a grocery store in 1937, while the depression still raged, was no easy task. However,
Willard and Martha Munger were determined to make a better life for their family,
and so were undaunted by the task. After buying a little shack in Duluth's Norton
Park, the young family opened their store and worked diligently over the years
to build up their business. Willard worked round the clock for many years, running
the store at night while working full time by day. During the war he worked as
foreman of a shipbuilding crew, and in the early 50's he worked for the Agriculture
Department, as a Truman appointed public servant.
All the hard work and long hours finally paid off for the family when they
were able to save enough to build the first units of the "Duluth Zoo" Motel in
1954. Except for the calls from eager patrons who didn't want to sleep with the
animals, the little brick inn was an instant success. Over the next dozen years
two additions were built - first, rooms 201 through 209 were constructed and then,
in 1965, the coffee shop's wing of the building was finished.
time the establishment had been renamed the "Willard Motel", the unique name attached
to the motel's owner and his son Willard Jr. The motel flourished for many years
with this name: the coffee shop did a thriving business, the motel housed travelers
to Duluth, railroad and steel workers and many vacationers.
years, many important additions made "The Willard" a popular place to visit. Spirit
Mountain was constructed in the early 1970's, adding a healthy dose of winter
business to the area. The cleanup of the St. Louis River - spearheaded by Willard's
determination to see the environment in his area return to its original beautiful
state - blossomed into one of the best walleye fisheries in the State. The Western
Waterfront Trail, which winds along the newly popular
river, has made the scenic beauty of West Duluth available to all. This project,
too, was completed thanks to Willard's staunch leadership in the House of Representatives.
Finally, the Willard Munger State Trail, which begins immediately behind the motel,
stands as a tribute to Willard's determination to share the beauty of the northland
with all, and in a way that doesn't harm the wild and scenic nature of the area.
Today, bald eagles nest on the St. Louis River Bay, bear tracks are commonly seen
on the Munger Trail, walleyes and beavers swim the river, and deer and porcupine
wander the majestic hills... The Zoo isn't the only place to find wildlife in
At the venerable age of 82, and after serving in the legislature
for some 36 years, Willard finally decided to devote himself more fully to his
legislative duties. Willard turned the operation of the motel over to his son
Willard jr. ("Will") in October of 1993. Will decided to rename the motel "The
Willard Munger Inn" in honor of his laudable forebearer. Will added fireplace
and whirlpool suites and has generally updated the Inn. The motel is now promoted
as a destination for bikers, hikers, skiers, snowboarders and birders. The old
coffee shop is no more, but the rustic lounge area features a small museum dedicated to the progressive politics espoused by Willard over
Will and his dedicated staff would love to see you.
Thanks to all of our returning customers!