Spicer Castle to close: Family of John Spicer has owned lake cottage for 123 years
SPICER — A historic Spicer community landmark that operates as a restaurant and bed and breakfast on the southeast shore of Green Lake is closing and is for sale.
The change could bring an end to the 123-year ownership of the Spicer Castle by the family of the man who built the structure and helped found the town that bears his name.
"This is the last season the Spicer Castle will be open," said Mary Latham, a fourth-generation member of the John M. Spicer family who has owned the classic old lake home since 1895.
Spicer — an entrepreneur who experimented with new farming practices and helped bring the railroad to the area — built the home for his family near the town that's named after him.
Thirty years ago — faced with a decision to either sell the deteriorating and unused property or improve it and make its history available to the public — Latham said the family turned the house into an inn and restaurant.
Spicer's grandson, Allen Latham, owns the property. Mary Latham is his daughter and has been heavily involved with running the business.
She said the family made the "difficult" decision to close the Spicer Castle and put the property up for sale. They told their 12 employees last week, which Latham said was not easy.
There's no timeline yet on when it will close, but she said "for sale" signs will be up by next week and that an auction will be held to sell the furnishings of the main lodge and other guest houses on the five-acre lot.
"As a community, I'd say it's a loss," said Spicer Mayor Denny Baker, who called the Spicer Castle a "unique" destination spot that's enjoyed by many.
The Spicer Castle is well-known throughout the state and helps bring people to the community, he said.
Participants in last week's Governor's Fishing Opener toured the Spicer Castle and "really enjoyed seeing the facility because of its age and notoriety with the Spicer family," Baker said.
"If this is true and it goes through, I'd hope someone would be able to pick it up and keep it open to the public," Baker said. "I'd really hate to see somebody come in and destroy it."
Mary Latham said whatever happens to the Spicer Castle will be up to whoever purchases the property.
Part of the reason for the closure is a change in how families vacation and a decline in the popularity of bed and breakfast lodging, she said.
"People's lives are so busy it's hard for families to find the time to get away," she said.
In the past, people would make reservations months in advance. Now reservations are "last minute," she said.
Resorts that were once popular on Minnesota lakes have been disappearing and replaced with residential developments.
When the Spicer Castle opened as a business in 1988, there were 17 resorts on Green Lake, said Allen Latham in a news release. "Today, the Inn is the last lodging facility located on the shores of Green Lake," he said.
They turned the family lodge into a business to "preserve this little piece of rural Minnesota History," he said.
The architecture and furnishings of the main lodge catapult guests back to the past when families spent summers swimming in lakes and eating ice cream on porches.
"They said John Spicer picked that piece of property because of the sunset," said Mary Latham.
When he built the lodge, John Spicer did not call it a castle. It was called Medayto Cottage, said Latham, who said she believes the word "medayto" is the Dakota word for green.
As the story goes, in the 1930s fishermen on Green Lake referenced favorite fishing spots by their proximity to the cottage, which they called Spicer's castle. The home does feature a castle-like turret in between two gabled roofs.
Pretty soon that name started showing up on fishing maps and it stuck, although Mary Latham said her grandfather would correct her when she called it the Spicer Castle and insisted that it be called Medayto Cottage.
Making the decision to put the property up for sale was not easy, she said. "We've been going back and forth whether to keep the property or not keep the property," she said.
"It just came down to the realization that my father is getting older and the family has dwindled down and there's not a lot of interest in the future generations for keeping the inn," she said. "Very tough decision, but one made by the family to close the inn," she said.
Given the choice of running the business or caring for her 87-year-old father, she said, "You only get one father."
The Lathams said they cherish their employees and memories of meeting guests over the decades.
"We're very thankful to the community," said Mary Latham. "They've been very supportive of the inn throughout the years."
She said information about the closure timeline will be posted on the Spicer Castle website, www.spicercastle.com