This weekend, explore some of Minnesota’s best-kept secrets. Nestled between the area’s glamorous homes and the glistening blue waters of Lake Minnetonka are charming little boathouses peeking out from the shoreline.
On June 29, you have the rare opportunity to hop on a bus and take a guided tour of these historic structures. Melinda Nelson and Karen Melvin, the award-winning co-authors of Boathouses of Lake Minnetonka, will narrate along the way, sharing anecdotes about the history of Lake Minnetonka, the boathouses, their original owners, and the current tenants who have restored them.
“They’re these really beautiful, small places to be closer to the water—places of retreat and rest,” says Melvin, who also photographed the boathouses for the book.
Transitioning into the 20th century, these ever-popular structures were built right on the shoreline. “They were originally used for many different purposes, and one was, of course, to house a boat. Those were called the ‘wet-slip’ style; you could drive your boat in, just like a garage,” laughs Melvin. “Back in the day, a car could be $500, but a really nice wooden boat could be $25,000. So, people wanted a really nice place to house their boat.”
But now, these lake gems are endangered. In 1979, the DNR passed regulation that prevented any structures from being built on the shoreline. The existing boathouses were allowed to stay, so Nelson and Melvin wanted to capture the importance of preserving these rare boathouses in a unique way: through literature and bus tours.
“We wanted to put a spotlight on the beauty and wonder of experiencing the lake that close to the water,” Melvin says.
Interested? Experience these Lake Minnetonka historic structures and join the tour, hosted by the Minnetonka Center for the Arts. Two tours will be offered, one from 9:30 a.m. to noon that covers the Upper Lake, and one from 2:00-4:30 p.m. that explores the Lower Lake. Tours can be booked for a half day, visiting four different houses, or a full day where tourists will visit eight. For a nice meal between tours, plan for lunch at the Center, catered by their in-house chef, Melinda Alves.
Space is limited, so to reserve your spot, visit their website. All proceeds from the tours will benefit the Minnetonka Center for the Arts. (If you can’t make it, pick up Nelson and Melvin’s book, Boathouses of Lake Minnetonka, or see the boathouses from the water with Paradise Cruises, starting on July 21.)
Tickets: Half day, $125 member/$140 non-member; Full day, $200 for members and non-members