Washington Club

young men sitting on the steps of a large rectangular resort building
Washington Club members passing time of the front steps of the facility, circa 1920.

Isle Royale National Park Archives


Another early recreational development was the private and exclusive Washington Club in Washington Harbor. Established in 1902 by twenty of Duluth's powerful business leaders, the Washington Club was a private sporting club, created with the intent of continuing "the breeding and propagation of brook trout, instruction and mutual improvement in the Art of Angling and the promotion of social culture among its members".(Franks et al., 1999) There was also an unsuccessful attempt by club members to introduce white-tailed deer to Isle Royale.(Karamanski et al., 1988)

In creating the Washington Club, investors each contributed $300 to purchase the old Wendigo mine buildings and seventy acres along the creek at the head of Washington Island.(Franks et al., 1999) Membership to the club was limited to 25 with annual dues not more than $100. Trout streams were leased at the nominal cost of $1 per year. The old mining buildings were converted to create the club. One of the log buildings became a clubhouse that had a fireplace in the expansive lounge area, private rooms that accommodated ten, and a men's dormitory. A structure that was near this main building became the club's kitchen, dining room, and servant's quarters. The Washington Club was decidedly masculine in theme, but did have hot water with showers and baths.(Franks et al., 1999) The Washington Club was akin to, although not as elaborate as, the hunting and shooting clubs that were popular in the Detroit area, and later, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan during the turn of the century. Like other private rod and gun clubs, membership to the Washington Club was exclusive. Women were not permitted to visit without approval from the board. Although the Washington Club was more distinctive than any local gun club, the grounds and building were much less grand than the business deal that transpired there.(Franks et al., 1999) The club disbanded in 1938.(Karamanski et al., 1988)

Today, there is no surviving aboveground evidence of the island's only private sporting club. The Park Service burned the deteriorated Wendigo Mine/Washington Harbor Club building in the 1980s and few clues to the existence of the Washington Club remain.

Isle Royale National Park

Last updated: September 4, 2020