White Bear Lake pub crawl highlights history

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 10, 2012 - 5:42 PM

Four downtown White Bear Lake bars are featured on the Wednesday tour.

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Henkel's Saloon

The pubs of White Bear Lake will provide a portal to Prohibition history and beyond on Wednesday.

White Bear Lake bills itself as a "city of lakes and legends" and the tour aims to tap into both of those with a heavy focus on alcohol, albeit not an abundance of consumption. The White Bear Lake Area Historical Society leads a half-mile tour with stops at four downtown establishments of varied age and histories.

From the gathering point at the Depot Museum, the crawlers will cross Hwy. 61 for the first stop at Manitou Station at 2171 4th St. Historical Society membership and promotions director Meg Todd said the Manitou business itself isn't historical but the surrounding area is.

The Manitou's website says the bar and lounge was designed to evoke "the rich history of White Bear Lake's resort era and features crafted cocktails."

From there it's on to the 617 Cocktail Lounge at 2185 4th St. The lounge was originally an ice cream parlor and was among the first establishments in Ramsey County to get a liquor license after Prohibition.

"It hasn't changed much," Todd said, adding that the place was refurbished in the 1950s but not since. "It's small, kind of dark with a long bar, red leather chairs, horseshoe-shaped booths and historic stained-glass windows."

The bar is also part of the Avalon building, originally built in the 1920s as a theater.

Participants will walk across Fourth Street then along Washington Avenue, viewing a number of historical spots.

Sara Markoe Hanson, executive director of the historical society, wrote the script for the tours and says almost every building on Washington Avenue was a liquor store or a saloon at one point. The society obtained all the liquor license applications from the 1930s and 1940s, she said. "Back then they asked all sorts of questions they couldn't ask today," she said.

The route leads to the Washington Square Bar and Grill at 4736 Washington Square. The bar bills itself as a "place where art and architecture surround you."

The final stop is Hollihans Pub at 2160 Third St. Hollihans opened in 1888 and has always been a bar. Todd said the bar's tin ceiling is original.

Though the pubs will be featured on the tour, the entire area has a rich history.

The Dakota and Ojibway Indians used White Bear Lake as migratory hunting and harvesting grounds. The United States government designated the area as Dakota land in an 1825 treaty but later purchased all Dakota territory east of the Mississippi to open it for European-American settlement.

White Bear Township was officially organized on May 11, 1858, the day Minnesota became a state.

Downtown White Bear Lake was filled and platted in 1887. The voters established a city charter in 1921.

In the late 1880s, White Bear Lake was a popular and nationally known resort area. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, the area earned notoriety as the reputed hideout for major gangsters such as Ma Barker, Pretty Boy Floyd and Al Capone.

Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson

  • WHITE BEAR LAKE PUB CRAWL

    When: Wednesday, from about 6-9 p.m.

    Who: Reservations are required and the tour is limited to 20 participants.

    Price: It is $25 for historical society members and $30 for non-members. Drinks are not included in the price.

    Contact: Call 651-407-5327 or go to www.startribune.com/a1607

    Can't make it? Although Wednesday is the final scheduled crawl of the summer, the society will conduct private tours for groups of at least eight.

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