A century of memories: Northern Pine Lodge recognized for over 100 years of continuous operation
The walls of Northern Pine Lodge are coated in history, quite literally, with the original log walls still standing after 103 years. You can see how the construction progressed over time with new additions to the lodge being more precise.
The resort is situated at the end of a private drive among 140 wooded acres with its original charm still intact, and when guests arrive it's as though they have driven upon a movie set. Upon entering the lodge, guests are greeted by the sound of a crackling fireplace and a friendly smile.
The resort, located on Potato Lake near Park Rapids, is one of six resorts in Minnesota that have been recognized as a Century Resort by the Minnesota Resort & Campground Association (MRCA) for having been in continuous operation for at least 100 years.
In 1914, what was then called Northern Pine Camp, was established under the ownership of Linch & Company. At that time, guests would arrive in town by train and were transported to the camp by horse-drawn wagons.
The camp was originally run as a rustic getaway for anglers and hunters who slept in tents.
The resort was then purchased by William and Margaret Peterson of Indianapolis, Indiana. The year of their purchase is unclear but in 1925, Mrs. Peterson was the one responsible for getting the resort up and running.
After several additions to the lodge, the resort could accommodate 60 guests in the lodge and surrounding cottages, the final addition to the lodge was a large deck.
At that time, guests paid $25 to $30 per week for the American plan, which included three meals per day. Guests were served in a dining room located within the lodge which had been updated with a restroom with hot and cold running water. Recreation activities included swimming, boating and tennis.
In 1940, the name of the resort was changed to Northern Pine Lodge. After World War II, ownership of the resort was transferred to the Petersons' son Robert and his wife, Muriel.
The second generation of Petersons operated the resort until 1974 when they began advertising the resort as "Minnesota's most distinctive resort." The third generation of Petersons walked away.
In 1979, the resort was purchased by current owners Jonathan and Kelly Schupp. Jonathan is originally from Des Moines, Iowa and Kelly was born in California. The couple met while Jonathan was interning at a resort in Colorado. Jonathan had vacationed in the area as a kid and he was always interested in owning a resort.
He then purchased Northern Pine Lodge. Kelly recalls helping Jonathan stuff brochures on their first date.
According to Jonathan, Northern Pine Lodge was the first resort on the lake. When the Schupps purchased the resort, there were eight resorts in operation on Potato Lake, now there are only two.
"Six have disappeared and not one has sold as a resort," he said in reference to cabins being sold as individual dwellings.
When the resorts were originally developed they were put on the best pieces of lakeshore properties. Over the years, the values of those properties have skyrocketed as well as their expenses.
"All of sudden you're sitting on this prime piece of real estate that is being assessed at a large amount of money and it's tough to make business sense out of a place when they keep raising the expenses," Jonathan said. "I think they don't sell as a resort because they're worth more as private property."
Even though there has been a decline in resorts, business was up for Northern Pine Lodge this summer. Jonathan says 70 to 80 percent of their guests are from somewhere in Minnesota, and the other 20 percent travel from all over, they've had guests from as far away as Japan.
"We've been here 38 years now and we still have guests that have been with us since the first year," Jonathan said, adding that they now have three generations of guests.
Kelly added, "Their kids are bringing their kids; it's so cool. We cater to families."
When the Schupps bought the resort, there were a lot of smaller cabins already existing and they wanted to appeal to young families.
"Small cabins and families don't go together so we had to make the cabins bigger," Jonathan said. "Instead of one-bedroom cabins, they went to two bedrooms. Some of them went from two bedrooms to three bedrooms, making them more family useable."
Kelly said they operated the American plan for five years, with Jonathan in the kitchen preparing three meals each day for guests to dine on inside the lodge. When they expanded the cabins, they added kitchens giving guests the option to make more affordable meals, bringing down the rates and drawing in more families.
"It was a no-brainer getting the rate down to where young families could afford it and that's when business took off," Jonathan explained, adding that they also provided daily house cleaning which they discontinued as well to lower costs. "It was a big switch but a necessary one, we felt at the time."
Now, guests are offered a wide range of recreational activities at the resort including the use of paddle boats, sailboats, canoes and kayaks. There are indoor and outdoor children's play areas, a swimming beach, a log sauna, mini-golf, bicycles, tennis and shuffleboard.
The Schupps also host organized children activities.
"We have a big bell out there that's the original bell and we ring that bell and they come running," Kelly joked.
The Schupps have tons of nostalgia they have inherited from the previous owners hanging from the walls as well as numerous photo albums that have been stuffed full of memories of smiling faces that were captured over the years.
Among the photos are dozens of holiday cards sent to the Schupps over the years with updates from families that have stayed at Northern Pine Lodge, writing promises to return during the warmer months of summer. The Schupps both say that makes all of the hard work worth it, adding that some of their guests have become an extension of their family.
According to the Schupps, the number of guests begins to slow this time of year as kids return to school. They now have time to relax and enjoy the red rocking chairs which line the large, covered deck connected to the lodge as they prepare to close for the season after the upcoming holiday.
All of the enrolled Century Resorts will be recognized during the MRCA's 2017 Fall Conference in October at Breezy Point where they will be given a plaque to signify their century status.