In 1917, Velvet Beach Resort on the sandy shores on Pelican Lake was already well-established.
Although today it is a 47-unit trailer camp, the old home built by the resort's originator, Ike Miller and three of the 12 one-room cabins he built still remain. So does the old general store, estimated by Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Hart, the present owners, to be least 65 years old.
The two ice houses where layers of ice cakes, meat, fruit and vegetables were stored for serving meals at the large, rough hewn lodge were torn down a couple of years ago, but the foundations can still be seen.
Wife of movie producer William Lyons winner of two academy awards for "Picnic" and "From Here to Eternity," revisited Velvet Beach in the summer of 1969.
She recalled coming to Velvet Beach in 1918 and before with her family. Her father was then the Sheriff of Hennepin County and Chief of Police of Minneapolis.
EARLY CABIN--This is a cabin which served vacationer sat Velvet Beach on Pelican lake many years ago. Velvet Beach, which is believed to have been the first resort on Pelican, now is a trailer camp owned by Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Hart. The old one-room cabin still stands.
According to Mrs. Hart, Mrs. Lyons said the way to get to Velvet Beach before 1918 was by train to Brainerd, then by horse and buggy to Pelican Lake. In 1918, the last year Mrs. Lyons visited the resort, the family arrived by Model T Ford from Minneapolis.
Mrs. Lyons, then Sally Martinson, rode horseback about 1 1/2 miles to Beavers Corners to pick up the family's mail. There used to be boardwalks leading from the cabins to the beach so the ladies in long dresses wouldn't get their cloth- ing wet or sandy. "The Velvet Beach lodge was quite an elite place," said Mrs. Hart.
When the Harts bought the resort,20 years ago the old kerosene-burning lamps, hand pumps, and wash bowls were still in the cabins. "It was very primitive," said Melvin Hart. In an old barn, still standing with its roof partially caved in, Ike Miller and his wife, washed all the laundry for the cabins by hand and kept cattle, sheep and chickens.
The old log-frame lodge with its huge fireplace burned down in 1969; the three cabins and the house still remain, but the Harts are presently in a quandary as to what to do with them. 'We hate to tear them down, but we aren't in the cabin rental business either,' Melvin Hart said.
BREEZY POINT in 1926 - This view of the main lodge at Breezy Point on Pelican lake which was taken May 2, 1926, has been preserved by the Minnesota Historical Society.
Hart says he may fix up the old cabin with its solid concrete cellar and make it an historical attraction. "After all," he said, "this is one of the last early 1900 cabins around here."
Hart and his wife think the resort was built in about 1900, but all the records of establishments dating back to before 1920 have been destroyed by a court order because of lack of storage space in the Court House.
Other early resorts in the Pelican Lake area that date back to before Billy Fawcett built Breezy Point in 1922 include Wassena Lodge, Pine Rocks Resort which is said to have started first as a girls' camp and Marquis Resort on nearby Markee Lake.
The Marquis Resort was built by Sol Marquis whose brother built the Wassena Lodge.
Another early resort was Sam Johnson's Camp Laura, bought out by the owners of Breezy Point.
Mrs. Walter (Bess) Murphy, Nisswa, remembers when Sol Marquis rode to the Nisswa Railroad station to pick up guests with a horse and buggy.
Most of Marquis' guests were from St. Louis, said Mrs. Murphy. Marquis rode in to take guests to the afternoon train, He'd generally eat supper at Mrs. Murphy's father's house then pick up more guests on the evening train.
"Sol and his son, Fred, came in every day," said Mrs. Murphy, now 69 years old.
She said she was a little girl when Velvet Beach went into operation and guesses the resort to be about 50 years old.
About the oldest resort she remembers on the Cullen lakes was one owned by Jim Quinn on Lower Cullen that went into business at about the same time that the Marquis resort started. (The Quinn resort is now Sikaren Resort.)
Another early resort that Mrs. Murphy recalls is the Train Bell on North Long Lake at Merrifield.
"I'm just sure that Sol Marquis resort was the first on Pelican Lake," said Mrs. Murphy.
"My husband (now deceased) built the road that leads to Velvet Beach," said Mrs. Murphy. Before the road was built, it was mighty hard to get a buggy through the sand, she said.
There were logging trains back in the 1800's. One such train went off the track and into the water somewhere near Deauville.
Reproduced from the Centennial Edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch (1871-1971).