Historic Retreats: Grand View Lodge

We take a closer look at Minnesota’s Grand View Lodge.

The short path leading from Gull Lake to the main lodge is lined with Arts & Crafts-inspired light fixtures. Photos courtesy of Grand View Lodge

The Grand View Lodge was built almost as an afterthought: In 1916, real-estate developer M.V. Baker snapped up 3,000 feet of lakefront property along Nisswa, Minnesota’s Gull Lake, planning to sell it to eager buyers for $10 a foot. Soon, he had so many prospective clients clamoring for property that he needed a place to house them when they came to view the lots. So, in 1918, he assembled a team of horses and 15 men to construct the three-story Grand View Lodge from red pine logs, most of which were cut onsite. The logs were stained a dark brown and accented with white trim and natural materials like cedar siding. Inside, traditional lodge accoutrements (hunting trophies and wicker furniture) mingled with Arts & Crafts-inspired light fixtures.

As Baker’s clients were settling into their new digs, another institution was taking shape at nearby Lake Hubert. In 1909, William Blake, a teacher at a private Minneapolis boys’ school, founded an eponymous summer camp to reward his students’ academic achievements. One of his counselors, Frederick Brownlee (“Brownie”) Cote, became so impassioned with the camp experience that in 1924, he purchased the camp from Blake, changed its name to Camp Lincoln, and founded a sister camp for girls (Camp Lake Hubert) across the lake.

The two endeavors—camp and lodge—merged in 1937 when Brownie Cote, recognizing that parents needed a place to stay while visiting their camp-bound children, purchased the Grand View Lodge from Baker. The Cote family continues to manage the properties today, but the lodge has now evolved into a destination in itself, offering a spa and four championship golf courses, as well as a spate of year-round activities, from horseback riding and bonfires in the summer to ice fishing and dog-sledding in the winter.

The fieldstone hearth in the lobby remains virtually unchanged from the resort’s early days, right down to the moose head and snowshoes.

“With its beautiful south-facing beach, it’s a natural environment for a family resort,” notes Mark Ronnei, the lodge’s general manager. Grand View Lodge began to pick up steam as a destination in the 1930s and ’40s, he explains, when vacationers from places like Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, eager to escape the oppressive heat of homes without central air, were lured to Minnesota by the cool North Woods climate. Once the automobile became a must-have for American families, weekenders from Minneapolis started making the trek, too, and over the years, the lodge evolved into an upscale resort.

Naturally, the resort has experienced a few growing pains over the course of its 90 years. Although the main lodge was added to the National Register (described as “an outstanding example of log construction”) in 1980, “we went through a period where the architectural influences were a little too contemporary,” says Mark of the other buildings on the property. That tide is turning, though, and Grand View is now committed to aligning all of its buildings with the Arts & Crafts aesthetic that permeates the main lodge. “We’ve taken the architecture of the main lodge and incorporated elements of that into everything else we do,” says Mark. New buildings, such as the spa constructed in 2001, boast details like battered columns and low roof profiles, while efforts are underway to convert older contemporary buildings—including some of the 60 guest cottages on the property—to the Arts & Crafts style by adding details such as natural stone and historically inspired paint colors.

Even though the main lodge has maintained most of its original features over the years (including the grand fieldstone fireplace that dominates the lobby), it also has been subject to some minor remuddles, which a recent restoration helped to correct: Carpet in many of the guest rooms was removed to expose the original maple floors, patched siding on the second-floor facade was replaced with cedar custom-milled to match the original cladding, and faux stone added during previous restorations was removed and replaced with locally sourced fieldstone. The second-floor guest rooms received new wood double-hung windows and updated balconies with twig railings, and were completely winterized to aid in the lodge’s ongoing efforts to transition from a summer getaway to a year-round destination.

The new spa building takes its cues from the architecture of the lodge, boasting wide eaves and fieldstone-adorned columns.

The latest restoration also reversed structural damage caused by previous repairs. “Modern repair methods had been applied without a complete understanding of how the structure was supposed to work,” notes preservation specialist John Leeke, who was called in to perform an inspection of the historic structure. Several of the original 10″ to 14″ logs were replaced with carefully matched red pine substitutes, while a new foundation and footings, as well as vertical support beams, were installed to provide better support.

One thing that hasn’t changed much over the years is the guests—in many families, the tradition of a classic North Woods vacation at the Grand View Lodge is passed down from generation to generation. “We have one woman from St. Louis who first came here with her grandfather, and who now brings her own grandchildren,” says Mark. “That’s the epitome of it right there.”

Tags: arts & crafts Clare M. Alexander Historic hotels OHJ July/August 2009 Old-House Journal

By Clare M. Alexander

Clare Martin Alexander is a former Managing Editor of Old-House Journal. Her writing specialties for the magazine are travel and historic houses, makeovers, and tool testing. Clare is raising her family in Colorado.

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