Dorothy Molter's Winter Cabin at the Dorothy Molter Museum, 2002 E Sheridan St, Ely, Minnesota, USA.

Dorothy Molter Museum upgrades interpretive center

The Dorothy Molter Museum in Ely replaced the flooring in its Interpretive Center, which is the first point-of-contact for museum guests.

The center is the guest services headquarters and houses the admission check-in counter, gift shop, public restroom and several mini-exhibits. Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation supported the project with a $3,270 Culture and Tourism grant. Total project investment was $6,540.


Leading up to the flooring project, the museum made several other improvements to the Interpretive Center with revenue generated through fundraising events. A new service counter, staff workstation, and interpretive displays and signage were added. Repairs were made to the building’s entry and exit points, electrical and heating systems, and energy efficiency.

The museum is a community landmark and has been part of Ely’s economy and culture for 28 years.

Dorothy, a licensed nurse from Chicago, first visited Isle of Pines resort on Knife Lake with family members in 1930 at age 23. As her annual visits with family continued, she developed a friendship with resort owner Bill Berglund based on their mutual love of the wilderness. Eventually Dorothy would reside on the island year-round to assist Mr. Berglund with resort operations and maintenance. He passed away in 1948 and his family deeded the resort to Dorothy.

She began making homemade root beer in 1952 and sold it to thousands of canoeists and visitors to her resort earning her the name Root Beer Lady. Dorothy gained attention from media and tourists due to her unorthodox lifestyle. She was an unmarried, female sole owner-proprietor of a wilderness resort.

Dorothy Molter Museum circa 1986

The attention culminated with the passing of the 1964 Wilderness Act when her Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) property was purchased by the United States government. A successful petition resulted in Dorothy remaining on her property through a temporary lease until her death. She passed away at age 79 and was the last living occupant of the 2 million-acre BWCAW.

“We are very grateful for the support from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation,” said Jess Edberg, museum executive director. “The Culture & Tourism grant program has had a significant impact to our museum, not only for the recent flooring project but for other projects in the past. Our operation relies on grants, fundraising and other philanthropic support so that we can keep delivering a quality cultural and historical experience to local residents and tourists.”

The museum, located on the east end of Ely, features an interpretive center and gift shop and three of Dorothy’s original cabins housing a variety of exhibits including her root beer making equipment. It is open daily May 28 through Labor Day. For Culture & Tourism grant information email Danae Beaudette or call her at 218-735-3022.


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