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A 80 Year Tradition...
The Manhattan Beach Lodge was built in 1929 as a get-a-way for the fun-loving and well-to-do of the Twin Cities and Chicago. The trains would roll through Illinois and Wisconsin in to St. Paul where passengers would transfer to the express to Brainerd. There they would be met by Lodge representatives where steamers trunks would be loaded onto wagons for the final 28 miles to Manhattan Beach.
Days would be spent boating, swimming, playing tennis on the courts in the front or horseback riding from the stables across the road. In the evening the Lodge would be in full bloom. Ladies and gentlemen, dressed in the latest city fashions, would stroll down the lighted boardwalk from their cabins to the main lodge for dinner. Cocktails and dining were accompanied by the dame glorious sunsets we see today. After dinner, the band would strike up waltzes and charlestons as guests would celebrate their vacations until the early hours.
For those less light on their feet, gambling was available in the basement. "Gaming" was a mainstay of most central Minnesota resorts of the era. The nautical frescoes on the walls added atmosphere as the high rollers tossed silver dollars into the slots.
The onset of the depression changed the clientele of the Lodge but not the nature of the operation. From John Dillinger's summer home on the chain, the newly rich of prohibition were directed to the Manhattan Beach Lodge. Nothing was denied the "gat-toting boys" from out of town.
As the face of America has changed over 75 years, the Lodge has changed with it. The busses of the big bands made their stops in Manhattan Beach through the 30's and 40's. As central Minnesota became the vacation escape for Hollywood's elite, the Lodge was an integral part of the scene with a guest list including Bob Hope and his entourage.
According to legend, a saxophone player from one of the bands mysteriously disappeared while staying at the Lodge. His belongings were located but he wasn't, and there are those who say he still roams the halls late at night and that you can hear the plaintive cry of his sax - or maybe it's just a loon.
During the 50's and 60's, Manhattan Beach Lodge served primarily as a family resort. The main dining room continued to operate, and the Lodge was open year 'round to cater to the winter sports enthusiast as well as the summer vacationer. Most of the cabins were sold during this period, and the property to the immediate north was developed as condominiums. The Lodge rooms were no longer suitable to the tastes of modern America, and the rooms were last rented in the late 70's.
1990 marked a new beginning for the Lodge. The menu was upgraded to restore the reputation of fine dining. In 1991 the name was changed back to Manhattan Beach Lodge with a continuing emphasis on quality food, service and entertainment, and in 1995, the main lodge building was fully renovated with ten guest rooms. Then again in the spring of 1999 eight more rooms were added to the lodge to bring it to the 18 guest rooms we have today. While the property no longer includes dozens of guest cottages, the feel of the full service country inn remains intact. And maybe, just maybe, as you visit the Lodge, you will hear a saxophone very late at night and be transported back to another time...