Did You Know Lake Minnetonka Once Had Delivery Boats?

by | Aug 2020

The sunset over Lafayette Bay.

Photo: Nelson Hill

Delivery boats were both a reliable and direct way to deliver goods on Lake Minnetonka, as roads did not exist to all parts of the lake or were often washed out.

Packages were delivered from the Donaldson’s Minneapolis department store to 24 designated points on Lake Minnetonka via the Isabelle from 1907 to 1921, catering to summer residents and hotel guests. Isabelle was named for the wife of Lawrence Donaldson. In 1907 alone, the boat claimed to log over 8000 miles. Donaldson’s advertised “Deliveries will be made as far as one-quarter mile back from the lake shore.” Isabelle was joined by another boat, the Donaldson, for three seasons from 1913-1915. In the spring of 1921, the Parcel Post was established, which brought an end for the need of delivery boats.

Several boats were used by the Cascade Steam Laundry of Minneapolis, which had branches at Lake Park and the bakery in Excelsior in the 1880s, to pick up laundry. Daily stops were made at the hotels, cottages, boarding house and camps around the lake. They offered same day service if the laundry was picked up early in the day.

For a few years, some of the boats were also used to deliver newspapers for the Saint Paul Daily Globe, as well as the Minneapolis Tribune.

Deanna Bunkelman is president of the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society.


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