ALPENA – Anyone with ties to Long Lake will appreciate learning about its history in Dave Distler’s book, “The Lost Resorts and Cottages of Long Lake.”
Released earlier this year, the 52-page full-color coffee table book chronicles the history of more than 50 resorts and cottages, with nearly 200 rare and historical images dating back from 1881 through present day.
Many of those cottages and resorts are no longer in operation, but a few of them are, including The Parker House and Lorien Resort.
“There was very little written about Long Lake,” he said. “I had to really start from scratch.”
He said the lake was settled in about four different eras.
“The first was the farming and the primitive camp era, and that, sort of, ended in about 1881,” Distler noted. “After the Civil War, a lot of people started coming up there. There was lumber, and all of the history of that, around the Alpena area.”
He said, as the money started coming into Alpena during the timber era, “we moved into a different era, which is what I call ‘The Victorian Resort’ era, about 1881. The first resort was Maple House, and that was started by the McDonald brothers.
“It was almost like a spa type of thing, with very elaborate hotels,” Distler said. “There were five or six major hotels on the southwest side of the lake. Where Maple Grove Road is now is where all that was. There was also a country club with a nine-hole golf course in that same locale.”
He said it was surprising that the lake had so much history and fairly expensive places.
“It was a rather big deal,” he said. “The social focus of Alpena at that time was going out, about seven miles, to Long Lake Road, to the country club, and to these resorts.”
He said John Beck, who owned Beck’s Brewery downtown, was one of the key owners of some of the resorts.
“He was quite a character,” Distler said. “I could go on about him forever. He was quite the entrepreneur, and had quite a colorful history.”
The third era came in about 1930, which he calls “The Great Depression” era.
“When the economy crashed during the Great Depression, that’s when it converted over to what I call the ‘Mom and Pop’ resorts and cottages era,” Distler said. “That’s when the cottages came into play.”
Each era lasted about 30 years, Distler explained.
So, “Mom and Pop” lasted until about 1960, at which time private cottages took over.
In addition to Lorien (previously known at Burton’s Colonial Village, established by Ted and Donna Burton in 1959) and Parker House (circa 1940s), he said the remaining resorts also include Sandy Beach Resort and Cottages (circa 1930s by the Davy family out of Dayton, Ohio), now run by Bernie Wagner. Other resorts still in operation are Dove’s Resort, Neumann’s Loafers Retreat, and Opechee’s Store and Cottages.
“Opechee means ‘robin’ in Ojibwe,” Distler noted.
He added that Maple Grove Hotel, or Maple House, had a casino there, “back in the day.”
Distler has visited Alpena, but he’s from Indianapolis.
“We bought some property on the lake about four years ago,” Distler said. “And, I was in a bookstore in Alpena, and saw a book that was called ‘The Vintage Resorts of Grand Lake.’ So, it made me think, ‘I’ll go look for information on Long Lake … and found that there was really nothing that had been put together.”
So he decided to do some research and compile a book about some of Long Lake’s history.
“Janet Young is the author of the book about Grand Lake,” he said. “And I guess there were a couple of books about it, so that stimulated my interest in actually putting something together.”
He started the book research in about June 2020, and completed the book in March 2021.
This is Distler’s fourth book, but the first one about Long Lake.
His previous books are fiction and nonfiction.
Distler just retired about a year ago.
“The research of this book started about the time I was getting ready to retire,” said Distler, who visits Long Lake in the summer. “I knew I’d have some time on my hands, and I wanted to keep busy.”
He and his wife Ellen bought the property on Long Lake in 2017.
“I didn’t know anything about Northeast Michigan or Alpena at all,” Distler said. “And I was searching for waterfront property, from Minnesota to Wisconsin to Michigan, and my preference was Michigan because it’s a closer drive from Indianapolis. And I found a cottage on a lake that was a pretty good price, which was first listed in 2016, and I kept watching it, and, finally, the price lowered quite a bit in 2017, and I bought it.”
He retired from working in electronic sales and engineering/marketing.
The book is available at Parallel 45 Books & Gifts in Alpena, at Long Lake Market, and at Long Lake Campground.
“The first 100 copies sold out in six days,” Distler said. Those were sold online, but he wanted to keep sales local. “It helps the local economy, and it helps the local people.”
He is working on a second volume, which will include over 30 more cottages and resorts. That second volume should be out in early 2022, he said.
“It’s kind of a nice book to have when visitors come up, because they can thumb through it really quickly,” Distler said of the colorful picture-heavy historical coffee table book.
He said the hardcover is about $40, and the softcover is about $30.
For more information, visit longlakebook.com.
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