Archived Story

Lake Alice nighttime is breathtaking [UPDATED]

Published 3:38am Monday, October 28, 2013 Updated 5:52am Monday, October 28, 2013

Anyone with a love for Lake Alice in Fergus Falls, when driving around the lake during nighttime hours, no doubt experiences an awe-inspiring feeling.

Much of this comes from admiring the 15 historic lights positioned along the south side of the lake.

Reflections from the old-style lights, atop 14-foot-tall poles, can be seen from the north side of the lake. These lights were installed in the fall of 2011 as part of street reconstruction.

“Eventually these historic lights will be positioned all around the lake, during the various street reconstruction projects,” said Fergus Falls City Engineer Dan Edwards. “The city council, through citizen support, decided that lights with an historic look would be well and good at Lake Alice, similar to the historic lights in downtown Fergus Falls.”

Four historic lights also are in place along Mill Street, from the south side of the lake to Summit Avenue. My late father Roy, as a young man, lived in an apartment along that stretch of roadway.

He’d no doubt be pleased with the historical lighting along the stretch of Mill Street and also the old-style lighting on the south side of Lake Alice.

Those sentiments, I’m sure, would be echoed by the late Daily Journal newsroom editor Jim Gray who lived on Oakland Place, also near the south side of the lake.

In the mid-1980s Gray co-authored a booklet with Marj Barton titled “The Definitive Guide to Lake Alice.” He retired as Daily Journal newsroom editor in 1985 and died in 2005.

Lake Alice, as noted by Gray and Barton, has been an attraction since the 1860s. The name honors Alice Faber, the first woman inhabitant in Fergus Falls.

Historians often refer to Lake Alice as “the lake on the hill.” Like many lakes in west central Minnesota, Lake Alice was formed by glacial movement.

When driving near the southeast shore, I think of a Lake Alice historic fact that stays in my memory. In 1884 a fountain was created on the southeast side of the lake.

Many Fergus Falls High School graduates, through the 1970s, remember walking up the hill during noon hour to purchase candy at Lake Alice Grocery, owned by Charlie and Inga Johnson, also near the southeast side of the lake.

Other FFHS grads recall the outdoor winter skating days, and the warming house, down the road on the southwest side of Lake Alice.

Another historic year in the history of Lake Alice took place in 1886 when the city of Fergus Falls erected a floating bandstand on the lake.

The small island near the northwest side was the brainchild of Fergus Falls Park Superintendent A.T. Van Dyk, a neighbor of ours during my growing up years on West Cavour Avenue.

The goal of Van Dyk, during the 1950s, was to lure mallard ducks to Lake Alice. He was successful. Kids from generation to generation fed the ducks with bread crumbs.

Down the hill from Lake Alice was Washington Junior High School, until the structure burned in 1967.

In previous years, physical education teacher Oats LeGrand instructed students to run around the lake which measured 1.2 miles.

Houses along the west side of the lake were either severely damaged or destroyed by the 1919 tornado, also referred to as the Fergus Falls cyclone.

The twister destroyed the Episcopal Church on the southwest side.

The bell from the church belfry (tower) was reportedly blown into the lake.

Photo racks, full of tornado photos, were housed until the early 1970s at the county museum in the lower level of the courthouse south of downtown Fergus Falls.

As a kid, Lance Johnson went to the museum on hot summer days to stay cool. Seeing all the cyclone photos prompted Johnson to write a book about the cyclone, published in 1982.

Lake Alice, with its rich history, is indeed awe-inspiring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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