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For decades, Dan VanHale has enjoyed time in northeastern Minnesota, mainly in the Ely area, where he and family members have owned resorts and cabins.

On the White Iron Lake chain, they often admired Oppel's Point.

Built as a private summer retreat in 1930, it had stayed in the same family for more than 80 years. So when it finally came on the market, VanHale jumped at the chance — not to live in it, but to restore the aging cabin and preserve it.

"I've been going to this area since the early 1970s, and this was referred to as the queen of the lake," he said. "I wanted to make sure some big developer didn't come in and no one bulldozed the cabin, because of the quality and the history. It's such a beautiful piece of property."

Nearly two years after purchasing it, VanHale's preservation efforts have wrapped. He has listed the 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-bathroom cedar cabin for $798,500.

"I restore old cars, and this cabin was similar to that. For me, the joy is taking something that you see potential in and bringing it back to life," he said. "And then when it's all done, it's time for someone else to enjoy and move on to another project."

A storied history

Listing agent Lisa Janisch said the cabin was built as a private retreat for lumber baron William Oppel and his family, when mining in a nearby area called Section 30 was booming. The family also ran a general store in the area.

"Out of all of their land holdings, the family chose this property to build a summer home," Janisch said.

It's easy to see why. It's located on 1.3 acres on a peninsula on the White Iron Lake chain, which provides a serene setting and access to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Amenities such as 550 feet of private swimming shoreline and the potential to expand — including building out the basement or adding a guest loft or office above the garage — also make the property desirable.

"Thank goodness it went into the hands of someone who cherished the authentic nature of the home and just didn't tear it down," Janisch said.

Preserving and updating

When VanHale bought the property, he was struck by how well the house was sited.

"Wherever you are in this cabin, you look to the left, you look to the right, and the way this cabin is situated you're always looking at the water," he said. "It's just really unique."

He also appreciated the sturdy construction with thick pine and cedar boards.

He has refurbished the house with assistance from his builder brother-in-law. They put new flooring in the bathroom and kitchen and installed quartz countertops and new appliances. They also updated the mechanical systems, including central air.

"Today people want the view and the look and the feel of a vintage cabin but they still want the modern conveniences," VanHale said.

He chose not to touch details that give the structure its character, including the dark green metal roof for which the cabin is known.

Close but far away

The property remains largely wooded.

"It has some 60-foot-high cedar and pine trees. You'll look up and see an eagle on the tree. And on a daily basis, the deer come in," he said.

And despite the fact that it feels like it's in the wilderness, "you have people canoeing by and saying hello," VanHale said. "You have all of this natural beauty and they're coming from all over the world to appreciate the lakes and the outdoors."

The cabin is only a 10-minute drive to downtown Ely for grocery shopping and more.

"There's live music and entertainment to go to on a regular basis. Or, you can sit at a nice coffee shop," he said.

Now that his work is done, it's VanHale's time to sit back and relax, satisfied that he's done his part to preserve a beloved property.

"A lot of people spend big money to get that old vintage lake cabin feel, whereas this one is authentic," he said. "There's real history here. All the locals up here know of Oppel's Point."

Lisa Janisch (; 218-780-6644) of Janisch Realty has the $798,500 listing.