Minnetonka Beach church celebrating 125 years

For more than a century, the St. Martin’s by-the-Lake Episcopal Church has given people a place to practice their faith by the shores of Lake Minnetonka.

St. Martin’s by-the-Lake Episcopal Church is turning 125 this year. (Submitted photo)
St. Martin’s by-the-Lake Episcopal Church is turning 125 this year. (Submitted photo)

The Minnetonka Beach church was commissioned by an influential family to hold a wedding in 1888. Now 125 years later, the leadership and congregation of St. Martin’s by-the-Lake are welcoming the public to join in the celebration by attending a re-enactment of that wedding June 2. After the re-enactment, married couples in attendance will have an opportunity to renew their vows before a Victorian high tea is served.

Major George Camp, who made his living in the lumber business and was one of the first year-round residents of Minnetonka Beach, had the church built in time for his daughter’s wedding, said the Rev. Dave Langille of St. Martin’s by-the-Lake. Rumor had it that Miss Lucy May Camp’s dress was too large to fit down the staircase in the family home, which was the large Victorian house that sits next to the church off of County Road 15.

Being a man of means, Major Camp was able to commission prominent architect Cass Gilbert to build the chapel. Gilbert also designed the Minnesota State Capitol, the United States Supreme Court building, the Woolworth Building in New York City as well as the West Virginia State Capitol and numerous museums, libraries, homes and churches.

Though there were few full-time Minnetonka Beach residents at that time, Major Camp would bring in clergy so people vacationing at the nearby Lafayette Hotel during the summer would have a place to worship. Eventually, the family donated the church.
People will have a chance to get a feel for what the Camp wedding was like at the June 2 re-enactment. The event is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.  Additional celebrations are scheduled later in the year to mark the church’s 125 years.

“It’s a big anniversary for us,” Langille said. He added that while members of the church are honoring the past, they are concentrating on the present and looking to the coming years.

“We have a vibrant future,” he said.

Church members plan to celebrate the present Sept. 21-22. Former Medtronic CEO and current Harvard professor Bill George is scheduled to speak Sept. 21 followed by a reception. The next day, there will be a church service and a reception and brunch at the Lafayette Club.

The congregation will help shape the future in November. Langille said people of all ages will participate in a service day Nov. 9. The fruits of their efforts will help support local organizations such as WeCAN and IOCP. The next day will be special church services in honor of St. Martin’s Day, he said.

St. Martin’s by-the-Lake is located right off of County Road 15 at 2801 Westwood Road in Minnetonka Beach. More information about the church may be found online at stmartinsbylake.org.

Contact Amanda Schwarze at amanda.schwarze@ecm-inc.com