The City of Deephaven is a western suburb of the Minneapolis, St. Paul area, located in western Hennepin County, Minnesota. Deephaven covers an area of 2.3 miles with a population of 3,843 (2016). It is essentially a residential city with small commercial areas that primarily serves the local community.
A Short History of the Village of Deephaven
By Barbara M. Sykora
The beginning of tourism and eventually permanent settlement in Deephaven and the surrounding Lake Minnetonka area can be traced directly to the growth and economic climate of Minnesota. In 1849, President Zachery Taylor appointed Alexander Ramsey governor of the new Minnesota Territory. The total population of the new territory was 4,780. Western Hennepin County did not receive regular postal service until 1850. Settlers were dependent upon supplies brought from great distances. The only way for settlers to reach Minneapolis was by riverboat and then stagecoach. In 1851, Governor Alexander Ramsey negotiated two treaties with the Sioux and secured two million acres of land west of the Mississippi River which included the Lake Minnetonka area.
The lake was first surveyed in 1854 and the surveyors wrote that the area was heavily timbered, the water clear and deep with a great variety of fish. To encourage tourists and settlers, Minnesota touted itself as one of the healthiest climates in the world.
The Minnesota climate was even thought to be a cure for many illnesses, including tuberculosis in the early stages. The only problem was the cold winters and it was thought it was too cold to grow crops this far north. Many publications, books and newspaper articles issued by the government wrote about our climate as pure, pleasant and healthful and not necessarily how cold it gets here. Immigration in the United States in the early 19th century first followed west to the Ohio River which was followed by the settling of the Great Lakes area of Michigan and then on to Wisconsin. Next, the tide of immigration continued into Iowa and Minnesota.
By 1855 and 1856, settlers rushed into the Deephaven area and purchased from 80 to 160 acres of land at $1.25 an acre thanks to the Land Grant Acts of 1820 & 1841. Many of their names are still known today: Albert Robinson (Robinson’s Bay), James Shaver (Shaver’s Lake), James Chowen, (Chowen’s Corner) and Elijah Carson, (Carson’s Bay).
One of the first persons who envisioned the development of Lake Minnetonka was Charles S. Gibson, a lawyer from St. Louis, Missouri. He first visited Minnesota in 1854 to escape the heat of St. Louis and made the annual journey to Deephaven for over 50 years. He purchased land from Warren Chapman in 1870 and built a home in 1877. Gibson called his new summer home “Northome”. It was considered the largest home on Lake Minnetonka in 1877 and cost $3,000.
In 1878, Gibson’s son, Victor Gibson purchased 108.55 acres from Elijah and Mariah Carson for $2,713.75. The land was sold to three investors and on June 10th, 1879 and the first of the great Lake Minnetonka hotels was built: The St. Louis Hotel. The hotel was 217 feet long and three stories tall with spacious verandas on each floor. The hotel was successful for many years until 1885 and in debt. Gibson paid off the debt and became the full owner of the hotel. Gibson and his wife Virginia wasted no time platting all 108.55 acres into lots to be sold for summer homes and cottages.
Gibson even named the streets after family and friends in the newly platted “Deephaven Park”. Easton Road was named after his youngest son and Virginia Gibson’s grandfather. Virginia Avenue was named after Gibson’s wife: Virginia Gamble Gibson. Hamilton Avenue: named after Hamilton Gamble, Uncle of Virginia Gibson. Rutledge Avenue: named after Gibson’s maternal grandfather, George Rutledge. Sibley Avenue: This street originally was named Hohenzollern Avenue after clients of Gibson’s law practice and who also awarded him a knighthood for his services. The street name was changed to Sibley during World War I.
The newest and best summer attractions for vacationers had moved on to the western states for summer fun like Yellowstone Park in Wyoming. The St. Louis Hotel continued to struggle with bigger and better hotels on Lake Minnetonka. Lake Minnetonka was becoming an area of permanent homes for local Minnesotans. To make matters worse, the Minnetonka Ice Yacht Club burned down on January 14th, 1904 which the hotel overlooked. By the end of 1905, the Gibson’s had nearly sold off all the lakefront property because there was speculation of the trolley service coming to Deephaven. In 1907, the Hotel St. Louis was torn down.
In 1910, on the grounds of the hotel, Walter Douglas built a handsome mansion as a wedding present to his second wife, Mahala Dutton Douglas. Douglas was one of the founders of the Quaker Oats Company. In 1912, Walter Douglas and his wife went on a 3-month European tour to find furniture for their home. They booked passage on the way home on the HMS Titanic and Mr. Douglas went down with the ship. Mrs. Douglas continued to live at Walden until her death at her winter home in Pasadena, California in 1945.
Deephaven’s other hotel was in Cottagewood. The Club House opened in 1886 and in 1903 it changed management and its name to The Cottagewood Hotel. The managers were Mrs. Trombly and her sister Miss Hall. In 1903 the sisters left and took over management of the Park Lake Hotel. With the change in management again, came a new name: the Keewaydin Hotel. The four-story hotel had 40 rooms and a spacious dining room which served delicious food. Rates for staying was $2.50 for one guest in a small room, $4.50 for 2 guests. Some rooms had a bathroom starting at $3.00 per night. It had a dock that was a regular stop with the streetcar boats. The Keewaydin Hotel burned down in 1924.
Another man of influence, Hazen J. Burton, moved to Lake Minnetonka area in 1879. Burton and his wife Alice purchased land on the southern end of Carson’s Bay in 1889. They hired William Channing Whitney to design the home and they moved in 1892 and called their home, Chimo. The Burton’s were very influential in the development of Deephaven. They donated land for the first school and help found the Minnetonka Yacht Club. Alice Burton suggested the name “Deephaven” for the railway station (and eventually our town) built just below their home that would Burton take to downtown Minneapolis and home again. Burton was elected Deephaven’s first mayor in 1900 under a highly contested election to incorporate Deephaven, Cottagewood, Northome and Summerville in the village of Deephaven.
The summer residents of Deephaven, Cottagewood, Summerville and Northome felt that they were getting little for their tax money like sidewalks, police and sanitary removal. On June 7, 1900, at Arthur Dyer’s Boat Works, 46 residents voted; 39 in favor to separate and 7 were against to separate from the township of Excelsior.
Deephaven has continued to grow since its incorporation as a village:
Deephaven’s goal for parks and open space speaks of an overall system that conserves natural resources, protects ecological sensitive areas, and fulfills the needs of the people of Deephaven. The total park system contains approximately 76 acres. Park areas include tennis courts, baseball fields, platform courts, playground equipment, basketball courts and walking trails. Bike paths and hiking trails connect many of our recreational areas. During the winter, the trails are utilized for cross-country skiing.
Naturally, Deephaven's chief attraction is Lake Minnetonka with its three deep-cut bays bordering the city. The points and peninsulas overlooking the lake provide some of the city’s most beautiful homes.
During the summer, you’ll find Deephaven residents at our six public beaches and two city marinas which accommodate approximately 312 boats of all sizes.
Deephaven is truly a haven when it comes to peaceful living and an active lifestyle.
To find out more about Deephaven history, please go to Deephaven Historical Society website.