The building that majestically sits on the south side at the center of the block of Fourth Street, between Cook and Banning Avenues, was constructed more than a century ago as the White Bear YMCA. Since that time, it has served as the home of the city auditorium, a theatre, roller rink, basketball court, dance studio and, most recently, an event center. The White Bear Library was even located on its upper floor for a few years before the construction of its own building in 1914.
The original building was constructed by local contractor C. E. Davies, who was responsible for the construction of many of the buildings in White Bear during the early 1900s. He built the Spring Park Villa hotel at Bald Eagle, the St. Paul Automobile Club—between present-day Highway 61, White Bear Avenue, and the Lake—as well as still extant St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church, completed in 1926.
Less than a decade after the YMCA was built at a cost of $12,500, the local club dissolved, and ultimately, the building was transferred to the city. By 1916, a theatre had opened on the site, but two fires in the 1920s changed the course of the building for many years. The second fire caused major damage, and the theatre in the building was forced to close. Its proprietor, Mrs. Jensen, used the insurance proceeds to finish her new theatre complex a block to the west, which opened as the Avalon Theatre almost immediately.
During the 1930s, the structure was purchased by Marshall Washington and rehabilitated for use as an antique shop and furniture reproduction factory; Washington was known for his unique finds and quality reproductions. In recent years, the building has undergone extensive remodeling, and is now the home to Kellerman’s Event Center and two popular local establishments.
Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society.
For more information on the White Bear YMCA building, visit the website here, or call 651.407.5327.