Island History

The History of Xanadu Island Bed & Breakfast and Resort

Xanadu Island was built in the 1920’s as the summer home of J.C. Jones, a millionaire from St. Louis, Missouri. Jones enjoyed annual fishing trips to Otter Tail County and fell in love with the area.

According to an article in The Fargo Forum,

Ed Everts of Battle Lake, who worked for Jones in the 1920’s and whose father Fred built Xanadu recalls the following: “I remember the day Mr. J.C. Jones came into my father’s lumber company and said he was going to build a little shack out on Bass Lake.” says Everts.

“Well nobody around here knew who Mr. Jones was or if he had a cent, for that matter,” says Everts. “We didn’t hear anything more until a few months later the plans for his `shack’ arrived in the mail. Still, nobody knew who he was. My father asked around and a millionaire by the name of P.D.C. Ball, who at one time owned the St. Louis Cardinals, said “Jones is good for the money. Build what he wants. Anything he doesn’t pay for, I will.”

And the building began.

First, a causeway had to be built to the small island, then electric generators were installed, and the outbuildings and servants’ quarters were built. The original servants’ quarters are now the guest cottages on the property.

No expense was spared in building the main house. Douglas fir was brought in from the West Coast for the beams and local field stone was used for the foundation, supporting pillars and massive stone fireplaces.

Once complete, Jones and his wife Clara, who was Clara Morgan of the J.P. Morgan family, enjoyed the property for many summers entertaining other millionaires from around the country.

Legend has it that one such guest went for a swim one day wearing a ring with a diamond the size of a walnut. When she returned to the house, the diamond was gone. Some say she lost it in the lake, but according to Ed Everts, “She said she remembered seeing it when she got out of the water, but by the time she’d walked up the path toward the house the stone was gone. I must have spent three days on my knees looking for that diamond. Never did find it.” It has never been found, but looking for it is a popular past-time for guests on the island.

The summer parties at Xanadu during the 1920’s and early 1930’s had a definite Roaring 20’s feel. Nothing stopped the parties during that time. Not even prohibition. Alcohol was hidden in a crawl space under the closet in the master bedroom to make sure it was available for the guests if they wanted it.

Somewhere around 1935, Clara Jones died. Her distraught husband closed the summer house and never returned. The initial grandeur of the island had passed. Only to return again, in the future.

Around 1960, the island was bought. The couple who purchased it, lived in the main house and converted the servants’ cottages to summer rentals.

In 1995, Janet and Bryan Lonski purchased the island. They not only kept the cottages as rentals but turned the main house into a Bed and Breakfast with 5 rooms including one that was the original master bedroom.

Bubba and Margie Shivler now own the island. They have transformed it into a full Bed & Breakfast and Resort. From the delectable, edible creations they cook; the boats and activities they provide; and their attention to detail with the service they offer, they make their guests feel like the millionaires that once enjoyed being invited and entertained by the Jones’s.