When Earl Young began his work on Boulder Manor in 1928, all of Charlevoix was speechless in the face of this wonderful new creation. As Earl Young built more and more houses, his style also evolved with his homes. In fact, Earl Young even experimented with thatch roofing material which had mixed results.
On an Earl Young home tour, 316 Park Avenue can easily be overlooked. It is slightly recessed, located across the street from Earl’s better-known creations, and appears somewhat more conventional compared to the other Mushroom Houses nearby. This is especially true with the roof line. The home’s rolling red shingles are completely different compared to any other Earl Young home. This quirk makes sense when you consider that Earl Young originally topped this home with a thatch roof, the first and only of its kind that he attempted.
The home’s unique shape can be traced back to a trip Earl and Irene Young took to Europe in the 1930s. While there, they toured the famous Cotswold region of England. Many Cotswold architectural features were incorporated into the Park Avenue home. In addition to the thatch roof, 316 Park Ave. had a whitewashed stone-and-mortar construction. Earl shipped the thatch for the roof over from England piece by piece when the home was built around 1945. However, he quickly learned why thatch was not a preferred building material in Northern Michigan. Each year, the thatch roof needed to be repaired each spring due to the brutal winter storms blowing in from Lake Michigan. It is no wonder, then, that 316 Park Avenue was the only thatch house that Earl Young built.
The Young family sold the house in 1947. The thatch roof may have contributed to the house being sold again relatively quickly, in 1950. The first act of the new owners was to replace the thatch roof with more conventional shingles that we see today. Thankfully, the new owners left the rolling pitch of the roof line. When you visit Charlevoix, look up to the roof line at 316 Park Avenue and imagine a thatch roof once again overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan.
This blog was written by Trevor Dotson of the Charlevoix Historical Society.