6.20.2021 [archived ~ previously posted 6.25.2017
In 1925, the Commercial Club in Deer River took out a full-page advertisement in the June 4th issue of the Deer River News. It included a listing of twenty-four resorts as well as the name and address of the proprietors. The center of the advertisement displayed a map detailing the location of each listed resort, with the caption “The great resort region of Western Itasca County. Pick your place. You can’t choose wrong in ‘Minnesota’s Wonderland.’” Twelve photographs of resort grounds and evidence of successful fishing excursions surround the map.
Remarkably, nine of those resorts are still in operation today, so I decided to highlight them in this special series, Resorts with a History. Anchor Inn, Arcadia Park, Lakewood Lodge, Northland Camps, and Williams Narrows will be featured this summer, and next year I will highlight Cedarwild Lodge, Cut Foot Sioux Inn, Eagles Nest and Pines Resort.
Resort History 1900 – 1925
After the dense forests were opened by lumber companies and loggers, the northern woods became recognized as a desirable place for hunting and fishing. Small lodging establishments sprung up, offering guide services to those wanting to travel the waterways and traipse the woods in search of fish and game. The sportsmen also appreciated the serene beauty and restful atmosphere, and encouraged the hunting and fishing lodges to consider options for families.
One of the oldest resorts north of Grand Rapids was built on Wabana Lake by Dave Cochrane in 1902. It was open for business the following summer and according to a local paper, “the Wabana Lake Resort is by far the most elaborate in Itasca county and it is fitted up in first class style for the accommodation of guests. The large seventeen-room house is neatly finished throughout and everything about the place is calculated to make the sojourn of visitors in every way enjoyable. And the hunting and fishing is always good in season.” Grand Rapids Herald Review 7-23-1903
By 1915, summer resorts were considered a true industry in Itasca County and in 1918, the Ten Thousand Lakes Association was formed. Its purpose was to advertise the virtues of the county’s outdoors, specifically summer resorts. A few years later Deer River was recognized for the efforts of its commercial club to this end. The club had made and erected 400 signs on “highways surrounding Deer River to aid tourists. On the signs, which will be put up on the highways leading from Duluth, the Twin Cities, and the towns in the Red River valley, will be printed the name of Deer River in large type, and the mileage to the junction town…this will be an aid to tourists who will be traveling into this part of the state during the summer.” Itasca News 5-17-1922
A Glimpse at the 2017 Featured Resorts
Anchor Inn: 1921 ~ Little Sand and Rice Lake
Anchor Inn Resort got its start in 1921 as a hunting lodge owned by William Osufsen, who had bought a tract of land between Little Sand lake and Rice lake, on the upper waters of the Bigfork river. Osufsen found a large anchor of the steamboat Elijah Price on the property and decide that would be the name of the hunting lodge.
In 1946 the resort was purchased by Ray and Nellie Chaplain. Not long after, the Kitterman family from Earl Park, Indiana, became regular customers at the Anchor Inn. Howard “Kitty” Kitterman told Chaplains, if they were ever ready to sell the resort he would be interested. In 1968 that offer became a reality. Kitty and Naomi were the first generation of the Kitterman family to own Anchor Inn Resort. Today, their son Bud, his wife Gin, and their children continue the family tradition of providing great Minnesota vacations Hoosier-style.
Arcadia Park (now Arcadia Lodge): 1922 ~ Big Turtle Lake
A group of doctors from Missouri traveled throughout northern Minnesota in search a suitable place to develop a summer community. They were impressed with the view from the seventy-five foot bluff overlooking Big Turtle Lake, and bought a ninety acre parcel and had the main lodge built on the bluff. It was christened Arcadia Lodge, because arcadia means peace and serenity in Latin. Thirty individual lots were sold in this unique community known as Arcadia Park. Houses were built and families lived and entertained during the summer. The lodge provided meals, electricity, water and caretaking.
Eventually Arcadia Lodge grew into a resort complex of fourteen cabins, and more than a few noted individuals, including gangsters have been known to have visited the resort. Another claim to fame for Arcadia is the filming of a Hamm’s Beer commercial.
Lakewood Lodge: 1917 ~ Sand Lake
In late 1906, German immigrant William Schultz settled his young family on land he had filed a homestead on. They farmed for ten years, and then realizing the beauty of the lakeshore they had on Sand Lake, Schultz and his sons decided to establish a resort, the new industry of the county. During the years 1917-1919 a large log lodge was built with a lobby, six sleeping rooms, a dining room, kitchen and two screened porches. It was certainly one of the biggest in the county.
The Schultz family worked hard and developed long-term relationships with visitors from places such as Minneapolis and Chicago. Sons Herman, William Jr., and Henry were fishing guides. They caught minnows for bait and rowed the fishing parties to the narrows, into Sand Lake and often to the islands to ensure a good catch. At the end of the day the boys would row back to the lodge to clean the day’s catch which Mary would then fry up for the hungry guests. This summer Lakewood is celebrating 100 years!
Northland Camps (now Northland Lodge): 1919 ~ Lake Winnibigoshish
The resort was started in 1919 by F.M. Williams and originally built for the Minneapolis Hunting Club. The log lodge was built from huge Norway pines cut from area forest. The spacious log lodge, a tribute to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of previous generations is still the center of activity at Northland Lodge.
Additional early history highlights include:
* Traveling the one lane roads and bridges
* Using flat-bottom boats to fish for walleye and big northern
* Paying less than $15 per week for cabin rental
Williams Narrows: 1920 ~ Big Cut Foot Sioux Lake
Falvy M. Williams, who moved to the area in 1919 to promote the Northland Camps (above), liked what he represented in northern Minnesota, and decided to go into the resort business himself. He purchased a small resort in 1924, with plans to name it “Cut Foot Sioux Narrows Lodge” and make it “second to none” according to the Itasca News 1-19-1924. A true entrepreneur, one of Williams’ endeavors was to start a zoo. He acquired bear cubs in 1925, and two years later touted the largest privately-owned zoo in the state!
Early on, the resort was changed to Williams Narrows, which is appropriate as it has remained in the Williams-Karau family for four generations.
An in-depth article on each of these resorts will be featured in Reminisce during the summer months. As noted, all share the characteristic of a legacy of longevity, but it takes more than just time to make a resort successful.
We’ll see how each resort survived through the ups and downs in the economy and how they got to where they are today. Lakewood is 100 years old, but the others aren’t far behind. And most have a few unique stories about guest and adventures.