The historic Naniboujou Lodge and Restaurant in northern Minnesota is up for sale.
It is the second iconic Minnesota lodge to go on the market this summer; the Gunflint Lodge north of Grand Marais sold for a bit more than $6 million in June.
Naniboujou, a jazz-era lodge 15 miles east of Grand Marais that’s on the National Register of Historic Places, is listed at $3.295 million, according to Bizbuysell.com.
“I’m really praying it will go to the right people,” said Nancy Ramey, who with her husband, Tim, has run the lodge for the past 38 years.
Despite having spent much of their lives there, the Rameys became owners almost by accident.
As a young couple, they were members of the nondenominational Campus Church in Minneapolis, and felt called to work as Christian missionaries.
When the church bought Naniboujou Lodge, the Rameys were asked to manage it. The previous owners had built a successful business but were grieving the loss of two sons, who drowned near the lodge in 1977 when their canoe tipped at the mouth of the Brule River.
Convinced by friends that it was the right thing to do, the Rameys drove north. Four years later, with the backing of investors, they bought Naniboujou outright.
“It was a real calling for us,” Ramey said.
Named for the Cree god of the outdoors, the lodge was built in 1928 as the first stage of an exclusive private club. Wealthy Duluth businessmen broke ground on the lodge, planning to expand it into a 3,000-acre resort. The stock market crash in 1929 wiped out the wealth of many who would have joined, and the larger plans for the lodge never took place.
Known for its art deco and American Indian influences, its main dining hall is worthy of a magazine spread, and the lodge claims to have the largest stone fireplace in the state.
Ownership brought challenges for the Rameys: Tim learned how to do carpentry on the fly, improving the rooms, adding a solarium, and making a thousand other changes.
The Rameys raised their seven children at the lodge as well, and all of them became dishwashers, waitresses and other labor for the resort.
The 24-room lodge prides itself as a place where people can unplug: no phones, no televisions in the rooms, no Wi-Fi access and no cellphone tower nearby.
“It’s so healthy for people to get away from all of that stuff,” Ramey said. “Don’t do anything. Just be.”
For the past 18 years, Tim has run the lodge from a wheelchair: he was paralyzed in a firefighting accident when a chimney collapsed and nearly killed him.
In recent years, the Rameys have felt like it was time to back away from the operation. Some of their longtime employees were talking about retirement. A son, Paul, who helps them run the place said he would take over if one of his six siblings would join him, but none was interested, Ramey said.
They still feel called to work as missionaries, and hope to do that. Ramey said she also wants to have time to visit her 21 grandchildren, who live in cities across the country.
“My husband has been more ready than me,” Nancy said. “Finally, just this spring or early summer it hit me.”
“Let me tell you,” she said, “it’s kind of like selling your kid.”