Carlton's Historic Scott House sees next evolution
James Sheetz plans to halt onsite Airbnb rentals but continue hosting events
CARLTON — It’s been four years since James Sheetz listed his family home on Airbnb . And, save for that time he accidentally came across the photo of a guest wearing his tuxedo display, he’s had pretty good luck.
“It was an inn in the beginning, so it’s come full circle,” said Sheetz.
The Historic Scott House, located on Lac La Belle, was built in 1859 as a stage coach stop and inn on an old military road that ran between Superior and St. Paul.
It’s been in the Sheetz family for 80 years, and along with room rentals, Sheetz hosts a slew of private gatherings, weddings and musical performances.
During a Mother’s Day event Sunday, the first floor was filled with guests wrapping up their meals with cake and coffee.
“If I’m not working here, singing here, then I’m just here," said Lori Bergstedt of Cloquet.
She has performed at the Scott House for the past 10 years, as well as hosting her 60th birthday, and bridal and baby showers. “It’s just a gem,” she added.
Katy Bergsted has joined her mother at the Scott House for years to enjoy musical tributes to the ’50s, ’60s and Broadway. “Whatever Jim dreams up, we’re in,” said Bergstedt, adding that this has become a community gathering spot.
Sheetz, whose full-time gig is as a music director at two Cloquet churches, also hosts small vocal ensembles, instrumentalists and professionals.
Sheetz is a highly valued and always-supportive member of our musical community, said Sarah Lawrence, general artistic director at Lyric Opera of the North. He has terrific ideas and a great instinct for making people feel welcome, she continued.
LOON and Sheetz have collaborated on several events, and Lawrence herself has performed in the main house, the carriage house and outdoors on the grounds.
“The beauty of the venue makes it feel like a real escape,” she said.
In the late 1800s, the homestead served as a market farm. In 1869, The building that would eventually become the Scott House was constructed.
Walter and Minnie Scott owned the land from 1910-1937. Sheetz’s grandparents bought the farm in 1942. His parents took ownership in 1949, and Sheetz grew up on the grounds, the youngest of four.
Sheetz has been a Titanic enthusiast since he was 9. He recalled sinking a red plastic boat and pretending his inner tube was a lifeboat in the lake.
Sheetz’s brother designed and built a tree house in the backyard. His grandmother kept a raspberry patch, which Sheetz and his siblings “invaded,” and his mother made pies from blueberries grown onsite.
Sheetz met the Scott House descendants, who shared letters and pictures offering visual and written descriptions of the space.
From that, he began renovations in 2000, where removed the first-floor ceilings and walls. He added new windows, upgraded the electrical system, heating, plumbing, and replaced the original woodwork that had been removed.
He added French doors and relocated the stairs, with the goal to return it to its original state as much as possible.
During reconstruction, Sheetz found 100-year-old coins, a closet, the remains of a long-lost cat and hundreds of cherry pits — a callback to that time a lug of cherries disappeared overnight.
“My dad always said it was a pack rat, but probably a squirrel or chipmunk had gotten in the house,” Sheetz recalled.
In the backyard are a set of canoes, a screened-in porch and the carriage house which seats 50.
“They had big barns in that area. The horses were brought back to the lake to water, and this was their little trail,” Sheetz said.
Toward the water a sign reads “Dale’s Trail” with a picture of a loon. It’s a tribute to Sheetz’s childhood friend who died at age 27. “His mom was honored by this.”
Sheetz recently sold his house across the lake, so he could return to the home of his childhood.
Room rentals will cease in August, but in the past four years, he has seen visitors from Arkansas, Maine, Ireland and Norway.
Despite his current San Francisco address, Cloquet-raised Tom DeCaigny’s first visit was during a 2018 wedding, and he’s been a repeat guest ever since.
“My partner and I travel regularly for both work and pleasure and have visited a number of vacation homes and hotels around the world. … The Scott House is one of our favorite destinations,” said DeCaigny.
“It rivals homes we have stayed at in Venice, Italy, and other parts of the world because of its unique character and charm as well as the warm, personalized hospitality of its owner.”