Anoka County History: Coon Lake Beach neighborhood

Coon Lake Beach is the name given to the neighborhood on the southeast side of East Bethel.

It is, as its name implies, located on Coon Lake, the largest lake in Anoka County, measuring over 1,400 acres of water.

In addition to excellent fishing, Coon Lake is a great recreational lake where opportunity abounds for waterskiing, boating, jet skiing, and pontooning.

The sandy beach measures 230 feet and picnic tables and playground equipment are available. It wasn’t always so pleasant.

In 1925 the Coon Lake Beach property was owned by Sen. Bob Swanson, who sold it to the Minneapolis Star Newspaper.
The newspaper wanted to sell the land, but was frankly more interested in promoting the paper.

Working with a Minneapolis developer, it hatched a plan to kill two birds with one stone.

The land was surveyed and divided into lots — pencil thin 20- by 100-foot lots.

A bonus was offered whereby a subscriber could get a lot with the purchase of a six-month newspaper subscription.

A subscriber could buy no fewer than two and no more than 10 lots for $67.50 apiece.

To entice even the most reluctant buyer, $10 down and $2.50 a month would secure the purchase.

Of course people flocked to take advantage of such a golden opportunity.

They immediately learned that a single lot wasn’t suitable for building because it was only 20 feet wide.

So a minimum of two lots had to be purchased, doubling the payment.

Three lots would be even better. The cost was still only $15 a month, a very reasonable sum, even in 1925.

A few built permanent homes on the sites, but most were used for vacation cottages.

The location in rural Anoka County was too far removed from the city for a convenient commute, but the fishing on Coon Lake made it worth the drive for the weekend.

There were no building codes in 1925, so folks built whatever structure they could afford, from beautiful quaint cozy cabins to tar paper shacks.

Shallow sand point wells were dug for water, and the outhouse was usually out back.

Because the lots were so narrow, the privy could not be far enough away from the well. (Drain fields should be 100 feet from the well.)

As time went by, there was no room to expand the cottages or the wells that serviced them.

Then the Great Depression hit and many of the shabbier properties were abandoned altogether.

Property values shrank again in the 1950’s as the original purchasers became too old or uninterested to keep up their cabins.

The city of East Bethel owned 17 lots due to tax forfeiture.

As late as 1963, Gene Edwards, a longtime resident of the area, purchased seven of the lots for only $1000 total.

Then in 1981 the city of East Bethel obtained a federal grant to clean things up and remove the old cottages.

Abandoned lots were cleared and offered to the adjoining property owners for purchase.

Lots were combined creating big 125 by 100 foot lots.

The newly created lots were offered to the public for $7,500, still a bargain price in 1981 dollars.

Today Coon Lake Beach is a tidy, comfortable community of friendly and active people.

Editor’s note: Maria King is a volunteer with the Anoka County Historical Society.

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