The Chase on the Lake Resort & Spa has had a storied past from the 1850’s on this historic building has been at the heart of Walker, Minnesota and continues to thrive along the shores of Leech Lake.
The Story of the Chase Hotel:
Lewis Woodruff Chase was born September 8, 1851 in Peru, New York and married Louisa Hanson on January 2, 1887. In 1894 the family moved to Walker with their five children and lived in a tent on land Lewis purchased which became the site of Hotel Isabel.
Lewis, more fondly known as “Bert” and Louisa managed the bar as well as the Hotel Pameda, which opened for business in 1897. He purchased the business in 1898 and changed the name to Chase Hotel.
Realizing the need for more upscale tourist lodging in 1915, they built the modern twenty-room Hotel Isabel on the west side of Lake May Creek with Louisa in charge. The Hotel Isabel (Isabella) was named in honor of their daughter, Isabel.
Bert knew Walker was on the third largest lake in Minnesota and offered fantastic fishing, although not enough hotel rooms for the hundreds of fishermen and their families who rode the train to Walker. Bert’s vision was to turn a small logging town into a modern resort town and cater to tourists from all over the US and abroad.
The New Chase Hotel was to be built on the site of the Spencer Hotel, one of the first six hotels built in Walker. Architect Johnson from Bemidji was hired to draw up the plans for the new hotel.
The Grand Opening celebration of the Chase Hotel took place as planned at 8:00 p.m. the evening of June 8th, 1922, and was a huge success with many local celebrities and entertainment present.
Bill Finnigan, Isabel’s husband, managed the hotel for twenty-two year s and was a most effective booster for the Leech Lake area, serving as president of the Leech Lake Resort Association, Walker city councilman, and past president of the Walker Rotary Club. After his death, Isabel and her mother, Louisa, operated the Chase until they sold to Mr. and Mrs. A.F. Kruse of Grand Forks, ND in 1948.
Floyd and Mary “Kay” Weller Jones purchased the Chase on May 1, 1954 and kept the hotel in operation until 1974. Jim and Barb Aletto became the next owners in the early 1980’s. They worked diligently to have the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places. They succeeded, and the Chase Hotel was placed on the Register on June 4, 1980.
Mark and Kathy Shimer took possession on April 26, 1993. The couple had major plans for renovation and for bringing the Chase Hotel back to its original state, when a June 29, 1997 fire destroyed their dreams as well as the hotel.
After the fire, the magnificent hotel remained vacant. Then, in 2005 in was purchased and a $30 million renovation began in June 2008. Part of the original structure’s main entrance section was preserved in the new year-round facility. A crowd of about one hundred people gathered with CEO Steve Olson in the Chase restaurant on July 23, 2008, to mark a new beginning for the old Chase.