This history of White Bear Lake consists of vivid characters and tales of mystery. Some interesting historical facts:
- It is believed that F. Scott Fitzgerald used White Bear Lake as the backdrop for his book, Winter Dreams. The name of the town in the book is Black Bear Lake. Fitzgerald was a summer resident on the lake.
- In the Prohibition Era, many gangsters came to White Bear Lake to hide out when they were in trouble. Some famous gangsters believed to come to White Bear Lake are Ma Barker, Pretty Boy Floyd and Al Capone.
- White Bear Lake got its name from a Sioux Indian legend about a Sioux hunter who killed a white bear on Manitou Island and whose spirit lives on Manitou Island still. Manitou Days is a celebration in honor of the white bear’s spirit.
- Nine Indian mounds were located on the Northwest shores of the lake. The largest mound was located approximately where Shady Lane meets Lake Avenue. The mound was later destroyed and 17 skeletons were removed from it.
- Land in the area was first available for sale in 1847 at a price of $1.25/acre. All of the land in the township was purchased by 1860.
- The first settler in what is now the City of White Bear Lake was V.B. Barnum. He purchased land in 1852 between Goose and White Bear Lake. He built the first resort hotel on the lake which became the Leip House.
- Manitou Island was developed in 1881 by the Manitou Implement Company and included water and sewer service.
- On May 28, 1883, a committee was appointed “to act with town authorities and the different syndicates, owning property around the lake, to devise and execute measures for retaining and preserving the waters of White Bear Lake.”
- Ice was harvested from the lake to build the Ice Castles for the Winter Carnival years ago. Many feared that the lake would have little to no water left from the hundreds of thousands blocks of ice removed from the lake. They had nothing to fear; the lake always replenished itself.