Historical Society’s ‘Tapping History’ Series Helps Residents Discover the Lake’s Rich Past

Discover the lake area’s rich past with the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society’s Tapping History event series.
From left to right: Mike Monson, Ian Lovett, Dan Johnson and Erik Paulsen grab a brew and prepare for a night of lake-area history at Excelsior Brewing Co.

On the second Monday of each month, a crowd of lake-area residents gathers at the Excelsior Brewing Co.’s taproom to learn about local history over a pint. The event is called Tapping History, and is hosted by the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society (ELMHS) to celebrate and raise awareness about the rich history of the Lake Minnetonka area. Each month, the event is devoted to a different topic, and the series has covered everything from Prohibition-era Excelsior to the exploration of maritime wreckage in Lake Minnetonka.

According to Dan Johnson, a member and former board member of the society, the Tapping History series has been at the forefront of an effort to garner more interest in the ELMHS from a younger audience.

“The society has a two-fold mission: to preserve and document the physical history of the lake, and to stimulate interest in local history,” Johnson explains. In the more than 40 years since the society was founded, he says, it has been doing a great job with the first part of the mission. In using the society as a means to share information and encourage conversations about history in the community, however, the ELMHS has come up a little short.

According to Johnson, the ELHSM began as primarily a social gathering back in 1972. Today, however, the expanding population has resulted in less intimate events, with individuals joining the society for the history rather than as a reason to socialize with friends and neighbors.

“I got involved with the historical society because I have a bit of a romantic infatuation with Lake Minnetonka, as many local residents do,” Johnson says. “But over the past 40 years, the events had become more about celebrating the society itself and less about engaging with history in any meaningful way.” The Tapping History series has been an attempt to bring local stories front and center.

Johnson says that events have focused on banishing the idea that history is a staid, scholarly pursuit, relegated to the stuffy professorial types.

“We wanted to make the society approachable, we wanted to make it non-academic, and we wanted an environment where members of every generation can come together and learn something about the community,” he says.

The first Tapping History event was held in November 2013, in the basement of Jake O’Connor’s Pub. This past October, the location was changed to the Excelsior Brewing Co.’s taproom, due to the need for more space.

“[Excelsior Brewing] been great to partner with,” Johnson says, noting that the brewery has been donating a dollar of each beer sold at the events to the ELMHS.

Mike Monson has been a loyal Tapping History attendee since the event was launched in 2013. A self-proclaimed “old-house buff,” the Excelsior resident has always had an interest in historical homes and buildings in his community. He was introduced to the ELMHS and Tapping History by Johnson, his friend and neighbor.

The range of ages represented at Tapping History is one of its most important features in Monson’s experience. “I’m in my 30s,” he says. “It’s great to be able to get together with people in my age group, but also with older people and younger people, since the memories and experiences we have of the lake area are all so diverse.”

Monson says the information shared at these events has an almost folkloric quality, a feeling of oral tradition being passed on and preserved across generations. “These aren’t the stories in history textbooks,” he explains. “Without events like this, these stories could be lost.”

If You Go:
Excelsior in the 1960s, featuring local author Daniel Gabriel
February 9 at 7 p.m.
Excelsior Brewing Company
421 3rd St., Excelsior