A Ruttger Heritage
The Ruttger family has upheld an outstanding reputation for quality and service as leaders in the resort business since 1898. Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge was established over 100 years ago and the Ruttger’s Sugar Lake Lodge property was the site for Otis Lodge for over 70 years. Joe Ruttger and Art Otis were pioneers in the resort business and the first in Minnesota to offer the American Plan resort concept offering lodging, meals and golf packages. Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge celebrated its Centennial in 1998 and Ruttger’s Sugar Lake Lodge celebrated its Grand Opening the summer of 1996.
Joseph Ruttger came to America from the town of Neulieningen in Germany’s Rhine Valley in 1883. He traveled to New York and made his way to Minnesota in the spring of 1886. He joined a group of settlers who founded Rankin’s Colony on Bay Lake. The colonists transported a sawmill with them and used it to cut lumber and build their homes and other community buildings. Each colonist filed his own homestead claim; Joe Ruttger settled on an island just off the north shore of Bay Lake.
In 1890 Joe met and married Josephine Wasserzieher. Due to the difficulties of island life they sold their property and relocated on the north shore of Bay Lake. Their discovery of this "summertime Shangri-La" resulted in the birth of the resort. As word spread of the great fishing on Bay Lake – and of a settler, Joe Ruttger, who had a boat for rent – more and more visitors arrived each year. In the early days guests stayed in their own tents and some slept in the hayloft of the barn. Eventually, Joe built a special lodging facility and a one-week stay cost $5.00 for bed, board and boat.
When Alex, Joe and Jose’s first born son returned from World War I and a brief stint in Montana, he decided to go into the resort business with the goal of building a first class property. He borrowed $3,500 from an Aitkin banker to make improvements.
Alex and his wife Myrle devoted their lives to building the resort and the family tradition was carried on with their son Jack. During Jack’s tenure the resort grew to its current size with two golf courses, condominiums and a conference center that has become the mainstay of the business over the past decade.
In 1992, Jack’s son, Chris, took over as the General Manager of Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge. Chris is one of the first of the four generations to study Hotel Administration and has been busy making plans to take the business into its second century of operation. Chris graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in 1984 with a degree in Hotel Management. He acquired experience from working at the Grand Hotel, Mackinaw Island, MI and the Normandy Inn, Minneapolis, MN. He returned to Bay Lake in 1985.
Otis’ Restaurant opened June 1994 in the Main Lodge serving Italian and American Cuisine, featuring some of Eleanor’s Otis’ famous recipes and wine from the Ruttger family winery in Neulieningen, Germany. The $2.4 million lodge houses a spacious lobby, Otis’ Restaurant and a state-of-the-art conference center, which has most recently become the home to The Collaborative Leadership Center.
In addition to the 18,000 square-foot lodge facility, six lakeside cottages and forty two three-bedroom golf course townhomes were completely remodeled. Four three-bedroom suites, attached to the lodge, were added in July 1996. An additional four suites, making twenty-four rooms total in the main lodge opened in June 2004. Current development plans include 32 additional rooms, indoor pool/spa facility and additional meeting space.
Although Ruttger’s Sugar Lake Lodge and Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge are not financially tied to one another, they share a history rich in quality, service and hospitality. That commitment continues today through fourth generation cousins – Chris Ruttger and Fred Bobich. Now each of them faces their own personal challenges with a century of success as their heritage.