Forest Lake Historical Society incorporates, looks to future

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 4, 2012 - 6:07 PM

For the second summer in a row, volunteers will operate a temporary museum in a downtown storefront.

Last year, a dedicated group of volunteers collected artifacts and memorabilia to showcase the history of Forest Lake, and displayed them in a temporary museum they set up in a downtown storefront.

They are at it again, only this time as members of the newly formed Forest Lake Area Historical Society.

In the coming weeks, the eight-member board led by president Glen Berg along with about 30 volunteers will begin amassing a collection of items to go with the theme "Forest Lake Area Recreation." The plan is to display them during July and August in a small vacant building next to Kodiak Coffee downtown.

The long-term goal is to secure a permanent place to preserve and display the history of the city and surrounding communities.

"This is something that has been on peoples' minds for a long time," said Berg, a former history teacher in the Forest Lake School District. "Last year more than 1,000 people came [through our temporary museum], and the response at large was that they would love to see some full-fledged organization to preserve the history of the Forest Lake area."

The most immediate challenge is securing its nonprofit status. The society, which was officially incorporated and elected officers on April 4, is looking to raise $850 so it can file its paperwork with the government, said Vice President Stev Stegner.

Once that's complete, he said the society plans to offer yearly memberships for $15 and lifetime memberships for $500. It also will allow the organization to accept tax-deductable donations of goods and money on its website, www.forestlakehistory.org, he said.

In 2011, volunteers banded together to fill an empty Hardware Hank store with photographs, musical scores, toys, clothes, signs, videos and other memorabilia related to the city's businesses, churches, schools, resorts, clubs and organizations, celebrations and the lake. Volunteers organized the exhibit in conjunction with the 100th graduation at Forest Lake High School and to coincide with the city's large July 4 festival.

This year's effort will be half the size -- 3,500 square feet instead of 7,000 -- but Stegner hopes it will be a precursor of bigger things to come. He said the organization is in talks with city officials about obtaining some space in the new City Hall when that is built.

While it might be easier to join with the larger Washington County Historical Society, Berg said feedback collected from visitors last year indicated a need for a place to feature just Forest Lake and the local area. Stegner said the lore and history -- the little that has been recorded and preserved -- would get lost in a larger organization.

"The Washington County Historical Society has a few odds and ends that say Forest Lake, but most of it is on the prison and things in Stillwater," Stegner said. "The more local we can have our displays, the more color, and people can see Forest Lake like it used to be. That is essential to hold onto."

For now efforts will be focused on getting people excited to help with this year's museum and donate items that show off everything recreation, from railroading to boating. And, of course, to get people to come see the exhibit. Admission will be free, but donations will be accepted.

"Lots of people never got there last year, but said they meant to but were too busy," Stegner said. "They need to come in and take a walk down memory lane."

Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @timstrib

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