Lake Calhoun was named in honor of John Caldwell Calhoun, the United States Secretary of War, who sent the Army to survey the area around Fort Snelling in 1817 and who ultimately authorized the construction of Fort Snelling. The lake was originally called “Mde Ma-ka-ska” by the Dakota, which meant “Lake of the White Earth.” Settlers later named it “Medoza” or Loon Lake.
Before Europeans settled this area, Lake Calhoun and environs were populated by Dakota people. The first recorded village on the Lake was established in 1928 thanks to Cloudman, a Dakota leader and Major Lawrence Taliaferro, who was based at Fort Snelling. The village, known as Eatonville, was short-lived due to a Dakota-Ojibwe feud.
Much of the land around Lake Calhoun in the 1880s was swampland. By 1900, only five houses had been built in the area just north of the Minikahda Club. Dredging of the area occurred during two periods – between 1911-15 and 1923-25. Virtually all of the park, beaches and boulevards are built on man-made land.
In the 1870s, Lake Calhoun was a resort area. People came to the area to get away from the city. In 1874, Louis Menage developed a resort hotel on the western shore of Lake Calhoun, where the Minikahda Club stands today. The area was called Menage’s Lake Side Park. Visitors reached the park by a small steamer run by the Motor Line (which also ran trains to the area in hopes of cashing in on the resort business.) The area was expected to “appeal to the super wealthy who would be able to commute to Minneapolis in their personal carriages.” Lake Side Park did not attract the super rich. The area was replatted in 1891 as Mendoza Park.
The Minikahda Club was established in 1898. In the early days, the club ran their own launch from 31st Street to their dock. The golf course was opened as a nine hole course, but was expanded to eighteen holes by 1923.
In 1914, the Minneapolis Park Board purchased two launches and offered scheduled trips around Lake Calhoun and into Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake and Brownie Lake. Stops on the boat trip included 31st Street, 34th Street, Thomas Avenue, 36th Street (referred to as “Mineral Springs), “Spring Beach” (opposite the Minikahda Club) and Lake Street. The Park Board also operated a boat concession, renting rowboats and sailboats.
The Murder of Kitty Ging
Catherine “Kitty” Ging owned a dressmaking shop on Nicollet Avenue that boasted a stylish clientele. Kitty lived in the fashionable Ozark Flats (located at 13th and Hennepin), as did one of her beaux, Harry Hayward, the son of a rich Minneapolis real-estate developer. Hayward was a dapper fellow who was a professional gambler and was known to have connections with counterfeiters.
On the evening of December 3, 1894, Kitty had plans to attend the Grand Opera with Harry Hayward. She ordered a horse and carriage and proceeded to the West Hotel downtown and then drove out near Lake Calhoun. It was there, on the road that is now Lake Calhoun Parkway, in the vicinity of the Minikahda Club, that she was found sprawled on the road with a bullet in her head.
The murderer was found within three days. It was revealed that Harry Hayward had two $5,000 life insurance policies on Kitty’s life. Hayward had coerced the Ozark Flats janitor, Claus Blixt, to murder Ging by threatening to murder Blixt’s wife. Harry Hayward was hanged about a year later for the crime. Blixt served a life sentence in prison.
In 2002, WCNC hosted a Kitty Ging Festival.
Reference: Lanegran, David A. and Sandeen, Ernest R. The Lake District of Minneapolis, A History of the Calhoun-Isles Community. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1979.