St. Martin’s by-the-Lake was built in 1888 by Major and Mrs. Camp. It was the direct result of a presentation by the assistant bishop, Mahlon Gilbert, at the Lafayette Hotel, now the Lafayette Club. Bishop Gilbert noted that there were large numbers of people spending summers on the lake, and he advised them that they were not to take a vacation from Christianity when they went on vacation from the city. He directed them to build a place of worship. Major Camp was so moved by the presentation that he immediately donated the land for the chapel.
As weeks passed his generosity continued to grow, and he eventually donated the entire building as well. He and his wife were also inspired to this work because they had had three children die in infancy. The fourth daughter, Lou, survived into adulthood and that autumn was going to be married. The Camps decided to dedicate the chapel in memory of the three children who had died, and in celebration of the marriage of the daughter that lived. It was a sign of their faith in God made manifest. We remember that faith when we worship here as well.
The architect, Cass Gilbert, was the designer of the Minnesota State Capitol, the George Washington Bridge, and the U. S. Supreme Court building, as well as the cousin of Bishop Gilbert. He designed the building in “the seaside style of New England” and modeled the interior after a Stave Church in a museum in Oslo, Norway.
St. Martin's functioned as a chapel from 1888 until 1949. Providing seasonal worship, baptisms, weddings, funerals, and special services to the lake communities. In 1949 the population grew to a point where a full-time working parish was needed. The Rev. Sam Cook was the first Rector called to lead St. Martin's. The parish thrived during this time.
St. Martin's early years as a chapel have become an integral part of its identity of a church for Lake Minnetonka. St. Martin's is still a chapel for the lake; hosting weddings and funerals year round. Many people have attended a service at St. Martin's.
As a parish St. Martin's has been deeply involved in recovery and mental health issues, hosting A.A. meetings for over 30 years. St. Martin's has also been involved with social issues in the Western suburbs advocating for affordable housing, care for the poor, and food for children. Being an active presence for justice in our community has been at the forefront of our work as a church.
The deep relationships we have with the Lake Minnetonka area helps us to live out our faith, keep us rooted, and guide us. We invite you to come be part of our journey.