The Gardenwood Resort and Motel is located on 2 acres that overlook Lake Superior at 5107 North Shore Drive, approximately 10 miles from downtown Duluth, Minnesota. Shimmy Properties LLC, owned by Jimmy and Shauna Hajek, purchased Gardenwood in May, 2009, and their operating partner, Pam Cone, moved her family to Duluth to renovate the property into a comfortable 13-cabin resort and 4-room motel.
Our family’s love for the outdoors has provided us many wonderful memories of camping and fishing together in Minnesota. Our mission at the Gardenwood is to provide our visitors the same kind of experience:
We will provide Gardenwood guests with a comfortable, convenient, “up-at-the cabin” experience on Minnesota’s North Shore and will be considerate and virtuous promoters of all that the North Shore has to offer. At Gardenwood, we are committed to “Harboring North Shore Memories.”
Excerpt from Tales from the Road, Highway 61, by Cathy Wurzer, the companion book to the public television documentary.
Gardenwood Motel and Tourist Court
In the early days of motor touring, intrepid travelers would often sleep in their cars or pitch tents alongside the route. Starting in the mid-1920’s, the choices for tired tourists increased with modern campgrounds that had running water and restrooms. If the traveler wasn’t interested in sleeping on the ground in a tent, “cabin camps” or “tourist courts” offered the option of parking right next to a tiny cabin. Some of the “ultra modern” cabins had indoor biffies. Some did not. What they all offered was a little more comfort and privacy than sleeping under the stars.
One vestige of those early tourist courts is the Gardenwood Motel and Cabin Court, located a few miles north of Duluth on “scenic” 61, the original highway that fronts the shore. Built by Victor Elmgren in 1929, it originally was known as Elmgren’s Tourist Court and offered “20 clean, completely modern cabins” at “moderate rates.” The promotional material called it a “hayfever haven,” and Elmgren’s grandson Dudley recalls that people suffering from allergies would come in such numbers that there was hardly a place to stay between Duluth and the Canadian border.
With slot machines in the back room and a gas pump out front, the family found a number of ways to make money. They offered a few groceries, and Grandma Elmgren fried up trout dinners and sold them for a buck.
The Elmgrens sold the place in 1955. Amazingly enough, today’s Gardenwood Motel and Tourist Court has remained virtually the same after all these years, except for repairs and some remodeling. Even a couple of ghosts seem to have stuck around. The current owners say some guests have seen two men wearing robes, smoking cigars, and looking as if they’ve just come out of the old sauna. On second glance, the men vanish. Places like the Gardenwood have also vanished over the years to make way for larger, more modern motels, vacation condos, and townhouses or other development. With luck, the Gardenwood Motel and Tourist Court will remain a piece of highway history that can be enjoyed by future generations-ghosts included.
Gardenwood Resort and Motel
5107 North Shore Drive
Duluth, Minnesota 55804
Business Office Hours: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
"Thank you for such a wonderful place for nearly 20 members of my extended family to get together. We used up 5 of your cabins for the weekend and we all loved staying there. The young kids had fun playing on the playground, and it was a great spot for some of us to go up the coast and others to sight-see in Duluth. GREAT location. Lee was so hospitable, checking to see if anyone needed anything all weekend. My husband and kids staying in cabin 2, which had a nice huge bed and kitchenette and was perfect for our family of 4. Again - thanks for helping to make this weekend a success. I would recommend this resort to anyone."
Coon Rapids, MN