Howard Lake History

The History of Howard Lake

OriginsHistorical Overview of Howard Lake

Howard Lake is a lake in Wright County, in the U.S. state of Minnesota. Howard Lake was named for John Howard (1726–1790), an English prison reformer of the 18th century. 


The First Settlers

One of the earliest settlers of Wright County, Morgan V. Cochran, was hired by a town site company in 1855 to set up a village named "Lynden." Mr. Cochran built the house and set the claim, however, he was never paid for his efforts.

The next year, in 1856, he took out preemption papers on the tract and made his own improvement. The site house that he built became the first school and later, a church. In 1863 Mr. Cochran sold his land to Charles Goodsell, who occupied it as a farm until the completion of the railroad.

Howard Lake Train Depot imageThe present site of Howard Lake took shape in 1869. In that year, two significant things happened that helped Howard Lake grow. First, the railroad came through, secondly, Charles Goodsell platted a portion of his land to become the town site. Within 14 years, the town was up and growing.

In 1878 government surveyors created the city named for the philanthropist Howard. Located forty-five miles west of the Twin Cities, Howard Lake was home to merchant establishments, hotels, livery stables, grain elevators, a bank, lumberyard, and mill in the late nineteenth century. It had three law firms, four doctors, and seven churches, along with an attractive city hall.

By 1896 the City had installed its own waterworks and electric generating system.


City Hall

The original 1891 city hall was destroyed by fire and on March 8, 1904, the city council issued a 15-year bond for $5,000 to finance a new building on the same site, a full city block directly on the shores of 736-acre Howard Lake. Built of red Menominee brick and rubble stone foundation, the structure’s late Victorian style featured elements of the Richardsonian Romanesque in its rounded arches over the first-floor doors and windows, along with Queen Anne elements, most notably in the corner tower with an open octagonal balcony on the uppermost or third level under the pointed roof. Decorative brick banding can be found in the string course separating the first and second levels and within the panels on the second story of the tower. A hipped roof, two chimney stacks, and two gabled dormers with Palladian windows complete the ensemble. 

This is a picture of the first City Hall. The picture was taken in 1901.  Historical photo of 2nd Floor of Howard Lake City HallAt left, the first City Hall taken in 1901. To the right is an original picture of the upstairs at City Hall, initially used for entertainment. Facing west, was a stage area for productions. In the foreground, note the rocking chairs and area rugs for community "get-togethers."

The building served many purposes. It housed a post office, public library, 500-seat auditorium, courtroom, council chambers, fire department, public hall, offices, horse barn, and a barber shop. City offices relocated to the former Security State Bank building in 2005. 

Now the historic city hall is currently home to the Municipal Liquor Off-sale store, whose profits help augment the city budget. The auditorium, located on the second level, had a stage on the west end and was used for entertainment productions and community get-togethers. In 2019 it was renovated into the South Shore Event Center. The event space now includes a banquet facility, catering kitchen, and a ground level pre-function space which provides the ideal location for business meetings, weddings, receptions, banquets, parties, and more.



Gardner, Denis. Minnesota Treasures: Stories Behind the State’s Historic Places. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2004.

Hackett, John. J. “Howard Lake City Hall,” Wright County, Minnesota. National Historic Properties Inventory Form, 1979. National Register of Historic Places, Washington D.C.

Unknown Author. 100 Years of the Good Life 1878-1978: Howard Lake, Minnesota. Unknown Binding. Howard Lake Herald, 1978

Currently, we are trying to find more pictures and stories about our City Hall. Some of the pictures we have are reproduced below.

If you know of any stories, or have access to any pictures, please contact Nick Haggenmiller, City Administrator at (320) 543-3670 or email.