Lutsen Resort celebrates 125 years

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Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior’s North Shore is celebrating its 125th anniversary this weekend. Proprietors say its Minnesota’s oldest resort.

The resort opened in 1885, many years preceding a road up the North Shore. The property was first a homestead for Swedish immigrant Charles Axel Nelson, who named the property “Lutsen.”

Travelers heading up the shore, usually by water, found the property a convenient stop, with Nelson routinely opening up bed space by booting the kids out. In the early days a stage road only operated during the winter. A real highway wasn’t built until 1918, and it was not paved until 1930.

Eventually the family home morphed into the first lodge building, and the resort became a destination for hiking, hunting and fishing. The small town of Lutsen sprang up around the resort.

Renowned mail carrier John Beargrease was a frequent visitor in the early days, before 1900. Gangsters Al Capone; Baby-face Nelson; and John Dillinger were all guests, as was entertainer Arthur Godfrey and industrialist/politician Nelson Rockefeller.

The resort added downhill skiing just after World War II. The Nelson family sold that part of the business in 1980, and the family sold the resort in 1988.

The original lodge was lost to fire in 1948. Today’s main resort building, in a Scandinavian log style, dates back to 1952.

Lutsen’s Erin Mathe promises a weekend with members of the original families on hand, and a lot of special events.

Life has been getting tougher for Minnesota resorts. Let’s hope Lutsen can do another 125 years.

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