Gone, But Not Forgotten ~ Idlewild Resort Old Itasca County Resorts


As most everyone who lives in Itasca County knows, recreation and tourism have been important facets of our community since before World War I. There was a significant rise in the number of smaller, mom and pop type resorts in the 1930s and early 1940s. After World War II resorts of all sizes flourished, but not all are in business today. “Gone But Not Forgotten” is a companion to my “Resorts With a History” series.

Last month, I featured Cedar Point Resort, one of three on North Star Lake, so I thought I’d highlight the other resorts on that lake this time. First, I should explain that the 1916 Itasca County Plat map shows this lake as named Potato. If you look at the shape, it’s nothing like a potato. Potatoe (with an ‘e’) Lake, near Taconite, however, looks very much like a nice U.S. No. 1 grade, though it is quite small, while Potato/North Star has 10.17 miles of shoreline!

Walter Alvah Stickler established the first resort on the Potato Lake near Marcell and set about getting the name of the lake changed.  Stickler, a young man from Mishawaka, Indiana, came to northern Minnesota in 1907 on the advice of his doctor.  Shortly after he graduated from college, Stickler had a heart attack. His doctor believed his anemic condition would benefit from him drinking the iron rich water in Northern Minnesota. A friend recommended the small community of Marcell and spent the winter with him there.

Stickler’s health improved and he liked the area. He helped out at the Marcell mercantile, and after hearing of repeated requests from travelers for places to stay while they hunted, Stickler began looking for a parcel of land on a lake to purchase for that purpose.

In the fall of 1909, Stickler returned to Indiana, married Miss Rose Bell Nikart, and brought her back to Marcell. It’s believed that the Sticklers bought fifteen acres on the east side of Potato Lake for $150.  By 1912, cottages were available at the resort simply called Stickler’s.  

George Rossman, editor of the Grand Rapids paper, made these comments about the early years of Camp Idlewild. “Guests came by way of the Minneapolis & Rainy River Railroad to Marcell and then were transported in a boat across Little Rainy Lake and then walked across the portage to North Star. Sometimes the train would stop at a cedar landing, nearest point to the lake, to permit unloading of freight and passengers for Stickler’s place.” [Up in This Neck of the Woods column Grand Rapids Herald Review 5-29-1939]

By 1922, when the Grand Rapids Herald-Review ran a special forty-page supplement called “Zone of Plenty” promoting the benefits of living in Itasca County, Potato Lake had been renamed North Star. And although there were plenty of resorts, the only one on North Star was Stickler’s Camp Idlewild.

Stickler was quite an entrepreneur.  He was an avid photographer, hospitable proprietor, and a man who sought out opportunities. His friend Gordy Newstrom suggested taking advantage of the area’s recent interest in aviation, so he invited a local pilot to the resort.

Fly at Idlewild ~ Deer River News 8-29-1929

“There was fun aplenty last Sunday at Camp Idlewild, Walter Stickler’s deservedly popular resort near Marcell.  ‘Dusty’ Rhodes, Hibbing flyer, was there with his plane, a sister ship of Lindbergh’s famous ‘Spirit of St. Louis.’ During the afternoon 78 passengers were taken up, four at a time; and only the darkness stopped the sport. Walt says a view of that country from the air is a sight of a lifetime, and we’ll take his word for it.”

In the early 1930s he began making moving pictures of fishing, “I went to Marshall Field’s in Chicago and showed pictures there for about a week in the sporting goods department, and I figured that week brought me more than $50,000 of resort business.  When I boosted Marcell, the whole county was boosted.” [interview with Ray Gravelle- Grand Rapids Herald-Review 10.14.1971]

Advertising from 1931 states that Camp Idlewild has a nationwide reputation, for guests come from every part of the United States and it is an uncommon season which does not see fishermen here from at least twenty states.

There are 24 guest cabins located on a natural ridge above North Star Lake, a beautiful body of water several miles long and deeply indented with points and bays, and with several beautiful islands.  This is the real land of lakes, and Mr. Stickler has boats on over 30 different lakes, all easily reached by auto or short portage.  There are about 75 boats in the fleet maintained by Mr. Stickler at all his fishing lakes.

New improvements at Camp Idlewild this year include a large dining hall built of logs and finished in natural colors.  This is so arranged so that it can be opened to the lake breezes on three sides, and the lake is in sight from ever table.  The water system is being extended and electric lights and all other modern conveniences add to the comfort.  The food furnished here leaves nothing to be desired and is one of the reasons why Mr. Stickler is able to point to increased business each year.”

In the resort’s twelve-page 1940 brochure, Stickler includes over two dozen photographs, many of which are happy fishermen and women with their catch. There is also a letter on Camp Idlewild stationary with, of course, a photograph of Walter and Rose Stickler.

“Dear Vacationer:

     It is my great pleasure to welcome you to this beautiful North Woods Lake Region of Minnesota country so rich in the attractions of the great out-of-doors.

    If you have never visited here before, you are on the threshold of a more delightful experience, and it is our business as well as pleasure to see that you get the very best of everything this north country has to offer.

    Camp Idlewild, as you may know, is recognized as one of the country’s most responsible resort-camps with a reputation for honest efficient service that has won the confidence of so many fine people who return here year after year with their friends and families, and we want to number you among these many good friends.

    This folder will tell you all about our camp, location, rates, accommodation, etc., and I shall be glad to make such reservations as you desire.  Just write or wire me your desires.

   Excellent motor roads lead right into camp, and low summer tourist rates are in effect on railroads throughout the country.  Anticipating the pleasure of having you as our guest at Camp Idlewild this season, and again extending to you my cordial welcome, I am.

    Sincerely Walter Stickler, Owner

The Sticklers offered three levels of cottages. De Luxe Cottages with modern toilet, etc., including all meals, lodging, maid service, $5/day, $35/week per person. Special De Luxe Cottages with a tub bath, etc., including all meals, lodging, maid service, $6/day, $38/week per person. Standard Cottages with running water (but without inside toilets) including all meals, lodging, maid service, $4/day, $25/week per person. Boats were $2.50 a week; outboard motors $2 a day. Experienced fishing guides were available for $5/day.

Stickler sold the resort in 1944 to Clarence and Evelyn Harris. I do not know when the resort closed, but I did find a Camp Idlewild envelope postmarked 1966.

Other Resorts on North Star Lake

I have bits and pieces about the other resorts on North Star Lake that are no longer there.

Deer Trail Resort – It was started in 1932 by Mr. and Mrs. Al Williams. Later owned by Tony Sovil and called Trails End.

Eureka Cabins – There is no information on original owners. Name changed to Camp Joyce when owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bock.

Hoffman’s Camp ~ It was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Hoffman.  It is not known when the resort began. It was sold in the mid-1930s to Jim and Ruth DeHaven. In the 1940s it was called Havenwood and DeHaven’s, and eventually DeHaven’s North Star Camp

Know-Us-Ark – The only place I found it was on a 1934 Fuller’s Tackle Shop map.

Northwood Resort – It was started by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Podell (possibly with J.H. Valentine some of the time) in the mid-1920s. It was believed to have been sold in the early 1940s to Mr. and Mrs. Ross Watkins.

Mayer’s Green Ridge and Northwind Lodge are both listed as resorts in the 1950s in Ren Holland’s book, The Early Resorts of Minnesota, but I could not find anything more about them. [The Early Resorts of Minnesota – Tourism in the Land of 10,000 Lakes: Ren Holland: 9781592984374: Amazon.com: Books]

Big Timber (formerly Pine Crest) and North Star were both resorts started in the 1930s and are still going strong.  They will be featured in the Resorts With a History series next summer

1 Comment

  1. Vickie says:

    Amazing about Dusty Rhodes flying all those people in one day, going up and down and up and down with his plane!


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