Highlights of Orono
An important part of Orono and Lake Minnetonka history is Big Island. A fifty-six acre wilderness on the east end of Lake Minnetonka, Big Island is one of Orono’s cherished parklands. Before falling under the protection of the city of Orono, Big Island underwent many transformations and name changes over the past century and a half. Labeled as Big Island or Wetutanka Island, taken from the Dakotas, on a map in 1860 the island was also published as Owen’s Island, Meeker’s Island, Cottage Island and Morse Island. The name Big Island finally caught on in 1906, when it was published and advertised on a national level as the land which became home to the Big Island Amusement Park. The Park entertained visitors with roller coaster rides, a carrousel, bumper boats named Old Mill Ride, a dance pavilion, and a 200 foot tall spotlight tower that lit up the lake. Due to over expansion and a large amount of debt the park closed in 1912.
For three years Big Island sat vacant until 1915 when the Minnesota Game Refuge started a game farm. What first started with a handful of Chinese Ring Necked Pheasant roosters and three dozen hens multiplied to over 25,000 in nine short years. The population became so large that the refuge outgrew the island and moved to open land to the west. In the 1920s the Island was purchased by the Veteran’s Association and used as a recreational campground for veterans and their families until it was sold in 2006 to the city of Orono and the Minnehaha Watershed District. Lake Minnetonka residents applauded the city of Orono for preserving the important landmark. No time was wasted in cleaning up the land and preserving forty-five of its fifty-six acres as a conservation easement. The park is open to the public and there is dock space where the original wharf once stood. Visitors can tour the island and relive the history by walking the ruins of the original grand entry stairway and glimpse some of the remaining foundations of the rides. The Old Mill Ride continues to entertain at the Minnesota State Fair 100 years later. Today Big Island is home to roughly fifty private residences. Only accessible by boat, the cottages here are delightful icons and their residents are true stewards of the Island. Read More...
History of Orono Real Estate
Major George Brackett, a native of Orono, Maine, settled and built his home on what he called Orono Point, presently known as Brackett’s Point. Brackett’s Point serves as an exclusive area to Lake Minnetonka. The Pillsbury mansion, an impressive thirteen acre, 1700-foot shoreline estate is just one of the prominent homes residing on Brackett’s Point. A private estate community like no other, the homes offer 360 degree views of the lake.
The most northern piece of water on Lake Minnetonka is Stubbs Bay. Named for the early homesteader, Joel Stubbs, the area surrounding Stubbs Bay was known for its rich berry farming and summer cottages. Today, few cottages remain and the berry farms have been replaced with 4+ acre luxury estates of Lake Minnetonka’s finest. The sanctuary waters of Stubbs Bay are off the beaten path and lack the traffic from the main lake.
Orono continues to be an exemplary Lake Minnetonka community, rich in history, landscape and real estate beauty. Show Less...