THE OLD SWIMMING HOLE By Bob Reiss, From the Re-Echo, Summer 2003
The need in 1963 was for more parks and recreational
facilities in St. Louis Park. Ken Wolfe was the mayor, and
one of his pet projects was what is now known as Wolfe Park.
The area to be designated Wolfe Park included a lake called
Johnson Lake. It was located near Highway 100 and W. 36th
Street. It was not much of a lake; it was well hidden, and
all manner of activities took place there. The local kids
found it great for swimming, although that activity was not
authorized by the City and probably not even by their
parents. Bathing suits were optional.
The name of the lake was changed in 1963 to Wolfe Lake, and
plans were instituted to make it into a real swimming lake
with sandy beaches and lifeguards. A unique part of the plan
for Wolf Lake was that it would be dredged to increase the
size from one acre to eight acres. The sand of the dredged
area would be sold, and the receipts would be used to
improve the rest of the park system.
In the summer of 1964, work was completed, and Wolfe Lake
was ready to be officially opened for swimming and summer
activities. Before the beaches could be opened, however, a
report from the Minnesota Department of Health showed
unhealthy levels of bacteria in the lake. Although the lake
was spring fed, there was not enough water circulation to
prevent the buildup of bacteria. In spite of the report, the
City Council decided to open the lake for the balance of
1964 on an experimental basis while it studied a possible
solution to the problem.
One solution was to pump water into the lake from an unused
well on the adjacent Friedheim Gravel property and let it
discharge into a swampy area south of the lake. Because the
existing well pump was too small to pump the needed amount
of water and the discharge into the swampy area would also
need to be pumped, the project was deemed too expensive. The
only other alternative was to build a $30,000 filtration
plant, which was also too expensive. The Minnesota
Department of Health, in its reports, strongly advised St.
Louis Park to build a municipal swimming pool rather than
spend money on Wolfe Lake. For the 1965 season, the beach
was never opened and the site was abandoned as swimming
The failure of the Wolfe Park swimming beach had two
positive consequences. First, it provided a net profit of
$24,000 from the sale of sand. This money was designated to
be used in the development of the St. Louis Park park
system. Secondly, it increased the interest in park
development. Plans for parks and recreation in St. Louis
Park took on higher priority, and as a result, a referendum
was passed to provide money for parks. In 1972, the new
with swimming pool, was opened.
This information comes from a variety of sources: newspapers, books, yearbooks, phone directories, interviews, etc. Given the varied sources, we cannot guarantee that all of this information is correct, and welcome any additions and corrections. Please contact us with your contributions and comments.