The History of Thunderbird Lodge
In 1937, “Scotty’s Place”, was started by Villa (Scotty) Valad and his wife. They built the house that is now attached to the main lodge. At that time, there was no Highway 11 East, and no electrical service. The Valad’s operated as a resort using the house, as well as some cabins. The resort relied on it’s own light plant for electricity, and would have an annual ice harvest for the summer’s refrigeration.
By 1947, after Highway 11 was built, Leon Banen purchased the resort, and renamed it “Belle Haven” Beautiful Harbor. After running the bar and restaurant out of the house, more cabins were added, and a separated dining and bar area was built, right over the lake.
Tom and Mrs. Shannon, from Duluth, purchased the resort in 1966, and renamed it “Anglers Resort”. In 1970, Bud Hagerman purchased the resort, and renamed in “Thunderbird Lodge”. Bud added the first floor of the lodge and rebuilt the dining and bar area to its current configuration. It now became a year round facility, and remains so to this day.
Del and Lori Siewert purchased the Thunderbird in 1975. Under their ownership, the resort continued to prosper. The second and third floors were added to the main lodge, and a tennis court just south of the parking lot. They also added a swimming pool, which is where our banquet room is located today.
The Siewerts sold to Gramke-Sheritt a partnership in 1981. With a slowdown in the U.S. economy, and closure of the Insulate Plant in International Falls, the partnership soon sold to Stan and Barbara Wyman in 1985. The Wyman’s luck was no better than their predecessors and by 1986, Del Siewert was once again looking for a buyer.
Del sold the Thunderbird to Mike and Mary Williams, Bill and June Dougherty, and Dick and Judy Dougherty in 1986. Bill and June were bought out in 1995, and The Williams owned and operated the Thunderbird until 2005.
Rod and Mary Jane Haanen, along with Mary Jane’s parents, Dick and Judy Dougherty became the next owners when they bought Mike and Mary’s portion in 2005.
In 2019, the Heinle family purchased the Thunderbird Lodge. Tim and Stephanie Heinle, Steve and Kara Heinle, and David and Cindy (Heinle) Gruber, own and operate the lodge year-round today.
Thunderbird boasts 11 cabins, 5 of which are winterized, and 15 lodge rooms, all recently renovated and updated.