Our Great North Shore Resort Tour continues as Bruce Vassar travels to Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior.
Chances are at the age of eighteen, you were not emigrating from Sweden to Duluth, but in 1881 there was a young man named Charles “Axel” Nelson who did just that. This is where the history of Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior begins. After making quite a name for himself as captain of a fishing tug as well as a top fisherman, A. Booth Packing Company in Duluth offered Axel a fishing boat and fishing supplies on credit. In return, he would become one of their major suppliers of fish from Lake Superior. In 1885 he married Anna Peterson, an immigrant from Sweden, and purchased 160 acres at the mouth of the Poplar River for twelve dollars.
Anna remained in Duluth while Axel built a shanty followed by a log cabin on the hill, a fishing house, and a dock. In 1886 Axel and Anna welcomed their first of seven children, Carl, and they found their home somewhat remote as their closest neighbor was ten miles down the shore. With pioneers, hard work was not uncommon and the family’s work included logging their land with a team of oxen, hunting and trading in furs, potato farming and fishing as far as Isle Royale. And if that was not enough, he trapped up to 25 bears each year for selling to the meatpacking companies in the big city of Chicago. And in 1888 Axel’s brothers, Gust and Alfred, left Sweden to join Axel and his family.
Not only did Axel’s brothers initially stay in his family home, but new settlers seeking shelter soon discovered hospitality at Nelson’s home. Initially, the visitors would occupy the first floor of the residence known as the “Lutsen House”, the family occupied the second floor. While Anna worked cooking, washing, and cleaning for the new settlers, there were times the children were displaced to make room for the guests. To accommodate the emerging settlement a small town sprung up at the homestead including a post office, general store, and a town hall for Lutsen, Minnesota. When it came to schooling the children you didn’t have to look far, the very first school in Lutsen was where else — in Nelson’s home.
Fast-forwarding into the 20th Century when Lutsen was quite the hot spot for famous celebrities, well not quite the good guys but more so the bad boys from Chicago. From Baby-Face Nelson, John Dillinger, and the most notorious of them all — Al Capone, the Lutsen area seemed to be a safe haven from the Feds for the bad boys of Chicago. Lutsen was the first ski resort in Minnesota and home of the first swimming pool in the world to be enclosed in a Mylar bubble made by Dupont.
Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior is the oldest resort on the Northshore and it all began with Axel and Anna. Today Lutsen Resort offers the same excellent hospitality it was known for in the 1800s. What I enjoyed the most was walking into the lodge with all the knotty pine walls and the fantastic view of the lake – blue as blue can be. The lodge really brings you back to its earlier years with all the images of the resort as it developed from the Nelson family home to what we know of today as the resort voted most popular on the North Shore. What I liked about the rooms in the lodge is that you actually felt like you were in a rustic environment with the comforts of home. The ceremony options seem to be endless; on the terrace, beach, and if you are really thinking out of the box how about on the walking bridge.
The big secret at Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior is The Strand Waterfront dining room remodel was completed in December 2018 and it’s wonderful in a semi-formal relaxed atmosphere. The menu consists of a strong blend of contemporary and traditional North Shore Cuisine items. With the recent renovation, they added a 16-bottle wine dispensing station as well as a 1200-bottle enclosed temperature-controlled wine cellar. The Strand Waterfront Dining Room now carries nearly 200 different bottles of wine. They have 20 wines from the Wine Spectator Top 100 list, including the #1.
Photos courtesy of Lutsen Resort.