Lake of the Forest celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2010. Our history actually goes back considerably further than 1910 when we were incorporated. We were part of land included in a patent issued to Alexander Caldwell, assignee of the Missouri River Railroad, by President Andrew Johnson after the July 4, 1866, Treaty with the Delaware Tribe of Indians.
In June 1888 the land was deeded to Henry Harrison who built a dam creating a 40-acre artificial lake to harvest ice for Swift & Co. and the Union Pacific Railroad. The ice harvesting continued until approximately 1909. Newspaper articles indicate the plans were to ship 100 rail car loads of ice per day in season. A boarding house was built, and we were named Lake Evelyn after Mr. Harrison's daughter.
On March 30, 1890, the land was deeded to John W. McDanield who raised funds for and completed the Inter-Urban Electric Line/Kansas City, Kaw Valley and Western Electric Rail Road. By June 18, 1908, the Line was complete from Bonner Springs to Forest Lake, previously known as Evelyn Lake. Work began to extend the Inter-Urban to Kansas City, Kansas, Lawrence and Topeka. Newspaper ads from 1910 indicated round trip carfare from Kansas City, KS, to Forest Lake cost 15 cents and took 30 minutes.
June 3, 1909, Mr. McDanield sold Forest Lake to J. D. Waters, Luther Kindred and L. G. Frisbie. That summer a dining hall was opened that also provided lunches for picnicking. 1910 newspaper articles bill activities at the lake including tennis and golf "free of charge" to the public. There was a refreshment stand behind the boathouse on the west shore selling ice cream and cold drinks, and there were 20 flat boats available for rent.
An additional 171 acres were purchased in 1910, and a charter for "The Lake of the Forest Club" was filed with the Kansas Secretary of State. The following year Mr. Waters sold common areas to the Lake of the Forest Club and held onto all the unsold lots which were eventually sold to individuals for homes.
Many of the original homes were "tent homes" and only occupied during the summer. Usually the wives and children would spend the summer at the Lake while the men came for weekends. Eventually wood frame houses were built, but it was in the late 1920's before people began living here year-round. Many of today's homes are additions to and remodels of the original homes. Two areas near the golf course have been developed to accommodate new homes in the past few years.
The original boarding house/clubhouse was replaced in 1917 by the present day Craftsman-style Clubhouse/Pavilion. The Clubhouse underwent a renovation during the 1990's creating a period appropriate interior. The lower level was also brought up-to-date with the addition of a clubroom that is the home of many smaller Lake gatherings. The Clubhouse is also home to our own post office, one of only a few remaining located on privately owned property.
The entrance pillars, gatehouse, caretaker's house, walls and staircases throughout the Lake are constructed of native limestone that was quarried on-site. One of these walls, just east of the Clubhouse, was constructed by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1888. These structures along with other Lake areas have been placed on both the Kansas State and National Registers of Historic Places.
Life at The Lake today is not that much different from its early days with most activities centering around the clubhouse, golf course, tennis courts and of course, the lake. Residents create their own fun by organizing everything from Happy Hour on Friday evenings to a competitive swim team for the kids, tennis lessons and golf tournaments to a Children's Christmas party complete with Santa and Fourth of July activities covering three to five days each year.