White Bear was once known for its large resorts and boundless recreational opportunities, and was even dubbed Minnesota’s first resort town. That atmosphere extended well beyond the shores of White Bear Lake itself and included other area lakes such as Bald Eagle, Vadnais, Goose, Birch and Otter.
One of the larger resorts was built in the 1880s by Frederick W. and Mary Benson, Swedish immigrants who had settled on the east shore of Bald Eagle Lake. They first ventured into the hospitality business by building the Carpenter House at the corner of Lake Avenue and Second Street. That property soon changed names to the Hotel Benson and, eventually, to the Hotel Chateaugay.
By the mid-1880s they had built a new hotel on the lot just west of where Bald Eagle Boulevard and Bald Eagle Avenue intersect.
The Benson family operated the hotel for more than a decade. Around 1900, the family consolidated their focus to the boat rental, fishing tackle and other amenities at the “New Bald Eagle Park.”
The Hotel Benson property was sold to Charles E. Smith, who changed the name to the Bald Eagle Hotel. A beautiful bathhouse once stood on the shore just opposite the main hotel site.
The site eventually became known as Rogowski’s Boat House when Joe Rogowski took over the property in the 1940s. It operated as such for many years until the resort days were well past and the structure was torn down in the 1970s.
For more information on the history of the resorts on Bald Eagle Lake, visit the WBL Historical Society website, or call 651.407.5327.