Before the golf course, was there a nudist colony?
Before golfers roamed the rolling hills of Braemar Golf Course, the isolated acreage was home to a sheep farm, a cattle ranch and allegedly a nudist colony. The rumor is woven through several decades of stories, including one from sheep farmer Carl Marth’s granddaughter Caroline Swanson, who reported that a subsequent owner, Dewey Hill, “built a little shack which was later used by the first nudist colony in Hennepin County.”
While her claim has not been substantiated, Dewey Hill was a colorful character well known to village police, who began referring to the road that led to his farm as Dewey Hill Road. The name remains today.
What is known is that Carl Marth’s grandparents were among the first homesteaders in Edina in 1858, with one of the largest properties, at 1,300 acres. Hill sold to the Hayes family, who raised cattle. In 1957, the city purchased 444 acres of the original farm to create the first municipal golf course in the metro area, which opened in 1964. Although there’s no evidence that a nudist colony ever existed, the rumor continued.
“It was widely believed by all Cahill School boys that at the west end of the old farm road, hidden beyond the tamaracks, was a nudist camp,” Jeff Strate wrote in his memoir about growing up in Edina. “None of us knew anyone who had actually seen anything, but the prospect of spying bare-naked ladies playing volleyball in the sunshine made the coming of summer exciting for reasons that could never be shared with a Sunday school teacher.”
Even today, on several occasions, Braemar’s ladies leagues have reported seeing a streaker run the grounds … wearing nothing but a golf hat.
Marci Matson, executive director of the Edina Historical Society, is working on the next exhibit, “History Happened Here,” which will showcase historic photos in the places they were taken. The exhibit will open in June as part of the city’s quasquicentennial celebration events in 2013.
Braemar’s history was documented by Roger Harrold in his book Braemar: Celebrating the Forty-Year History of Braemar Golf Course, available for sale through the city’s website.