Douglas Lodge is located in Itasca State Park, which holds the distinction of being Minnesota’s first state park. Established in 1891 to preserve the historic headwaters of the Mississippi River and some of the most extensive preserves of virgin Norway and white pine trees in the United States, the park also features a collection of log and stone buildings. The oldest of these is Douglas Lodge, built in 1905 with funds appropriated by the state legislature in 1903.
Attorney General Wallace B. Douglas, a pivotal figure in the battle to save the timber in Itasca State Park at the turn of the century, selected a site for the new lodge overlooking the east arm of Lake Itasca. Originally called Itasca Park Lodge or State House, the lodge now bears Douglas’s name. The contractors, Thomas C. and Samuel I. Myers, used on-site park timber to erect the two-story, rectangular building designed by Clarence H. Johnston. Measuring 40 by 80 feet, the lodge is constructed of peeled logs with saddle-notched corners resting on a split stone foundation. A gable roof is supported by log rafters and purlins. A covered porch with log posts and brackets extends along the northeast and northwest elevations. Window openings contain nine-over-nine, double-hung sash windows and corresponding six-over-six sash windows on the second story. A fieldstone fireplace is centered on the southeast end wall.
The first floor includes a dining room and a lounge that is entered through a log archway with the year “1905” carved into a beam. Guest rooms are located on the second floor. A kitchen addition was added as early as 1914. Over the years, the addition deteriorated and was eventually rebuilt during the winter of 1984–1985. The reconstruction preserves the integrity of the building through the use of peeled pine logs, a stone-faced foundation, and the same window configurations.
After the construction of Douglas Lodge, additional log buildings were erected throughout the park over the next twenty years. In their use of native materials to blend into the natural surroundings, the rustic structures in Itasca State Park foreshadowed those built by the National Park Service during the 1930s. Still one of Minnesota’s most iconic buildings, Douglas Lodge continues to serve visitors to Itasca State Park.
Anderson, Rolf T., “Itasca State Park,” Clearwater County, Minnesota. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1992. National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, Washington D.C.