The streetcar steamboat Minnehaha is one of the most iconic symbols of Lake Minnetonka’s heritage. She was built by the Twin City Rapid Transit Company in 1906 as part of a new “Express Boat” fleet that would serve Lake Minnetonka’s growing commuter population. Originally there were six identical Express Boats – a seventh was added in 1915. They were all designed to look similar to TCRT’s streetcars, and thus they were casually known as the “streetcar boats.”
With four lines serving 26 ports of call around the lake, Lake Minnetonka residents could easily commute to Excelsior, Tonka Bay, or Deephaven and transfer onto streetcars bound for Minneapolis. The streetcar boats were a very popular form of transportation until about 1920, when the fleet reached peak ridership. Due to the advent of improved roads and lower costs of automobiles, ridership plummeted after 1921.
In 1926, the TCRT decided to permanently end steamboat service on Lake Minnetonka and scuttled (purposely sunk) Minnehaha and some of her sisters later that year. Minnehaha was raised in 1980 and eventually restored to her former glory – a project that took six years, dozens of volunteers, and more than $500,000 to complete. She re-entered passenger service on May 25, 1996 and has been a cherished icon of the Lake Minnetonka community ever since.
Aaron Person is a volunteer for the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society and one of the Minnehaha captains.