End in sight for historic Beaver Bay fish house?

  • July 31, 2013 - 12:15 PM

BEAVER BAY, Minn. — Wind, rain and passing years couldn't knock down a wooden fish house built on Beaver Bay a century ago by hardy Norwegian fishermen, but the end may be near.

The nonprofit Beaver Bay Club, which owns the land on which the house sits, has begun eviction proceedings against the owners in a complaint that seeks immediate removal, the Duluth News Tribune reported Wednesday ( ).

Bonnie Anderson, who owns it with her husband Bruce, says the couple hasn't paid to lease the land and there has never been a lease agreement to do so. Permission has always been implied, she said.

"No one has ever complained, including the Beaver Bay Club, which is taking us to court, and no one has ever contested the fish house being there until now," she said.

In a statement Wednesday, the club said it's not seeking removal or destruction of the structure, which it termed a boathouse. The statement said the club has offered lease terms to the Andersons, and still hopes the two sides can work out an agreement.

"The Club understands and respects the historic significance of the boathouse," the statement said.

"The only lease agreement that we have ever been presented was to lease the fish house, which we already own — never for the land," Bonnie Anderson said.

An Aug. 22 trial has been scheduled.

The Beaver Bay Club was founded in 1926 by 15 people who originally pitched in $1,000 each for the abandoned logging camp land. The property today includes cabins and a lodge by Lake Superior.

The fish house was built in 1898 by Martin Lorntson, an immigrant from Trondheim, Norway, who came from commercial fishing stock. His son, Conrad, used the house until he retired from fishing in 1968. The house has been in Bonnie Anderson's family since 1974.

Fish houses used to dot the North Shore but are slowly disappearing.

Don Hammer, manager of the fishing museum in Tofte, said about 400 commercial fishermen ranged up and down the North Shore in the area's heyday. He estimated 50 or 60 fish houses still exist, most of them in poor condition.

"The preservation of them is not easily pursued because they are in private hands," he said.

"I certainly would like to see them stabilized and preserved the best they can," Hammer said. "They're part of the North Shore experience."

Karen Rautio of Silver Bay grew up just outside of club property and visited the fish house often as a child. She said she would like to see the building preserved and is upset that someone wants to tear it down.

"It's a Beaver Bay landmark," she said.

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