On Wednesday, the final touches were underway at Endion Station: random nails were picked up, air ducts were painted, and the deck was power-washed.

Nestled in a corner of Canal Park near I-35 and Lake Superior, the former railroad depot — now turned hotel — is ready to welcome guests later this week. Although the five-room Endion Station Inn is joining a slate of other hotels in Duluth’s tourism corridor, its owner isn't concerned about competition.

“Duluth doesn't have anything like this. It's really exclusive,” said Rianne Joson, vacation rental manager with Heirloom Property Management, which manages the hotel and six other properties in the area. “It's one of those historic things of Duluth that has really been taken well care of, and I think everyone can appreciate that.”

Rod Raymond talks about his latest business venture while standing in one of Endion Station’s five hotel rooms. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Rod Raymond talks about his latest business venture while standing in one of Endion Station’s five hotel rooms. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

With clean white walls, tall ceilings, large lumber ascents, and small but bright pops of color from decorations, owner Rod Raymond calls the space "European." The rooms’ small square footage and the building’s close proximity to outdoor activities all align with the European style, he said.

Railroad and bar memorabilia are placed in various nooks throughout the rooms. “I don’t want to be super cheesy,” Raymond said, but he wanted to include details that reflect the history of the location, town and building.

Frank Lundeen (left) and Rod Raymond consult about last minute projects at the remodeled Endion Station. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Frank Lundeen (left) and Rod Raymond consult about last minute projects at the remodeled Endion Station. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

The station was built in 1899, serving as a train depot for a rail line that connected Duluth and towns along the North Shore. It was originally located in the town of Endion, which was later absorbed by Duluth and is now known as the Endion neighborhood.

The building saw its last freight train in 1978, and was relocated to Canal Park in 1986 during the construction of Interstate 35.

Frank Lundeen picks up nails and other debris from the gaps between deck boards outside Endion Station. The hotel’s outdoor barrel sauna is visible in the background. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Frank Lundeen picks up nails and other debris from the gaps between deck boards outside Endion Station. The hotel’s outdoor barrel sauna is visible in the background. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

A porch wraps around much of the red brick building, with a 10-person barrel sauna in one corner and a fire pit in the other. Each room comes with a bed, couch, coffee bar and bathroom. Guests receive free parking, a crowler from Fitger’s Brewhouse and a free cocktail from the Rathskeller — all businesses owned by Raymond.

Some of Raymond’s Duluth business ventures have closed and then later reopened. However, he said the hotel is different because its overhead cost was low, and he’s expecting high occupancy rates that will sustain it. And, with Heirloom managing the hotel, Raymond said he and his staff will still be able to focus on the other businesses.

“No one goes into business if you think your idea is going to fail,” he said.

One of the five hotel rooms in Endion Station. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
One of the five hotel rooms in Endion Station. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Raymond and a former business partner purchased the building for $300,000 in 2012, with initial plans to sell more beer by opening a bar in the building. A cider bar eventually opened, but he said it struggled to attract customers during the winter.

The hotel idea came to him one cold winter night when he was sitting in the bar, he said. There were no patrons, but he could see people were in the area — at a next-door hotel.

“Forget that, this is too cool of a building to not be performing,” he said.

Although there are numerous other hotels in Canal Park, Raymond said he’s not concerned about competition — and that he likely won’t affect the other hotels because there are only five bedrooms. Just like the other hotels in the neighborhood, Endion Station has close-up views of Lake Superior and the Aerial Lift Bridge.

Decor at Endion Station include old lanterns and memorable from local and regional breweries. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Decor at Endion Station include old lanterns and memorable from local and regional breweries. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Matt Baumgartner, president of the Canal Park Business Association, said the neighborhood’s residents and visitors value the new option, as it may bring more people to Canal Park.

“We are always looking to refresh our image and … enhance the experience of those who join us in Canal Park,” Baumgartner wrote in a statement.

Rooms can be rented only through Airbnb, with prices fluctuating with the seasons. They will align with other Canal Park hotel prices, Raymond said.