In 1880, Minnesota architect Cass Gilbert took a position as a draftsman at the well-known firm McKim, Mead and White in New York City. He returned to Minnesota in 1882 to be closer to his mother. He was young, unknown and without many of the local connections so often helpful. Gilbert immersed himself in St. Paul and positioned himself in social circles he hoped would ultimately produce commissions.
By the end of the decade, Gilbert was gaining some traction in St. Paul and had received commissions for several summer homes around White Bear Lake. He is credited with designing as many as 10 cottages on Manitou Island, as well as Dellwood and Cottage Park. Unfortunately, the majority of these structures no longer remain.
Gilbert’s early designs were influenced heavily by the shingle-style commonly found out East, and the Richardsonian-style, dominated by stone and brick, often with grand arches. The Augustus Kirby Barnum residence in Dellwood was one of the earliest homes Gilbert designed at the lake. Barnum owned 250 acres along the Dellwood shore, including the present site of the White Bear Yacht Club.
In 1884, Gilbert designed a cottage for local attorney Reuben Galusha at Cottage Park on the west side of the lake; this shingle-style home is one of the few White Bear examples that still stand much as it was designed. The Gilbert-designed Wildwood Park pavilion was constructed on the Mahtomedi shore in 1892.
During much of the 1890s, Gilbert and his family lived at the Manitou Island Clubhouse during the summer months while he renovated its design and managed the property. In 1895, Gilbert won the design contest for the Minnesota State Capitol, and by the turn of the century, his business interests had heavily shifted to New York City.
Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society.