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Bean Lake Resort

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Cottonwood County Historical Society
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Water slide with roller rink in the background, Bean Lake Resort, 1929

Water slide with roller rink in the background, Bean Lake Resort, 1929. Used with the permission of Paula Peterson.

Bean Lake Resort, a forerunner of twenty-first-century theme parks, was a popular entertainment destination from the early 1920s to 1947. People from areas around the lake in northwestern Cottonwood County gathered there to enjoy band concerts, water activities, roller-skating, and other activities.

P. H. (Peter Henry) Peterson added an amusement park to his farm on the southern shore of Bean Lake, a few miles northeast of Westbrook, around 1920. Bean Lake Resort quickly became a popular destination for all ages after it opened to the public in the early 1920s. The trail to the resort passed through the Petersons’ cattle yard. When the resort was open, the cattle were locked out of the yard and the gates were left open for resort visitors.

The completed lakeside center provided a large water slide, bath houses, a 14-by-108-foot enclosed roller rink, and space for ball games. Water activities available included a tall water slide, boating, fishing, and swimming. People who came unprepared for swimming could rent wool bathing suits from the resort.

Henry’s sons, Ernie and Albert, ran the resort in the 1930s and 40s. Their sister Rose fried burgers in a food stand. An evening at the roller rink cost skaters about $0.25; the cost included a skating entry fee and rental fee for clip-on skates.

The resort drew large crowds for band concerts on Sunday afternoons, creating deserted streets in nearby Westbrook. People sometimes drove long distances to spend the afternoon at the resort and to hear performances from local bands. Water activities were not possible during the summers of 1936 and 1937 because the lake was completely dry.

People of all ages appreciated free entertainment during the Depression years, but after World War II, the atmosphere changed. Visitors tended to be rowdy. Henry Peterson closed the resort in 1947 and tore down the roller-skating building.

Laura Peterson Byers (P. H. Peterson’s granddaughter, who was a young child when the resort closed) made family scrapbooks for her two children. She included photos, articles, and personal memories of her family’s colorful history related to the resort. Her son Bruce Byers, his wife, Paula, and their three children live on the Peterson farm. They can still see reminders of earlier days when their farm was the center of attention. Bruce is proud of a sturdy wooden toboggan people used to descend the tall water slide.

The resort was more than a place for recreational activities. Lasting friendships and relationships began there. Bruce’s grandparents, Hilda and Harvey Byers, lived close by. They had their first date at the roller rink. Bruce said that, until the early 2010s, strangers might stop in at their farm and ask to visit the site of the resort, a place where they had enjoyed memory-making activities.

The lake is named after Joseph F. Bean, the first homesteader in Cottonwood County after the U.S.–Dakota War of 1862. He served in Company F of the Second Minnesota Volunteer Cavalry. In 1864 he traveled with a squad of soldiers who were scouting westward toward Lake Shetek. One night he and the other soldiers stayed on the north side of the lake. In 1866 Mr. Bean returned, visited the nearest land office, and claimed 171.95 acres by the lake. He moved his family there three years later.

Oral tradition says that most of the Bean family moved farther west prior to 1885 because Joseph wanted to live in the open spaces instead of having people around him. He found a home in Montana, where he died in 1911.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
  • Bibliography
  • Related Resources

Brown, John A., ed. History of Cottonwood and Watonwan Counties Minnesota. Indianapolis: B. F. Bowen, 1916.

Cottonwood County Committee. The Centennial History of Cottonwood County Minnesota. [Minnesota]: N.p., 1970.

Fjeld, Dave. “Summer Fun at Bean Lake.” Summer Memories. Windom, MN: Citizen Publishing, 2006.

Related Images

Water slide with roller rink in the background, Bean Lake Resort, 1929
Water slide with roller rink in the background, Bean Lake Resort, 1929
Refreshment stand at Bean Lake Resort, ca. 1930
Refreshment stand at Bean Lake Resort, ca. 1930

Turning Point

After World War II, clientele of the resort present problems for the Petersons. In 1947 the area’s entertainment center closes and Henry Peterson tears down the roller rink building.

Chronology

1866

Joseph Bean, Cottonwood County’s first homesteader after the U.S.–Dakota War of 1862, claims 171.5 acres of land by a lake that later received his name.

1869

Bean moves his family to his lakeside claim in Westbrook Township.

1885

By this year, the Bean family have moved farther west.

ca. early 1920s

Peter Henry (P. H.) Peterson begins to build Bean Lake Resort.

1926

A roller rink building is built at Bean Lake Resort.

1928

The roller is rink enlarged to accommodate the large number of skaters.

1937

Bean Lake is dry during the summer, as it had been the previous year.

1947

Bean Lake Resort closes.