Then and Now

Filed in Feature Homes by on August 9, 2015

 

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Story By Reba Gilliand | Photography by Bryan Wendland

 

Tanglewood Camp on the south shore of Otter Tail Lake is no more, but Lori and Rollie Mann carry on its legacy.

 

The property was initially purchased in 1867 by Michael Corbitts from the U.S. Government, but the Tanglewood summer resort, one of the first on Otter Tail Lake, dates back to about 1895.

 

Since its beginnings, the comings and goings at Tanglewood Camp have been of great interest. The June 28, 1901 issue of the Battle Lake Review, for example, reported: “G.T. Propper of Wahpeton Sundayed at Camp Tanglewood and declares it the prettiest place and has the best fishing in Minnesota.” From the Fergus Falls Daily Journal, July 17, 1931: “Mrs. Harold Featherstone and son, Robert, are spending a few days at Tanglewood Camp on Otter Tail Lake.”

 

Fred Meis, the owner of record in 1902, was one of the first and longest running owners of the resort. Meis and family farmed land on the southwest shore of Otter Tail Lake and operated Tanglewood Camp until about 1940, at which time he became ill and could no longer manage the property.

 

During the forty years Meis owned Tanglewood, he made many updates. In 1909, he had telephone lines brought in “for the accommodation of his guests.” In 1916, he moved the original resort lodge (a log cabin) down to the lake and ordered an American Foursquare from Sears Roebuck & Company. Many years later, when Rollie and Lori were renovating the house, they discovered each piece of the house stamped, “Fred Meis, Everts Lumber,” its destination in Battle Lake, Minn.

 

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The Sears house was two-and-a-half-stories with a pyramidal hip roof and an attic dormer. The first floor had four rooms including a small cooking kitchen with ice box and stoves and swinging doors to access tables set up for guests’ meals in the other rooms. Lori says some years ago a gentleman from Canada stopped in and told her he was at Tanglewood as a young boy and remembers a museum upstairs filled with fishing and swimming displays and guns with notches carved into the handles.

 

The Tanglewood property consisted of the farm, the resort lodge, and four cottages on the sandy shore of Otter Tail Lake. Eleanor Lincoln, writing from Massachusetts, recalled their family’s stay at the Tanglewood cottage beginning in 1911. She says, “We stayed all summer until we were out of high school. In later years, stays depended upon our grown up programs and became more sporadic, but until this date there has never been a summer when the cottage was unoccupied.”

 

She tells of 4th of July celebrations where the cottages were decorated with bunting and flags and each owner contributed to fireworks over the lake at night; sailboat races; berry picking; and “summer nights where all the children gathered near the open common to play run-sheep-run, kick the can, and other hiding games, until it was too dark.”

 

Writing from the perspective of many years later, Eleanor had insight into places like Tanglewood. She wrote, “I remember all of the first cottages. Many of those camps are still owned by the second or third generation of the original builders. In fact I have realized over the years in Minnesota and all over the U.S. that families, as they disperse, move, and sell homes but [they] keep the summer cottage as a place for reunion, a family center.” (Eleanor’s memories are courtesy of Otter Tail County Historical Society.)

 

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All things eventually come to an end, however, and a turnover of the property in 1959 resulted in the privatization of the lodge and selling off individual cottages. Enter the Mann family. (I’d like to do something here – to note the change in tone – graphic, font) Dick and Iris Mann purchased the property in 1961. Son Rollie bought it from them in the mid 1970s, which makes the Mann family the longest-running owners of the property (56 years and counting). It wasn’t until Rollie and Lori married in 1978, however, that Tanglewood began to undergo a “rebirth.”

 

By then, the house had endured several “modernizations.” Lori and Rollie’s early remodeling restored the house to earlier days. They raised lowered ceilings, installed solid-oak woodwork to replace what had been removed; tore “new” paneling off lathe and plaster walls; and refinished neglected maple floors. They also added an east porch overlooking one of

 

Lori’s gardens and a three-season porch on the lake side. Since those early renovations, the Foursquare has undergone a number of transformations, but always with the goal of preserving the heritage of the home and surrounding land.

 

In the 1990’s, Rollie and Lori moved out for three months and gutted much of the house. With lath and plaster off the walls, they installed a central vacuum system, central air, and surround sound inside and out. They also replaced the original windows with Anderson windows throughout the house. Pete Pederson from Underwood, Minn., was the main contractor, but Rollie and Lori did most of the sheetrock and wiring.

 

The original kitchen was expanded and an eating alcove added through which the three-season porch can be seen. Michael Sanders of Ottertail Custom Cabinetry built the kitchen cabinetry as well as cabinetry in the bathrooms.

 

About five years ago, Lori asked contractor Gary Dirckx from Battle Lake to build a portico with side arbors on the front of the house to replace the deteriorating front porch. He said, “No problem, but I need a little guidance here.” Lori had a folder filled with magazine clippings and replied, “I’m going for a look like these…you’re an artist, Gary, I trust you.”

 

She says it turned out exactly like she wanted and Gary even attended their daughter’s wedding where the ceremony took place under the portico he built. On the porch are tapered posts on brick pedestal piers. (156) Lori found hand-formed red brick from Alex Brick and Stone in Alexandria, Minn., for the piers. The brick had been ordered for another customer, but had been returned.

 

Josh Noska of Prairie North Masonry & Concrete installed the brickwork to Lori’s specifications but said, “Make sure everyone knows you asked me to do this.” With a nod to history, Lori had requested he “thumb groove” the mortar between bricks.

 

Finishing touches to the exterior include a solid-wood front door reminiscent of the original entry door and three-inch bead board on porch ceilings. The ceilings are painted blue on some of the porches, common in the south, Lori says, so when looking at the horizon the ceiling blends with the sky. The door came from Evert’s Lumber in Battle Lake and the bead board from Hilltop Lumber in Ottertail City, UBC/Pro Build in Fergus Falls, and Evert’s.

 

Upstairs the Foursquare has three bedrooms and a bath. The master bedroom is warm and inviting. Earth tone ceramic tiles were added in a recent bathroom remodel.

 

Tyler Severson from Fergus Falls installed the ceramics and incorporated mosaics depicting fauna of Otter Tail County created by Lori’s niece, Holly Foltz. Although their son and daughter are grown and no longer live at home, their rooms (126; 087) are ready for visits or guests.

 

Lori’s attention to details makes the Mann home personal and intriguing. The living room boasts a zebra-skin rug they shot when on an African safari. In Rollie’s den hangs a photo of his hero, John Wayne, along with mounts and elk antlers from hunting trips with family and friends. The kitchen has an original ice box Lori refinished (040), and a black-board wall Lori decorates seasonally.

 

Although Tanglewood is no longer a resort where summer people come to make memories, it is still a place of memories and history and warmth and family. Lori and Rollie have made it so.

 

“We have company year-round here, with summer swimming, boating, fall hunting and winter fishing and cross country skiing,” says Lori. “We truly are continuing the Tanglewood Camp hospitality and traditions. Rollie opens the door to guests and says, ‘Welcome to Tanglewood!’ Sometimes, particularly if we’ve had a lot of company, he says, ‘Rollie Ramada!’ Lori says, smiling.

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