Early resorts are described in book
The aura of Minnesota resorts - summers on the lake - is ingrained in Ren Holland's existence.
Holland grew up on a resort on Little Mantrap Lake, south of Itasca State Park, until he was 13. His parents sold the enterprise, but he would continue to work for owners of resorts during his teen years.
Blewett's, which became Vacationaire, was his haunt each summer.
"They were good memories," he said.
The experiences became the impetus for the retired high school art teacher's book.
"The Early Resorts of Minnesota, Tourism in the Land of 10,000 Lakes," captures the eras of the resort industry from its earliest inception, when steamboats headed up the Mighty Mississippi in the 1800s - hotels lining the river, to the early railroad lines - when small family resorts began to emerge on what was considered a new frontier.
The eastern section of the country was relatively well developed, Holland explained. Minnesota, with its lakes and forests, was uncharted territory.
The railroad began steaming into Park Rapids in 1891, the same year Itasca State Park was established.
The book was originally to focus on Park Rapids, but Holland expanded the venue to Grand Rapids where his sister, Betty Fuller's, in-laws owned a Fuller's Tackle Shop.
The five-year project would come to encompass the entire state.
"It's an era that's lost, and the information would have been lost," he explained.
The book holds information on the resort industry from the 1900s to the late '50s, when numbers were nearly at their peak.
An estimated 4,000 resorts - from Ma and Pa establishments to grandiose - emerged on lakeshores. That compares with today's 850.
Early tourism, he said, was not necessary recreation driven but stemmed from outbreaks of tuberculosis and mosquito-borne yellow fever and malaria in southern states.
TB was considered curable by fresh air and the aroma of pines.
Resorts capitalized on the premise, nature a theme in tourism advertising. Case in point, Breezy Point played on the premise.
Those who could afford it came first by steamboat, later by rail, to enjoy the relatively disease-free Minnesota summers.
In 1915, it was announced the nation's first big north-south roadway, Jefferson Highway, would pass through Minnesota, connecting New Orleans with Winnipeg.
"The news was significant to Minnesota's hospitality businesses, which then consisted primarily of hotels along railroad lines," Holland wrote.
Initially, a western route was favored in Minnesota, with the highway angling northward to Wadena, Detroit Lakes and Moorhead, generally following the old Red River ox cart trail.
But voices from the north central region argued tourists are not enamored with fields and prairies, but rather lakes and pines, the source of the Mississippi sure to allure. This, they argued, has appeal, given the river's path ends at the Gulf of Mexico.
The route plan was finalized in 1916, the central one including Park Rapids earning the nod. This coincided with the Game and Fish Department's first-ever published list of 564 summer hotels and resorts in the state.
World War I, the Great Depression and an outbreak of the Spanish flu would somewhat eclipse tourism. But highways replacing auto trails piqued interest in travel. In 1925 the Ten Thousand Lakes of Minnesota Association published a detailed map of Minnesota's highways.
Minnesota's slogan became Land of 10,000 Lakes and by 1930, 1,176 resorts were welcoming guests. By the end of the '30s, revenue from tourism was exceeded only by that of agriculture and mining.
But memories of time spent on the lake were - and remain - unparalleled.
Holland will introduce the book at a program to be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6 at Itasca State Park's Brower Visitor Center.
The 400-page book, replete with over 240 resort photos - many in Hubbard County - will be available at Beagle Books, Book World, Sister Wolf Books and Itasca State Park. The book was published, he emphasizes, in Minnesota.
Anyone who's ever stayed at a Minnesota resort, will likely find reference to it in the book, he promises.
More than 300 photos and 40 maps can be found on the author's website, www.renholland.com. He's hoping people will reminisce of their summers on the lake on his blog.