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Earl Young Mushroom Houses
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Charlevoix Country Club
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Featured Attractions

What
Grab a map and treat yourself to a tour of the funky stone houses of Charlevoix, designed by a remarkable man who really loved rocks.

You may have outgrown fairy tales, but several Charlevoix houses will make you think twice. They peek out from among Victorians and farmhouses like portals to an enchanted world–you can't miss their mushroom-cap roofs and walls of huge boulders that could've been plucked from Middle Earth.

Earl Young, who died in 1975, was a man as distinctive as his creations. A real estate dealer by trade, Young was never certified as an architect and never worked with blue prints. He was simply an artist who loved rocks.


The Tour
Get a map from the Charlevoix Chamber of Commerce and drive the route. Start your tour at Stafford's Weathervane Restaurant, a building Young created from the skeleton of a grain mill just over the U.S. 31 bridge; his office was tucked under the northwest corner. The first floor fireplace is his masterpiece: Several huge boulders crowd together like bulges from the earth itself, and the keystone is a 10-ton Michigan-shaped sandstone rock. Notice the black rock to the right–it's an iron meteorite.

Stroll through the adjoining Weathervane Terrace Hotel Young designed, and then head a few yards north to The Lodge Motel that Uhrick owns. Aside from creating the castle-like building, Young made two tables from slices of black walnut trunks for the lobby. Meticulous, Young hand-polished 13 coats of varnish on each. Young was also unforgiving with construction: If a roofer laid Young's signature cedar shakes too linearly, Young made him rip them off and start over on the dipping, sloping patterns. Because he had to constantly oversee construction, Young built outside of Charlevoix only once, as a favor to a friend.

Find your way to the triangle Young developed between Clinton Street and Park Avenue. The first house he ever built, in 1921, was the family home at 304 Park Ave. Young built 306 Park Ave. for himself and his wife in the 1940s after their three daughters and one son, now deceased, had grown. You'll also find Half House, at 302 Park Ave., and a century farmhouse he renovated at 300 Park Ave.

Most striking is Mushroom House at 301 Clinton St. It looks like it sounds: a sloping wood-shingled roof is the cap, and round stone walls are the squat stalk. One look at a Young house and you'll know this proud builder was not much more than five feet tall. In Mushroom House's upstairs bathroom, the ceiling is so low and oddly shaped that an adult can't stand up in the bathtub. He turned a two-story farmhouse into a dwelling that nestles in the ground like a stony mound; the carriage house was where 101 Grant Street now stands.

Young's blend of structure and setting is most apparent in Boulder Park, which looks like a fairy glade just behind the Charlevoix Hospital. Boulder Manor–1 Lakeshore Dr.–is the pièce de resistance. Turn down the quiet, twisting lane called Boulder Ave. and you'll see it at the end. Huge round stones make up the walls and are scattered around the yard like prehistoric pebbles. The front door, hidden from the world like all Young's front doors, has a fantastic entryway: A four-foot boulder that could've shot up from the earth supports two low arches facing north and west, effecting a secret entrance to a magical cave.


Getting Around
Do the tour in style and pass the Earl Young homes atop a horse-drawn carriage. Jerry Wheat and his wife, Vickie, offer evening outings from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Choose between two carriages: The white vis-a-vis has seats that face each other, and 20 minutes cost $7 per person or $21 for up to six people; 30 minutes cost $31 for up to 6 people. In the brown wagonette seats face the street and 20 minutes cost $3 for children and $5 for adults, or not more than $21 for eight people; 30 minutes cost $31 for up to eight people. You'll start at 106 Bridge St. and get a narrated tour through Young's neighborhoods. The Wheats also offer hay rides, sleigh rides and special event chauffeuring.


Where to Eat and Stay
Where to Eat:
Catch dinner at the Weathervane restaurant (231-547-4211) for regional/classic American fare or wander down the street to Whitney's (231-547-0818) for a raw oyster bar, eye-popping shrimp, seafood and steaks.

Where to Stay:
These two options have the Earl Young touch.

The Lodge Motel: 120 Michigan Ave. 231-547-6565

The Weathervane Terrace Hotel 111 Pine River Lane 231-547-9955 .
Toll Free: 1-800-552-0025 . Fax: 231-547-0070