8.7.2022 [archived ~ originally published 8.10.2017]
Arcadia Lodge, located on Big Turtle Lake, northwest of Marcell, is surrounded by the Chippewa National Forest. Arcadia is now a family resort, but when it started back in the 1920s, it had a unique focus.
The history of Arcadia dates to about 1922 when a group of doctors from Missouri came up with an idea for a summer community. “They traveled most of Minnesota and many other states until they finally selected that particular spot with the ‘Million Dollar View’ on Big Turtle Lake.
After purchasing 90 acres, the main lodge was built by Joe Cardarelle on the 75-foot bluff overlooking the lake. It was christened ‘Arcadia,’ Latin for peace and serenity. While the lodge was being built, individual lots were sold along Arcadia Boulevard, the access road that led to the lodge. Once built, these thirty homes became known as ‘Arcadia Park’” [Bigfork Centennial Book, pg. 20 Early Resorts and Tourism by Marideanne Wolfe]
One of the permanent summer homeowners was Frank and Margaret Bolton, a successful flour miller from Mankato. He bought his home in part because of the view, “The most beautiful lake I have ever seen, and its grandeur can be compared only to the Grand Canyon.” [early brochure]
Although these summer homes were privately owned by people mostly from Missouri and Chicago, many services were obtained from the main lodge, including electricity, water, meals and other necessities. Initially, some private cottages were also rented when not in use by the family at the rate of $25 per person (double occupancy) per week, which included meals, maid service, linens, and boat.
Eventually, Arcadia Lodge built fourteen cabins, and a laundry, icehouse, nine-hole golf course and archery range. The golf course was designed by a professional golfer and was thought to be a very resourceful endeavor. For whatever reason, it never panned out, and at some point, was removed.
After the resort was well established under the management of Mr. and Mrs. G.W. Barnes, it was purchased by Lester and Clemence Sloat. The young couple from St. Paul may have gotten into the project through Sloat’s father who was a real estate agent in the Twin Cities. At any rate, they owned it into the early1950s. “Clem was a fabulous cook, and soon the lounge became the dining room, and umbrellas were installed at outside tables to accommodate all the dinner guests.” [Bigfork Centennial Book, pg. 20 Early Resorts and Tourism by Marideanne Wolfe]
The two oldest buildings, not including the privately-owned homes which still exist are the Lodge, and the original office.
The Lodge, completed by 1924, quickly became the hub of Arcadia Park. The summer residents were called to dinner with an old iron bell that could be heard clear across the lake. The bell’s pealing signaled the beginning of “cocktail hour” and soon one could see residents and visitors dressed in evening wear walking down the road to the lodge.
Within the lodge, was the library, where the roulette wheels and other games of chance were housed. It is said that the local sheriff of that time was paid well to forewarn of any raids by government officials. (Of course, I had to know who sheriff in question was, and thought you might also. During Arcadia and Prohibition overlap, George O’Brien was sheriff 1923-1926, and Howard Harmond from 1927-1931.)
In 1928 a building near the lodge was constructed as an office and general store. It has had several uses over the years, but is now dubbed the Snow Lodge, and has all the charming amenities of the other cabins.
Arcadia Lodge has had more than its share of famous people traipse the grounds. No guest register has surfaced for the lodge, but it is said that these folks have stayed at the resort or in the private homes that originally made up the complex.
Carole Lombard and Clark Gable ~ This would probably have been between 1935-1942. Carole, born Jane Alice Peters, played opposite Clarke Gable in 1932. She divorced her husband a year later. In 1939 Carole and Clarke were married. Sadly, on January 16, 1942, Carole was returning from a war bond rally in her home of Indiana, when the plane crashed outside of Las Vegas and all aboard perished.
Alf Landon ~ He owned one of the cottages on Arcadia Boulevard. Alfred Mossman Landon was an American Republican politician who served as the twenty-sixth governor of Kansas and was the Republican Party’s nominee in the 1936 presidential election but was defeated by a landslide by incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Al Capone ~ Yes, Mr. Capone is said to have visited some Northern Itasca resorts, either for relaxation and entertaining or for the business deals he was so famous for during Prohibition. (YOUR HELP NEEDED: I am working on a story specifically about Al Capone and his connection to our area. Any information you can add will be researched for authenticity and greatly appreciated.)
Hamm’s Commercials ~ Arcadia is believed to be one of the many locations where the early Hamm’s Beer commercials were filmed, and photographs were taken which may have been used in advertisements. I googled this and found that HammsClub.com states the advertisements are primarily northern Minnesota. “Hundreds of locations were shot. Many different ones were used. We have a challenge out to anyone who can match up a Hamm’s ad piece with a contemporary photo of the location.”
Keeping Up with the Jones’
Twenty-five years ago, Steve Jones retired from the Air Force and was looking for a place to raise his young family and a business to own. He found both when he purchased Arcadia Lodge from Ray and Mary Ann Runge in 1992. Other owners between Sloat’s and Runge’s included Doug and Betty Eaton; Bob and Naomi LaTourell; and Mike and Rose Heinlein.
“After eight years of remodeling 1940′ vintage cabins, he decided to build the first from scratch cabin at Arcadia. The Basswood cabin was completed in 2001 and after proving a resounding success, Steve set out to build eight additional cabins and rebuild all the original cabins. Today he operates 24 cabins with his son and daughter-in-law, Casey & Kylie Jones.” [arcadialodge.com]
The focus of Jones’ endeavors has been to make Arcadia a family resort, and it has grown into one of the largest family resorts in Minnesota. Even the big 11-bedroom cabins are for families and extended families for much of the summer. The Jones are proud of their return rate and the friends they have made. Casey explained, “One family from the Chicago area has been coming up for more than thirty years, and spans four generations. I grew up with two of the boys, and they were actually groomsmen in our wedding.”
Activities are geared for families, and the 100 feet of sandy shoreline is where a good number of those activities take place. The beach is Arcadia’s pride and joy. There are lots of water toys, as well as weekly tubing and sandcastle contests. The day I visited, 77 kids had participated in the weekly tie-dyeing event! T-shirts with the message “I made this at Arcadia Lodge Big Turtle Lake, MN” were awash in brilliant colors of red, blue, green, purple and yellow. “The tie dye shirts are one of our most popular activities,” Kylie said, sporting her own tie-dyed shirt.
And Steve’s original plan to make it a family resort holds true in ownership as well. “In the future, we hope our kids will continue the resort.” Steve’s son Casey says. And I can see that it is bound to happen, for six-year-old Arianna, not only pointed out the bathroom to me but walked me there with a guided tour of everything along the way!
Reminisce Again ~ More on Arcadia Lodge
Sometimes, after I write an article, I get more information. Usually it is additional memories, or a slight clarification, but in the case of Arcadia Lodge, I had not mentioned former owners Joe and Carol Kilian. Of course, this was not intentional. The Kilian name was not referred to in any of my research. Thankfully, Carol who had been reading the series, contacted the Western Itasca Review regarding the oversight, and I was able to visit with her and son Jeff. Over a pot of coffee and a plenty of laughs they told me about the dozen years, when their family owned the resort and were caretakers for the summer cottages of Arcadia Park.
After enjoying a couple summer vacations in Minnesota’s Northwoods, Joe and Carol Kilian decided it was the perfect setting to raise their three school-aged boys. While still living in Illinois the Kilian’s looked at several resorts before buying Arcadia Lodge, which at the time had fourteen cabins and the cottages. The first project they undertook was to get the antiquated water system in compliance. Instead of water being pumped from the lake to a tank, a well was drilled and a 1000-gallon pressurized tank installed. Owning the resort was a lot of work, but the Kilian’s loved the people they meet and the lasting friendships. Illinois continued to be a big draw for clientele, and they, along with the owners of two other resorts on Turtle annually had a booth at the Chicago sports show.
Year around Carol baked bread for Kocian’s store in Bigfork and her famous coffeecakes were bought by resort guests and Arcadia Park folks as soon as she took them out of the oven in the summertime. In the off-season Joe operated Arcadia Packing, processing deer and farm livestock, as well as a boat storage facility. The boys were never idle either. They did all the lawn and beach maintenance, helped their father keep mile long Arcadia Road graded and plowed, and even started a garbage pickup service.
They shared many stories, historical and first-hand, but this was most entertaining. During the three years Heinlein’s owned the resort, “Freddie the Freeloader Bear” made an appearance – through the door and into the kitchen in the lodge! This happened more than once, and Jeff recalled a photograph of Rose Heinlein, chasing it back outside with her broom.