The Hotel Leip was the largest of White Bear’s resorts during the heyday of the resort era from 1870 to 1910. Col. William Leip immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1846 and settled first in St. Paul, where he prospered in the cigar and liquor trade. By 1861 he had taken up brewing ale, and by 1865, he had purchased White Bear’s first resort, the Barnum House, located on the strip of land between White Bear and Goose lakes.
Barnum’s original hotel boasted 10 rooms, and was soon expanded by Leip to a complex of hotel building and villa cottages with a total 125 rooms, accommodating up to 300 guests. In 1890, room rates were $2 or $2.50, depending on the location of the room.
With his background in the cigar and liquor industries, Leip knew how to entertain the crowds who flocked to the lake by the thousands during the warm months. Through the years, guests could enjoy a large fleet of rowboats and avail themselves of fishing tackle and bait, as well as try out the on-site bowling alleys, a billiard room and a sample room—another name for a saloon. Orchestras often performed at a pavilion along the lakeshore. By this time, the property encompassed most of the area that is now the White Bear Shopping Center on Highway 61.
At the end of the 1896 season, the hotel was totally destroyed by fire; the glory of the Leip House had come to an end. By 1898, Col. Leip and his wife, Agnes, had rebuilt the hotel as the Lakewood Park Inn, but on a much smaller scale. The property was leased to others as the Leips embraced retirement; it was eventually sold to the St. Paul Automobile Club, which built its clubhouse on the site.
Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society. She is one of a handful of community representatives sharing thoughts on local history on the back page of our magazine. 651.407.5327.