Nopeming, the former sanatorium offering historical and haunted tours just west of Duluth, will remain closed indefinitely after being cited for more than a dozen safety violations.
An inspector from the Minnesota State Fire Marshal's Residential Care and Lodging Team issued the order after visiting the facility May 13 in response to a complaint, according to a report obtained by the News Tribune.
"The facility is very dilapidated and unsafe," inspector Travis Cole wrote. "The facility has no power in the building and all sprinkler and alarm systems are inactive. (The) building appears to have structural damage with walls falling, numerous electrical wiring exposed throughout space damaged by water, no emergency lights and (no) exit signs."
The facility hoped to open its doors this summer for a fourth season of tours. But that never occurred, with Cole ordering the building to remain closed to visitors until a licensed architect verifies 15 violations have been remedied.
Situated in the woods off Interstate 35, Nopeming opened in 1912 as the first of what would be 13 sanitariums in Minnesota to treat tuberculosis. It was repurposed as a nursing home in 1971, with St. Louis County closing the facility in 2002.
After a series of transactions, the building came into the possession of nonprofit Orison Inc. in 2009. The group began offering tours in 2016 in hopes of raising funds to restore the facility. Tours ran from May to October, with a fee of $25 for a one-hour day tour, according to the group's website. They also offered nighttime flashlight sessions and Halloween-season haunted tours.
Nopeming representatives did not return multiple calls and emails from the News Tribune this week, but the closure was addressed in two Facebook posts on Sept. 17.
"Town Board has voted down opening for tours until ALL items on Fire Marshal report are completed," one post states. "This would mean that Nopeming would have to have running water, electricity, sprinkler system, fire alarm, etc., and be totally renovated to have any guests. This being said — we would not really have any reason to have tours of a brand-new renovated building and the historical/haunted aspect of Nopeming and its current draw would be lost.
"Hoping to find a happy medium — begin partial renovations but still have the history/haunt aspect present. ... We will keep working on a solution so we can continue tours and have Nopeming be part of the tourist attractions here in Duluth."
Grant Forsyth, planning commission chairman for Midway Township, confirmed that Nopeming sought a waiver of the corrections ordered in the inspector's report. But he said the Town Board can't supersede the authority of the State Fire Marshal.
"First of all, the township doesn’t have jurisdiction to do that," Forsyth said. "Second of all, they can’t assume the liability that would happen if anybody were ever to get hurt there. You can’t expect the whole township to assume that responsibility."
News Tribune staff writer Jimmy Lovrien contributed to this report.