Naniboujou Lodge: A 1929 Style Zen Getaway

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Image by erik mclean on Unsplash

Naniboujou lodge in Minnesota is an excellent place to disconnect, unplug and unwind from the chaos of bustling cities. It is located near the north shore of lake superior, half an hour from the town of Grand Marais, MN, and Thunder Bay.

This lovely lodge of great historical value was built in 1929 as a part of an exclusive club meant only for wealthy men, the plan being a luxurious sports retreat. Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, and Ring Lardner were the initial exclusive members.

Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

The original design intended for the lodge to be a centerpiece with a shoreline bath house, hunting space, golf courses, tennis courts, and fishing at the shores of lake superior. A significant part of the initial design is now Judge C.R. Magney state park.

The books published by Wisconsin Press and Minnesota Historical Society Press highlight hundreds of landmarks and areas of interest that surround the lake and convey the depth of regional history. “Around the Shores of Lake Superior: A Guide to Historic Sites,” written by Margaret Beattie, is an excellent follow-book that acts as a definitive guide to exploring the north shore.

History: The beginning of Naniboujou Lodge

Since its opening in 1929, Naniboujou club lodge has seen both good and bad times, and there have been several handovers of ownership. The very same year of its introduction, there was a stock market crash.

Naniboujou club was built mainly at the expense of private investors named Naniboujou Holding Company. With the stock market crash came depression, and most asset holders faced serious and increasing financial difficulties. The club was soon resized, with only Naniboujou lodge complete.

By 1930, the investors turned their backs on Naniboujou; from 1930 to 1935, the company sought public help, allocated a new president, and tried to take on their endeavor with new management.

But in the end, they had to think of resort chains to take over as foreclosures loomed. Arthur Roberts Hotel Chain took over in 1939, after which many changes were made in activities, repairs, and landscaping. Robert MacNab of Arthur Roberts introduced a variety of leisure and entertaining activities like lawn tennis, swimming, archery, and other indoor games.

Naniboujou lodge was passed onto a local couple, Mr. and Mrs. Francis C. Hussey, in 1953 after Arthurs’s death, and it became a resort and motel for travelers. There was a change in hands ten years later, this time to Luther, a former Lieutenant Commander, and Suzie Wallace, an excellent home cook with their three kids, a supportive family, who converted the property to a warm family place open to all. In 1977 the family lost two younger boys, and men by the time the boat got caught in an autumn storm on lake superior.

Three years later, Luther and Suzie sold the business to the Campus Church, a non-denominational Christian church located on the University of Minnesota campus. The management was handed over to Tim and Nancy Ramey; they renovated and remodeled the place, adding a Solarium by 1983. Due to business complications five years later, the lodge found itself in trouble; however, Tim and Nancy, with the help of friends, purchased Naniboujou lodge.

The lodge soon became a part of the National Register of Historic Places. Tim and Nancy recruited Susan Christopherson, a Minneapolis-based artist, to start incorporating Cree Indian patterns throughout the rest of the lodge, including its 80-foot solarium. While carefully blending the contemporary acrylic latex paints to adorn the rest of the club, Susan and her husband John took care to replicate the original hues from the dining room accurately.

The team succeeded with Kevin Streeter, a talented man with chef experience and design and renovation skills, joining the staff in 1985. The special place is still owned and operated by the couple today.

Activities around Naniboujou

Naniboujou Lodge
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Naniboujou Lodge is open in the summer season and only for winter weekends, operating on a reservation basis. Activities here bring you closer to nature, with hiking, natural wonders, outstanding views of the north shores of lake superior, early morning, and no frill sunrise. Visitors can unwind in the cozy lodge or explore the lovely Brule River route in quest of the Devil’s Kettle, a stream that mysteriously disappears high up into a rocky cauldron in the river.

The guests’ pastimes include hunting, fishing, bird watching, nature photography, skipping rocks into lakes, and board games. If those don’t match your interests, the swimming pool, golf course, or a game of tennis will surely cheer you up. Doing nothing or indulging in a favorite book followed by a yummy late lunch or dinner is bliss.

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Amenities and Highlights

Naniboujou Lodge has 24 lodging rooms, an onsite restaurant, a colorful dining room, summer and winter lodging named Sobo and Everwind cottages, a Solarium, and a gift shop. The rooms are small and comfy, and the Naniboujou lodge restaurant offers patrons breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Photo by Timothy Meinberg on Unsplash

The craftsmanship in the 30 by 80-foot dining room is breathtaking, the unique features making Naniboujou lodge a historic site. French artist Antoine Goufee did the art on the ceiling and the walls. Brightly painted geometric designs and complex patterns of vivid blue, yellow, red, and green that are based on a Cree Indian theme cover the walls and ceiling of the dining area.

It is the oldest part of the building, and the original artwork is still preserved, making it one of the Minnesota treasures that is visit worthy. The stone fireplace is over 20 feet tall and is the largest in Minnesota, and the stones are from lake superior.

Afterthought

The name Naniboujou was derived from a Cree word that meant forest spirit. On the outside, it looks like a regular resort; however, the creativity inside makes it a wonderful place.

Naniboujou lodge restaurant boasts award-winning food, fantastic breakfast, Sunday brunch, excellent coffee, and delicious dinner. It is the worthiness of the preserved murals in the dining room, the architecture, and the history of the place that got Naniboujou lodge into the National register of historic places.

The ambiance is slow, with only spotty cell service, no Wi-Fi, and no TV. Though the property’s location is a bit hard to find and secluded, it is a special place with great food, amazing grounds, and a great beach.

Covid changed the atmosphere quite a bit, as the caretakers still align their thoughts to an old-fashioned style, and visitors expecting strict guidelines are disappointed. The amenities are not designed for a thrilling experience but, on the contrary, are aimed at a wonderful stay with a lakeside room, connecting with nature and slowing down.

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