The Oakwood Club

The Oakwood Club, originally known as the Gopher State Sun Club, was established in 1942 by a small group of five families. These pioneer naturists gathered on Grey Cloud Island, situated between St. Paul and Hastings, Minnesota, to enjoy sunshine and camaraderie. A brief mention in Sunshine and Health magazine attracted more like-minded individuals, leading to the desire for a more private and permanent location.

One of the founding families owned a 40-acre plot of heavily wooded land in Circle Pines, Minnesota, about twenty miles north of St. Paul. This land, known as the “Lexington grounds,” became the club’s first permanent home. Initially, the property featured a single one-room cabin and a sunning area surrounded by dense woods. Neighbors, mostly farmers, respected the nudists’ privacy while keeping a watchful eye on unauthorized visitors.

Early improvements to the club included a well for drinking water, a swimming hole lined with concrete, and solar-heated showers. Despite the backdrop of World War II, the club operated peacefully, with members planting victory gardens to supplement their resources during gasoline rationing. The club maintained a low profile, especially after a brief mention in the Minneapolis Tribune in 1948 caused some concern among members.

In 1950, the club’s name was changed to The Oakwood Club to further lower its profile. The mid-1950s saw a change in ownership of the Lexington grounds, leading to the club’s first crisis. Discontent arose among members regarding the operation of the club under the new owners, prompting concerns that it was becoming more of a proprietorship than a cooperative organization. In response, the club incorporated under the Minnesota Nonprofit Corporation Act in 1961. This period also saw the founding of a new club, Avatan, Inc., sponsored by The Oakwood Club.

Jim Cossins, one of The Oakwood Club’s original founders and its first president, played a significant role in the broader naturist movement. He was active in the American Sunbathing Association (ASA) and served as president of the Central Sunbathing Association (CSA). His contributions to naturism were recognized posthumously with his induction into the ASA Hall of Fame in 1973.

By late 1961, The Oakwood Club began searching for new property. In 1962, the club acquired a 40-acre parcel of land north of the old grounds. New facilities were gradually added, including a sand volleyball court, an above-ground swimming pool, and a permanent clubhouse built in 1968. These improvements, along with various amenities, enhanced the club’s appeal and provided a robust infrastructure for its growing membership.

The Oakwood Club, celebrating over 80 years since its founding, is one of the oldest landed nudist clubs in America. Its peaceful wooded setting near St. Paul, Minnesota, continues to attract members who cherish its natural beauty and sense of community. The club offers a wide range of amenities, including a large clubhouse, pool, saunas, game rooms, and various sports facilities. Social activities abound, from communal meals and themed events to body painting contests and live music.

Families are particularly welcome at The Oakwood Club, with dedicated activities and programs for children. The Acorn Club, formed by families with children, organizes weekly activities that ensure everyone feels included. The club’s welcoming atmosphere and diverse offerings make it a beloved retreat for naturists of all ages.

The Oakwood Club’s legacy of community and naturism is also reflected in its friendly relationship with Avatan, a nearby club founded by former members. Both clubs participate in joint activities, including volleyball tournaments and social events, fostering a spirit of camaraderie and mutual support.

As The Oakwood Club looks to the future, it remains committed to providing a sanctuary for naturists, celebrating the freedom and beauty of naturism in the Minnesota north woods. Whether you seek relaxation, social interaction, or a deeper connection with nature, The Oakwood Club offers an inviting and enriching experience for all.


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