By Sylvia Wier
The Cantilever Distillery + Hotel in Ranier was chosen as one of the state’s outstanding construction projects by the newspaper Finance & Commerce in its annual Top Projects competition.
Entries are judged on their design, construction techniques, degree of difficulty and sustainability efforts.
The hotel and distillery, which opened in January 2020, has 31 rooms, a restaurant and bar, a yoga studio and rooftop bar with sauna and hot tub. Also on site is a distillery where Cantilever- and Woody’s Fairly Reliable-branded liquor is made.
Building a distillery that is enveloped by a hotel presented a unique challenge, said Chris Hawley of Craftwell Architecture + Construction in Fargo in a telephone interview.
“Highly distilled alcohol is basically a hazardous material,” said Hawley, who was the lead architect on the project. “We had to make a bomb-proof building with a hotel around it. The distilling equipment is beautiful but dangerous.”
Hawley, who had experience designing breweries, said the distillery is “isolated” from the hotel structurally for safety.
The hotel itself, Hawley said, was “a nod to the history of Ranier” in parts, but also with modern approaches in the use of materials and construction, such as in the bar area. Instead of traditional walls, the space has glass, garage-door-size walls which roll up and open up the ground floor of the hotel to the outdoors.
Rooms and public areas in the hotel feature exposed brick walls, dark green and brown beadboard woodwork and rotary phones in the guest rooms. A cantilevered bridge design hangs above the bar, symbolizing the town’s still-operational cantilevered railroad bridge which was built in 1908 and connects Ranier with Fort Frances, Ontario.
Other project winners in Northeastern Minnesota include the St. Luke’s Lake View Hospital Expansion in Two Harbors and the St. Luke’s Emergency Department and Cath Labs in Duluth. Also cited was the Carlton Lofts, which transformed the former middle school in Cloquet into 57 affordable-housing units.
The Cantilever and St. Luke’s projects were nominated by Apex, a Duluth-based non-profit which promotes business development in Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin.
About 160 projects were submitted to Finance & Commerce for consideration and 50 were chosen by an independent panel. The Minneapolis-based newspaper reports on Minnesota businesses.