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DID YOU KNOW??

Original Bandshell, photo provided by Freeborn County Historical Museum 

Bert's Dream

(The creation of Edgewater Park)

 Albert Lea Newspaper Article Dated: October 16, 1919
City Council Buys Edgewater Site

  •  “After many committees had worked on the project and many plans advanced only to

be thrown into the discard, the city council took the matter in hand at the regular
meeting Tuesday evening and bought 30 acres of a 70 acre tract, known as Edgewater
Addition, lying northwest of the city and directly north across Fountain Lake from
Oakwood Park.”

  • Purchase was result of a direct recommendation of the park commissioners, Martin

Blacklin, Bert Skinner and Theodore Speltz.

  • Business Men’s League spent 3 years investigating various tracts near the city for park

purposes. Before the war (WWI) the tract known as ‘Coney Island’ was almost
purchased, but war activities interfered, and the purchase dropped. The League
however went ahead quietly and kept the movement alive.

  • Bert Skinner is reported as recently purchasing the 70-acre tract. “He obtained options

from the various owners and closed the deal at a very low price. The price averages
about $170 dollars an acre.” “Mr. Skinner turns the land over to the City at just what it
cost him.”

  • The 30-acre “tract is ideal for park purposes and can be made the beauty spot of the

state”. No funds were appropriated for the improvement of the park but the park board
was reported as having a plan to raise sufficient funds.

 


 Albert Lea Newspaper Article Dated: August 10, 1922
Edgewater Park Open to the Public

  • “The 20-acre tract at the northwest end of Fountain Lake that was purchased by the

city some two years ago and named Edgewater Park is to be thrown open for public use
Sunday.” “It had not been opened previously because of lack of funds by the board to
clean it out and supply tables.”

  • “Eighteen large picnic tables are being built and will be scattered throughout the park.

People of this city are asked by the board to use this park instead of Tourist Park,
because the latter is becoming crowded by visitors..”

  • “Edgewater Park should become the most-popular of all our parks. It’s location and

scenic beauty is second to none in this part of the state. It has a long shoreline, is
beautifully wooded and is easily accessible to Albert Lea.

Albert Lea Newspaper Article Dated: December 17, 1925

Bert Skinner’s Dream

  • The dream began some 20 years earlier when The Albert Lea Realty Company started

promoting maps of something they called the Edgewater Addition, in the hopes of
starting a housing boom on the land around the lake.

  • Bert would visit his friend Louis Kroessin, who had built a home on the shores of the

lake, and he would walk the land and “see” a park in his mind.

  • After selling just a few lots, the land company finally had to give up because they could

not get anyone interested in building lots “so far from town”. The property eventually
became available through our Freeborn State bank.

  • Skinner bought the entire parcel, apx 70 acres, for $11,000 with his own personal

funds. Which he later sold to the City for no profit.

  • Finally in 1921 the park began to take shape. Mr. Skinner was the president of the Park

Board and was told to “go ahead and spend at least $7000 annually to make things nice
for our people”.

  • As of 1925 the park boasted of... a fine picnic ground under handsome old trees, a

sandy wading beach, a big sheltering pavilion, water, stoves, lights, tables, benches and
playground equipment. The Summer of 1925 saw the building of a bandstand “the likes
of which can be found in very few parks.”

  • The Park Board purchased the Kroessin property. The upper story was taken off and

the lower part made into a concession bungalow, selling cold drinks, ice cream, and
candy. The barn was torn down and the lumber used for framework on the bandstand,
which was covered in stucco. 100 more benches were added to the existing 50. “The
whole effect is that of a great glowing stage, open towards the grove and hollowed out
like a vast phonograph horn that carries the sound of the music throughout the park
and away out over the waters that ripple around the point.”

  • Mr. Skinner also dreamt of a “historical pageant” wanting to invite the Chippewa

Indians he knew from up north. “In a moment the whole place was peopled by the
Chippewa who came in their silent canoes slipping through the water as they did in
days long since passed into history.”

  • 1925 was also the year they drained 15-20 acres of swamp that was between the Park

and the Country Club. “An automatic electric pump now occupies a neat little square
brick house near the main highway and pumps the surplus water from this land into
Fountain Lake where it can do more good than standing around plaguing golfers.”


Bert’s final dream for Edgewater – “Up on the top of the hill that rises from these pleasant
grassy lowlands Mr. Skinner shuts his eyes and sees a lovely little Picture Park, all
greenery, shrubs and flower beds. It is not to be a park to play in, just to look at, and it
stands so high that it may be seen from the highway and from the picnic grounds very well
indeed. It is to be a show spot that will be our pride. Flowers all alike in big beds, roses,
peonies, everything, and shrubbery, landscaped by an expert with masses of syringa and
lilacs of every hue. There will be a road passing along this way from the grounds to the
main highway, coming out by the pump. This will be an extension of the road already
made that winds away from the park toward the Country Club.

“I want this for the community, not for myself. And I really believe that the public appreciates it too.” - Bert Skinner

Easter 1960.jpg

Easter 1960, photo provided by Freeborn County Historical Museum 

Bert Skinner.jpg

Bert Skinner, photo provided by Freeborn County Historical Museum