Tanner Building, Ely, MN

Among all the amazing things to do in or around Ely, MN, one of them is of course exploring the town, notably the downtown area. The main drag right through Ely is packed with cool shops, restaurants, outfitters, antique stores, and other miscellaneous establishments. And it was while walking around like all the other tourists there in June 2013, we happened to stumble upon the “Tanner Building,” or “Tanner Hospital,” looming large just a block off the main drag.

While taking a few photos and speculating what this architectural marvel’s significance once was, some local residents driving by stopped and briefed us on the building’s history.  It turns out this was once a hospital, built around the turn of the century in the Victorian-architectural style, named for Finnish doctor Anterro Tanner. Its view of nearby Shagawa Lake from the turret windows was said to be therapeutic for hospital patients.

Image courtesy Ely-Winton Historical Society

The above photo dates back to 1907 and shows the building in all its glory, when the turret had a balcony and before an addition to the tower was made. Several years down the road, the complex was known as Carpenter’s Hospital when Dr. Carroll Carpenter took over administration. And in later years around the 1950’s, when a newer, larger,  updated medical facility came into town, the building was converted to an apartment complex, known as “Lakeview.” We’re not exactly sure why the apartments were vacated, but my guess is they were difficult and expensive to maintain, outdated, not up to code, and maybe just impractical. Maybe they were haunted. Probably a combination of all. The structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, although this does not guarantee its future.

2013-11-05 10.17.20

IMG_2828 IMG_2829As of the time of this writing in November 2013, no one seems to know what’s in store for the future of this place.  Much like the Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center,  it’s far too beautiful of a place to demolish.  It’s currently listed for sale, but it clearly needs a lot of work, inside and out. With some good renovation and preservation efforts, there could really be something amazing done here.  But only time will tell.

While in the area:  As everyone knows, Ely is packed with tons of stuff to do, like exploring the Boundary Waters, camping, or the Cabin of the Root Beer Lady, to name a few. Skip the International Wolf Center.

10 thoughts on “Tanner Building, Ely, MN

  1. Just happened across your blog. I was researching historical photos of Winton and came across the Tanner Building. Love that you mentioned it, thank you! I’m an Ely City Council member and also on the Heritage Preservation Commission and we are doing what we can to create interest in this fantastic building. It is due to be condemned and tearing it down would be a tragedy! I have never seen that photo that you posted from 1907 – that is fabulous! Just wanted to say thanks for getting some word out about this fantastic building – it is only listed for $44,000.

    • Thanks for visiting our site! That was be such a shame if the building were to be demolished. A beauty like that has such potential for a new business like a brewpub or B&B or many other things. Hopefully somebody steps up and saves it.

      • This property has recently been acquired by a developer in historic preservation. It will be restored to its original splendor and perhaps either be turned into housing or even multi-use has been discussed, as it has 3 floors. Expected start time frame of any project is 2017.

        • I was born in this hospital 9n June 1, 1947. I live in California I am an artist and would like to paint the building. My brother was also born there in 1944 and my father in 1923.
          Question. Has the building always set on a paved street corner or was there a lot with unpaved road? Any old pictures would be appreciated
          I hope tp come back to Ely in the next year.

  2. I have been in love with that building since I first laid eyes on it. I always pictured a coffee shop but a brew pup would be pretty cool. Not sure what you don’t like about the International Wolf Center. I love going there. But everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

    • The Wolf Center only had three wolves in the viewing area, all sleeping barely within view. If you click the link you can read my review on why the IWC was a disappointment.

  3. I lived in The Castle in 1979 when I came to Ely to work at WELY Radio. The station was in the basement of a house then. BTW, I don’t know what ever happened to that developer, but as of 2018, The Castle is still a boarded up derelict of a building.

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