OVPA Blog

Patty’s Treehouse

When Patty was 11, her grandfather built her a treehouse ten feet off the ground. Because he loved her very much, he put tall chicken wire fencing around the outside of it so even if she or her brother got to tussling, they would not fall out. Patty had a brother, and just so he would not feel left out, her grandfather made it a two-room treehouse. Now this was in 1934, in the heart of the depression. Money and materials were scarce. Can you picture what this tree house must have looked like? Probably made from scrap wood, with… Read More »


Making Cottages Your Own

Carmichael Boathouse converted to a garage

It is believed that Carmichaels boat house underwent several transformations, in this case into a garage along the shore road. Courtesy Linda Kemper Giving your cottage a name gives you “dominion over a part of your world, and gives you a sense of stability,” according to Mike Curtis in an article last November. In other words, it makes your cottage your own, and says something about how you feel about it. There are a lot of interesting names in Omena: Idyllcrest, Idyllwild, Sandlapper, Robin’s Nest, Pioneer, and Birchwood Terrace are a few of them. But what about “House by The… Read More »


The Spitznagel’s move Barth Barn – Part 2

One of the railings made by Ron Sutton with the pitchforks that had been in the barn.

One of the railings made by Ron Sutton with the pitchforks that had been in the barn. There were many ways to move a building back in the 1900s. You could put it on rollers and roll it. You could saw it apart at the corners and move it wall by wall. Or, you could take it apart and use the materials to make a house of your own choosing. Or you could do what we did, and carefully take it apart, number the parts, and then put it back together again on a new spot just the same as… Read More »


Barth Barn to Spitznagel Cabin – Part 1

Spitz and Tom load wood into Tom's truck, while Lynn dodges a swinging board.

Spitz and Tom load wood into Tom’s truck, while Lynn dodges a swinging board. My husband Spitz had something to deliver to Janet that spring day. After he was through with his business, she came out to the car where I was waiting. “If you ever want to sell your barn, let me know.” I said casually. I had loved barns since we had lived in upstate New York’s Allegheny Mountains years ago. That we lived in Trinity’s parsonage now, after 3 years of seminary dorm living, intensified my desire to have a house, a house with history, a house… Read More »


Windmills and Sunsets

A map from 1900 showing Leonard Wheelers land in the upper left corner. The village isn’t shown in this map, but you can see the two docks reaching out into the bay. The proposed lots as yet unsold on the right. Courtesy A History of Leelanau Township. The wives must have loved it. It looked like a big colorful flower growing in the yard, painted an unusual shade of red and green. The farmers were said to describe the color as “cow patty green with buzzard blood red tips.” The Eclipse windmill had an unusually dense pattern of fins instead… Read More »


Repurposing an Old Sawmill

Schram and Bauer's sawmill when Bob Bauer lived there around 1980. Photo Courtesy Lynn Spitznagel

Schram and Bauer’s sawmill when Bob Bauer lived there around 1980. Photo Courtesy Lynn Spitznagel Mary Louise was frightened by the spiders and scurrying little creatures in the dark, abandoned outbuilding at the end of Omena Point. Her friends liked to play there though, so she went too. When Mary Louise Vail was a child in the early 1910s, the bowling alley was all that remained of the first Omena Inn. It had burned to the ground in 1904 in a sudden and devastating fire, sending up a tower of black smoke seen all over the area. Only the outbuildings… Read More »


New Mission Point

Number 6 is the First Omena Inn that Graves owned. Look for number 4, the sidewalk that led to the Inn. Courtesy Bentley Historical Museum. From early Omena Resort brochure, ca. 1890s. Bay View Association

Number 6 is the First Omena Inn that Graves owned. Look for number 4, the sidewalk that led to the Inn. Courtesy Bentley Historical Museum. From early Omena Resort brochure, ca. 1890s. Bay View Association Imagine you are living in Grand Rapids in the 1880’s, with its smoke and noise from its many furniture factories. Imagine the roughshod lumberjacks accompanying the logs from the forests upstream to the sawmills sawing up the logs into lumber for those furniture companies. A flood of foreigners also came to town to work at those furniture companies. The streets were filled with smoke and… Read More »


John Santos

Santos Cottage

The cottage of the Santo family on Omena Point. Courtesy Leelanau Historical Society. Every morning and afternoon when the minister’s sons, the Marbach boys, swam at the Omena beach, they saw an old man slowly puttering along in his ancient Buick. They figured John Santo was inspecting the Omena Inn and his cottage properties as he always had. However, he had lost those properties years ago. The unraveling of his accumulation of properties began in 1923 when his wife died and his drinking began, according to some. Then the crash devastated the economy in 1929 and one by one, he… Read More »


Pothole Season

Rhoda Wheeler stuck in the mud while enroute to visit her Aunt Rhoda and Uncle Leonard Wheeler at Sunset Lodge. (ca. 1905) Courtesy of Omena Historical Society

Rhoda Wheeler stuck in the mud while enroute to visit her Aunt Rhoda and Uncle Leonard Wheeler at Sunset Lodge. (ca. 1905) Courtesy of Omena Historical Society. It is pothole season here in Michigan. In the early 1900’s in Omena, there were no paved roads, and the dirt and gravel roads were made for horses and wagons. The roads were not often repaired, and come spring rains, the potholes filled with mud. Sinking up to the hub caps in mud was not unusual. Keeping a rope, ax, and shovel handy was essential. The rope was to wind around the rear… Read More »


Hector Carmichael

One of Hector Carmichael’s boats on Omena Bay circa 1930’s. – Courtesy Omena Historical Society. Once there was rich man, a very rich man, who had a son he dearly loved named Charlie, “Doc” for short. Why “Doc”? Perhaps it was short for “Douglas Carmichael” or perhaps it was because he was in constant need of doctors. Charlie had congenital lung disease for which there were few treatments in 1914. It was a happy accident that Charlies family discovered Omena and its clear cool summer air where Charlie could play and have adventures like a normal boy. In 1920, when… Read More »


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