From cabins to apartments: Taber's site cleared for 52 studio and one-bedroom units
Plans call for one 22-unit building and one 30-unit building. All 52 units will be either studio or one-bedroom apartments.
BEMIDJI — First it was called Log Cabin Court. Then it was Taber’s Bait and Historic Cabins.
The buildings along Bemidji Avenue North at 24th Street have been mostly vacant since owners Ron and Pam Bostic closed the bait business five years ago.
Last week they were torn down to make way for 52 apartment units in two buildings to be constructed by Whelan Properties.
Plans call for one 22-unit building and one 30-unit building. All 52 units will be either studio or one-bedroom apartments, owner Bob Whelan confirmed.
“We’re really excited, Whelan said. “I personally think it’s going to be a huge enhancement for that whole area. It certainly is better than the eyesore that the old Taber property was becoming. As much as that’s got a lot of history in this community, it was at a point where something had to happen there.”
Whelan said he has been interested in the 1.9-acre Taber’s site for a couple of years, but he considered the asking price too high.
“We’ve got a number in mind whenever we buy property for an apartment building,” Whelan said. “It was just too high of a price. But then they started dropping the price and it got to a point that was within striking distance. So we got to negotiating on it and came up with something that worked. It came together quite fast once we started talking. I think the owners were excited to get a buyer on it.”
Whelan, whose company owns or manages about 500 apartment units in the area, said one-bedroom and studio apartments have been popular with renters in recent years.
“We experimented with studios here a number of years ago and they’ve gone over so well,” Whelan said. “In the process of doing that we’ve discovered that there’s a big population of people that are kind of forgotten, and that’s the single person. We have over 100 studios and singles right now, and they’re the easiest ones to rent, for us anyway.”
Whelan said the 22-unit building is scheduled to be completed in late summer of 2023. He projects rents will be about $750 per month for the studios and $850 for the one-bedroom units.
Their very own Smokey
Ownership records of the property are difficult to find. Although some believe the cabins were built around 1920, the first City Directory listing for Log Cabin Court appeared in 1937 with Roland W. Henrionnet as the owner. The 1946 City Directory listed Arthur O. Braker as the owner. Jim and Betty Warfield bought the business around 1953 and operated the motel until 1960 when Earl and Deloris Taber bought the property. Earl sold the business to the Bostics in 2002.
The Warfield family lived in a small house that also served as the motel office. Son Marshall Warfield, who still lives in Bemidji, shared a story about a pet bear that was given to his father in the late 1950s.
Jim Warfield’s friend from Blackduck had shot a mother bear and asked if the motel would be interested in having one of three surviving cubs as an attraction.
“So dad built a cage right out front,” Marshall said, “and that was for Smokey. My dad was a strong man, so he would go in the cage with gloves, put a leash on Smokey and bring him out. He was pretty good when he got out of the cage.”
In fact, one day Marshall took the bear to a pet contest at Jake’s Drive-In, a popular hangout at Bemidji Avenue and 15th Street.
“I won the prize for the most unusual pet,” Marshall said. “I won a flashlight. People were feeding him ice cream.”
After Smokey took a swipe at Jim and left a permanent scar, it was time for the bear to go back to the wild.
“So we took him out by Meadow Lake and we turned him loose,” Marshall said. “He was an attraction, but he smelled just terrible.”
Minnows and Christmas trees
Earl Taber started selling bait out of his home at 109 Irvine Ave. S. in 1951. He built a couple of minnow tanks behind the house.
"The business kind of grew there,” said his son Dave Taber, an orthodontist in Winona, Minn. “We serviced probably 75 resorts in the area.”
Several years later, Log Cabin Court came up for sale, and Earl’s wife Deloris suggested it would be a better location for the bait business.
“Dad said, ‘That's a great idea, Deloris, but I don't have the money for the down payment,’” Dave recalled. “She said, ‘Well, I do.’ She had socked some money away.”
The bait building was constructed in the summer of 1960, and the Tabers and their three children moved into the motel office house that August. They added an apartment above the bait shop a few years later and moved there.
In addition to the bait business, Taber’s became known as a place to buy flocked Christmas trees. That part of the business dates back to Earl’s high school years when he would venture into cedar swamps, cut down trees and sell them door to door in town from his toboggan, Dave said.
The business grew after the family moved to the Bemidji Avenue location. Earl bought modern flocking equipment and sold trees to individuals and businesses around town. His holiday trees also adorned the David Park House for many years.