The soil Wayzata is built upon is much richer than one can see with a blind eye. If natives and foreigners alike were to look behind the glitz and glamor of the city, they would find puzzle pieces of stories that compose the picture of Wayzata as we know it today.
One tale specifically continues to be told when it comes to Wayzata. That’s the story of the Section Foreman House.
In 1902 the house was built by the Great Northern Railway. Its purpose was to house the section foreman, the person entrusted to keep the railroad tracks in good operating condition. It is a Heritage Preservation Site and on the National Register of Historic Places.
“That’s about a 12-year history of getting this building to be known about and cared about,” says Wayzata Historical Society Board member and Wayzata native Susan Sorrentino.
Many locals recognize the tracks when walking or dining downtown. Those grabbing a drink at local hotspot CōV keep one ear open for the annual ringing of the bell that signals a round of drink specials offered upon the passing of the train.
Despite these localisms, most overlook the importance of the tracks and don’t know to point to it when explaining the growth of the city.
Nestled on the shoreline of Lake Minnetonka, the Section Foreman House hosts history within its hardwoods.
“The railroad came to Wayzata from St. Anthony - St. Paul area in 1867, and it brought people to our city,” she says. “I think the railroad put Wayzata on the map.”
Heritage Preservation Board Member Judy Starkey continues to be humbled when flipping through the archives of the property.
“Now think about this. City water was added in 1938, and finally toilet facilities in 1940,” Judy says. “It was a pretty primitive place to live.”
Originally built as a two-story building, the architecture underwent various revisions throughout the century following its construction and switched ownership a few times. Despite these changes, the house’s exterior has perplexingly stayed the same.
Starkey adds, “A wooden house, no matter when it’s built, if it’s not maintained, it’s going to fall down.” That’s why its acceptance into the National Register of Historic Places was a “sigh of relief.”
Lakeshore Learning Center
A native of Wayzata, Peter Hitch grew up imagining stories held in the wood plank walls of the 1902 building. As the Executive Director of The Wayzata Conservancy, he saw an opportunity to cultivate the imagination of generations to follow.
Upon renovation, the Section Foreman House will serve as an educational pinnacle in Wayzata and become the Lakeshore Learning Center, a place to inspire the next generation of leaders.
Its main level will be open to the community, offering meeting rooms and educational spaces.
“The history is now going to be preserved,” says Susan. “The Conservancy advocates what the Heritage Preservation Board and the Wayzata Historical Society want to happen in the project because it’s an environmental and historical education center. It’s a nice way to combine both,” she says.
Being an advocate for youth empowerment is no new venture for Peter. He is one of the masterminds behind the first-ever Minnesota Children’s Museum. With a thirst for perseverance, and a legacy too long for any resume, the City of Wayzata has crowned Peter as the principal of the Panoway Project, a multi-phased process that enhances the ecology, community, and purpose of the Panoway.
The Lakeshore Learning Center was planned to settle into the property this year, but due to a lack of funding, the renovations were postponed.
As plans for the Section Foreman House continue to develop, The Wayzata Conservancy continues to find ways to creatively advocate for the community it serves.
This summer, The Conservancy is hosting Wayzata’s first-ever formal communal dining experience in September, bridging local restaurants to the community through a multi-course meal featuring cuisine from several Lake Street restaurants. Folks will wine and dine on the best dishes in town while watching the sun set over Lake Minnetonka.
For more information on the Panoway Project, upcoming events, and donations, please visit www.wayzataconservancy.org.