Green Gate History
The property that is now Green Gate began as an iron ore mining site around the turn of the last century, named Hector Location (mining communities were referred to as “locations” rather than “towns” at that time). While details of the mining operations here are sketchy, we know that this location employed over 100 workers and contained about a dozen homes.
When this mine eventually closed, the homes were moved to other operations and Hector Location disappeared almost overnight, as was typical of this era. One family chose to remain at the site, however, and turned to farming instead. The crops, animals and surrounding forests provided for much of their basic needs as they raised a family of 11 in our little farmhouse.
Near the end of World War II, a massive dredging project was undertaken to divert water from nearby Lake Mine into Embarrass Lake, just south of the property. This diversion channel cut directly through the farm, splitting it in half and desecrating the nearby land in the process. Although land was lost, the new channel provided a consistent source of fresh water to the farm.
The original family maintained the farm for another 60 years. While many of the children moved away, some of them chose to endure the hard times and enjoy the “simpler life” here in Northern Minnesota. After nearly a century of activity, the farm had to be abandoned. But as fields grew over and buildings deteriorated, the energy of the place never diminished.
Shawn Callahan acquired the remaining 13-acre farm and former mining town in 2002. By that time, nature had returned the diversion channel into a beautiful “river” offering miles of paddling opportunities in either direction. The original, dilapidated farmhouse was renovated and The Green Gate Barn Home was built. New gardens and orchards were planted. As we continue to restore the property, the energy lives on!
Today, the unique guest houses include a renovated century-old farmhouse, a modern barn home, and an 1890’s hand-hewn log cabin on a 13 acre historic farmstead and former turn-of-the-century mining town. Our location borders the Giants Ridge Recreation Area, The Mesabi Bike Trail, and the Embarrass River. Also, the quaint Bavarian-themed town of Biwabik is only a mile up the road.
Guests visiting our property enjoy private access to the river for lounging or paddling, as well as two public beaches within walking distance. The Mesabi Trail is directly accessible from our property for cycling, hiking and Nordic skiing. Just a few miles up the road, the Giants Ridge Recreation Area features two golf courses, a disc golf course, alpine skiing and snowboarding, tubing, 60km of world-class Nordic ski trails, restaurants, and a rental shop for all your equipment needs.
Owner and host, Shawn Callahan
After growing up in Northern Minnesota, Shawn moved to Minneapolis to pursue a career in Mechanical Engineering. During this time, his developing interests in health and fitness led to a second career in Nutrition Science and a passion for endurance sports.
Eventually, he wandered away from the big city and back to Minnesota’s Iron Range, where he worked as a Nutritionist, Co-op deli manager, concrete countertop designer and handyman. In 2002, he purchased the Green Gate homestead and has since worked in the sustainable restoration of this historic property. As an avid endurance athlete, he was also drawn to the area’s endless recreational opportunities. When not building barns or tinkering with something, Shawn can be found skiing, running, cycling and paddling the trails around northern Minnesota.
AN INTERVIEW with SHAWN:
Whatever led you to create Green Gate Guest Houses?
“I enjoyed over a decade in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area pursuing an Engineering career, but eventually decided to change careers and location. After selling my house and putting my possessions in storage, I took a few-month sabbatical in 2002 and traveled to central and south America. Staying off the beaten path, I enjoyed the most incredible lodging experiences during my travels, and arrived home feeling a desire to someday create a unique place for travelers to enjoy in the U.S.”
“Still pondering my next move, I was visiting family in northern Minnesota and heard about ‘the old Miklausich place’ for sale- an abandoned Slovenian farmstead nestled along the Embarrass River between Biwabik and Giants Ridge. I rode into the property on my bike one day and was blown away with everything about it! Abandoned for several years, the buildings were all quite dilapidated. But the history of the property, the future potential, and the positive energy of the place was just buzzing all around me…I knew right away it was meant to be.”
That was over a decade ago…what happened next?
“Well, I bought the farm in mid-August, 2002. The doors and windows had been vandalized, there was no power, heat source, or plumbing, yet I was intent on living there myself that first winter. My family came to the rescue and we closed it in, installed some basic utilities and plopped a woodstove on the main floor before winter set in. I spent that first winter ‘camping’ on the floor and cooking my meals on the woodstove while dreaming about what I would someday do with the property. Over the course of the next decade, again with the help of friends and family, the farmhouse was renovated, two barns and four outbuildings were deconstructed, and the slow process of restoring the property took shape.”
Tell us about the Green Gate Barn Home…
“The Barn Home is certainly the showplace of the property! In 2006 we completely deconstructed the original 1935 hay barn, saving virtually all of the timbers and lumber. A new super-insulated foundation and structure was built in its place, and I finished the interior using the salvaged materials from the original barn. The project followed the LEED program (a strict green-building criteria), with every effort made to address energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor air quality, and the use of natural/local/non-toxic building materials throughout. Beyond that, I also wanted to preserve the historic elements of the original barn and create a memorable lodging experience for guests to enjoy. The project took over 3 years to complete, almost entirely built by myself and any helpers I could entice with a free meal. I’m pleased with the outcome- it really is a perfect combination of modern comfort and historic charm.”
And now The Farmhouse is available as well?
Yes! I had been living in The Farmhouse for most of the past decade, remodeling it a little at a time. In 2013, I completed several major projects- adding front and back porches, renovating the second story, super-insulating the walls, and updating the other rooms as well. I retained elements of the original structure intact, like the creaky wood floors, vertical timber porch walls, a woodstove, and clawfoot bathtub, so it still has the feel of the century old farmhouse. The response to The Barn Home was so positive that I decided to begin offering The Farmhouse as a vacation rental as well in the summer of 2013. It is about the same size as The Barn Home and very charming.
When driving into the property, the first building you come to is The Log Cabin- what is its story?
“The Log Cabin has its own unique history. Originally hand built by Finnish craftsmen near Ely, MN around 1890, it was deconstructed and moved to a site in Wisconsin several years ago. When that project fell through, I purchased the building and it was again dismantled, moved and reconstructed at the Green Gate property in the fall of 2013…the cabin has probably traveled more miles that the carpenter that originally built it did in his whole life! The theme for The Log Cabin is “pioneer living in style”. It preserves the historic, hand-crafted feel, while providing the comforts of a modern home, in a small, efficient footprint. Think hand-hewn logs and a woodstove, plus in-floor heat, full bathroom and kitchen, and basically “custom everything”…It’s an amazing space, and I feel incredible fortunate to have been able to restore it!”
Perhaps that explains your current project, the Miner’s House?
“Indeed! The Log Cabin is such a soothing space that I wanted to restore another, this time making it as energy efficient as the super-insulated Barn Home. I pondered how to go about that for quite awhile, and when I saw this weathered log structure on one of my summer bike rides, it hit me. The exterior had lost its ‘character’, as the logs were significantly modified to accommodate past renovations. The interior, however, was beautiful. So after relocating the structure to the Green Gate property, we enclosed it with a super-insulated, mining-themed exterior while keeping the beautiful hand-hewn logs visible inside. A much larger space than the Log Cabin, this one has two master bedrooms upstairs, and an open-concept main floor. Plenty of space for 6 guests to enjoy the Miners House in comfort”
All of this is at your wooded property near Giants Ridge, but we see you now have lake homes as well. Tell us about those.
“The private 13 acre property is a beautiful place, but I also wanted to have lakefront, slopeside homes for guests wanting these amenities. So, the four ‘at the lake’ properties are our unique renovations within the Villas at Giants Ridge homeowners association. Overlooking Wynne Lake and just across from the alpine runs at Giants Ridge, these renovated spaces are well-appointed and offer amenities not possible at the Green Gate wooded campus- things like lake views, ski access, swimming pools, beaches, paddling, etc. Something for everyone!”
Wow, Green Gate has come a long way already. What might the future bring?
“I have one or two additional and very unique lodging options in the works at our wooded campus. Beyond that, the primary goal is to restore the 13 acres into a working farm again over the next decade. We already have chickens running around and small garden plots (guests are often greeted with fresh eggs when they stay here). I am also working on a large grid-tied solar PV project to offset the electrical usage of the property. I aim to build a 3-season cottage and dock along the riverfront, plus some micro-hydro power generation to light the way. Always cool projects happening around here…”