Inns with a Past: Historic Hotels & Lodges with a Story to Tell
What do an old brewery, a jailhouse and a door factory, all built in the late 1800s, have in common today? They have all undergone amazing transformations, and are now cozy inns providing charming, and even luxurious getaways in beautiful, historic settings.
Fitgers Brewery in Duluth, originally built in 1885, was redeveloped about 25 years ago into an inviting complex with a hotel, restaurants, nightclubs and shops. Right along the Lake Superior shore, Fitgers Inn was fully renovated again in 2008, and offers 62 rooms and suites, many with lake views.
The old Fillmore County Jail, dating to 1869, now lives on as The JailHouse Historic Inn in the Bluff Country town of Preston. The sheriff's bedroom, the detention room, drunk tank and jail cell are now among the 12 rooms welcoming guests to much more comfortable accommodations than the original jail offered. This B&B also offers special dinners on occasion.
The attractive limestone building now home to Nicollet Island Inn in downtown Minneapolis was constructed in 1893 as the Island Sash & Door Company. The elegant guest rooms and romantic dining room of this charming inn feature views of the Mississippi River.
Historic inns offer an appealing combination of classic architecture and contemporary amenities, along with the warm hospitality of caring innkeepers, that all draw rave reviews from guests. Some historic inns have a long past as hotels, while others have been crafted from distinctive old buildings that once housed other commercial ventures. But all have been lovingly renovated into special destinations. Each has a distinctive character, but all share the hallmarks of a warm ambiance and an interesting past.
Many visitors come to historic inns to celebrate special occasions-anniversaries, birthdays, New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, or simply, special weekend getaways. And most of the inns have an intriguing past to share with their visitors of today.
The Inn at Maple Crossing, in the country southeast of Crookston, was rescued from decay by Jim and Nancy Thomasson in the 1990s. While they were renovating the former Buhn Hotel, they discovered at its core a log cabin, built in the 1860s by a Civil War veteran. The Buhn family had simply built their hotel around the log cabin. The cabin's walls are now visible in the new inn's dining room. "So many things you find out about these old buildings tell you the story of the people who came to settle this area," explains Jim. "Guests enjoy discovering this history in our scrapbooks." Winter visitors also enjoy cross-country skiing and ice skating on Maple Lake.
The Palmer House Hotel, in Sauk Centre, gained fame as the basis for the hotel in the 1920 novel "Main Street," by Nobel Prize winner Sinclair Lewis, who once worked as desk clerk at the hotel. Along with 19 comfortable guest rooms, a pub and dining room, the hotel sometimes offers its guests strange, ghostly experiences; some previous residents have apparently not quite left the building.
North Woods Classics
Naniboujou Lodge began its life along the north shore of Lake Superior in the 1920s as an exclusive, private club, with big names like Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey among its charter members. It faced a quick demise when the Depression hit, but is enjoying life again as a popular North Woods retreat. Guests enjoy the lake views, peaceful setting, comfortable lounge with games and books, and the distinctive dining room with a tall, rock fireplace and a domed ceiling decorated with colorful, Cree Indian designs.
Farther down the shore, Lutsen Resort was built in 1945 with a Scandinavian design, hand-hewn beams and stone fireplaces. Winter guests enjoy downhill skiing and snowboarding at nearby Lutsen Mountains. The historic Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, on Gull Lake, is a North Woods classic, constructed of logs, that has been welcoming guests for more than 90 years, and is still one of Minnesota's most distinctive resorts.