View from the Lake

This article submitted by Linda Lorentzen on 6/23/99.

Discussions of the upgrade and route of Highway 23 have some people in the community wondering if the results will affect Paynesville. Though the final decisions about the highway appear off in the future, members of the business community are involved in task force discussions because their livelihoods could be at stake. In 1923, a proposed road was the subject of much debate in the Paynesville community. At that time there was no direct road from the Twin Cities to Paynesville and tourist trade was negatively affected in Paynesville because of the lack of a direct route. Automobiles had replaced trains for passenger travel. The Paynesville community needed to be proactive in its actions.

Estimates from the State Highway Department in 1923 revealed that the "trunk highways were used each day during the last touring season by 15,568 automobiles, carrying over 50,000 visitors, who spent over a quarter million dollars...Assuming that 30,000 were entertained at homes or camped out, it would mean at $2 a day, $60,000, and that the remaining 20,000 stayed at hotels at $5 for lodging and meals, this would bring $100,000." In the early 1920s the average tourist drove about 150 miles each day, using up 10 gallons of gasoline and a quart of oil daily!

On July 13, 1923, a meeting was held in Buffalo, Minnesota, for the purpose of organizing the Lake Region Highway Association. Representatives from the following towns were present: Robbinsdale, Hamel, Lake Sarah, Loretto, Rockford, Buffalo, Maple Lake, Annandale, South Haven, and Kimball. "The purpose of the to promote interest in and to properly mark the highway that leaves the Jefferson Highway at Robbinsdale and has been known as the Rockford Road." Paynesville representatives included: Peter Fischbach, Dr. C.P. Winther, E.O. Phipps, and Fred Ruff.

The Rockford Road merged into "Trunk Highway No. 69" and led to Eden Valley. After Eden Valley the lack of any road markings caused tourists to turn onto "No.22," which led to the north, away from Paynesville.

Fund raising was a priority for the Lake Region Highway Association. Because the new highway would run through several towns, both east and west of Paynesville, the towns along the route were assigned owed amounts on the basis of the potential benefits. For example, Paynesville was to raise $150 as the "community's share of the expenses of laying out the road, this amount being donated by the Commercial Club at a meeting last Thursday evening."

Markers for the highway were designed. "A circle of deep red, with a triangle of black inside the circle and the lettering "Lake Region Highway" in white on the black triangle. The background about the triangle is to be in white." These would help in enticing and directing those on the highway to destinations beyond Eden Valley.

The Commercial Club succeeded in promoting the Lake Region Highway. By providing a direct route from the Twin Cities to Paynesville the parade began of tourists seeking a view from the lake.

Information for this column was taken from the following issues of The Paynesville Press: February 1, 1923; July 19, 1923 and August 9, 1923.

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