Those who pass by the Mainstreet Cafe in downtown Lakeville might wonder why the white brick building has the word "Bank" engraved over the front door.

Now, thanks to the work of the Lakeville Area Historical Society, the curious won't remain clueless for long; the answer lies on the building itself.

Last month, the historical society dedicated four interpretive plaques in Lakeville, commemorating some of the city's most historic locations and providing a way for interested residents to learn more about the city of years past, said organizers.

Plaques can now be found at the former sites of the Weichselbaum Resort, Antlers Amusement Park, Dakota County State Bank and the Fire Hall/Village Hall. Treasurer Wally Potter said the society's mission is to document, collect, and teach others about Lakeville's history.

"We try to preserve some history that's there and keep it in front of the people," he said. "That's really what we're trying to do [with the plaques]."

In addition to funds from the city's historical society, the project was financed in part with funds from the Minnesota Historical Society's Grants-in-Aid program and by ECM Publishers, Inc., the publisher of the local Thisweek Life & Times newspaper.

Weichselbaum Resort

For more than 100 years, the Weichselbaum Resort had been a popular vacation spot and hangout for Minnesotans, as well as visitors from the surrounding states. The resort included 14 rooms in the main house, 11 small cottages for sleeping quarters and a separate dining room with seating for 100 people. People came for the fishing, tennis, swimming, and the resort's famous fried chicken, apple pie and homemade ice cream.

Although not much remains of the resort today, visitors to the plaque near W. 205th Street and Jasmine Path can still imagine what the area looked like in its heyday thanks to colored pictures and a timeline artfully displayed on the sign. Houses now cover that portion of Lakeville's past, but it's still possible to catch a glimpse of Lake Marion glinting in the background.

At the dedication, 19 Weichselbaum family members were present, including 88-year-old Lakeville resident Betty Weichselbaum, the granddaughter of the resort's founder.

Antlers Amusement Park

Up the street and around the corner at Antlers Park, visitors can learn about what used to be one of the most famous amusement parks in the upper Midwest, Antlers Amusement Park.

When the park opened in 1910, it became the center of activity in Lakeville, offering a lavish dance pavilion, a swimming beach with dive tower, a boat dock, athletic courts, an aerial swing, and even a children's playground with a miniature operating train. Luxury excursion cars on the Dan Patch Railroad Line carried capacity crowds to the park from Minneapolis.

As with the Weichselbaum Resort site, visitors to the former amusement park location will not see any buildings from its amusement park days.

Bank, Fire Hall/Village Hall

Unlike the two plaques located by Lake Marion, the ones in downtown are displayed on buildings that are still standing.

The Dakota County State Bank, Lakeville's first bank, was established in 1899; the building that now houses Mainstreet Cafe was built in 1910. Originally, the bank portion of the building had three teller stations and an office. It expanded when the bank grew, but when a new bank building was constructed in 1980, the 1910 building was sold.

Across the street at the World of Games store is the former Fire Hall/Village Hall. The building was built in 1901 and housed the fire equipment, a two-cell lockup for vagrants, and a meeting room on the second floor. A bell was used to summon firefighters to the hall for decades until it was replaced by a siren in the 1940s.

When a new fire station was built in 1964, the old fire hall was sold to a private owner. The hall's old bell now rests atop the belfry at Fire Station No. 1.

Mayor Holly Dahl, who attended the plaque dedication ceremony, said it's important to learn about Lakeville's past generations, about what their lives were like and the challenges they faced.

"There's a saying if we don't learn from history, we'll be compelled to repeat it. We need to learn from those that have come before us," Dahl said.

Dahl said the plaques are a great thing for the community since it will allow residents to see where "we have come from and obviously where we would like to go," she said.

"By having these plaques in place, it's another opportunity for our history to touch our residents."

Jeannine Aquino • 952-882-9056