Preservation Magazine, Fall 2019

Bringing Back the Lodge Life in Northern Michigan

The exterior of Birch Lodge.

photo by: Kyle Berryman/Kraemer Design Group

The Birch Lodge retained its original doors, transoms, and hardwood floors when Bob and Maureen Kraemer purchased it in 2017.

When Edgar and Cornelia Ford built the Birch Lodge on the shores of northern Michigan’s Trout Lake in 1911, they envisioned the T-shaped, three-story building as a tranquil retreat dedicated to the treatment of tuberculosis patients. Though their plan never came to fruition—the lodge instead served as a summer resort for nearly 75 years—the structure is once more a place for rest and recovery following a $1 million restoration.

The lodge closed in 1985, but a 1960s motel on the property remained open. In 2017 Bob and Maureen Kraemer, of Detroit-based architecture firm Kraemer Design Group, discovered the entire site for sale in a copy of Preservation magazine. Charmed by the simplicity of the lodge’s design, they purchased the property in the summer of 2018 and soon began the restoration. They pulled up non-historic linoleum to reveal the original birch wood flooring, replicated the furniture’s vintage ticking and mohair, and updated the HVAC systems. Federal historic tax credits provided about $160,000 in funding, and the motel was also updated with new paint, doors, baths, and decor.

The renovated lodge welcomed its first guests in June of 2019. “What made it so special for us was the challenge of bringing it back,” says Bob Kraemer. “There’s a new generation of people who will appreciate the lodge and motel.”

Nicholas Som is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He enjoys museums of all kinds, Philadelphia sports, and tracking down great restaurants.

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