Psychedelic Deco. Nanioujou Club Lodge
I go out of my way to find quirky old hotels. I collect them. In Slovakia there was the Hotel Junior, which was a satellite themed space aged Soviet Era fantasy with extremely hard beds. I guess you need to pretend you’re weightless. In Prague it was the Art Nouveau Hotel Paris when we could afford to go there before it was restored. There are several hotels in that category, the Moskva in Belgrade, the Esplanade in Zagreb and the Sveti Stefan in Montenegro. I couldn’t approach them now but in the immediate post war chaos they were glad to have my few German marks. And there were the intentional splurges, Rambah Palace in Jaipur India, where an elephant greeted us at the gate and the bar was built for a polo playing rajah to entertain Prince Phillip. The Hotel York in Dehli had bricked up all the windows to make the air conditioning work. It was a splurge, but we needed the cool. The Imperial in the same city had gone delightfully to seed, to the point where we could afford to stay there once, we had cooled off at the York.
But to get to the Naniboujou Club Lodge on Lake Superior’s North Shore didn’t take much of a detour. It’s right between Highway 61 and the lake. Naniboujou Club Lodge was built in the 1920s as an exclusive club. Its charter members included Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and Ring Lardner. Originally the club it was to have a lakefront lodge, a golf course, swimming pool and a hunting lodge further upland. But the great depression intervened, the club went bankrupt and most of the Lodge’s land became the Judge C. R. Magney State Park. There is no golf course, hunting lodge or swimming pool, but there is the lodge with its magnificent dining room and solarium. For a few years the lodge was a Christian retreat
The Lodge was closed last year because of the pandemic but is open this year with limited service. If you’re not staying you can’t order a meal because they are having trouble hiring staff. But they were kind enough to allow us to take an extended peek. I wish we could have indulged in their famed afternoon tea or Sunday Brunch.
The grand dining room is over the top psychedelic-art deco. The 1920’s artist who painted the main dining room, Antoine Gouffe presaged the late ‘60s work of Peter Max. When I posted pictures of the dining room on Facebook one friend said that when she stayed eating there had made her dizzy. The lodge’s webpage describes it as “quiet elegance.” Not at all quiet. It reminds me of the over-the-top Rococo church in Freising Germany near Munich. It’s sanctuary is too distracting for prayer or meditation, but I would have reveled in drinking and singing there.