Little Bohemia Lodge: John Dillinger slept here

Little Bohemia Lodge, Wisconsin

Oh goody – I haven’t done a crime scene house in a while. Those are the most popular posts on my blog by far, believe it or not. And how can you not enjoy the intrigue and romance of the Dillinger Gang’s bloody 1930’s Robin Hood rampage through the United States?

John Dillinger c. 1933

image from: www.johnniedillinger.freeservers.com

image from: www.johnniedillinger.freeservers.com

The Little Bohemia Lodge near Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin was the sight of one of the most famous FBI vs. gangster gun battles in American history.

image from: disdads.com

image from: disdads.com

John Dillinger and his gang were hiding out at the remote lodge in late April of 1934 when they were ambushed by earnest FBI agents who, in their overzealousness to catch the famous outlaw, bungled the attempt horribly. The result was the escape of their most wanted man (Dillinger) and the shootings of 3 innocent men.

Here’s a historic photo taken on the day after the epic gun battle in 1934:

image from: Wikimedia Commons (FBI file photo)

image from: Wikimedia Commons (FBI file photo)

And here’s House Crazy Sarah examining the evidence outside the Little Bohemia Lodge nearly 8 decades later when she drove through Wisconsin on her way back from Canada.

photo credit: Granny Franny

photo credit: Granny Franny

Oh Yes She Did!

I was roughly in the vicinity of Manitowish Waters in northern Wisconsin so I just had to stop in for dinner at the now infamous lodge. Of course I dragged my two kids and my co-pilot mother (Granny Franny) along with me.

photo credit: Granny Franny

photo credit: Granny Franny

This place was irresistible. I had done some research beforehand and knew that the lodge had been astoundingly preserved since the day that Dillinger fled from here.

Here’s how the dining room appeared in 1934:

image from: www.babyfacenelsonjournal.com

image from: www.babyfacenelsonjournal.com

This is the same room from the opposite angle as it appears today:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

If you look closely, you can see it has many of the same tables and chairs all these years later!

The lodge was built in 1927 by Emil Wanatka right off of highway 51 in northern Wisconsin. The building suffered a fire in 1928 but was rebuilt in 1930. There is a  newer addition on the south side and off the back towards the lake. But the Little Bohemia Lodge remains largely in the condition it was at the time of the infamous FBI raid and shoot-out in 1934

image from: www.babyfacenelsonjournal.com

image from: www.babyfacenelsonjournal.com

This is how the bar area looked in 1934:

image from: www.babyfacenelsonjournal.com

image from: www.babyfacenelsonjournal.com

Here’s that same bar area today:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Isn’t it amazing?

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Sprinkled throughout the facility are memorabilia and artifacts from the epic gun battle such as the vintage newspapers [above] and this “Tommy Gun” style vintage machine gun in the bar area:

image from: revtravel.com

image from: revtravel.com

Of course, there’s the regular “northern woods” décor like the taxidermied animals and deer antler light fixtures:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Buns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Buns

But someone back in the 1930’s had the incredible foresight to preserve all the bullet holes in the walls and windows from the FBI/Dillinger siege…

image from: http://natekauffman.com

image from: http://natekauffman.com

Today, guests at the lodge can stroll around and ogle over the carnage that was left behind.

image from: www.flickr.com

image from: www.flickr.com

Upstairs, there are several severely shot-up rooms that are preserved behind glass…

image from: chezcat1970.wordpress.com

image from: chezcat1970.wordpress.com

Unfortunately, we came AFTER the tours of the upstairs had ended for the day, so I didn’t actually get to see the rooms up there in person. [Go before 5:00pm if you want the full tour!]

image from: www.waymarking.com

image from: www.waymarking.com

Truthfully, most of the bullet riddled rooms on the upper level are the result of Hollywood’s magical touch because the 2009 major motion picture Public Enemies used the Little Bohemia Lodge as one of the filming locations. So Johnny Depp – who played John Dillinger – was actually at this remote Wisconsin lodge trading fake gun fire with some FBI agent actors!

image from: http://natekauffman.com

image from: http://natekauffman.com

The owners of the lodge liked how the set crew recreated the rooms so much that they kept the rooms in that condition, thinking it would be even more of a tourist attraction.

Indeed – the place was packed for dinner when we were there and it was a Monday night!

Have a look around the outside of the lodge…

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Above is a view from the south side where you can just get a glimpse of the lake behind.

The lake is called “Little Star Lake” and it is one of the many gorgeous freshwater lakes in the northern Wisconsin wild.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

John Dillinger and several key members of his gang escaped the FBI raid in 1934 by jumping out the back windows of the lodge and running along the lakeshore then fleeing into the woods.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

I can just envision a bunch of Depression era gangsters breaking out those top windows with their elbows and sliding down the roof in their black fedoras and trench coats!

Today, a lakeside sign beckons to boaters on the waterway:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

It is not uncommon to see dinner guests roaming around the grounds trying to find all the bullet holes from the FBI raid in the innocent bystanding trees…

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

(My son Noe above with his finger stuck in a bullet hole left by the FBI agents in April of 1934!)

The Little Bohemia Lodge is amazingly beautiful inside and out. I would highly recommend a stop over there for a lakeside lunch or dinner if you are ever in northern Wisconsin.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

And remember John Dillinger only left here because he had to! (Or so goes the lodge’s slogan)

image from: http://www.flickr.com (by: Pete Zarria)

image from: http://www.flickr.com (by: Pete Zarria)

~~~

Sources:

http://littlebohemialodge.com/index.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Bohemia_Lodge

http://natekauffman.com/2009/10/07/little-bohemia-lodge/

 

 ***ps…….. check out this other majorly shot-up location I blogged about last year: Ma Barker’s shootout house for sale in Florida!

 

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