A Place of Peace and Privacy
By Toni Dabbs
Xanadu Island is perhaps the perfect place for someone seeking a secluded retreat from the worries of the workaday world. Located on Elbow Lake near the town of Battle Lake, Minnesota, the wooded five-acre estate is reached by a single-lane road along a narrow causeway.
The peace and privacy offered by this lodge style bed and breakfast might have been what St. Louis millionaire J.C. Jones wanted when he built his summer home here in 1922. He used Douglas fir for the floors, walls and ceilings and local fieldstone for the foundation, pillars and massive fireplaces.
Mrs. Jones was Clara Morgan of the J.P. Morgan family. During the '20s and '30s, she played hostess to numerous millionaire and socialite friends at the Minnesota hideaway. When Mrs. Jones died, her grieving husband locked the building and left everything behind.
Around 1960, a couple purchased the property, lived in the house and converted its three servants' cottages into summer rentals. When they advertised Xanadu for sale in 1995, Janet and Bryan Lonski, who were considering early retirement from their California careers, answered the ad.
"Janet was a hospice nurse and family therapist, and I was a college administrator who enjoyed building and fixing things as a sideline," says Bryan. Their combined backgrounds well prepared them to operate a bed and breakfast.
"We had stayed at a variety of B&Bs, and were pretty sure we wanted to run one," adds Bryan, "but we wanted ours to have a unique setting and a unique facility." They knew they had found the right place as soon as they saw Xanadu.
Surrounded by oak and maple trees, the spacious house remains faithful to Jones's original plans. Six sets of French doors lead from the wrap-around porch to the large living room, dominated by a stone fireplace with a log mantle. Much of the original birch log furniture remains, along with some stuffed game trophies.
Fireplaces also are in the master bedroom and a guest room that flank the living room. The closet in the master bedroom conceals a small door leading to a half-basement, where bootleg liquor for the Joneses' guests was hidden during Prohibition.
Another guest room and the kitchen complete the main floor. The modern kitchen was the previous owners' concession to the contemporary, although the wall next to the back door still holds the buzzers that were connected to the servants' cottages.
"I only wish servants would come running when I press the buzzers," jokes Janet. She and Bryan both make use of the kitchen, where he might bake pecan rolls for breakfast while she'll whip up her signature Xanadu Frost from frozen orange juice, cream, ice and vanilla.
A circular staircase leads to the second-floor sun room and two more guest rooms, each with a private bath and a heart-shaped double Jacuzzi.
Guest rooms in the house, open year-round, are reserved for adults, but children (and even well behaved pets) are welcome in the cottages, open June through September. Each cottage is completely furnished and includes a full kitchen. The Maid's Cottage sleeps three, the Groundskeeper's Cottage six, and the Chauffeur's Cottage seven.
Available to all guests are the lakeside picnic area (with tables and barbecue grills), a swimming beach, and a dock (with canoe, paddle boat and fishing boats). According to Bryan, Elbow Lake bass, crappie and sunfish are just waiting to be caught by guests at Xanadu Island.
Photos by Toni Dabbs
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Copyright 2002 by Toni Dabbs. This work, including photographs, is protected by copyright and may be used only for personal non-commercial purposes. All other rights are reserved, and commercial use is prohibited without permission of the author.