The Chik-Wauk Lodge is a single story rough-cut stone building exhibiting a simple rectangular floor plan, a truncated or “cottage-style” hip roof, and a front porch covered with a front-gabled roof.
The walls of the building and the large double central fireplace are constructed from locally available granitic rock procured from the nearby islands and shoreline of Saganaga Lake. The lodge is situated on a small point of land that overlooks the west entrance channel to a small bay. This small, rather secluded bay is located midway along the eastern shore of the southeast narrows of Saganaga Lake, locally known as the Saganaga Narrows. Further geographic description puts Chik-Wauk Lodge on Moose Pond Road at approximately one-half mile east of the terminus of the Gunflint Trail (County Road 12, in Cook County, Minnesota) where the Superior National Forest (SNF) maintains a campground and boat landing. The lodge is situated on an upland area adjacent to the shoreline of the bay and is surrounded by exposures of naturally occurring bedrock as well as forest vegetation historically characteristic of the northern boreal forest ecosystem. Despite modest alterations, the building still retains integrity.
The lodge was built in 1933 as part of a large resort complex typical of the period and region.
The resort consisted of several structures, features and other buildings which included at the time of sale to the SNF, sixteen cabins, a bunkhouse, a woodshop/garage, an office building, a shower building, and a fish cleaning shack. Additional buildings and features included a boathouse attached to the main dock, a sauna, a well house, seven docks, one large wooden footbridge across the Saganaga Narrows, a playground and even a putting green. All buildings and structures with the exception of the lodge and the boathouse were removed or demolished during the present period SNF ownership. The boathouse has been moved at least twice during this same period.
The resort complex was built on approximately 7,250 feet of ledge rock dominated shoreline that encompasses a small bay and point of land on the east side of a narrows on the southeast corner of Saganaga Lake. The cabins and docks, as well as the lodge itself, were strategically situated on the landscape to afford resort visitors optimum access to the lake as well as the abundant north-woods scenery. The lodge is situated on an upland landform composed of outcrops of local tonalite. This location provides a commanding view of the bay and the surrounding north-woods landscape.
The lodge building was designed and constructed with a simple rectangular single-story floor plan, a log rafter roof, with one-inch sheathing boards and rough-cut stonewalls. The building is divided into two principal room-units that are separated from each other by a single story stonewall.
Accessibility between the rooms is achieved via two doorways set into the dividing wall. The smaller room, which encompasses one third of the floor plan area, was originally subdivided by a wall into a commercial kitchen area and secondary room. This wall has recently been removed to create a larger display space for the future history museum.
The lodge is covered by a single “truncated” hip roof or “cottage” roof (Washington State Historic Preservation Program, 1977). The roof is sheathed with one-inch dimensional lumber, and is supported by an intricate system of round-log rafters and structural beams. The rafter ends are left exposed on the bottom without the benefit of a soffit board. Old photographs show a thin fascia board attached to the rafter ends. The sloped portions of the roof were finished with a layer of standard three tab composition shingles, which presumably, covered a layer of tarpaper underlayment. According to historic photographs, the hip ridges were each finished with a metal ridge-cap and the hip valleys were lined with metal valley-inserts. The flat portion of the roof was probably originally hot-roofed.
The most arresting feature of the building is the massive outer stonewalls that are constructed of a pinkish rough-cut granitic stone known geologically as tonalite (MacKenzie and Adams, 1994).
Tonalite is the principle rock type of the Saganaga Batholith and is found throughout the Saganaga Lake area in the form of rock outcrops, cobbles, boulders, and gravel (Minnesota Geological Survey, 1982).
According to oral histories of several individuals involved with the construction of the lodge, the raw tonalite was gathered from nearby shoreline areas and islands on Saganaga Lake. After being transported to the building site by flat-bottomed boat, specific pieces were selected by the masons that were deemed appropriate for wall construction. Most of the stone in the building appears to be at least somewhat rough-cut; however, there appears to be a few cobbles and small boulders left uncut. All the stone was laid with mortar, in irregular courses and finished off with simple finger pointed joints. Each wall in the lodge appears to be of solid construction and is over a foot thick.
There are ten prominent window sash groups set into the outer stonewall of the lodge. The lights of each sash set in the southern half of the building are all grouped in a four-over-three configuration. In contrast, the lights on the northern sash sets are all grouped in a five-over-three configuration. The windows on the north wall consist of the three groups of four sashes. The center two sashes operate as casement windows and the outer two sashes in each sash group are fixed. All movable sashes in the building were, and are still covered on the outside with simple screens made of one-inch dimensional lumber connected with simple nail joints. The sash groups on the north end of the east and west walls are configured in the same manner as those on the north wall. Each window sash set is enclosed and supported by two jambs, a header, and a sill, which are all made out of half-hewn logs that run anywhere between 8-12 inches in diameter.
In addition to the windows, the lodge possesses five heavily built wooden doors. Three of these doors are situated along the outer walls. One of them opens on to the kitchen space near the center of the south wall, one enters the secondary room from the east wall, and one opens upon the main room from the east wall. Each door is constructed of approximately seven vertically oriented planks of dimensional lumber. Each plank has been rip-cut to approximately 3X6 inches and edge-joined by a full-length spline joint. All five doors are hung with two hand-wrought iron strap hinges that ran almost the entire width of the door and terminate in a split-curled or “mustache” type detail. Each hinge is textured across its surface with hammered scars and secured to the door with raised, hand-wrought square-headed nails. Like the windows, each door opening is trimmed out with two half-round log jambs, miter joined to a half-round log header.
Another prominent structural feature of the Chik-Wauk Lodge is the front open porch, which spans the central third of the east wall. The porch is covered with an open, front-gabled roof that is supported by exposed log purlins covered with tongue-and-groove sheathing. The roof is supported at the corners by two large square stone columns made from uncut cobbles of tonalite and other local stone material. The columns, in turn, are supported by a boxed-out, three-sided stonewall foundation that is constructed of local rough-cut stone of larger size than those found in the stone columns. The space in between the three walls that makes up the foundation is filled in with loose rock and capped off with a poured cement slab. This slab serves as the floor of the porch. The cement is scored in a grid pattern presumably to provide a modest level of stylistic texture. Outdoor access to the porch is gained by a set of three steps on the south side. These steps are constructed of formed concrete.
A prominent interior feature of the lodge is the large double fireplace situated in the center of the main room. Made from the same type and size of rough-cut tonalite used for the walls, the fireplace consists of two fireboxes placed back-to-back with the openings facing opposite each other. One faces to the west and one to the east. At one time the west-facing firebox did contain a cast iron barrel type stove insert but this was removed in 2006 for fire preventative reasons. Both fireboxes connect to the same flue. The fireboxes are incased in a large rectangular stone structure that is topped with formed concrete, which serves as a continuous mantel or shelf all the way around the fireplace. The chimney with its single flue is inset from the edge of the firebox wall and tapers up toward the ceiling. The courses of stone are more patterned than the wall and there are several striking pieces of local amethyst and milk-quartz cobbles, which are mortared in prominent positions on the firebox-sides of the chimney as well as the fascia around the concrete mantel.
An interesting note about the chimney is that it serves as the interior anchor point for the log roof support system. The anchor point consists of a small let-in or depression positioned at a central point on the front face of the chimney. This beam-pocket serves as a sort of mortise or notch, which receives the inside ends of the lowest two horizontal support beams for the roof truss system.
Several alterations to the building have been made over the years including those resulting from maintenance or rehabilitation projects conducted by the SNF since acquiring it in 1980. Evidence for pre-SNF changes comes from historic photographs, informal interviews of Nunstedt family members (Kerfoot, 2006), discussions with SNF personnel, and physical remnants of building materials discovered on the ground surrounding the area of the building footprint.
While the form and structure of the roof have not been altered in any significant way beyond the removal of the original metal ridge caps, there have been changes in the building material used for sheathing and weatherproofing. Although any construction or maintenance chronology is unknown prior to USFS ownership, the original shingles and shingle-underlayment materials most likely have been replaced on more than one occasion. Based on the aforementioned sources of evidence, it is reasonable to assume that the earliest shingles were red in color and had rounded tab ends. The present shingles, installed by the SNF sometime in the 1990s, are standard light gray, three-tab composition shingles.
Additional roof alterations consist of spot replacement of original sheathing with modern materials and replacement of the partial fascia on the rafter ends. It must be noted that not all of this new material is historically sympathetic. Several sheathing boards in the eaves and porch roof have been replaced with one-inch thick non-joinable dimensional lumber that, upon close inspection, appears similar to the original. However, most of the original sheathing material on the porch roof has been replaced with a tongue-and groove type, which does not appear to have been originally installed on the building. The original fascia board, like the sheathing, consisted of one-inch dimensional lumber. Some of that has been spot replaced as well. It appears that all these roof alterations were made by the SNF for maintenance purposes and occurred in the late 1990’s.
Another alteration to the roof that should be noted is the temporary installation of a soft, waterproof membrane over the original flat roof. This membrane was installed in the late 1990s by the SNF to prevent water leakage in the main room of the lodge. The membrane was installed with a low center ridge that runs in a north-south direction, which allows water to run-off the east and west sides and reduces ice buildup on the flat portion of the roof. Also completed during this time was the replacement of flashing around the two chimneys accompanied by copious amounts of roofing compound to prevent chronic leaking around the chimneys.
During the summer of 2006, the SNF completed a rehabilitation of the doors and windows. As part of an effort to facilitate the adaptive reuse of the building, in the summer of 2006 all of the window panes were removed, scraped, cleaned of glazing compound, re-glazed, painted and re-installed. Additional rehabilitation work during this time, consisted of painting all wooden window parts including the half-log jambs, headers and sills as well as reconstructing all of the screens out historically sympathetic one-inch strips of lumber. All the mesh hardware cloth on the screen doors was replaced as well.
Additional changes were made during the 2006 project that consisted of removing items from the interior of the building. First of these changes was the removal of the original plaster-and-lathe stud wall that separated the secondary room, located on the southeast corner of the building, from the kitchen. Another alteration consisted of the complete removal of a modern suspended ceiling that once covered the kitchen and the secondary room.
Chik Wauk Lodge has stood on the southeast shoreline of Saganaga Lake for approximately 74 years and has undergone little in the way of significant alterations. The lodge consists of a simple three room floor plan and possesses several notable architectural elements including its four thick stonewalls and a large truncated hip roof supported by an intricate system of round log timbers. Additional noteworthy elements include the large stone and concrete porch on the east wall of the building as well as the large central double fireplace centered in the main room of the lodge. Early alterations to the building consisted of routine maintenance projects such as shingle replacement or repainting. Additional alterations resulted from maintenance or rehabilitation projects conducted by the SNF. In either case, alterations did not change the original character defining features of the lodge.
Chik Wauk Lodge, built in present form in 1933 near the northern terminus of the Gunflint Trail in Cook County Minnesota, meets National Register Criteria A for its local significance in the area of Entertainment/Recreation. The lodge is a direct reflection of a unique historical pattern of fishing-resort outdoor recreation that flourished in the Border Lakes Country of northeastern Minnesota, in and around the lakes and streams of the Superior National Forest, from the 1920s to the early 1960s. Discussion of a similar historic context is found in the National Park Service report entitled, “Historic Context for Tourism and Recreational Development in the Minnesota Northern Border Lakes from the 1880s through the 1950s” (National Park Service, 1999). The rough-cut stone lodge building was once the centerpiece of a large Gunflint Trail resort complex, which offered to tourists: lodging in rustic-style cabins, cooked meals as well as access to above-average fishing and northern Minnesota scenery. The lodge served as a store, resort office, restaurant, and lounge area for resort guests. Since the lodge has not been significantly altered or moved from its original site and the surrounding landscape and socioeconomic patterns of the upper Gunflint Trail have changed little, the building retains all seven aspects of integrity to a substantial degree.
Ownership of Chik-Wauk Land
The Chik Wauk Lodge is located on Lot 3, Section 30 of T66N R4W of 4th PM, Cook County, MN. All through the Contact period (1630-present)the Saganaga Lake area was seasonally occupied by groups of First Nations people who hunted, gathered and fished as well as traded with the numerous brigades of French and English canoe men making their trading runs to and from Grand Portage in the 1600-1800’s.
With the signing of the Treaty of 1854, the land passed into the possession of the U. S. Government and thus fell under the Land Act of 1820 and subsequent land acts that allowed individuals to purchase lots for $1.25 per acre. Alice S. McKinley, of Duluth, Minnesota, exercised this right on Oct. 31,1887 and applied to purchase lots l,2,3,and 4 of Section 30, T66 4W (a total of 131.75 acres) for $1.25 per acre (a total of $164.60). She received title to the parcels on Oct. 3, 1888. The entire parcel of 131.75 acres was quickly transferred to the Vermilion and Grand Marais Iron Company on Dec. 5, 1888 for the sum of $6145.20. This Corporation was founded Feb. 24, 1876 in Duluth, Minnesota. Article II of the Articles of Incorporation states “The general nature of the business to be carried on by the corporation shall be mining, smelting, reducing, refining and working ores and minerals and manufacturing iron steel and other metals and buying, working, selling and dealing in mineral and other lands”. The corporation was capitalized at $5,000,000. Henry McLoud was listed as President and William McKinley as Vice President (possibly related to the Alice S. McKinley, wife of John McKinley, who applied for the original land grant). William McKinley applied for and received title to the lands adjoining Chik-Wauk lots on similar dates. This corporation had officers from New York, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. The land under Chik-Wauk was held by this group for 18 years until 1905.
Another Minnesota corporation and its officers were involved in ownership of the Chik-Wauk land; The Farm Land Investment Company. This Minnesota corporation was founded in 1908 in Minneapolis; the corporation, the corporate president, William D. Washburn, Jr. and the corporate secretary, Otto J. Borer all took turns owning the property from 1905- 1912. The land was sold to Alfred and Carrie Dean of Hennepin County, Minnesota in 1913 and they in turn sold it to Edwin Nunstedt of Cook County in 1931. Mr. Nunstedt was the first Cook County resident to own the property. He had emigrated from Sweden in 1901 and lived on a farm on Good Harbor Hill, west of Grand Marais. In addition to participating in the building of Chik Wauk Lodge, he was owner of the North Shore Builders Company, Grand Marais and the old North Shore Builders Supply Company, Two Harbors, Minnesota. As a building contractor, he built the Arrowhead Hotel, the local Coast Guard station and many homes in Grand Marais. His wife, Ida Sophia Olson Nunstedt was born Dec. 23, 1877 in Smoland, Sweden. She came to Two Harbors in 1901 and married Ed Nunstedt in 1903 and they moved to Grand Marais in the same year.
Ed and his wife had four children. The eldest, Art, was born July 18, 1903. Art finished three years of college in electrical engineering before he was asked to return to Grand Marais to work in the family businesses. Art then worked at the Arrowhead Hotel and in the lumbering business, repairing the machinery. In addition, he served as Registrar of Deeds for Cook County. The next child was a daughter Edith who married Art Faucett. They stayed in Grand Marais and ran the Arrowhead Hotel. The third child was a daughter named Esther. She helped her brother Art run Chik Wauk until Art married Lydia Mayer in 1936. During the years she worked at the resort, Esther and a helper did the laundry, prepared the meals and served in the dining room. After Art and Lydia were married, Esther was no longer active in the running of Chik Wauk Lodge. Edith eventually married a local CCC enrollee named George Johnson. The youngest Nunstedt child was Carl, born Feb. 18th, 1920. Carl was 11 years old when Chik-Wauk property was acquired and the “toll road” was built into the property. Although he casually helped at the resort, Carl was never a permanent member of the staff. In 1933, Ed and Ida Nunstedt passed the ownership of Chik-Wauk Lodge to their son Arthur who ran the resort from 1933 until it was sold in 1952.
Art and Lydia Nunstedt sold the Lodge in 1952 to Carl and Phyllis Noyes. The Noyes was residents of Wisconsin who came to visit Carl’s brother, Darwin – owner of Rockwood Lodge on Poplar Lake, Gunflint Trail. During their visit, they drove to the end of the trail and visited Chik-Wauk and were impressed by the beautiful site and the opportunity to be in the resort business. They proceeded to purchase the lodge and go into partnership with Carl’s sister Erma Brugger and her husband Herb. The four of them ran Chik-Wauk in 1952-1954. Then the Bruggers assumed full ownership and ran the Lodge until 1958.
According to the account in A Taste of the Gunflint Trail, Bea and Ralph Griffis, came up to Minnesota during the 1950s where Ralph took a job supervising construction for part of the Erie Mining plant on Lake Superior. During their time off they explored the country and discovered the Gunflint Trail with Chik-Wauk lodge on Saganaga Lake. In 1957 they managed Chik-Wauk with Herb and Erma Brugger. The next year Ralph and Bea purchased the resort. It would be their business and summer home for the next forty-two years.” In 1978, when USFS offered buy-outs to resorts near the newly formed BWCA Wilderness, the Griffis opted to sell, but were afforded a 20-year lease on the property to be able to spend the next 20 years summering at Chik-Wauk. In 2000, the USFS took full possession of the property.
History of the Lodge Building
Following the building of the toll road into Saganaga in the summer of 1931, a log lodge and five small cabins were built. The resort was ready for business in the summer of 1932. Unfortunately, in the summer of 1933, one of the guides, who were watching the log lodge, was camped out in the storeroom of the lodge. The story goes that the storeroom was filled with camping gear and that the guide and his dog were sleeping in the room. A pair of socks had been laid on a small table with a lit kerosene lamp. The dog went for the socks and inadvertently knocked the lamp over, setting the gear afire. Unfortunately, the entire log structure was lost as well as all the gear. Surprisingly, the original stone porch survived the fire and the new stone building was built around the existing porch. In the fall of 1933, the Nunstedts committed to rebuild their lodge, but they decided to build it of stone to protect from it fire and have it ready for the 1934 summer season. Carl Nunstedt was 14 years old at the time of the re-building. He participated in the collection of the cobbles and boulders of local tonalite. This raw material was transported in flat bottom boats to the building site. When the stone arrived at the building site, the two stonemasons selected the most beautiful stones to be saved for the double fireplace. The special amethyst mantle stones were found on Gold’s Island in Saganaga Lake.
The windows were stamped with “Grand Marais” and were commercially made. The exterior doors are handmade with wrought iron hardware made by Jock Richardson from the Canadian side of Saganaga. Richardson also made the interior wrought iron light sconces.
The original roof was covered in red shingles shown in later photos and exterior windows were green frames with white mullions. The exterior door to the basement was stained natural. The front porch had a concrete floor scribed with a pattern resembling tiles or squares (seen in old close-up photo of the porch interior).
The resort was originally powered by a 24-volt gas-driven generator with battery storage. Thus, there were always electric lights in the lodge. A newer generator was purchased after WWII and rural electrification occurred in the 1950’s. Phone service was provided by the Forest Service line, put in particularly for fire protection reporting. The “ring” was two longs and a short. Later, the phone number was “26F21”.