The popular family beach along Lake Avenue between Tenth and Eleventh streets was once nothing more than overgrown lakeshore. In 1946, a committee of representatives from many of the community’s organizations came together to make the swimming beach a reality.
The William West family had donated the land, including the lakeshore, to the City of White Bear Lake in 1927 to be used as a park. The West family home was torn down in 1932 and the lot developed as a park, but the lakeshore was left untouched.
By the 1940s, fire chief Walter Berg felt the community needed to provide an appropriate beach for its residents. Initially, you needed a membership to swim at the beach, and committee volunteers zealously went door-to-door canvassing the community selling memberships.
The newly formed Memorial Beach Association utilized additional volunteers to clear the beach itself. The men gathered to remove all of the brush, tree stumps and debris from the lakeshore and make the beach safe and clean, while the women provided a picnic lunch at the site.
It took several years to get things in good shape, but the beach was opened that first season and named Memorial Beach in honor of fallen soldiers. For a number of years the beach was renamed Optimist Beach when it was under the care of the White Bear Lake Optimist Club. The name reverted when the Optimist Club dissolved and the City of White Bear Lake resumed the upkeep of the beach.
Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society. She will be sharing history thoughts monthly on this back page.