A series of five historical markers that give a glimpse into the history of White Bear Township were placed during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Township Day festival Sept. 14. The markers were researched and written by the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society (WBLAHS) and installed along the trail leading from the parking lot at Polar Lakes Park up to the historic Town Hall.
The markers help share stories of the area that has become White Bear Township through key questions including, “Who Were the Area’s First Inhabitants?” and “Why is White Bear Township Shaped That Way?” The multiyear project to research, write and design the markers is the culmination of a vision for the historic site within the park that was crafted by the historical society and White Bear Township several years ago.
According to WBLAHS Executive Director Sara Markoe Hanson, the markers are an effort to engage visitors who come to the park for other purposes. “This park is incredibly active, and the Town Hall is not always open. We wanted to provide a more passive way to interact with visitors who might not seek out a museum or historic site, but would pause to read the plaques while they wait for their game to start or are bringing kids to the playground,” Hanson said.
The project was funded in part by grants from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the Greater White Bear Lake Community Foundation.
Work on the Town Hall's interior continues, and the site is planned to officially open for community groups and school tours in 2020. The Town Hall will house exhibits and provide space for presentations on local history. The structure was originally designed by Minnesota architect Cass Gilbert in 1885 and is believed to be Gilbert’s first public building. He would later go on to design the Minnesota state Capitol, along with the West Virginia and Arkansas state capitols and the United States Supreme Court Building. The Town Hall has been moved three times in its more than 130-year history and has suffered at least one fire. Recent efforts to rehabilitate the structure have revealed significant clues to its original form and layout.
To learn more about the history of the building and the project, visit whitebearhistory.org.