While White Bear is known as Minnesota’s first resort town, Mahtomedi had its hand in the tourism trade quite early as well. The area was platted in 1883, and summer visitors began to arrive as early as May each season to take advantage of the cooling lake breezes and the relaxed atmosphere.
The Wildwood Amusement Park on the south shore of the lake provided entertainment, as did the resorts and pavilions on the west shore by the Village of White Bear. People could board the streetcar along the Mahtomedi line and make their way to White Bear, St. Paul or points beyond.
Guests would often camp for the whole season in tents, complete with furnishings brought from home including full bedroom sets and framed portraits of family members or the President of the United States.
Those not enticed to camp during their visits could stay at the nearby Mahtomedi Hotel, which was located at the foot of Quail Street near what is now known as Chautauqua Beach. The beach area was originally the natural amphitheater for the hotel and Chautauqua guests. The building no longer stands in its original state, but a portion of it forms a private residence.
With more than 40 rooms, the hotel was a fashionable choice for tourists. During one season, the venue even boasted an eight-foot alligator as an attraction for hotel guests.