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Rustic luxury in the upper peninsula.


Glamping, or glamorous camping, is a new term that has been bandied about recently. The concept, though, is hardly new. At the turn of the century, the advent of New York-style Adirondack architecture in Michigan's Upper Peninsula delivered a certain luxury to an otherwise wild, rugged experience. Gorgeous woodlands, rivers, and lakes offered the ideal setting for adventurous souls to construct extravagant lodges for a unique Northwood experience.

In the late nineteenth century, Americans were developing a growing fascination with Adirondack woodland architecture. Well-to-do families from many major cities began constructing private rustic camps or remote forest hotels scattered across thousands of acres of lakes and woods in the upper Midwest. One particularly magnificent area north of Marquette, Michigan, became the heart of the Midwest's rustic playground by displaying three important forms of Adirondack architecture: the rustic colony, the great camp, and the grand lodge.



Locations for rustic vacation colonies were typically discovered by wealthy businessmen who, while on hunting, fishing, and camping trips, explored remote wilderness settings in the company of local guides. In 1887,12 men from Detroit and Marquette purchased a superb wilderness preserve north of Marquette, which eventually became known as the Huron Mountain Club. Covering more than 7,000 acres, the vast tract included unspoiled mountain forest, seven inland lakes, a river, and two miles of sandy beach on Lake Superior's shore.

At the time of the club's establishment, the area was accessible only by boat. Building a pier that could withstand Lake Superior's ferocious storms proved to be a daunting problem. After five years of fruitless planning, the club's 12 members were on the verge of abandoning the project when they decided to seek advice from Marquette's leading citizen, developer John M. Longyear.

Although initially hesitant, Longyear made extraordinary personal efforts on the club's behalf by braving a gale to select a clubhouse site, hiring his best architect to design a clubhouse, writing a circular that attracted 42 new members, and purchasing a special steamer to transport members to the club. To overcome the problem of having no pier, Longyear designed a ferry called the What's Wanted to carry visitors, supplies, equipment, and building materials from the steamer to the shore.


The club opened in July 1893. Within the first year, a clubhouse and a number of trails were completed, along with a guides' cabin and boathouses on the club's chain of lakes. With the mechanics of club operation now in place, the Huron Mountain Club's unique location guaranteed its future popularity. Shoreline terrain at the mouth of the Pine River feeding into Lake Superior gave members the opportunity to build their cabins on either a dramatic lakefront or a tranquil riverside. Members not interested in venturing into the untamed wilderness stretching behind them stayed near the clubhouse and socialized with each other. Their children played on the two miles of sandy beach and swam in either the river or lakes. Boat transportation was somewhat erratic during the club's first decades, but the 40-mile steamer ride up Lake Superior's shore was a scenic adventure far more comfortable than a wagon ride over rutted logging trails.

Badly needed publicity for the Huron Mountain Club came during an 1896 visit by two Chicago mayors, Carter Harrison II and Hemstead Washburne, who enjoyed a memorable swim in the nude and an exciting tangle with some "hardboiled lumberjacks" over a case of missing champagne. Both men were so enthralled with their visit that each built a cabin within two years. Their wide circle of acquaintances heard many tales of the club, and memberships quickly filled.

The first cabins at Huron Mountain Club were primitive affairs constructed during the winter months by local homesteaders and carpenters working from the crude sketches of club members. However, second-generation members and newcomers such as Henry Ford, who joined in 1929, built more sophisticated examples of rustic architecture. Ford's three-story, architect-designed cabin, for example, was built by a crew of 80 over a period of two years. Today, Huron Mountain Club forms an impressive collection of 50 cabins on a preserve of 24,000 pristine acres.



Not far from the Huron Mountain Club, the Midwest's first great camp, White Deer Lake Camp, was established. It was constructed along the classic Adirondack architectural style as a compound of 13 single-purpose log structures built informally over several seasons. Cyrus H. McCormick Jr., son of the founder of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, and William Bentley, McCormick's chief legal counsel, developed the property.

Like many influential men of the Midwest, McCormick had been coming to the Upper Peninsula on camping expeditions throughout the 1880s and 1890s. When White Deer Lake Camp was conceived in 1902, McCormick and Bentley were engaged in complex merger negotiations to form the International Harvester Company, which brought them into contact with wealthy families from the East, such as the Rockefellers and Morgans, who often summered in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Those contacts, coupled with the growing national enthusiasm for rustic design, may have inspired McCormick and Bentley to build the first Midwestern equivalent of the great camp.




The two men promptly set about accumulating more than 17,000 acres of land for their camp. For the site, they selected one of McCormick's favorite camping spots on an island in Fortress Lake--later renamed White Deer Lake--located 30 miles west of the Huron Mountain Club. Visitors traveled by train to the town of Champion and then endured a 16-mile horse-drawn wagon ride that lasted six to eight hours. The island itself was 25 yards from shore, which meant that goods and people had to be ferried across on a raft.

Within five years, most of the 13 White Deer Lake Camp buildings had been erected without the aid of an architect. As a whole, the camp buildings were relatively simple. The largest structure was the chimney cabin, completed in 1905, which boasted a 3,900-square-foot, two-story log building with four bedrooms and four baths. Four smaller guest cabins were scattered over the island. Eight mainland service buildings, including a dining room cabin, were reached by a short ferry ride.


The early years at White Deer Lake were taken up by a joyful athleticism. Sometimes McCormick and Bentley joined the 15- to 20-member crew in clearing trails, cutting stone, mixing cement, or building cabins. Friends from the Huron Mountain Club hiked to White Deer Lake to share in the novel pursuit of creating a great camp while also keeping lookout for the camp's fabled albino deer, first sighted in 1906.

Prospective guests were provided with a list of necessary equipment, including a rubber coat, two "stout" pairs of walking shoes with hobnailed heels, light shoes for camp wear, a high-neck sweater, flannel shirts, skirts and leggings for the ladies, a felt hat, bathing dress, light and heavy nightwear, tackle, and a mail sack for carrying clothes into the woods.

Guests were also instructed that "a camping outfit should be assumed before reaching Champion, as it will be needed as much during the four miles just before reaching camp as at any time after." Along with their instructions, guests also received a luxurious personalized map in a leather case as well as a gold-lined drinking cup.

Daily life began with an icy bath in the lake and ended with readings from books such as G.M. Treveylan's History of England. On moonlit nights, canoeists listened to music drifting across the lake from a "Victor Talking Machine."

Extensive hiking was the undisputed grand attraction at White Deer Lake Camp. Bentley is said to have defined a "proper" hiking trail as wide enough for two people to walk side by side, smooth enough for a bicycle, and high enough so that not a single branch brushed against a lady's parasol or a man's umbrella. Enormous amounts of money and manpower were expended to meet that standard on more than 60 miles of trails connecting the isolated splendor of White Deer Lake with the busy shores of Huron Mountain Club.

As the years passed, the rough camp's vigorous pleasures were increasingly softened by luxury. Margaret Bush Clement, President George H.W. Bush's aunt, visited White Deer Lake in the 1920s and recalled, "During dinner, you would order your picnic lunch for the next day.... Just to be funny, just to test them, I ordered a caviar sandwich. Sure enough, the next day when I opened my picnic basket, that's what I got."

Over time, the thrill of mastering the wilderness was replaced by the quieter pleasures of familiar hikes, favorite view spots, fine food, and attentive servants. In 1967, the camp was donated by the McCormicks to the National Forest Service. A local realtor dismantled and removed the surviving buildings in 1983 and continues to seek an opportunity to rebuild them at a new site.


The most spectacular example of Michigan's rustic architecture can be found at "Granot Loma," located near White Deer Lake Camp and Huron Mountain Club. It was constructed between 1919 and 1928, during a period when the Adirondack style of numerous, single-purpose log cabins was being replaced by a single grand lodge. The enormous, 20,000-square-foot Granot Loma was built by a crew of 250 construction workers and referred to as America's "log palace." Its owner, Louis Kaufman, was a native of Michigan who left Marquette to make his fortune but later returned to build an impressive rustic lodge.


By the age of 40, Kaufman's financial genius had made him one of the most respected dealmakers in the country--he had spearheaded the 1915 reorganization of the General Motors Corporation and the financing of the Empire State Building in 1929. Lining the walls of Kaufman's office were the charters of many small banks that he had purchased in order to create one of the ten largest banks in the country.

Kaufman intended to make the Michigan Upper Peninsula experience one worth remembering. His grand lodge, designed by the famous Chicago architects Benjamin H. Marshall and Charles E. Fox, had capacity enough for 100 guests. Even the elite businessmen at the Huron Mountain Club were amazed by the size and splendor of Granot Loma.


Construction along an exposed rocky point on Lake Superior required a degree of engineering unmatched in rustic building. While other camps were typically located away from the shoreline, exposing only their boathouses to the raw power of nature, Kaufman positioned the entire lodge right on the water. His bravado did not go unnoticed by the local population, who well understood the lake's destructive capabilities.

To counter inclement weather risks, Kaufman employed a number of protective additions to the lodge, including a massive concrete foundation, steel beams hidden inside pine logs, two concrete breakwater walls, and a boathouse inside the basement of the lodge itself. Despite these precautions, however, a local newspaper reported in 1927 that a storm smashed open the door to the basement and deposited five tons of sandstone in the cellar.

Surrounded by a preserve of 12,000 acres, Granot Loma had 50 rooms, including 26 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms, and 31 fireplaces. The great hall had a ceiling height of 24 feet and a fireplace with a 24-footlong hearth. The kitchen was staffed by 20 to 25 servants, with an additional 28 servants housed in a separate building.

Granot Loma's interior was exuberantly detailed in log and bark wall treatments with gnarled twig-work railings and balustrades. Many of its details were unique, such as the two Lake Superior steamship keels used as fireplace lintels. Masons placed a window in the middle of a chimney column, creating a real landscape view where one might normally have expected a painting. Mrs. Kaufman prowled the waters of Lake Superior in search of perfect fireplace boulders, which she then commanded her crews to winch out of the lake--no matter the cost or difficulty. Even the immense pine stumps gathered from clearing the building site were turned into table legs, light fixtures, chairs, and bedsteads massive enough to match the overpowering scale of the lodge's interior spaces.

The most significant features of Granot Loma were associated with Kaufman's nostalgia for his Michigan boyhood. The great hall's massive white pine root chandelier, with its whimsical carvings of animals and insects, was said to have been made from the ancient pine tree Kaufman picnicked under as a boy. Similarly, the famed teepee fireplace, an amazing conical steel structure painted to look like bark, evoked the teepees Kaufman remembered from the days when the Chippewa camped on the site of Granot Loma.

Many international celebrities, such as George Gershwin, Lionel Barrymore, Mary Pickford, Gene Tunney, Fred Astaire, Bill Tilden, and Pierre Du Pont, were guests of the Kaufmans at Granot Loma. Opera stars and Broadway troupes performed from the balconies extending over the great hall, and orchestras from Chicago and New York played dance music both indoors and out. Surely guests who endured long journeys, some coming from as far away as New York, were not disappointed with such luxurious accommodations.

For all its rustic decor and sentimental atmosphere, the lodge was adorned with many unexpected modern conveniences, including 22-foot pocket windows, a marble steam room, wine cellars, a private railroad spur and station, electric lights, modern plumbing, commercial kitchen equipment, and a hidden heating system that required up to a ton of coal per day to operate.

Not contented by conquering the ferocity of an inland sea or by conjuring up opulent hospitality in the middle of a wilderness, Kaufman turned his attention next to the land itself. In 1927, he added "Loma Farms" to the property. The project turned 200 acres of rocks, woods, and swamp into a state-of-the-art farm and orchard. At its peak in 1930, Loma Farms required a staff of 250 to run its 14 buildings, all of which were designed by agricultural architects to accommodate the finest pedigreed animals collected by the Kaufmans on European farming study tours. Stalls of glazed tile and cork flooring housed 200 pigs, 100 cows, 600 chickens, as well as ducks, pigeons, turkeys, pheasants, and riding horses. Whistles were used to keep milking and other farm tasks on a prompt schedule in the shadow of a huge clock tower and 100,000-gallon water tank.

Today, Granot Loma continues to illustrate an impressive example of rustic design unrivalled in the nation.

Michigan's Upper Peninsula, with its scenic lakes, woodlands, and rivers, proved itself to be an outstanding destination for a luxurious outdoor experience. The rustic architecture of the Huron Mountain Club, White Deer Lake Camp, and Granot Loma reflects a powerful American fascination with Adirondack woodland designs that began in Michigan at the turn of the century and continues today.

Holly Wahlberg is a design historian and writer with a camp in the Adirondack Mountains of New York.

Caption: Previous page: Located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula on the Lake Superior coastline, the Huron Mountain Club is surrounded by beautiful scenery. (Photo courtesy of Yinan Chen.) This page, top: John M. Longyear, a leading citizen of Marquette, contributed greatly to the construction of the Huron Mountain Club. He would later serve as mayor of Marquette from 1890 to 1891. (Photo courtesy ofWikimedia Commons.) This page, bottom: The quiet beauty of Huron Mountain Club, as depicted on a 1900s-Era postcard. (Photo courtesy of CardCow.)

Caption: Above: Businessman Cyrus H. McCormick Jr. served as the main developer of the White Deer Lake Camp. (Photo courtesy of Doubleday, Page & Company.) Right: The architecture at White Deer Lake Camp was heavily influenced by that of the Adirondack Mountains in New York. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.) Next page: The architecture at White Deer Lake Camp reflected the desire for a natural, waterfront experience. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

Caption: Left: Many cabins at White Deer fake Camp were built right along the lakeshore. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

Caption: Above: Louis Kaufman was a well-established national businessman by the time he returned to Michigan to build Granot Loma in 1919. (Photo courtesy of Moody's Magazine: The Investor's Monthly.) Left and below: The decorative interior of Granot Loma also reflects its impressive size and rustic splendor. (Photos courtesy of Bob Sullivan.)

Caption: Today, Granot Loma is for sale for $40 million, advertised as "the largest log cabin in the world." (Photo courtesy of Bob Sullivan.)
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Author:Wahlberg, Holly
Publication:Michigan History Magazine
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Sep 1, 2016
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