Hemingway's Childhood Summer Home.  An exclusive article from the Hemingway Resource Center.

 

 

 


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Windemere Cottage on Wallon Lake, MichiganPhoto © 1995 State of Michigan, Michigan Department of State

 

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Hemingway Resource Center>Exclusives>Feature Articles>A Visit to Windemere by Bob Orlin



"Oh! lovely Walloona, fairest of all the inland seas,
Oh! Lovely Walloona….thy laughing ripples kiss the shore."

                                                                  Grace Hall Hemingway

Part One


Windemere sits on the shores of Walloon Lake outside of Petoskey Michigan (Petoskey was named after the Ottawa Indian Chief Pe-to-se-ga).  It was and is the summer home of the Hemingway family (still owned by Ernest’s nephew/godson). The Hemingway’s first came to Walloon lake in 1898 and before the summer was over they purchased a piece of property consisting of 4 lots (1 acre) on the north shore, with birches & cedars surrounding the white sandy beach that formed a bay.  Here they built Windemere cottage.

Lumbering camps abounded in the area (it was lumber from here that helped rebuild Chicago after the great fire), and it had an Indian village. Many of Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories are filled with tales gathered here and in the neighboring towns.

Windemere is closed to the public, but unusual circumstances brought about my invitation.  I am a Hemingway aficionado, with an ever growing collection of Hemingway items.  One item I was lucky enough to obtain was a painting of Camp Baldy painted by Grace Hall Hemingway, Ernest’s mother. A short time after its acquisition I received an e-mail Hemingway's nephew inquiring if I would be interested in selling the painting, or if that was not the case, if I would consider a trade for a piece of Hemingway memorabilia.  The latter offer also included an invitation to visit Windemere, spending the day going through it, and then dinner there afterwards; the piece of memorabilia and the invitation were an offer I could not refuse.

It was during the second weekend in August ( the last day before the cottage would be closed up for the season) that I journeyed to Windemere.

The Hemingway’s took the lake steamer State of Ohio from Chicago to Harbor Springs (a voyage that would take the Hemingway’s some 32 hours), then the train to Petoskey where they switched railway cars for Walloon Lake, and then the little lake steamer up the lake to Windemere.  Unfortunately this route is a thing of the past. Steamers no longer ferry passengers across lake Michigan; the closest I could come was the SS Badger across Mackinaw which is primarily a car ferry, so instead my wife and I flew into Flint Michigan, rented a car, and drove the 215 miles to lovely Walloon.

Our Hemingway sojourn really began the morning after we arrived in Petoskey. After breakfast we drove out heading south on US31 towards the Old Horton Bay rd.(C56), we made a left and followed the twisting hilly road into Horton Bay. A quiet little village that looks much like it must have in young Ernest’s day. You can find a general store, an Inn, a bookstore and little cottages as old as some of the trees. Our first stop was the Red Fox Inn owned by James Hartwell, the grandson of Vollie Fox, the man under who’s tutoring young Ernie learned to fish. In front of the inn is a shadow box advertising the Hartwell & Co. Bookshop ( taken from Sylvia Beaches Paris Shakespear & Co.).  Mr. Hartwell also owns the bookstore. Inside the Bookstore was wall to wall Hemingway books and biographies, and photo’s of old Horton Bay. In one corner, propped up against the wall, a rusty remnant of one of the saws from the old mill stood...price: $95.  There were, scattered about on shelves and tables, various pieces of junk mixed in with an occasional antique. Jim Hartwell is an amiable sort who in-between trying to sell you everything in the shop is only to happy to fill you full of Hemingway and Horton Bay lore. He has compiled a little home bound book of some 26 pages, full of stories from his grandfather and other Bay old-timers, ( Fishing for Life, $8.95), and there’s even a map from circa 1925-35, with all the points of interest denoted. The copy I purchased had many additional hand written notes on it to aide in finding some of these places in relation to the Hemingway short stories set there. 

Our next stop took us a few yards to the other side of the Red Fox Inn, into the General store which is a combination butcher shop, grocer and lunch counter.  Here we bought a large yellow onion and loaf of bread for our lunch ala Nick Adams. Next we needed fishing licenses, so it was back in the car and a short drive to Charlevoix to the bait and tackle shop for our license (a 24 hour out of state license is $6 and that includes trout). Back in the car we retraced our route back, and just before the Red Fox Inn, is a little road on the left that takes you down to the sandy beach of Lake Charlevoix.  Jjust after turning down this road on your left sits Dilworths Pinehurst, where the newlyweds Ernest and Hadley spent their wedding night, and next to that is the Shangri-La, the site of their reception. The road dead-ends at the lake, if you look off to your right you’ll see the point where Ernest camped out and ran trout lines from. To your left is what was once the saw mill ( In the old days Hortons Bay was a logging town. No one who lived in it was out of sound of the big saws in the mill by the lake. "Ernest Hemingway, the Nick Adams stories, The end of Something."). Here we met G.T. a fortyish looking Hemingway double who was out sunning himself.  "Can I be of any help he asked?" We told him what we where up to and who we were, and about being invited to Windemere, and he opened up to us, and helped to clarify some of the landmarks in Hartwell’s book.  He told me he had been in the Hemingway TV Mini-series starring Stacey Keach,  playing Ernie’s best-man in the film. He spoke of Sunny, Ernest’s sister and their relationship, and how he was her unofficial screener for all solicitations to visit Windemere when she was alive. During our conversation it came up that we both had run with the bulls in Pamplona, I the one time, he for several years and we made a date to run together next year.  After telling us the best way to reach Hortons Creek, we bid farewell and we were off to fly fish.


Per G.T.’s instructions we parked by the side of the road and climbed down the embankment to the river and hugging the shore line the best we could.  That wasn’t always easy; we would have to veer off to avoid a tangle of branches, fallen tree trunks, muddy areas and slippery rocks. Above us an awning of branches and leaves, below the gurgling sound of the creek and my heart thumping as we neared the spot we would fish; a make shift bridge which consisted of three felled logs across the banks that someone had nailed boards to. The weathered boards creaked as we walked on them, their rusted nails pulling up from the trunks below that swayed with each step we took. About halfway across we sat down to assemble our fly rods. That done, we were ready for lunch, I opened the plastic bag holding the bread and onion and a knife, stripped back the skin from the onion and cut some thick slices for our sandwich. The bite from the raw onion brought a grimace to my wives face, but like a trooper she continued eating, stopping only to swat the encircling flies. After we finished we tied on our flies and fished the river, our lines swirling in the river as they floated down stream, with every cast we hoped to catch one of the descendants of a trout Papa had caught, but it wasn’t our day, not one bite. We broke down our equipment, and after saying our good-byes to the creek, retraced our steps back to the car.


Next we drove the road to Walloon Lake, along the very route Ernest would walk (it was a good three or four miles), and this after canoeing across Walloon lake (sometimes called Bear Lake), on his way into Horton Bay. There at the end of the road (Sumner Rd.) lay Walloon Lake, It was my first glimpse of it, and it made me want for tomorrow to come even faster. 

 


THE ROOMING HOUSE


        "I’ll go to see him", Nick said to George. "Where does he live?" "He lives up at Hirsch’s rooming house". George said to Nick. "Ernest Hemingway, The Killers, Nick Adams Stories"

By now it was well into the afternoon and we headed back to Petoskey to look for the rooming house Ernest had stayed in the autumn of 1919.  The gabled house still stands at the corner of State and Woodland (602 State Street).  When Hemingway stayed there it was owned by the widow Evva Potter.  Ernest occupied a large room on the second floor front. After parking the car we walked up State Street to Woodland and there on the corner was the house we where looking for.  The house is white painted clap board with a black roof, on a well manicured piece of property, with what is now a small back yard. There is a porch that runs across the front of the house, and a bronze plaque on the wall proclaiming it as being on the historic national register. Unfortunately there was no answer when I knocked, so the best I could do was sit on the steps and think about the adventure that still lay ahead. On our way back to the car we stopped to look at the library where Hemingway had checked out Robinson Crusoe, and Tom Sawyer.

 

Part Two

We were set to meet with Hemingway’s nephew at 3:30 in the afternoon, and it was impossible making the time prior to that go by fast enough.  Finally at the scheduled hour we drove up his driveway where we met for the first time.  He’s a gentleman in his sixties with Hemingway white hair, and of about the same proportions. After the initial greetings we went inside his home, a beautiful Victorian building on the bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. There we viewed some of the paintings of Grace Hall Hemingway. One in particular hung in a prominent spot, it was the one I had traded to him (Camp Baldy). In turn we were shown his collection of first editions by his uncle, along with the various books on him, and then my first treat of the day.  He handed me one of the first editions and when I opened it I saw it was signed by Hemingway; he then proceeded to hand me a book that had belonged to Ernest as a child; it too had Ernest Hemingway scrawled in it. Windemere is where the good stuff is he said as the tour ended.  Before leaving I presented to him two paintings I’d none, one of his mother Madeline "Sunny", and the other of his Grandmother Grace, he seem genuinely touched by them.


Next it was on to the Little Travis Historical Museum; they were opening their doors for a private tour for us.  It was just down the road from the house, on the shores of lake Michigan, and it was once a railroad station built by the Chicago & West Michigan Co. The Hemingway’s had used this station in their comings and goings. We were greeted at the door by the Museum Curator, Candace Eaton. Inside, lining the walls, were photographs showing life as it once was there, the lake steamers, Indian villages, the lumberjack camps. Display cases were in abundance, some filled with Indian artifacts, others with things relating to the lumbering industry. A horse drawn Buggy, old period clothing, all very interesting, but not what I had come to see.  But then Candace walked me over to one display case, and sitting on top was a signed Hemingway book and next to it were some Christmas cards Ernest had sent to residents of the town, all of which I was allowed to handle.  Off to the right of the case next to the stairwell was an unimposing oak table and three chairs, on the table sat a photo of Ernest and two of his sisters, sitting at the exact table and chairs at Windemere Cottage, I was given permission to sit in one of the chairs.


Candace then told me of the other volumes of Hemingway first editions.  A benevolent benefactor had left them and explained that as yet their facility was not equipped as far as a controlled environment to store them. Candace told us stories about Ernest, how as a lad he would sit in the lobby of the not so well healed Hotel down the street from the Perry, where the crews from the train would stay, and he’d ask the most astounding questions, and would always be listening. Then she told us of the time after the wounding in Italy he’d came back to Petoskey and stayed at the Potter rooming house, but found it too noisy to write there, so he inquired over at Evelyn Hall over at Bay View about writing there.   Now Evelyn Hall was only for women, but he was allowed to stay there, when asked why, the land lady said, "He was so, so handsome and so charming, I told my husband we couldn’t say no to him."

It was now time to leave for Windemere, we got in our car and followed Ernest’s nephew out to the cottage. After every turn on the winding hilly road, my heart raced expecting to see Windemere, and there were quite a few turns, finally one last turn and there sat Windemere. It was perfect after spending the day before doing Hemingway things.  Here we were at the place he spent his boyhood years. The cottage is much bigger than when originally built. 

As the family grew so did Windemere. The Hemingway’s added an out building for bedrooms.  After all, with six children, assorted playmates, the cook and mother and father Hemingway, the two bedrooms in the cottage didn’t accommodate the tribe, especially as the largest bedroom, which was Grace and Clarence’s was only 8’x12’, with the other being 8x10.  Until the outbuilding was erected, the family slept on the two window seats on either side of the fireplace, and the floor, and at times in a tent pitched next to the cottage. It of course is well maintained, a labor of love (it is the only Hemingway residence that is still owned by a family member).  The white exterior paint looks as if it was just done yesterday, as does the green shingled roof. I was told the renovations were an on-going thing, and soon would be shown the last thing they had finished, just this past weekend. We then were taken around to the front of the cottage which faces the shores of Walloon lake, where we were invited to sit on the front steps as the Hemingway children had done every year.  We had our photograph taken by our host, who explained it was taken from the same angle and spot that Clarence Hemingway had taken his family photos and that he could tell because of a Hemlock tree that stood there, next we were shown the latest renovation, the outhouse.  On the door hung a sign reading HEMINGWAY SAT HERE, erected by his sister Sunny. Yes, of course, we had our photo taken sitting in the outhouse.

It was time to go inside, as you enter the front door, the first thing you notice is the brick fireplace with a deer mount over it.  We were told the taxidermy work was done by Doctor Hemingway. And next to it on the wall, framed, a very special piece of Hemingway memorabilia.  Inside the 8"x10"frame is a map of Italy, a small rolled Italian flag (like the one children wave at parades) and on top of this a medal about the size of a half dollar.  It reads, "Oak Park RACE 1914", Ernest had this in his uniform pocket the night he was wounded and the medal is indented where a bullet struck it... talk about chills. 

On the adjoining wall in a bookcase are family pictures, Doctor Hemingway’s Cadaver Surgical tools, and assorted family keepsakes. On the same wall but on the other side of the doorway is another bookcase filled with books, most of which are books by and about Hemingway, some carved sculptural pieces by sibling Ursula, a sheep’s horn the family used when coming across the lake to signal their eminent arrival.  Our host asked if I thought I could blow it, and I said I’d like to give it a try, and put it to my lips and blew in it like a Conch shell, and the sound blared out of it.  We then were given a viewing of more of Grace Hall Hemingway’s paintings, which hung every where.  They were from all periods, from an early impressionism stage to one influenced by the Taos art movement.  As we turned back to exit the front door, it was pointed out, another most amazing thing.  On either side of the door, on the trim, were pencil marks with the names and ages of the Hemingway children, for each year they summered there, The last entry for Ernest was in 1917.


We were then treated to some fresh Michigan smoked white fish and libations, sitting out on the patio, he talked of the rest of the family and how almost none of them had ever visited, the exception being the Sanford’s and Hilary Hemingway and her husband.  But Ernest’s son Jack was coming in a few weeks, along with Thomasville representatives, looking for ideas for their new Young Hemingway furniture collection. We then went inside for dinner and were given the seats of honor at the dining table, with a view overlooking Walloon lake;  we feasted on chicken breast, Portobello mushrooms, fresh Northern Michigan corn (the sweetest corn I’d ever tasted), and salad, accompanied by some Spanish wine I’d brought along.  As we ate we watched the sky mix in reds and purples from the sunset, and when we’d finished dinner the moon was well up and we walked again through the house in case we’d missed anything, and of course we had.  Most of the original furniture was sold off long ago, but a few of the pieces remain, one being a beautiful old rocker which I got to rock in by the fire. Then we were shown the original plans of Windemere drawn up by Doctor Hemingway on his stationary, accompanied by photographs of the building of it in progress, taken by the Doctor, who it seems, was somewhat of an amateur photographer.


There was one last treat in store, in the dining room on the wall hung an old fishing rod and reel that was used by Ernest.   I asked if I could touch it and I was told I should take it down off the wall and feel the action of it.  Of course I did, Big Two Hearted river here I come.  Ernest’s nephew had promised me a visit to the old Indian camp (it had once been the largest in Michigan), weather permitting, "I'll walk you from the cottage to The Indian Camp. Damn few folks know where that was, but they tramp all over the county, convinced they do know." But because of the hour when we’d finally finished dinner this wasn’t possible, but he did tell me in detail how to reach it.  We thanked our host for sharing his love of Windemere with us and for the wonderful dinner, and told each other we’d keep in touch. We then got in our car and drove back to our motel.


THE INDIAN CAMP


"Where are we going Dad? Nick asked. "Over to the Indian camp".
They walked up from the beach through a meadow that was soaking wet with dew, then they went into the woods and followed a trail that led to the logging road that ran back into the hills, they walked on along the road then came around a bend, ahead of them lay the shanties. "Ernest Hemingway, the Nick Adams stories"

Bright and early the next morning we were there. The land where the Indian camp had been is still pretty much the way it was in Hemingway’s youth (It’s owned by the Hoffman’s, Fred and Patti) and as we rounded the bend, I squinted my eyes and I could imagine where the shanties once stood, with the barking dogs announcing the arrival of the intruders, Nick, his father the Doctor and his uncle George, and once I thought I even heard the screams of the pregnant Squaw. The ground where the camp had once been, had long ago been bulldozed to fill in crevices in the earth, and mounds of dirt outlined it. The shadows cast on the forest floor from the overhanging limbs of the Hemlocks, cedar and Birch gave a magical feeling to the place, as if any minute an Indian might come walking up the path, or maybe even Hemingway himself. I would have loved to dig around for arrow heads and such, but we had to be leaving for the airport soon.  Perhaps there would be a next time.



THE END


FOOTNOTE 1.
The original section of the house was a 20 x 40 cabin, built in 2 ½ month’s in 1899, it became a registered National Historic Landmark in 1968.
FOOTNOTE 2.
Hartwell’s Spring project. Jim Hartwell (Red Fox Inn & Hartwell & Co. Books) is trying to fund a project and is asking for contributions. The purpose of which is to sink a well at the spot where the spring that was mentioned in the Hemingway short story Summer People tells of, it seems it was lost for years but Mr. Hartwell has found it and cleared it out. Here’s what Hemingway wrote of it. "Halfway down the gravel road from Horton Bay, the town, to the lake there was a spring," the story begins. "The water came up in a tile sunk beside the road, lipping over the cracked edge of the tile and flowing away through the close-growing mint into the swamp." Jim Hartwell says the spring flows once again and one can dip an arm into the water just as Nick Adams did. Anyone interested in contributing to or having any questions about the project can contact him at the address below.  Please tell him you heard of his project from this column.

James Hartwell, 
05081 BC- Char. Road, 
Horton Bay 
Boyne City, Michigan 49712
231-582-6999

 

 

 
 

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