The Dahl House
"Minnesota's Finest Summer Resort"
“The waters of Chisago Lake are pure and sparkling,” noted a history of the region in 1881, “the shores sandy, the banks high and well covered with vegetation, fish are abundant, and many tourists are attracted by the more than ordinary field sports, to spend their summer vacations in this vicinity.” With these glowing words, and the arrival of the railroad, recreation became an important industry in ChisagoCity.
Much of the social life of the late 1800’s, for Minnesota’s wealthy, revolved around the many and fashionable summer resorts. Minnetonka, White Bear, Bald Eagle, and Chisago Lakes became important recreational areas for the Minneapolis-St. Paul area by the turn of the century. The best-known resort of the Chisago Lakes region and the state was the Dahl House.
Frank A. Dahl was born on February 17, 1859 in Sweden. He was nine years old when his family immigrated, first to the Chisago Lakes Area, and later moved to Spring Lake. When Frank was older, he became a cook in the logging camps. In 1887, he purchased a small hotel, the Central House, in Stillwater.
In 1888, Frank married Ida C. Ledin of Spring Lake and in 1891, he bought land in the Village of Chisago where he built The Dahl House (at Dahl Place and Old Towne Road). The young couple worked hard to realize their dream of a successful resort on beautiful Chisago Lake, and the Dahl House became one of Minnesota ’s finest summer resorts of that era.
Dahl’s success in the hotel business was attributed to his honesty, intergrity, friendliness, and interest in the welfare of his guests. Among the notables who visited the Dahl House during the early days were the Washburns and Crosbys (milling), the Hamms (brewery), and the family of James J. Hill (founder of the Northern Pacific Railway). Dahl served as mayor of Chisago City for 9 years and was president of the Farmers State Bank. He was also director of the Chisago City Band.
The hotel’s operation was not without difficulty. It was destroyed by fire in 1910, but was immediately rebuilt. In 1920, Dahl retired, selling his business to a corporation formed by twenty men. As the waters of Chisago Lake receded (Lloyd Hackl's article "Drought" in the Chisago County Historical Society's November 2009 issue of "Heritage" (provided with the permission of the Chisago County Historical Socity) discusses the ups and downs of our lakes) there appeared an island. Upon that island at the end of a very long walkway was built a dance pavillion. In the 1930’s, Albert Johnson purchased the hotel and operated it until about 1940, when it closed.
In 1948 an effort was begun to convert the Dahl House into the Chisago Lakes Community Hospital. That effort was not successful for several reasons including the failure of the building to meet code. In addition to promotional materials and articles in the Chisago County Press, a home movie was taken of a cleanup day of the Dahl House grounds in anticipation of success and auction at Chisago City's Lakeside School. This clip was taken by Harold Albrecht MD and provided to the Chisago City Heritage Association by his son David Albrecht DDS. It is presented unedited from the source material.
In 1958, the building burned to the ground, but the gateway pillars still stand.
The Dahl House Pillars
2008 marked 150 years since Minnesota became a state in 1858 – and was its Sesquicentennial anniversary.
Chisago City has commemorated its own anniversary twice in the past. In 1981 The Chisago City Booster Club published Building Chisago City written by Vernon Shoquist. This book celebrated the 75th anniversary of Chisago City’s incorporation in 1906. In 2007 the Chisago City Heritage Association published By The Shores of Ki-Chi-Saga written by Moira Harris. This book celebrated Chisago City’s founding in 1855.
Much of Chisago City’s early history was victim to fire, development, or forgetfulness. One of the few structures that remain is the Dahl House pillars. An effort to preserve and restore these was in the planning stages for years but, for the 150th anniversary of Minnesota’s statehood, in 2008 the project was completed. That effort involved the cooperation of many people including: the city of Chisago City, the adjacent landowners, the people who donated the funds, and the craftsmen who did the restoration. Last but not least the project would not have been but for the leadership of Donna Colberg who conceived, organized and oversaw the project.
The pillars in the 1910’s-1930's
The Pillars in 2007 before restoration
The Pillars in 2012 after restoration and landscaping.
The Chisago City Heritage Association held a dedication ceremony on the 2008 Walking Tour of the newly refurbished pillars and turned them over to the city.