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White Bear Lake

City of White Bear Lake

White Bear Lake is a city in Ramsey County in the state of Minnesota, United States. A small portion of the city also extends into Washington County. The population was 23,769 at the 2010 census. The city is located on White Bear Lake, one of the largest lakes in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area.

Origin of name
The city is named after its largest lake, White Bear Lake. American writers have delivered differing versions of the legend that explains the origin of the name. In her book Indian Legends of Minnesota, Mrs. Carl T. Thayer writes that “It is said that a Sioux maiden fell in love with a Chippewa brave. She, the daughter of the Chief, on learning that her father planned war against the Chippewa, ran to her lover and warned him. The brave went alone into the Sioux village to ask for peace and the hand of the maiden. Before the Chief would agree, the Chippewa would have to do a brave deed.”

“The lovers usually met on Manitou Island. One day, as the brave approached the Island, anticipating a meeting with his beloved, he saw, to his horror, a great white bear attacking her. He dashed to her rescue. Freed, she ran to get help from her father and the other Sioux. Returning, they saw the brave sink his knife into the bear. But too late, they both fell to the ground dead. Slowly, as they watched, the spirits of the brave and the bear rose from their prone bodies. It is said that even today, as night falls, the spirits of the bear and the brave wander the Island eternally in search of each other.”

In Mark Twain’s memoir Life on the Mississippi, he offers a different ending, relaying that “… the warrior, with one plunge of the blade of his knife, opened the crimson sluices of death, and the dying bear relaxed his hold. “That night, there was no more sleep for the band or the lovers, and as the young and the old danced about the carcass of the dead monster, the gallant warrior was presented with another plume, and ere another moon had set he had a living treasure added to his heart. Their children for many years played upon the skin of the white bear – from which the lake derives its name, and the maiden and the brave remembered long the fearful scene and rescue that made them one, for Kis-se-me-pa and Ka-go-ga could never forget their fearful encounter with the huge monster that came so near sending them to the happy hunting ground.”

The railroad was the largest man-made happening in White Bear Lake. On September 10, 1868, the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad officially opened the extension to White Bear Lake. This was a gala occasion. Ten platform cars of 300 men and four passenger cars for 200 ladies made the trip from St. Paul.

By 1874, Mark Twain had included White Bear Lake as the resort in his “Life on the Mississippi.” The “American Travelers Journal” 1881 proclaimed, “One of the most popular resorts in the magic northlands is White Bear Lake.” Barnum’s hotel became the Leip House, featuring a ballroom, billiard room, dancing pavilion, bowling alley, and boats. F.C. Williams opened the Williams House on the Murray property on Lake Avenue. James Waters opened the White Bear House at the depot. In 1879, the Ramaley Pavilion was opened and described as “perhaps the finest structure around the lake” (Breeze 1890). There was Lake Side Cottage on Lake north of 6th and “Château gay.” Shady Side, Bachelor’s Rest and Hotel Benson were three of the resorts at Bald Eagle Lake.

The Cottage Park summer residents built a club house in 1881 where they had their meals, entertainment and social life. In 1881, the Manitou Implement Co. developed the Island for cottages with the added important feature of water works. The “Fillebrown” house on Lake Avenue was built in 1879 by C.P. Noyes. It was purchased in 1881 by Judge George Young and in 1905 purchased by the J. Walter Fillebrown family who donated the house to the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society in the 1970s.

The City of White Bear Lake was incorporated in 1921.

In 1940, Nellie Geraldine Best painted a tempera mural, Early Voyageurs at Portage, as part of the WPA’s nationwide mural project for the post office in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. The location of this mural is unknown. It may have been removed during a post office remodeling.

White Bear Lake High School and Mariner High School merged in 1983 to form White Bear Lake Area High School. There are still two buildings, now the North Campus and South Campus. North Campus (White Bear Lake High School) holds classes for freshman and sophomores while South Campus (the former Mariner High School) holds classes for juniors and seniors. The two buildings have a combined total of about 3,000 students.

The murder of three-year-old Dennis Jurgens in 1965 at the hands of his adoptive mother, Lois Jurgens, was arguably the biggest scandal to hit the town with her conviction in 1987. The story was recounted in Barry Siegel’s true crime novel A Death in White Bear Lake.

In 1953, the Lakeshore Players Community Theater was organized. Lakeshore Players formerly operated out of a former church building constructed in 1889, at 4820 Stewart Avenue. In 2018 they moved to a new building in 2018 next to the White Bear Center for the Arts.

The White Bear Center for the Arts was officially organized on May 16, 1968 and moved to their new location at 4971 Long Avenue in the fall of 2013.

The White Bear Lake Area Historical Society was incorporated on September 25, 1970 and gathers, preserves and shares the stories of the five communities that touch the shore of White Bear Lake – Birchwood, Dellwood, Mahtomedi, White Bear Lake, and White Bear Township.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.66 square miles (22.43 km2), of which 8.02 square miles (20.77 km2) is land and 0.64 square miles (1.66 km2) is water.

U.S. Highway 61, Ramsey County Highway 96, Minnesota State Highway 96, Interstate 35E, and Interstate 694 are five of the main routes in the city.

Smarte Carte, a company that provides baggage carts to many airports around the world, is headquartered in White Bear Lake, near Interstate 35E and Ramsey County Highway 96. International Paper, one of the largest pulp and paper companies in the world, operates a significant facility in northern White Bear Lake on 9th Street across from Podvin Park. Next door is Magnepan, a manufacturer of high-end audio loudspeakers.

Notable People

  • Tony Benshoof, Olympic athlete competing in luge
  • Jackson Bond, actor (“The Invasion”, 2007)
  • Brian Bonin, 1992 White Bear High School graduate, University of Minnesota Golden Gophers Men’s Hockey, 1996 Hobey Baker Award winner
  • Justin Braun, 2005 White Bear High School graduate, University of Massachusetts Amherst hockey, NHL defenseman for the Philadelphia Flyers
  • Jim Brunzell, 1967 White Bear High School graduate, University of Minnesota football and track & field, retired wrestler
  • Bill Butters, 1969 White Bear High School graduate, University of Minnesota hockey, retired defenseman in the WHA and NHL
  • Ryan Carter, 2002 White Bear High School graduate, Minnesota St. University hockey, NHL center for the Minnesota Wild
  • Josh A. Cassada, NASA Astronaut
  • Kevin M. Chandler, Minnesota state legislator and lawyer
  • Gregory L. Dahl, Minnesota state legislator and lawyer
  • Rick Danmeier, 1970 White Bear High School graduate, football player White Bear Lake High School, straight-on kicker for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings (1977–1982)
  • Moose Goheen (1894–1979), NHL hockey player, Member of Professional Hockey Hall of Fame, class of 1952 Moose Goheen – Hall of Fame Bio
  • Nora Greenwald (a.k.a. Molly Holly), former WWE Diva
  • Trent Hafdahl, White Bear Lake Class of 2004, Lead guitarist and founding member of After the Burial
  • Matt Henderson, 1992 White Bear High School graduate, University of North Dakota Men’s Hockey, former NHL player
  • Orrin Henry Ingram Sr. (a.k.a. Hank Ingram) (1904–1963), American heir and businessman
  • Steve Janaszak, hockey goalie, 1975 Hill-Murray School graduate, University of Minnesota, 1980 U.S. Olympic “Miracle on Ice” Team
  • Bradley Joseph, composer, keyboardist with Yanni and Sheena Easton
  • Lois Jurgens, murderer
  • Devoney Looser, Jane Austen scholar
  • Harry Mares, educator, Minnesota state legislator, and mayor of White Bear lake
  • Joe Miller (1850–1891), Major League Baseball player
  • John Watson Milton, Minnesota State Senator and writer
  • Paul M. Nakasone, United States Army General, Commander United States Army Cyber Command
  • Thomas Warren Newcome, Minnesota legislator, lawyer, and mayor of White G=Bear Lake
  • Jeff Parker, 1983 White Bear Mariner High School graduate, Michigan St. University hockey, NHL with Hartford, Buffalo, Pittsburgh
  • Alice Peacock, folk singer
  • Robert W. Reif, Minnesota state legislator and physician
  • Elwyn “Doc” Romnes (1909–1984), former NHL player
  • James Root (1843-1911), St. Paul and Duluth Railroad engineer, hero of the Great Hinckley Fire
  • Brad Stanius, Minnesota state legislator and mayor of White Bear Lake
  • David Tanabe, hockey player, Hill-Murray School, University of Wisconsin hockey, NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, Phoenix Coyotes, Boston Bruins
  • Jacob Volkmann, UFC fighter and chiropractic


“White Bear Lake, Minnesota” │,_Minnesota

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