Since the late 19th century, the northwoods, known for it’s fresh air and clear lakes, attracted visitors from Midwestern cities. Initially, most tourists were fisherman and hunters. As word about the pristine, unspoiled beauty “Up North” spread, so did the numbers of tourists. Resorts and supper clubs began to populate. Some like Little Bohemia Lodge in Manitowish Waters, Gateway Lodge in Land O’Lakes, Eagle Waters Resort in Eagle River, and the Northern Resort in Minocqua are still in operation. Throughout the 20th century, the Northwoods became legendary not only for its natural beauty and impressive resorts, but also for its unique individuals. People will ask if there were any “characters” up here. Well, pull up a chair and let us tell you about Barefoot Charlie.
Barefoot Charlie’s given name was Charles Haase. A woodworker, he would never, despite the cold northern winters, wear shoes or boots. Rumor had it he put on his first pair of shoes when he was three years old, took them off, and never wore them again. People would buy shoes for him and he’d sell them for money. In the 1930’s, he meticulously built a “rustic nite club”, complete with hand carved bar stools, tables, and a large bar. To promote his business, he frequently dressed as a pioneer or Native American. His rustic tourist destination was named for his nickname, Barefoot Charlie’s. While Barefoot Charlie himself died in 1970, the nightclub thrived until it burned down from a faulty heater in 1988.
Why do people here still talk about Barefoot Charlie? He was unique, he lived an uncompromising life, and he turned his dream into a reality. That resonates with many residents in the Northwoods. Many were initially tourists who, after several visits, decided to either have a second home here or make it their primary residence. We rarely hear any regrets about those decisions. If you’ve been considering a move up north, give us a call. We know the land, we know the people, we know the unique qualities that make the Northwoods a special place.