The Naniboujou Lodge and Restaurant
It all began in November of 1927. The founding members of the Naniboujou Holding Company formed an exclusive club on the northwestern banks of Lake Superior. The club was surrounded by magnificent, densely-forested land providing endless hunting possibilities. The area was filled with bountiful, clear lakes, truly a fisherman's dream. The founders had the right idea. It was their dream, "To live and learn . . . why the raspberry follows the fireweed: ... the ways of the kingbird . . . and the home life of the beaver"
The Naniboujou Holding Company obtained a 99-year lease for 3, 330 acres of land 125 miles northeast of Duluth, Minnesota, along the shores of Lake Superior. The first drawings of the development were shown to the public in March of 1928. This private enterprise had a grand scope. It was to include a large clubhouse with 150 sleeping rooms, a golf course, tennis courts, and a bathing house. Charles F. Kelly, a well known Duluth merchant and President of the company, led the membership drive for 3, 300 members. No stock was for sale in this $350, 000 to $500, 000 development. There would be no promotional advertising. This was to be a private, exclusive club. The 99 year memberships were sold for 0 or more to friends and the friends of friends. The desire was for a broad national base of membership. For that reason, and to prevent overcrowding of the facilities, Minnesota residents were limited to 25% of the membership. Just two negative votes by the 24 member board of governors could blackball any prospective member. The prestigious Naniboujou charter members included Babe Ruth, the famous New York Yankee, Jack Dempsey, the former world heavyweight champion, and Ring Lardner, a New York newspaperman.
The original clubhouse included twenty-four guest rooms with a main lodge containing fourteen sets of French doors leading to the outdoors. These doors are still intact, including some of the original canopies. Even some of the lighting in the dining room is original. The largest stone fireplace in the state of Minnesota dominates the west end of the dining room. It was built by a local Swedish stonemason named Carlson out of 200 tons of native rock. Standing some twenty feet high, the fireplace continues to be a showpiece, warming and welcoming the guests of Naniboujou.
Probably the most memorable aspect of the lodge is the wondrously painted 30 x 80 foot dining room. Antoine Goufee, a French artist, painted Cree Indian designs over the walls and the twenty-foot-high domed ceiling (resembling the shape of a canoe). Guests marvel at its originality. "It's straight from an Agatha Christie mystery novel, " wrote Tom Clifford in 1972. "The almost psychedelic Cree Indian designs covering the walls and ceiling are like a North Woods answer to the Sistine Chapel." This work of art continually amazes and intrigues, echoing the elegance and style of another era.