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History of Wilson Bay

History of Wilson Bay

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Today, Wilson Bay is home to the Voyageur units, Sunset Villas, and 1- and 2-bedroom cabins, plus the Wilson Bay event center and The Spa at Madden’s.

The first phase of the original Voyageur units began in 1958, adding 40 more units to the resort. The plan was the call the new hotel “Holiday Resort,” but it was decided against because a hotel in Memphis by the same name was gaining popularity. That hotel was the first of many Holiday Inns.

About a decade later, Jim Madden leased what was then Ruttger’s Lodge on the Wilson Bay shoreline and began operating the following year. One condition of the lease was that the name had to change, so it became Pine Portage—a nod to the area’s historic use as a portage for canoes traveling Gull lake.

The Spa opened in 2004 as the Panache Spa, with Madden’s taking over operations in 2012. It is the only spa in the area that sits on the lakeshore.

On July 12, 2015, in the height of the busy summer season, a windstorm with straight line winds of over 65 miles per hour hit the Brainerd Lakes area, with wind speeds reaching up to 100 miles per hour in the lower Gull Lake region.

This storm changed the landscape for much of the Brainerd Lakes Area, and Madden’s was no exception. Many trees were lost across the property, but the west shoreline sustained the most damage with 85 guest rooms, a wedding venue, meeting space, and a golf course being taken out of service for the remainder of the 2015 season. No staff or guests were harmed in the storm.

The dedication and resiliency of the family and staff were put to the test, and the team began the long process of clean up and rebuilding. The following year, new guest rooms and a wedding and event center opened.

2015 Storm Damage

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