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Finding Minnesota: 125 Years Of Lutsen Resort

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By Angela Davis, WCCO-TV

LUTSEN, Minn. (WCCO) — It is one of the oldest resorts in Minnesota and later this month, Lutsen Resort will be celebrating its 125th anniversary.

Over the years, Lutsen has become a destination for couples looking for a weekend getaway, as well as downhill skiers headed to the nearby mountain.

The resort is spread out over dozens of acres along the shores of Lake Superior and just walking distance from Superior National Forest.

The former and current owners of Lutsen said when it comes to options for a great getaway, guests have it all in Lutsen.

You can stay in the main lodge and cozy up to a fire in the lobby.

The rooms are nice and homey. Or you can stay in a more modern condo, with a kitchen and a private whirlpool.

Then there’s the cabin option, with a deck that puts you right by the lake.

Or maybe you need a townhome setting to accommodate a large party. Oh, and don’t forget the sea villas down the road a piece.

“We are very pleased and honored that the old Granddad, C.A.A. Nelson, had the foresight to locate his family here at Lutsen,” said George Nelson, the grandson of the founder.

It all started with one man, Charles Axel Nelson, who was known as C.A.A.

He grew up in Sweden and moved to Minnesota when he was 18 years old.

In 1885, he filed a homestead for 160 acres of land at the mouth of the Poplar River.

It cost him $12.

“My granddad C.A.A. had the vision, with the Poplar River here and the series of waterfalls, of building a hydroelectric plant to generate electricity, which he did in 1918,” Nelson said.

Long before electricity came to most of the North Shore, Lutsen Resort had lights and indoor plumbing thanks to C.A.A.

Many years later, his grandson, Nelson, was able to take the family business to the next level.

Have you ever gone skiing or snowboarding at Lutsen Mountain? It looks much different today than it did back in 1945 when it opened.

Nelson learned how to ski in the Army and when he got out, he brought his expertise to Lutsen.

“We said, ‘Hey, let’s go try that skiing.’ None of us knew beans about skiing. We went out figuring it would be great fun, we were all young and eager,” Patti Nelson, George’s wife, said.

The ski hill is where George met his wife, Patti.

The lodge is the centerpiece of the resort and it has its own unique story. In 1948, fire destroyed the original lodge. The owners rebuilt it. And then in 1951, another fire burned that building to the ground.

The owners rebuilt it again, this time following a Scandinavian design.

That same building stands today, but the resort is now owned by a different family.

Nancy Burns and her husband Scott Harrison bought the resort from the Nelsons in 1988.

“I think that looking back what we have done is to keep the tradition, it is very important to us to keep the tradition of the resort, the heritage, the still visual pieces of that,” Burns said.

Lutsen is throwing a big party to celebrate its 125th anniversary on Friday and Saturday.

The owners are inviting past guests and employees to come back and visit.

They special ordered a huge 15-liter bottle of champagne from France, and will be popping the cork that Saturday night.

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