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Charlevoix, A History

The past tells a story. A story of where we've come from, where our ancestors came from, what brought us to where we are, and where we hoped to go. There's a reason we find the past so fascinating. It's the same reason we pour over family trees for hours and watch home videos (or slides!) of our childhoods. It's the same reason we curl up with a good historical biography in a cozy armchair and wander through museums packed to the ceiling with articles of the past.

It's sentimentality. It's recognizing a kindred spirit. It's reconciling who we once were with, who we are now, and how in some ways, our past selves seem like different people and in some ways, exactly the same. It's the process of experimenting with and learning about our own duality of spirit. It's a sense of pride; knowing that the blood that flowed through the veins of that chief, or that explorer, or that captain, flows in our veins too. It's an experience, filled with adventurous exploits we usually only find in movies. Peril. Chance. Risk. And Success. It gives us a sense that anything is possible, because in a world filled with "cant's" our ancestors found the "can". It gives us a sense of familiarity, of comradery, of belonging. It's an endless wealth of knowledge that can teach us so much about our future. And it's something different to everyone.

You know all about your history and the history of your hometown. You know your family crest and where your great grandparents were born and when your city was founded and by whom. You already know that story. Now it's time to learn about a different story. Follow the stops in this article to learn all about the rich past (there's plenty of secrecy and excitement, we promise) and start your next adventure in Charlevoix, the Beautiful.

Take a historic stroll on Park Avenue and become enveloped in the magical, mushroom houses designed by Earl Young. These hobbit-like homes, built between the 1930's through the early 1950's, are a huge attraction only available in Charlevoix. By following the mantra of Frank Lloyd Wright, Young designed each home to blend into its surroundings. Try to spot them, we dare you.

Wind over to 103 State Street to the Harsha House and home to the Charlevoix Historical Society. This Victorian home was built by Charlevoix businessman and community leader, Horace Harsha. His granddaughter, Ann Harsha, donated the home in 1979 as a museum. View Hemingway's first marriage certificate, over nine thousand photos and negatives depicting Charlevoix's past and hear a 1917 working player piano. Arrange to tour the Earl Young houses here, too.

Drive south of Charlevoix, and you'll find the Belvedere Club, a home association of 89 cottages nestled between Round Lake and Lake Charlevoix. Founded in 1878 by Baptists from Kalamazoo, this club was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1974. Typically, these homes weren't winterized and were constructed before 1900 featuring ornate cupolas and textured wall surfaces. Traffic is limited during the summer season, so a bicycle might be a better bet to explore these hidden gems.

Looking for a little scandalous bit of history? Visit the old Loeb Farm, now known as Castle Farms. In 1918, Albert Loeb, president of Sears, Roebuck & Company, built this dairy farm to highlight products in the Sears catalog. Designed to represent the stone towers found in Normandy, France, it lasted ten years as a farm. Where's the scandal? Albert's son, Richard, is part of the infamous duo, Leopold and Loeb, murderers who thought they committed "the perfect crime." Heralded as the "crime of the century," famed lawyer, Clarence Darrow was hired to represent Richard. Was it the perfect crime? Both men were sentenced to life imprisonment. Albert Loeb died two months after his son was sentenced.

Take some extended time to divest all the history awaiting you in Charlevoix and enjoy an overnight here. There are plenty of places to stay, many with rich history of their own.

Photo Credit: Charlevoix Historical Society

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