Historic U.S. 61: Original Alignment Through White Bear Lake
Original Alignment Through White Bear Lake
Located In: White Bear Lake, Ramsey County.
Length: 1.45 miles
Also Marked As:
*on Lake Ave only
U.S. 61's original alignment through the city of White Bear Lake was on Lake and Stewart Avenues, east of the current alignment along the Burlington Northern Railroad. The old alignment passed directly through White Bear's residential neighborhoods, including historic Lake Avenue on the north shore of White Bear Lake. Despite this, the streets were improved as through-highways by MnDOH. U.S. 61 was forced out of the residential areas by legislation in 1933, though it wasn't until 1937 that the now familiar alignment was completed.
The old through-town alignment was paved between 1924 and 1926.
Lake Avenue between modern U.S. 61 and Stewart Avenue was paved in 1924 with 24 to 28 feet of asphalt on concrete as a northern extension of the first paved highway from St. Paul.
Stewart Avenue was graded in 1925 and paved with 18 feet of concrete in 1926 as part of a project that completed the highway between White Bear Lake and a point about a half mile north of the Ramsey / Washington County Line at 125th Street in Hugo.
In 1933, the Minnesota State Legislature passed a bill adding a massive number of new routes to the trunk highway system. One of these routes, Legislative Route 127, called for the construction of a new alignment through the town of White Bear Lake as "a substitute for the present location of route 1 [U.S. 61] ". To my knowledge, this was only time that a realignment was spelled out in a legal route description in Minnesota.
The project to realign U.S. 61 was completed in 1937. It moved U.S. 61's route out of the residential areas of White Bear Lake to an alignment paralleling the main rail line through town.
The original pavement on the old alignment has long since been replaced.
Lake Avenue has been rebuilt into a multi-use parkway. Vehicle traffic is allowed in the southbound lane only, preventing traffic on busy U.S. 61 from turning onto the parkway. The northbound lane has been replaced by a multi-use trail.
Stewart Avenue is now a normal residential street. The old connection to U.S. 61 was removed north of Chicago Avenue in 1974.
Historic Junction: 1926-1928.
The intersection of Stewart Avenue and 4th Street was U.S. 61's original junction with Constitutional Route 63 from 1926 to 1928. Route 63 was intended as a connection between the city of Minneapolis and Route 1 (future U.S. 61) at Forest Lake. However, there was not yet a good paved route between the two cities when the trunk highway system was created. Route 63 was temporarily routed over existing paved roads in northern Ramsey County to White Bear Lake.
The construction of a permanent paved connection between Minneapolis and Forest Lake was completed in 1928, moving the junction north to its intended location in Forest Lake. Route 63 eventually became U.S. 8, which was later replaced by I-35W. Logistically, the intersection of Stewart and 4th was the original equivalent of the modern 35E/35W split in Lino Lakes.
Historic Junction: 1934-1937.
State Highway 96 was created in 1934 as an east/west route connecting White Bear Lake with Stillwater and other routes in northern Ramsey County. Highway 96 originally entered White Bear Lake from the east on Lake Avenue, meeting U.S. 61 at Stewart Avenue. The two routes were then concurrent on Lake Avenue to what is now the junction with County Road 96, where Highway 96 again split from 61 on its way to New Brighton.
Highway 96 was moved to its current alignment on the north side of town in 1937 as part of the realignment of U.S. 61. The western extension to New Brighton was turned back to Ramsey County in 2001.
Photo Tour - Photos from August, 2009.
Northbound on U.S. 61 at the junction with County Road 96. U.S. 61 originally curved to the right here onto Lake Avenue, a maneuver no longer possible today (note the "no right turn" sign).
Looking east down Lake Avenue from modern Highway 61. Note the landscaping.
Historic marker on Lake Avenue (visible in the previous photo). Note the historical inaccuracies. They get the Highway 1 part right, but the road became U.S. 61 in 1926, not 1935 (the two routes were concurrent from 1926 to 1934). Also, records show that the realignment took place in 1937, not 1935 (unless someone can show me documentation stating otherwise).
Looking back to the west on Lake Avenue towards modern 61 and County Road 96.
Looking east down Lake Avenue, starting my stroll back towards Stewart Avenue.
Lake Avenue is lined with massive trees, providing a surplus of shade (much appreciated by red-heads like yours truly).
It can be hard to tell which lane is for pedestrians and which is for vehicles on Lake Avenue. Equal consideration is given to both.
Another view, with White Bear Lake visible on the right. The lake's level appeared to be incredibly low.
Another historic marker on Lake Avenue. This one specifically mentions an earlier realignment of Lake Avenue in 1889.
Landscaping at the intersection with Clark Avenue.
Historic homes on Lake Avenue.
Looking northeast on Lake Avenue at the intersection with Stewart. U.S. 61 northbound made a hard left turn here. This was also the site of the original north junction with Highway 96 from 1934 until 1937 (Highway 96 continued ahead on Lake Avenue).
Looking north down Stewart Avenue from 3rd Street.
Looking north on Stewart at 4th Street. This was the site of U.S. 61's junction with Constitutional Route 63, which began here and extended southwest to Minneapolis. This was the 1920's equivalent of the modern 35E-35W split in Lino Lakes.
Another view of the intersection with street signs, looking northwest.
Northbound on Stewart Avenue at 6th Street.
Looking north on Stewart Avenue at State Highway 96. Notice how the road narrows north of the highway.
At the north end of Stewart Avenue at Chicago. Stewart once continued ahead to a connection with modern 61.