In May, 1822, a Fort Snelling drummer boy named Joseph R. Brown and his friend, William Snelling, son of the fort's commander, canoed up what is now called Minnehaha Creek to "discover" a lake long sacred to the Indian people who built burial mounds along its shores. Thirty years later, the 23-square-mile natural lake with 110 miles of indented shoreline was named "Minnetonka" — Dakota for "Great Piece of Water" — by Governor Alexander Ramsey.[seal of The Minnesota Historical Society]
By the early 1880s Lake Minnetonka had become a favorite summer resort for the rich and famous of the United States and Europe, including Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Chester A. Arthur. The 300-foot "Belle of Minnetonka" and other excursion boats nearly as large carried thousands of visitors enjoying holidays at comfortable summer homes or elegant hotels like the Chapman House here on Cook's Bay and the prestigious Hotel Lafayette on Crystal Bay.
With the arrival of the automobile, the great hotel era faded and the summer cottages evolved into permanent homes. Lake Minnetonka is still known for its beauty and its many recreational opportunities.
Erected by the Minnesota Historical Society
and the Westonka Historical Society - 1985