For the first time since 2007 the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society will not be having the White Bear Area Historic House Tour this fall. The tradition which began in the 1970s as a collaboration between the historical society and the White Bear Lake Women’s Club as a part of Manitou Days was revived by the WBLAHS in 2007. The community building event served as an opportunity to raise funds, hear stories of our community through homes that are interesting due to their architecture, former inhabitants, location or other features and bring people to the area. With the challenges presented by COVID-19 it was decided that the Historic House Tour 2020 would be canceled.
When one door closes another opens. September 25, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society as an organization. With the Historic House Tour scheduled for Sunday, September 27th we contemplated several ideas to commemorate this important milestone, but continued to struggle with balancing it and the effort required by the tour. With the cancellation of the tour event this year, a newly envisioned anniversary celebration has taken shape. Much like the rest of the world, we have had to rethink and re-envision how we do things and particularly how we can continue to connect our community to its past. As a historian, shifting to new and everchanging technology is not my strongest skillset, but I am inspired by looking back to those who had the foresight in 1970 to formally create an organized charged with preserving the history of this special place and those who took the leap in 2001 to hire the first paid staff to allow the WBLAHS to grow and adapt to the changing times. As we celebrate the past 50 years and launch the WBLAHS on the path for the next 50 years we must continue to adapt and reimagine what it possible.
Over the weekend of September 25-27 the WBLAHS will present “50 for 50 – Celebrating 50 Years of the WBLAHS” a 50 hour virtual “event” featuring an online segment each hour that showcases an aspect of our community’s rich history and inspires viewers to support the important work of the WBLAHS with a goal of raising $50,000 for 50 Years. The online segments will include live and pre-recorded sections on local favorites such as Wildwood Amusement Park, White Bear’s Notorious Gangsters, The Johnson Boat Works Story, Cass Gilbert’s White Bear Cottages, White Bear’s Hockey History and much more including an interactive happy hour and live trivia segment on Saturday night.
In 2020 we have launched our first efforts into virtual programming and have been inspired by the opportunity to reach audiences that would have previously been limited by geography, scheduling conflicts and other obstacles that disappear when a program is available online. Admittedly, the format is not perfect and we would never rely solely upon it for connecting with our members and supporters, but during these unusual times it is a wonderful opportunity to connect in a new way. We hope you will join us!