In 1852, two pioneer families settled on the present site of Wayzata, one of them being the family of Oscar E. Garrison. He built a cabin at what is now Lake Street and Broadway Avenue in downtown Wayzata. In 1854 he drew a survey of the area and filed his claim for most of what is now Wayzata proper. In 1855, Wayzata had an influx of settlers who built a sawmill, a hotel and a blacksmith shop. Most of these early settlers made their living off the land by clear cutting the trees to grow corn and wheat. But, in 1857, this growing economy was nearly terminated by a grasshopper plague. At the time, ginseng roots were in great demand as an aphrodisiac in the Orient and the eastern forests had been exhausted of their supply. When ginseng was discovered in the remaining hard wood forest which had been left standing, these trees being too great a distance from the lake to float down stream to the sawmill, Wayzata became a collection center for the roots discovered around the lake.
As the cottage era continued, downtown Wayzata became mostly residential, with small commercial centers at each end of Lake Street. The following era was again recreational, based on motorboats. By the 1920, motorboating was the rage, and once again Wayzata was at the center, with two nationally famous boat makers building speedboats located on the shore of Lake Minnetonka. Weekends brought thousands of spectators to the lake to watch the boats race, and many of the visitors realized they could be happy living in Wayzata.
In the 1930s, today's U.S. Route 12 had just reached Wayzata as a hard surfaced road, and realtor Sam Batson was praising the benefits of buying a summer cottage and modifying it for year-around living. The population nearly doubled in that decade, and Wayzatans were fortunate when one of their own, Rufus Rand, stepped forward to lead the town as it met the challenges of modernizing the infrastructure of a summer village. Under Mayor Rand, water and sewer service was provided to every building (lifting quite a burden off the lake), street lights were installed to light the newly hard-surfaced town roads, and the city public beach and park was opened.
As World War II approached Wayzata became a city with locally provided jobs and retailers that provided all of a family's needs. The boat building era was ending and homebuilding was starting to grow. During the war, wooden 8-man boats built in Wayzata were used by American soldiers to cross Europe's many rivers, and dairy farming became a large local activity. At wars end these farms were being converted into single family housing sites. Highway 12 was widened to four lanes, and the population swelled with commuters who worked in Minneapolis. Downtown residences were replaced by more stores serving not only Wayzata but the new families moving onto the former farmlands outside of Wayzata. Longtime locals were still the only candidates for public offices and the need for more schools was a growing concern. During the summers the lake continued to draw people for boating and fishing activities. Wayzata became a charter city at the same time people began considering it as part of the Minneapolis metropolitan area.
There were 1,929 households out of which 20.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.6% were married couples living together, 5.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.0% were non-families. 39.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.06 and the average family size was 2.77.
In the city the population was spread out with 19.3% under the age of 18, 6.0% from 18 to 24, 25.8% from 25 to 44, 28.1% from 45 to 64, and 20.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females there were 88.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $65,833, and the median income for a family was $96,859. Males had a median income of $51,000 versus $39,257 for females. The per capita income for the city was $63,859. None of the families and 2.3% of the population were living below the poverty line, including no under eighteens and 5.0% of those over 64.
Wayzata Public Schools are part of the Independent School District 284 and serve all or portions of eight west suburban municipalities (Plymouth, Corcoran, Hamel, Maple Grove, Medicine Lake, Medina, Minnetonka, and Orono). The district covers and extends north and east from Wayzata Bay on Lake Minnetonka and lies approximately eight miles west of Minneapolis. There are approximately 9,510 students enrolled in seven public elementary schools (K-5), three middle schools (6–8), and one high school (9–12). Wayzata is also home to the Highcroft campus of The Blake School (K–5).
|Schools in the Wayzata School District|
|Elementary schools||Middle schools||High School|
|Sunset Hill||West Middle School||Wayzata High School|
|Plymouth Creek||Central Middle School|
|Oakwood||East Middle School|
In the 1996 movie Fargo, William H. Macy's character intends on purchasing a parking lot in Wayzata.
In the 1990s TV show Beverly Hills 90210, Brandon Walsh (Jason Priestly) and Brenda Walsh (Shannen Doherty) moved to California from Wayzata. On the show, they both incorrectly pronounce the city saying "Way-za-da" instead of "Why-zet-a." Much of the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous (featuring Kirsten Dunst, Kirstie Alley, Denise Richard, and Ellen Barkin) was filmed in Wayzata including scenes at West Middle School, the Wayzata VFW, and 634 Park Street.