling rowdy drunks, breaking up fights and clearing traffic jams.
Until the Maple Plain Food Center opened in 1966, the nearest grocery store was Miller's Store in Maple Plain. Miller had started out in 1905 as a general store but had expanded into a full-service grocery and dry goods store.
In the 50’s, the lake level was lower, with 10 to 20 feet of sandy beach along the lakeshore. By around 1960 the water level was higher. In the early 70's, water quality was deteriorating; the formerly clear lake was now turning green. The neighborhood relied on outhouses and septic systems that drained into the lake, and the resulting increase in phosphorus led to excessive algae growth. Fishing wasn’t great, mostly crappies and sunfish, but after the DNR started stocking the lake with walleye in the early 70’s, fishing improved. Carp were already beginning to be a problem.
Baker Park and Lake Independence were attracting crowds of visitors. Boat traffic was very heavy, particularly on weekends. Boats were coming in closer to shore, making swimming hazardous. In 1973, the Medina Village Council passed an ordinance limiting use of the Lakeshore Park boat launch to Medina residents, who were required to obtain an annual permit. The ordinance also limited use of the area southeast of the boat launch to swimmers only.
By the mid 70’s, the sewage from the outhouses and septic tanks had started seeping onto the street, and the City decided it was time to put in water and sewer. Some owners sold their property because they didn’t want to pay the assessment for the new utilities. This precipitated major changes in the neighborhood after 1975 (to be covered in a future section).