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Wanna Buy a Mid-Century Modern Cabin Designed by a Pioneering Architect?

Located on a secluded Lake Vermilion peninsula, the property known as 'Thunderhead' was dreamt up by famed Minnesota architect Lisl Close.

2:17 PM CDT on August 14, 2023

Ben Clasen via Edina Realty|

Inside Thunderhead.

Austrian-born, Minneapolis-based Elizabeth "Lisl" Close might've been the first woman to ever become a licensed architect in Minnesota, according to this 2011 Star Tribune remembrance. Pretty much everyone—from Curbed to Dwell to the University of Minnesota Press—agrees the "petite, razor-sharp, no-nonsense" talent was a pioneer.

"She was a role model for me not only because she was a successful woman architect but because she fully embraced modernism and never wavered from that conviction," Joan Soranno, vice president of local firm HGA Architects told the Strib. "She showed the rest of us how it could be done with talent, grace and wisdom."

Close's unwavering commitment to modernism extended all the way to wilderness of northern Minnesota. That's where, on the shores of Lake Vermilion in 1957, Lisl and her architect husband Win created "Thunderhead"—a remote, mid-century modern cabin that hit the market last week for $1.6 million. (The Closes' 1938 marriage was such a novelty that a Minneapolis headline at the time read "Architect Weds Architect.")

Asked about her first impression of the listing at 8237 Wakemup Narrows N. in Cook, Edina Realty's Jessica Buelow doesn't hesitate: "Thrilled." Full stop.

"It is the perfect blend if you're a MCM enthusiast and you love the cabin life," she continues. "It checks every box."

Beyond the artfully designed main cabin—which features a towering brick fireplace, walls of lake-facing windows, and decade-specific furniture that's included in the sale—you've got two other livable structures on the 47-acre peninsula that's only accessible by boat or snow mobile. There's the older log cabin, with its own fireplace and adorable kitchen, plus the boat house that features a bedroom and a sauna.

"There are benefits and challenges," Buelow says, when it comes to selling an architecturally significant, historic property. "The benefit is, you get to be part of a property with a rich history that really can't be recreated, but you might have a smaller buyer pool. You don't have four bathrooms, for example. But if you appreciate architecture and true cabin life, like bathing in the beautiful clear waters of Vermillion or looking up at the world's largest International Dark Sky Sanctuary… you make do," she laughs.

The potential buyer pool isn't so tiny, considering multiple showings are already scheduled for today, Buelow reports.

Can't make it up to Cook? Enjoy the following photo tour of Thunderhead, courtesy of Ben Clasen and Edina Realty:

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