A Dash of History: Squash Soup Recipe from Grand Portage Lodge

The Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa was awarded funds from the federal Economic Development Association in 1973 to begin the construction of a new hotel on the shores of Lake Superior. The Band believed that their location would draw visitors from the Twin Cities, Duluth, and western Ontario who were looking for a unique North Shore experience. A conference center was included in the initial plan to be used as a community gathering place and indoor event facility. 

Hilton Hotels initially agreed to operate the hotel at Grand Portage for ten years before turning it over to the Band to manage. During that time, Hilton would train employees from the reservation in every aspect of the business to prepare them to operate the resort independently. The $3 million hotel was slated to be the first phase of a more magnificent $5 million tourist complex. The plan proposed by Hilton included RV sites, a campground, snowmobile and cross-country ski trails, and an enlarged harbor and marina. 

The resort was due to open in November 1974, but Hilton dropped out of the deal in September of that year. Six months later, Radisson stepped in to take over for them in the venture and agreed to pass on profits above their operating costs to the Band. In return, the Band granted guests special recreation and fishing privileges while on the reservation. The hotel employed between 25 and 30 people, year-round.

The Grand Portage Inn (also known as the Radisson Inn Grand Portage) opened in 1975. The exterior of the three-level building was covered in local stone and brown cedar shakes. The 100-room hotel provided visitors with a bar, lounge, dining room, conference hall, and swimming pool. Guests could charter a fishing trip, hike, or relax by the lake in the summer. In the winter, they could explore more than 60 miles of groomed trails by snowmobile or cross-country skis. Visitors flocked to the hotel, and by 1977, the summer occupancy rate hovered between 80 and 90 percent. 

On September 30, 1980, Radisson turned the management of the Grand Portage Inn over to the Band. The name of the hotel was changed to Grand Portage Lodge and Conference Center. Additional RV pads and campsites were added, along with miles of new hiking trails. In 1990, the hotel was extensively renovated and a casino was added. Today, the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa continues to operate the Grand Portage Lodge & Casino. 

This recipe for squash soup made its debut at the restaurant of Grand Portage Lodge during the North American Fur Trade Conference in 1981. It then became a staple on the dining room menu. 

Grand Portage Lodge Squash Soup 

3 cups frozen or fresh cooked squash
3 cups water
¼ cup onion, chopped
¼ cup celery, chopped
1 Tbs. butter for sautéing
Salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp. dill weed
1-13 oz. can evaporated milk or light cream
1 Tbs. melted butter
2 Tbs. flour
¼ lb. bacon, chopped, fried, and drained

Heat squash in water. Sauté onion and celery in butter and add to squash. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add dill weed and evaporated milk, then heat through.

Combine one tablespoon melted butter and flour; use to thicken soup, stirring until smooth. Add bacon and serve.

Makes 8 cups.