Reenergize the Inner Self: A Chautauqua on the Lake

Founded in 1875 by the United Methodist Church, the Bay View Association on Little Traverse Bay is one of the state’s most engaging spots. // Photography Courtesy of Robert Cleveland
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Bay View Historical Marker

Open May through October, this National Historic Landmark community — recently named one of America’s 12 “Prettiest Painted Places”— is renowned for its nearly 450 Victorian-style cottages, many of which have stayed in the same family for decades.

“There are lifelong friendships here that bind a lot of us,” shared Marjorie Bayes of Denver and the editor of Bay View Literary Magazine, whose grandchildren are sixth-generation cottagers. “So it’s a special kind of home in that way.”

Lesser known is what Bay View — while Methodist in origin, non-denominational in spirit — invites the public to enjoy.

Spread across 337 acres, the association’s grounds are also home to a natural wooded park with winding walking trails, two historic lodging/dining venues (the quaint Bay View Terrace Inn and romantic Stafford’s Bay View Inn) and other buildings that host sponsored lectures, seminars and musical performances throughout the summer.

John M. Hall Auditorium

This year’s Bay View Music Festival, June 16-Aug. 11, brings renowned resident faculty artists and visiting performers showcasing traditional opera, classical and musical theater as well as popular music from indie bands, country, folk and jazz. In all, more than 50 public events are scheduled.

Timeless Appeal

The Bay View Association holds deep roots in the chautauqua education movement of the late 19th century, when speakers, teachers, entertainers and preachers traveled the country enlightening those living in mostly rural areas without easy access to education (see ciweb.org/our-history). Helen Keller and Booker T. Washington were among many notable speakers appearing at Bay View over the years.

“As Bay View is sympathetic to the 19th century, it remains an aesthetic refuge, a retreat for spiritual and cultural growth and source for reenergizing the inner self,” states Auburn Hills photographer Robert Cleveland, who first became fascinated by this community as a child. A collection of his imagery appears in “Visions of Bay View: The Exhibit” (robertclevelandphoto.com). “Bay View is a highly sensory experience.”

Bay View Porch

It is, he says, about decorative “gingerbreadish” Queen Anne’s cottage architecture, white wicker porch chairs softened with bright garden-patterned cushions, unexpected floral sprays of color and cedar aromas.

“The fundamental harmony and balance of design and color are highly valued,” Cleveland notes.

To learn more about this distinctive, culturally rich community, visit bayviewassociation.org and read “Bay View: An American Idea,” an award-winning historical perspective by Petoskey-area journalist Mary Jane Doerr with photography by Robert Cleveland. (Printed in 2010 by Priscilla Press, the book is currently distributed through Wayne State University Press; maryjanedoerr.com).

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