We were all sitting around the dining room table playing Speak Out - ya know, the game where you stick the plastic piece in your mouth and try not to sound like a complete fool.
“Oh, I got it! ‘The mailman is a tad mall slayer!?" I basically screamed.
“Wha?! No,” my brother sloppily said with drool coming out of his mouth.
“Times up!” said my sister. Her team was currently winning. We all started cracking up. “What were you saying?”
“Ugh. The mailman is a bad ballplayer. Bad! Ball-player! That’s what I was saying! Jeez.”
We were all laughing, having a great time! And that was usually the case whenever we were all together at the Lakehouse.
So far, this was shaping up to be a fantastic week in southern Michigan. Not only did we have family games planned for most nights, that were, of course, paired with (probably) copious amounts of alcohol, we also had a bonfire planned, a relaxing day on the water, and great conversations we won’t soon forget.
That’s what a typical stay is like at the Lakehouse my siblings and I own. It’s actually a house that not only has been in my family since it was built, it also has quite a history.
History of The Cozy Lakehouse
The four bedroom, two bathroom house was built about 60 years ago on four plots of land. My Great Aunt Katherine (though to me and the rest of my family, she was known by her nickname: Noonie) bought the land from one of her friends, Leo Dryer (technically, it was his mom's land. More on that in a minute). Back when construction started, each plot of land was a lot lower than what you see today. If you go towards the lake and look back at the house you can actually see the house is on a slight hill. That hill, if you wanna call it that, was put there for the house to keep it from flooding as easily. My Great Uncle Bill was actually the one to raise the ground level of the property. You certainly wouldn’t be able to do this today without attracting all sorts of unwanted attention, but he took one of his backhoes and started digging a hole on the south side of the property. The dirt he dug up was used to raise the land. Oh, and that hole? That’s now the channel that's next to the house.
As for the house itself, it is actually a kit house - or catalog home. Similar to what you used to be able to buy from, for example, Sears. Today, it’s filled with artifacts that Noonie collected as she traveled the world after her retirement from Chicago Public Schools. Before she retired she was a teacher and assistant principal in the CPS for 40 years -- many of those years in Wicker Park. Back to her travels, she would be gone for months at a time - from South and Central America to Asia, Africa and Europe, Noonie went all over and brought back little mementos to put up in the house and remind herself and everyone else who enters of where she's been.
One of the centerpieces of the house (quite literally, actually) is the grandfather clock that sits in between the living room and dining room. That was built by hand and, believe it or not, there are only four or five in the world like it.
Even though the house does have WiFi, it's a fantastic location to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. When you sit quietly on the screened-in patio all you hear is nature (and of course the occasional boat). Get up early enough and you'll be treated to quite the sunrise.
The Lost Forty
The Cozy Lakehouse sits at the far end of a neighborhood called the Lost Forty. Legend has it, the Lost Forty got its name when two rival farmers back in the late 1800s made a bet about whose season would be more successful. One of the farmers - the one that lost that bet - put up 40 acres of heavily wooded land that he owned right next to - what’s now Marble Lake. Well, when the winning farmer took over the land he put a sign up that read “The Lost Forty” to remind his rival of what he lost whenever he went by it. The winning farmer and his wife -- who went by the surname of Dryer -- had no need to farm this land they just won, so after they cleared out some of the forest and built themselves a nice little house on the lake. After that, they started selling off plots of land to willing buyers... and The Lost Forty neighborhood was born.
One more thing: I’ve heard - that if you listen very close at night - you can still hear the farmer that lost his land walking back and forth on the gravel road near the entrance of the neighborhood.
The lake at your doorstep
Of course, one of the main attractions to the neighborhood (and surrounding neighborhoods) is the chain of lakes you’ll find at your doorstep if you stay at the Cozy Lakehouse. The lake at the end of the lawn is Marble Lake, which is the second largest lake in a chain of seven lakes connected by deep channels over a 17-mile stretch. The biggest lake in that chain is Coldwater Lake at over 1600 acres of water. As for Marble Lake, there is plenty of good fishing, swimming, and boating to do. The best part, in my opinion, about the Cozy Lakehouse is the spot that it’s located on Marble Lake. It’s kinda tucked into a corner, so not only can you easily relax on a tube all day near the seawall, but you can also easily launch a motor boat (oh, and the area is about as picturesque as it gets).
For those who aren’t aware, Quincy is unofficially the official antique-store capital of the world. A quick drive east on US 12 and you’ll be in heaven if that’s your thing. If it’s not your thing, then you’ll probably just be bored out of your mind.
Coldwater is the other way on US 12, where you’ll find a fantastic historic district. They have some extremely old buildings still being used (and preserved) today like the Tibbits Opera House that was built in 1882.
Also (remember this for trivia night), both Quincy and Coldwater are home to, weirdly enough, several current and former MLB umpires.
Not only is there plenty to do in each of the small towns (well... for small towns, that is), there is also plenty to do in the immediate surrounding area. Pokagon State Park is not too far down I-69 (it’s actually just on the other side of the border in Indiana). It’s a fantastic area for families to hike on trails, take a horse ride, or hang out on the lake there. Go north on I-69 and you'll run into Marshall pretty quickly. Marshall is a lovely small town with a pretty good brewery called Dark Horse Brewing Company and one of my favorite restaurants in the area called Schuler's.
If you’re looking for something else to do, more and more wineries seem to be popping up in the area, too. It’s nothing to write home about, but as of this writing there are about 3-4 within a short drive.
Relaxing. If someone asked me to describe the property in one word, that’s the word I would pick. From amazing bonfires at night and playing games with the family in the dining room to exploring the surrounding area that’s rich in history, you can’t go wrong.
It's certainly no stay in the Ritz. If that's what you're looking for, I would suggest you're looking in the wrong place. But if you are looking for a place full of character that's surrounded by nature of all kinds, you'll love our little Lakehouse - that has a pretty impressive history, too. From the story of how it was built to the legend of the Lost Forty, if you’re looking for a relaxing getaway within driving distance of several big metropolitan areas, this area is the perfect fit.
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