It all began one fall evening nearly ten years ago. Mark Atkinson, 49, was having dinner with his father when the men began to reflect on what life was like when Atkinson was a young boy growing up in Lakeside. It was that simple dinnertime conversation that hooked Atkinson on the idea of discovering Lakeside’s history. “My father was reminiscing about this house that he raised eight kids in and all the things he did with the house,” Atkinson said. “A day or two later, I went by the building inspector’s office and asked them if they had the old records of the house.”
A current resident of Lincoln Park, Atkinson photocopied all of the documents that he could find about Lakeside. He even came across the permit for the house he was raised in as a child, which was located on Robinson Street.
Learning about Lakeside’s history became a hobby Atkinson and his father could share. Owning a service station in Lakeside since 1964, Atkinson’s father would discuss the information that his son found with local residents.
“Everything that I would learn, I would bring to my dad’s shop, and he’d show the old cronies that came in there,” Atkinson said. “That’s how it all began.”
The father and son learned from the permit that the home their family had lived in was built in 1911 by the Lakeside Land Co.
This intrigued Atkinson so started studying microfilm newspapers at the Duluth Public Library, tracking down papers from 1911 and earlier to see what he could find out about the land company.
The names associated with the company captured Atkinson’s interest. In an 1890 advertisement for the Lakeside Land Co., Atkinson discovered the name William Sargent, who he later found out was a surveyor of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Atkinson kept discovering more names that were associated with either the land company or the Lakeside neighborhood.
“It just kept going on and on,” Atkinson said.
From there, Atkinson learned about the area’s development from a small community named Belville into the village of New London. Eventually, the community name changed to Lakeside.
“In the course of looking at all of these things, I looked at an old map they have at the library,” Atkinson said. “I learned that Lester River at one point had an Indian name and that Lester Park was originally named Stearns Park.”
Atkinson found information that said the name was changed to Lester Park, but he could never find any reference to who Lester was other than an original settler. After finding almost every other tidbit of history on Lakeside, Atkinson’s search has come to a standstill until he can find out who the mysterious settler named Lester was.
“My ears are always tuned in to that name,” Atkinson said.