Antlers Park was a 40 acre amusement park located on Lake Marion in Lakeville, Minnesota. Colonel Marion Savage built Antlers Park to attract passengers to the Dan Patch Railroad. The postcards below identify the owner as George O’Rourke.
Rose Anne Hanft:
In order to attract a multitude of passengers [to his Dan Patch Railroad, Marion] Savage put Antlers Park on the map [named in allusion to the former abundance of deer in this region]. It was located on the southeast shore of Prairie Lake [renamed Lake Marion in honor of Savage], and contained summer homes and facilities for picnics, boating, swimming, fishing, hunting and dancing. The excursion trains to Antlers Park were always very crowded. Those who remember riding these crowded trains remember the good times both on the ride and in the park.
Whole families would make this trip, and, for the children, it was the big event of the summer. They would arrive at 54th and Nicollet early if they wanted a seat. At 11:00 am, a Dan Patch train pulled out of the terminal and headed south through the beautifully hilly country, past the many small stations named for the farmers whose lands the tracks cut through, past the Auto Club, the Savage farm, and finally reached Antlers Park. The people swarmed off the train and scattered to the different areas of the park. [A Minneapolis Tribune article dated April 7, 1912, reported that it took 40 minutes to get from the terminal to the park.]
The college groups usually went to the attractive pavilion. In one end of it, there was an ice cream parlor where sodas, sundaes, pop, but no liquor, were sold. The rest of the pavilion was a dance floor, tastefully decorated. Beautiful chandeliers hung from the ceiling, murals decorated the walls, and the floor was made of exceptionally fine wood. The open side of the dance floor had a vine covered walk. There was always a good orchestra and dances were 10 cents for a set of three.
The people had a choice of eating a picnic lunch on the well-kept picnic grounds or in an elaborate eating place off the grounds. In the evening a band played music out on the end of the dock. The little children had fun swimming in the clear lake and riding on the merry-go-round and Ferris Wheel.
Everything in the park was up-to-date, including electricity. The means of obtaining electricity was unique. The engines of the Dan Patch provided transportation to and from the park, and the number one engine of the road, the Augerita, supplied all the electricity for Antlers Park. The Augerita ran for only one year, and because of her small passenger capacity, she was put on a siding in Antlers Park where her powerful engine generated all the electricity for the park’s facilities. [A Minneapolis Tribune article dated April 7, 1912, reported that an electric light plant was being installed at the park.]
From the Lakewood Area Historical Society:
Antlers Amusement Park became one of the most famous amusement parks in the upper Midwest. It contained a lavish dance pavilion with a gleaming oak dance floor; a large bathing beach that featured a dock, diving tower and high sliding chute; a boat dock that offered sailboats, rowboats and canoes; a children’s playground with a miniature operating train for children; tennis courts; an athletic field and baseball diamond with a grandstand for spectators; and an aerial swing. A nine-hole golf course was located nearby. The Dan Patch Railroad Line [provided transportation to the park.] Luxury excursion cars with real leather seats, stained glass upper windows, and richly carved and inlaid wood brought thousands of visitors to the park each summer. On weekends in the summer of 1912, these trains reportedly made 19 scheduled runs each day.
The area was already popular with wealthy families from southern states who came to escape summer heat and humidity. These families and other visitors stayed in cabins located around the lake or at Weichselbaum’s Resort, which was famous for its fried chicken, apple pie and homemade ice cream. The amusement park declined in popularity in the 1920s and 1930s due to a combination of factors – the advent of the automobile, the Great Depression, and several dry years that saw Lake Marion drop to its lowest level ever.
One reader tells us that “in the 1960s and early 1970s it regularly hosted picnics for many thousands of people on weekend days during the summer, typically sponsored by major corporations and unions in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, e.g., Northwest Airlines, IBEW, UAW, Honeywell, and Hitchcock Industries. When the last owners retired, they sold the park to the city of Lakeville.”
Antlers Park is still there, but no longer an amusement park. It is described as a playground, and according to pictures on an unofficial Facebook page, it has a sandy beach and a covered picnic table pavilion.