The First Main Lodge--Destroyed by Fire

In 1948, two devastating fires occurred at Lutsen Resort. Early in the year, a dormitory burned to the ground. Then on October 21, a fire swept through the main lodge, destroying the entire building. No one was hurt, but the Nelsons estimated the damage at $200,000. A new main lodge opened in 1949, and another fire destroyed the new building on December 6, 1951. Again, no one was hurt. A new lodge was built, following the Scandinavian design by Edwin Lundie, and it is the same building that exists today.

The sinking of the America

Steamship companies brought passengers and supplies from such faraway places as Chicago to Lutsen's harbor. The steamship America, was a familiar site at Lutsens' busy harbor, as it was a popular tourist transportation service.

On June 7, 1928 the America struck a rock near Isle Royale, and in a few minutes, the ship disappeared under 17 fathoms of water. Fortunately, all the passengers and crew survived.

Scandinavian-Inspired Dining Style

By 1952, the current Scandinavian-style lodge was built, using mostly white pine logs taken from the Gunflint Trail. Designed by Edwin Lundie, a Scotsman and architect who loved carved wood and Swedish design, the dining room's rustic ambience brings the flavor of the North Shore indoors. The fireplaces are built from local stone, and the carvings throughout the lodge were created by local craftsmen. Lutsen Resort was the first place to serve "blue fin", herring with the skin removed and visitors still enjoy traditional Swedish fare

Lutsen Goes Downhill

After being stationed in northern Italy during WWII, George Nelson, Jr., the grandson of Lutsen Resort's original owners, Charles Axel and Anna Nelson, looked at the Sawtooth Mountain Range with new eyes. He had learned to ski in northern Italy and Colorado and was convinced that a ski business would be successful in bringing year-round traffic to the resort. So George Jr. and George Sr. began the development of the Lutsen Mountain Ski Area in 1945. In 1948 the Mountain officially opened for business with two runs, "Hari-Kari" and "Chickadee". Skiiers enjoyed being pulled up the hills by a rope tow, powered by a Ford v-8 engine.


Lutsen Resort is Minnesota's oldest resort. In 1885, the rugged natural beauty of Lake Superior's North Shore prompted Charles Axel Nelson, a young Swedish immigrant, to establish his homestead overlooking the lake. He called it "Lutsen".

Soon married, he and his family supported themselves through fishing, logging and trapping. The original cabin, built at the site of the current Lutsen Resort lodge, grew into an ever-larger family home. In the early days, long before a road was built, travelers found Lutsen a stop of convenience as they made their way up the lake. The Nelson children vacated their beds for travelers.

As its reputation for welcoming guests grew, Lutsen began to attract visitors who came to stay—to hike, fish, and hunt. Known as a friendly haven for weary travelers, the family home evolved into one of Minnesota's favorite destinations.

The sprawling homestead buildings were eventually replaced by the Main Lodge. This Swedish-style hewn pine timber lodge was designed by renowned architect Edwin Lunde for which he received an architectural award. Traditional style log homes and condominiums were added to the resort during the last 15 years to provide additional lodging options for guests.

In 1988, the resort changed hands as the original Nelson family sold the resort to another Minnesota family whose roots in northeastern Minnesota also go back four generations. You will find the tradition of warm hospitality with a Scandinavian flavor continues today.

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Contact Lutsen Resort's Guest Services to order a copy of our Legacy Brochure: 218-663-7212