It’s 1961, and we’re drinking martinis and smoking cigarettes at the Shalimar Thirstbar cocktail lounge at the new Ambassador Motor Lodge. In the middle of the circular bar is a pagoda and elephant sculpture; on the wall is a mural of a parade, with elephants, dancers and musicians.
Why did owner Oscar Husby choose to decorate his new motel at the intersection of Highways 100 and 12 with motifs inspired by Indian art? It’s a mystery, but he went all the way. He even brought Miss India herself, direct from Bombay, to the grand opening of the motel in April 1961, helicoptering her to the site from the airport. He also hosted a dinner for University of Minnesota students from India and Pakistan, with food cooked by one of the students.
The Ambassador was a landmark in the Park for 30 years, with a famously domed swimming pool that created a tropical paradise. The lodge closed in 1991, a victim of I-394 construction, but its unique history lives on in the memories of regulars from local businesses, visitors and folks who sought to shed their winter coats, don their swimsuits and relax in the warmth that was the Ambassador.