From the Director:
If timbers could talk, no doubt there would be stories. Two timbered buildings, built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corp as warehouses for the Forest Service, stand on the edge of the Grand Marais harbor. Workspaces on a working harbor, the buildings served an important purpose for decades. Built by the hands of experienced woodworkers, their elemental timbered trusses and rugged black iron tie bolts seem almost to speak—durability, beauty, purpose, simplicity.
One red, one blue, today the buildings still stand, solid and present on the Grand Marais harbor. The core of North House, their timbered trusses now soar across woodworking, boatbuilding and traditional craft classrooms, sunlight streaming in through the windows. Sawdust still waits on the floor to be swept. Sharp saws still slice. Tales are still told. Purpose is still strong and vibrant. Bowl carving, shoemaking, blacksmithing, woodcarving; durability, beauty, purpose, simplicity.
If timbers could talk. What stories would they tell of North House’s first years? And, just as importantly, what stories will they tell of North House’s years? Dedicated volunteers, generous supporters, inspired students—these are the builders of North House. There's always work to be shared, special events to host, and crafts to discover. What part will you play?
We hope to see you on campus soon. Let’s give the timbers more stories to tell!
PS: If you are intrigued with North House's educational efforts and programs, I encourage you to get involved. Request our catalog. Visit for our next special event. Tell a friend. Most importantly, start soon!
Our spirit, mission and vision have captured the imagination of many people, from Lake Superior’s North Shore to Greater Minnesota and far beyond. Traditional crafts of the north, combined with the stories and rich cultural history of its indigenous people, are the medium for providing creative and meaningful experiences for individuals, families, and groups.
Our organization is inspired by Scandinavian folkehøjskolers, developed in Denmark during the mid-1800’s. Life-long skills and traditions shared in a non-competitive environment are the foundation of the folk school concept. In discovering the cultural heritage of the north, our students integrate the technologies of the past with those of today, expanding their personal perspective and elucidating both the present and the future.
The concept of a folk school on the north shore was an initiative begun by local citizens and volunteers. Positive responses to initial course offerings (including Inuit kayak building, Scandinavian bowl carving, and canoe paddle making) during 1995 and 1996 inspired both students and volunteers. With enthusiasm for the school quickly growing, the volunteer Board of Directors founded North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota in January of 1997.
As interest in our mission and participation in our programs grew, we recognized the need to develop a campus that would support and nurture the creative spirit of the organization and its students. Working in partnership with the City of Grand Marais, we secured grant funding to restore two historic waterfront buildings (owned by the City of Grand Marais), allowing us to create classrooms and office space.
Capitalizing on unexpected opportunities, our Board of Directors soon expanded the campus by investing in adjacent property (including historic fishing buildings and two large docks that extend into Grand Marais’ historic harbor) as well as a 50’ sailing schooner, thus extending our campus onto Lake Superior.
The school’s brief history has not been without its setbacks. In March of 2001, the boat building shop was significantly damaged by a fire. A surge of strong community support helped us recover quickly from this loss. In January of 2004, we lost our historic fishing building when a fully-loaded semi lost its brakes and crashed into the structure. By May 2006, after rebuilding, the fisherman was back in his fish house and we had a new classroom as well as bunk rooms for our instructors.
Raise the roof
In November of 2007, we launched a multi-year campaign titled Raise The Roof: The Campaign for North House Folk School. Our focus was to make major enhancements to our campus, expand the endowment fund, and build annual support.
In just four short years we went from cutting the first timbers for a new milling shop to raising a frame for the Blue Building’s new entryway. Our campus now has a woodworking and boat building space in our new milling shop; a lofted living space for our expanded internship program; a larger, enclosed blacksmith shop; a teaching kitchen with commercial-grade fixtures for foods coursework; and a unifying, lake-friendly space in the outdoor student commons. Our campus has become an evermore inspiring destination for students and a resource for our community.
Across the street
In 2016, our campus grew again, this time across Highway 61. By purchasing the building across the street, we were able to add two new classrooms and move all of our staff into a new office.
We are dedicated to the belief that the learning of traditional craft is a truly sustainable effort that will only become more important as time moves on. We welcome students, supporters, and volunteers as partners on the journey ahead—please stay in touch and get involved!