Little did the very young Cheryl Hutchinson know that one day, she’d purchase and renovate an old, rambling Victorian-style house that she regularly rode her bike past almost daily. Today, she’s the proud owner of the 1890 fully restored lodge, located on a lovely slice of paradise situated on the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay in Suttons Bay.
“I grew up on the road where the lodge is,” she said. “I think it was one of the original houses in the area and for decades it was the only building around. As an adult, I continued to walk by it and then I saw it was for sale.” The home was being sold by one of the grandchildren of the last owner, renowned American author of western fiction James Hendryx, and Hutchinson jumped at the chance to buy it. She purchased it in 2012.
“I’ve always loved the privacy of the house, tucked in the woods, yet on a beautiful span of beach. Also, the historic Victorian architecture has so much character.”
Fascinated with the history of the home, which was originally about 4,500 square feet, Hutchinson discovered that the first owners were part of a church group whose goal was to build a resort. “They didn’t finish it; it sat empty,” Hutchinson said. “Then a Detroit banker owned it for a while and then Hendryx bought it in 1920. He spent his summers at the lodge when he first bought it.” But eventually, he came only in the winter, as the area became too populated during the summer for his taste, Hutchinson discovered.
“As a writer, he probably functioned better in remote locations,” Hutchinson said, adding that he eventually would spend his summers in northern Canada. The author wrote at least 40 novels and several short stories from about 1915 to 1963. A picture of Hendryx riding one of his horses in the bay hangs in the dining room.
When she first purchased the property, Hutchinson focused on general maintenance, living at the home part-time. “We did some work on the stone foundation, decking, landscaping, and then it was how do I restore it without changing anything?” she said.
With the goal of renting it to small groups of vacationers or those on, say, a yoga retreat or business off-site, she and a team of builders and renovators got to work on what she today calls “Hendryx Beach Retreat.”
They did structural work on the walls and floors, replaced windows and created a hallway upstairs, “so that you don’t walk through rooms to get to rooms upstairs,” Hutchinson said. They also cleaned up the trim and the original flooring, stairway and banister.
“I was able to save a lot,” Hutchinson said, “including the beautiful wood doors and all the trim in the kitchen. I don’t throw anything away that can be repurposed. All the countertops are from trees that fell during storms. I knew a wood guy that cured and fired them, and another who could build them.”
Of note is a cozy den replete with a large fireplace surrounded by imbedded, local stones, including some Native American arrowheads, ax heads and Petoskey stones. Also notable is a huge Wolf range in a large, country-style kitchen. The range hood features wood that Hutchinson had stored at another historic property she owns in Suttons Bay. The flooring on the third floor includes wood from that old 1890s schoolhouse.
The third floor also has a room where she believes Hendryx played poker. “He had massive poker games here,” she said, pointing out cigar burns in the floor. “I love this room, and you know, this place is 130 years old, so everything can’t be perfect.”
Outside, Hutchinson and the crew created a new wrap-around deck made of local black locust because the old one couldn’t be restored. The best attributes of this 10-bedroom lodge, where renovations were completed nearly two years ago, are Mother Nature’s offerings. “It’s a barefoot lifestyle here,” Hutchinson said. “You run out, kayak, pick tomatoes, peppers, herbs, or something from our organic garden. The sunrises are amazing.”
Her favorite part about the property is its serene feel. There are neighbors but it feels secluded. “We’re right on the beach, looking east. We have lots of wildlife. It’s like we’re in the middle of a forest; you can truly decompress here.” And that’s likely why the woods-loving Hendryx was so attracted to the locale when he first set eyes on it exactly 100 years ago.
Chris Martindale, owner of East Lansing-based Anchored MI, has rented the lodge in the past for a yoga/paddleboard 12-person retreat. He plans to visit again this year when he hosts another yoga gathering.
“You just can’t beat Hendryx Lodge,” Martindale said. “It’s an escape. The rooms are well-appointed, and the wrap-around deck is great. Every guest was blown away.”
HENDRYX BEACH RETREAT
For information about Hendryx Beach Retreat, which is four miles from Suttons Bay and 11 miles from Traverse City, visit dothe22.com or call (619) 248-4600.
Megan Swoyer is a long-time metro-Detroit freelance writer and editor.