If it weren’t for a sign announcing that you’ve arrived in Little Marais, you may just speed through this little resort town on your way north on Highway 61. Scandinavian fishermen settled in the sleepy town during the late 1880s, but by the 1920s tourists began motoring their way up the north shore – looking for accommodations as they went. Small resorts and gas stations popped up along the route.
Originally built as a rustic log store, the Little Marais Store was a popular stop for basic provisions. It was transformed twice after that; first into a grocery store and gas station with small rooms for travelers looking for a good nights sleep, and later into a lovely white clapboard inn with an elegant dining room and housekeeping cabins along the lake shore. It was renamed the Little Marais Lodge and Store.
The white clapboard building with its charming green shutters soon became a popular destination for couples on their honeymoon. The refined structure stood out among the rustic accommodations that populated the North Shore at that time. Inside, antique lamps cast a warm glow in each room and historic maps hung on the walls. An abundance of windows, white paneled walls, and cool lake breezes gave the lodge a light, airy feel. The gabled roof added gentle sophistication of the exterior.
Many tourists would make the trip from Duluth just do dine in the lodge’s dining room. Elegant meals were served on crisp Irish linens and tables were decorated with lilacs, peonies, and roses from the lodge’s garden. Each meal was served with the finest silverware on Haviland china. Finger bowls were passed at the end of each course to keep diner’s hands clean. It was a grand experience not soon forgotten by those who enjoyed the hospitality.
The Little Marais Lodge and Store, often called the Little Marais Inn, closed its doors in 1973. It still stands defiantly, but in a sad state of disrepair, along Highway 61. Visitors often stop in to the gift shop next door to inquire about the building, but there have been no attempts to restore the old inn.
At the time this article was published, the land the lodge stands on is for sale (along with the home, gift shop and coffee house next door.) Perhaps the final chapter hasn’t been written for the Little Marais Inn after all.
6228 Hwy 61
Little Marais, MN 55614
Stop by the gallery to see more photos of what the Little Marais Inn looks like today.