Green Gate is as symbolic as it is observed. Minnesota’s premier sustainable lodging option!
Entering the 13 acre Green Gate property, a canopy of pines tower overhead as you leave the highway behind you. Passing through nature’s “Green Gate”, you will arrive at the turn-of-the-century mining town and historic farmstead that we call home.
The name “Green Gate” also symbolizes our endeavor to create a sustainable lodging facility for everyone to enjoy and explore. By following strict green building standards, choosing environmentally preferred purchases, adopting energy conservation policies, using environmentally friendly products and supporting non-motorized recreation, we hope to create a gateway to how our future can be.
After growing up in Northern Minnesota, Shawn moved to Minneapolis to pursue an 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.
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. I’ve already had several groups reserve both homes for their multi-family get-togethers.
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 ever did in his whole life! My intentions for The Log Cabin is to take what i’ve learned about sustainable design to the next level and create a space that is historic, comfortable, and very ‘green’. It will have the elements of a modern home, but in small, efficient footprint. It will have electricity, water, heat, but these modern utilities will be provided by a grid-tied solar system, rainwater collection/purification system, and graywater plumbing. Its an amazing project, and I feel incredible fortunate to be involved with it!
Wow, Green Gate has come a long way already. What might the future bring?
I never wish for Green Gate Guest Houses to become ‘developed’ real estate, although I have one or two additional and very unique lodging options in the works. 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 and produce when they stay here). We also built a large greenhouse last summer for larger scale produce growing. In 2014, the goal is fence in a garden plot to phase in a larger community gardening project, as well as adding some goats to the mix. I am also working on a large grid-tied solar PV project to offset the electrical usage of the property. And of course, I aim to build a nice gazebo and dock along the riverfront, plus some micro-hydro power generation to light the way. Always cool projects happening around here….