Historic Birch Lodge

Historic Birch Lodge
Historic Birch Lodge, Trout Lake, MI

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A White Christmas at Birch Lodge

Print Friendly and PDF Birch Lodge, Trout Lake, MI
Birch Lodge, Trout Lake, MI
While visting Birch Lodge at Christmas, we took a few shots of the lodge in the snow. How Pretty! Wishing You Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Old Postcards of Birch Lodge, Trout Lake, MI

Print Friendly and PDF Birch Lodge ca 1912, Trout Lake, MI
Early Photo Birch Lodge, Trout Lk, MI

Over the years Bill has collected old postcards of Trout Lake, MI, and it's surrounding area. Birch Lodge, of course, was always his favorite. Having the lodge now, these are a great source to see how it was originally, and observe the changes through the years. The oldest one (top) dates from about 1912, shows Birch Lodge newly completed.

The porch was originally two full stories tall. You can see by the snow up on top, that it was not a good idea, and it wasn't too long before the porch was one story tall. If you look closely at the card with the man on the porch, you can see the towering pine trees out in front of Birch Lodge as very small trees.
Birch Lodge, Trout Lake, MI ca 1930's

Birch Lodge, Trout Lake, MI Porch
We enjoy old photos of people enjoying the area. My personal favorites are these two: the early Model A? touring car coming out the gate and a fun shot of folks hitting the beach!

Birch Lodge, Trout Lake, MI enjoying the beach title=

Birch Lodge, Trout Lake, MI Model A at the Gate

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tour of Birch Lodge Before Restoration

Print Friendly and PDF Many of the people who stopped by last summer wanted to go through the lodge. We couldn't always accommodate this while the work was going on, so I decided to post a slideshow for those who didn't get a tour. Things are just about the same as they were when it closed in 1981.

Just for note, the ceilings downstairs are 12' tall and upstairs they are 10' tall. The lodge is 10.000 square feet, and has a full attic. It has a front stairway for visitors and a service stair in the back wing to the kitchen from the second floor. One of the interesting features of the kitchen is a walk-in icebox complete with a pulley and overhead trap door for the ice--sorry no photo of this!.
Birch Lodge Lobby, 1990

The lobby still retains its antique chairs, the wood phone booth (Bill used this phone in 1980!) and the piano.
The dining area would easily seat fifty. In the morning it fills with light from the windows.

The upstairs lobby has a door out onto the upper deck; check out the view!
There are 34 guest rooms, and all are still made up. I've included a sampling of the bedrooms; some of you may recognize a room you stayed in!

The Birch Bar remains much the same, but does need upgrading to be put back in use. Birch bark wainscoting lines the base of the walls, and the jukebox plays when it feels like it....still all the old tunes in stock, three plays for a quarter.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why the Birch Tree has Black Markings...

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Close-up of Birch Bark
Branch Scars on Birch

Well, if you want to be scientific, they are the scars from branches and wounds which have healed over. However, the native peoples have several stories which tell how the birch tree got its markings, one variation goes something like this:

Naniboujou, was a powerful spirit. He lived when the birch tree was the most beautiful of trees, clothed in pure white bark. When he was a child, he wished to kill the big fish which lived deep in the water below the rocks in the big lake. He made a powerful bow and arrow, and asked his grand-mother what bird would have the feathers powerful enough to make the arrows fly strong enough. She answered only the Thunder-bird.

So Naniboujou, turned himself into a rabbit, knowing that the Thunder-bird would capture him and take him to the nest of young birds. When he was left there alone, he killed the young birds and stripped them of their feathers. He then jumped down from the nest, and ran back toward the village.

The Thunder-birds, discovering what had happened pursued Naniboujou, with thunder rolling, and lightning flashing. Naniboujou, as they swooped down, took shelter in a hollow birch. In frustration the Thunder-birds marked the trees with their mark-- the flying thunder-bird-- in memory of their lost young.

Thunderbird marking on Birch tree
Thunderbird marking on Birch tree
In thanks, Naniboujou blessed the tree, and said it would be ever more honored as a help for man. Do you see the flying Thunder-bird?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Moose at Trout Lake, MI

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Moose Track Close-up, at Birch Lodge Trout Lake, MI
Close-up of Moose Track
We went away overnight and missed a big visitor. I was walking the dogs, and took them down to the beach to wade when I saw the tracks. BIG tracks. I looked closely, and saw that they came from and returned to the lake...
Moose Tracks on the Beach at Birch Lodge, Trout Lk, MI
Moose Tracks on the Beach at Birch Lodge

The beach area is about 900 feet from the river which connects Little Trout Lake to Big Trout lake at the east edge of our property. Talking with our construction workers, one said he has also seen moose tracks around Little Trout Lake. That lake is a small lake, with limited development and is adjacent to wetlands which cross M-123 and continue north of town. I think the moose waded along the river-edge, and along our frontage passing the motel and lodge until it got to the beach and woods then returned.
Little Trout Lake, Trout Lake, MI
Little Trout Lake

I told Bill, and we hunted about for more tracks along the river/wetland, but found no more. Our neighbor
to the west told me he has seen moose tracks while hunting north of town west of M-123. Although I was surprised, I guess most people around here are aware of the moose. We are only about 30 miles from the Newberry/Tahquamenon river area (as the moose trots-- longer by road), which boasts itself the Moose Capital of Michigan.

Although moose were extirpated in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, it is less clear if there were remnant populations in the Upper Peninsula before the DNR moose re-introduction program in the 1980's. While visiting the Newberry Chamber of Commerce I came across this great video of a bull moose north of town. Those moose tracks led to a moose, so we must have one somewhere!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Before and After: 2010 Restoration at Birch Lodge

Print Friendly and PDF We were going through the photos we took this summer, and thought you might enjoy the changes we made. I could go on about the changes that don't show, but we will leave that for another day. Enjoy!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Summer Renovations at Birch Lodge The Beginning...

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Birch Lodge before Restoration
Birch Lodge before Restoration
We closed on the lodge just before Memorial Day, and spent that weekend settling into the small log cabin which would be our base for the summer. A tree had fallen on the electrical mast of the motel, and repairs were needed before we were ready to house the workers for the work on the lodge. Trees were down everywhere, the lawn had not been mowed in quite a while, and the lake edge was sprouting tag alder. Junk and debris had accrued everywhere. (Over twenty truckloads were cleaned up this year, not counting construction debris.)
And the lodge....
Oh, the lodge, the poor lodge, it looked really sad. On top of needing paint, and a roof the foundation was crumbling in the front and it was sagging.

Work on the lodge itself finally began in July. Our objective was to get a new roof on, make the repairs to the foundation, restore the old windows, and give it a coat of paint so that it might be weather-tight, and stabilized until further work inside can be done.

The worst area was in the front of the lodge, under the picture windows in the lobby, where the building had sagged. Before the foundation was repaired, this area was raised almost 5", and support beams were installed, until the new foundation work was installed. It groaned, and moaned, cracked and popped, and at one point, the men thought it would not lift, but finally it started to move and all was well. Surprisingly, this did very little additional damage to the plaster inside.

Bill in Protective Gear
Bill got to don a respirator, and tyvek suit to tackle the clean-up of the bat droppings in the attic. Oddly, no bats were found in the attic, just their calling cards... the attic was then repeatedly sprayed with a bleach solution before the window restorers set to work.

Roofing Birch Lodge
Roofing Birch Lodge
The re-roof involved stripping off the old shingle and felt, which exposed the old roof boards. Originally, the roof had cedar shakes, which were nailed on boards with gaps between them to allow the air to flow. Unfortunately, when they were torn off and re-done way back when, they did not add any additional fill strips in the boards, and the old shingles were only "nailed" to the roofing felt over much of the roof! The view outside from the attic looked like a planetarium--a thousand points of light!

New sheathing went on as the weather turned rainy, and sections of roof were done quickly as the rain allowed. This was a dismal process, the rain seemed to play tag with the workers. The only good thing about doing a roof in rainy summer is that it makes it easy to check for leaks! (The only areas which leaked were "in progress" spots.)

In the midst of the work, the visitors came, by car, boat, golf cart--and wheel chair. It was fun to watch the parade of boats, and kayaks, and even jet-ski's watching us. One morning as the black underlayment for the roof was up across the front a jet-ski screamed across the lake, paused at the shore, apparently saw that it was only black on the roof because it was in progress, and darted straight back!

I wish I had a dollar for everyone who told us where to put the dock in (straight off the front door!). But we did enjoy listening to the stories people shared. We were deeply moved when one of our older visitors actually came to tears, she was so happy that we were saving the lodge. It did wonders for our spirits to get such strong approval.

But in spite of the numerous requests, we have no plans at this time to re-open the Birch Bar. Eventually I hope if will be open for coffee, but it will remain intact pool table and jukebox, and the bar with all their initials carved in, just the same. I invite all with old photos of vacations at the lodge to send us a copy, I intend to frame groups of old photos along the walls for all to reminisce and enjoy.

Next the story of the windows....

Michigan Karst Conservancy's Fiborn Quarry

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Fiborn Quarry

Fiborn Quarry

I joined about 30 other folks at the Michigan Karst Conservancy’s annual pot luck for members and neighbors. “Karst” is the term which refers to a specific limestone terrain marked by sink holes, caves, disappearing and underground streams. In Michigan this is rare because most of the bedrock is buried below over a hundred feet of glacial deposits.

The “picnic,” held at the Karst clubhouse, included hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, corn on the cob, side dishes and about a dozen pies of all makes and models – Delicious! Present at the gathering were several old timers who used to live at Fiborn when it was still a town prior to the Great Depression. I spoke with a couple of the Fiborn natives, Mary and “Shoe”, who had some great stories about the town, and brought along copies of old photographs to share.
Down cut from stream at Fiborn
Down cut from stream at Fiborn
Fiborn quarry is about 7 miles from Birch Lodge and Karst Conservancy members used to stay here during their monthly trips/tours of the caves. They gave free guided tours at the gathering, and I learned that at other times members charge a modest fee to act as “spelunking” guides by appointment. A nice historical display is set up at the quarry adjacent to the former town site There are trails to hike around and across the property.
The Michigan Nature Association also stewards acreage adjacent the quarry. . Deb and I returned to the quarry to do a bit of exploration and take some photos. We thought we would just have a short visit, but found it a really interesting place. The nature trails traverse around and through varied habitats, from beech-maple forest, through conifer stands, and even a beaver active swamp. We especially enjoyed viewing the down- cut from the stream from the footbridge. The various pools and ponds in the quarry contrast with the more moon-like landscape of the last mining activities. We were fascinated with the sink-holes, watching the streams endlessly disappear.

Cave entrance at Fiborn
Cave entrance at Fiborn
Our short visit turned into several hours well spent, and we plan to return to take a cave tour.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fall Wildflower Tour in the Eastern Upper Peninsula

Print Friendly and PDF I am always on the watch for wildflowers, and when I find a patch of something rare or unusual, it is a good day! We started off down the road to Kenneth, MI., about a 15 minute drive from Birch Lodge, to check on the Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) at the Michigan Nature Association's Fred Dye Sanctuary. This open field was once an area where the railroad would bring hay in from the prairies to feed the horses used by the loggers in the late 1800's. I believe the seeds for these plants came in with the hay, and managed to maintain a population to the present day.

Purple Coneflower
Purple Coneflowers at Fred Dye Sanctuary
Although mid-August was late in the season, we found a few plants still in bloom, and plump seed heads bouncing in the wind.An additional surprise were the Ladies-Tress Orchids (Spiranthese cernua) blooming on the edge of the field.

Ladies-Tress Orchids
Ladies-Tress Orchids
This made me think of another location I know a few miles away, and we set off to see what might be blooming there....

Fringed Gentian and Grass of Parnassus
Fringed Gentian and Grass-of-Parnassus
The soils are limey and shallow, and not only did we find lots of orchids, but we found Fringed Gentian (Gentiana procera) blooming with the much more common Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia glauca) as well!
Not quite as rare a find here, but still interesting was the wild Clematis (Clematis virginiana) making a show of it's own in the trees along one side of the two-track trail. It's bloom was gone, but the feathery seeds were hard too miss

I will re-check these areas in the spring, I remember Blue-eyed Grass, and Yellow Lady's Slipper Orchids--check for a wildflower posting in the spring!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Print Friendly and PDF Wilwin Lodge, American Legion Respite for Veterans

Wilwin Lodge, Trout Lake, MI
Wilwin Lodge, Trout Lake, MI

Recently Deb and I went to the Open House sponsored by the American Legion Department of Michigan to showcase their newly acquired historic Wilwin Lodge, currently planned to be a respite site for recently returned veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Wilwin is literally in the middle of the forest, on the Mackinac Co./Chippewa Co. line, at the end of Wilwin Road, off of Co. Rt. H-40, about 5½ to 6 miles from Birch Lodge; and is about 45 minutes from the Mackinac Bridge.

The full news story of Wilwin which I summarize here, is available on line ( as submitted by Anita Gauld, at http://chippewa.migenweb.net/wilwin.htm.)
The legion also has a website with lots of information on Wilwin Lodge and the local area.

Wilwin sat on a huge tract of land acquired in 1914 by two sons of lumber baron Frank Chesbrough, WILliam and ErWIN Chesbrough (thus, its name). A lumber mill and associated buildings were constructed there beginning in 1915. At its peak after full-scale mill operations began in 1916, Wilwin consisted of the mill and warehouses, 15 houses, a schoolhouse and a church. Historic Wilwin Lodge was built in 1916-1917 to house and wine and dine lumber buyers and other guests and serve as the family recreation “camp.”

They called it the “Bungalow” but it was actually a massive two-story log lodge, with a central great room encircled by a second story interior balcony and anchored by two large masonry fireplaces, and rustic details such as hand-forged hardware – all hearkening to the Great Adirondack lodges and closer to home the Huron Mountain Club camps (near Marquette) so popular during this period. Electricity provided by the mill dynamo. Wilwin commercial operations continued only until 1922; the mill and related railroad equipment were sold off in 1927, and most of the buildings were sold and/or dismantled and moved by 1935.

The main lodge, however, remained in the family as recreation camp until 1962, and was preserved by other owners until owner Robert Considine’s recent donation of the 520-acre property to the American Legion. Wilwin Lodge has been totally preserved down to the light fixtures, moose heads, and furnishings, and I’ve attached some photos taken with my cell phone below.

Bedroom at Wilwin Lodge
A Bedroom at the Main Lodge at Wilwin

Screened Porch at Wilwin Lodge
Screened Porch Main Lodge at Wilwin

Living Room at Wilwin Lodge
Living Room Wilwin Lodge

Dining Room at Wilwin Lodge
Dining Room at Wilwin Lodge

Upstairs Gallery at Wilwin Lodge
Upstairs Gallery at Wilwin Lodge

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Selling our Wilderness Lakefront Home

Print Friendly and PDF Our decision to buy Birch Lodge was a difficult one. We were pretty happy with things the way they were. Bill is an independent consultant doing historic preservation and archaeology, and my role is chief assistant and bottle washer. We built a new home downstate, but decided to make our "second home" our main residence.

Blush Lake aka Farm Lake, Big Island Wilderness Area
Blush Lake, Big Island Lake Wilderness Area

Our home now is a 32 acre in-holding in the Big Island Lake Wilderness area. This is roughly half-way between Munising and Manistique in Michigan's Hiawatha National Forest. We have the only private frontage on a 93 acre lake, the rest being owned by the National Forest Service. Our road is snow-plowed to our drive, and from their begins as a snow mobile trail in the winter. Oddly, we have high speed internet and underground utilities, so Bill can do his work from home.

From our deck we have watched eagles, loons, otters, a porcupine nursing her baby, and wolves.
The lake is shallow, but does have blue-gill, perch and pike. I kayak on the lake, and rarely is there another boat because they must carry in about 1/4 mile from the road. The wilderness area is strictly non-motor and carry in. We hike in the wilderness area, a chain of lakes, as well as the Pictured Rocks along lake Superior, thirty minutes to the north.

We especially enjoy a pair of Trumpeter swans who nest in the wetlands adjacent to our lake. Every year they bring their cygnets on to the lake to grow a bit before they go off into the wilderness area. They view our landing as a safe haven, and even have brought their cygnets up into the yard for some grass and to doze in the sun.

It will be really, really hard to leave this. We realize that if we sell, there is no finding another place like this. We looked for years for it--wilderness, but with access. But the lodge is special to us, and in the end we realize that the wilderness will get along without us, but not too many people would be willing to try to save the lodge.

We spoke with the Forest Service about buying our property to complete the Wilderness holding on our lake, but funds are not available. We also contacted some nature conservancies, but funding is an issue for them as well. Consequently, we have listed through a realtor, and hope we can find a conservation oriented buyer. For more information about our home for sale, go to our blog on our Big Island Lake Wilderness Home.

History of the Lodge

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Birch Lodge, Trout Lake, MI 1990's
Birch Lodge, Trout Lake, MI 1990's
Birch Lodge currently sits on 19 acres with 1/4 mile of frontage on Big Trout Lake (aka Carp Lake), just west of the village of Trout Lake, Michigan off of Hwy 40. Now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the lodge was built in 1911 by Dr. Edgar Ford as a T.B. sanitarium and summer resort. At the time the fresh air of the north woods was considered "restorative" and part of the cure. Dr. Ford died shortly before the lodge was completed, and the lodge was opened as a summer resort.

Described in the St. Ignace newspaper of Oct., 19111, the lodge was the "ultimate design complete from health, pleasure and recreation points of view". In addition to the guest rooms, a recreation room, large dining room, kitchen and laundry; the doctor included a private office and consulting room, and a hospital facility in the back wing. Also offered for the guests were boating equipment, and a dance pavilion.

The lodge was purchased in 1954 by Cliff and Ann Badgley, who remodeled part of the lodge into the "Birch Bar", which was the area hot spot until Cliff's death in 1981. The Badgley's also built an eight unit motel in 1964. The motel accommodations were designed to take full advantage of the lake views, with large rooms having picture windows on the lake side.

Much loved by guests, Ann continued to run the business, although she closed the lodge and focused only on the motel to keep things manageable. Ann has passed away, and we have now purchased the property with the intention to preserve the lodge and restore it to it's function as a "restorative" lodging for summer guests. Our plans are continue to take motel reservations while the lodge is converted to a bed and breakfast.