Helen O’Roarke refers to her century-old summer home near Lake Michigan as the “Shabby Chic” cottage, and herself as the “sitter”.
Its official name is actually ‘Pine Knoll’, and people who want a glimpse of what the unique-looking cottage looked like when it was first built at the turn of the 19th century can do so this weekend when the South Haven Historical Association hosts its spring open house with a large scale version of the house, painstakingly recreated by O’Roarke, professor emeritus of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The open house will be at 7 p.m., Saturday, May 28 at the museum in the historic Hartman School Building, 355 Hubbard St.
For Jim Ollgaard, president of the South Haven Historical Association, the prospect of showcasing a scale model of what one of the city’s few remaining historic cottages originally looked like is a great way to open the programs of summer of this year at the museum.
The current cottage, which O’Roarke still owns and maintains, is located at 38 Grand Blvd., in the historic LS Monroe Park subdivision near North Beach.
“This is a unique chalet as it is huge compared to others built at the time and it still looks the same as when it was first built. You can date it to the early 1900s by the fact that it has sleeping porches,” Ollgaard said, referring to the days, before indoor air conditioning, when people slept outside at night, seeking relief from the heat. heat.
O’Roarke, 83, began the process of creating the Pine Knoll model seven years ago after retiring as an art teacher. She says she did it because she realizes that one day she may have to sell her cottage and a future owner may end up tearing it down to make way for a new lakeside home.
“I think it will be razed. I decided this (Pine Knoll) could be a role model,” O’Roarke said.
After an initial unsuccessful attempt to create a model of Pine Knoll from a form core, she decided to hire an architect to provide her with a one-inch scale model.
“The pattern base she created was accurate. I felt confident that I could undertake a true Pine Knoll realization,” O’Roarke said.
She then began the task of recreating what each room would have looked like in the early 1900s; She acquired miniature sets of kitchen appliances, tables, chairs, beds, sofas, and outdoor patio furniture with pitchers and glasses for lemonade. She also built a fireplace and made carpeting for various rooms from fabrics once used in the early 1900s.
For O’Roarke, the process of recreating the scale model of the cottage was a labor of love, similar to the thrill she felt upon seeing Pine Knoll for the first time in 1968 during a visit to South Haven with a group of other artists from Chicago.
“I walked down Grand Boulevard, looked up and was amazed,” she recalls. “Then I saw the ‘for sale’ sign.”
Two days later, with the financial help of his father, O’Roarke, who was only 30 at the time, purchased the cabin for the modest sum of $4,000.
In today’s dollars, the purchase price would be just over $33,000, a “steal” as people would call it.
But South Haven’s housing market in the late 1960s was a far cry from today, where the median price of homes sold in April was $580,000, according to the latest statistics from the Southwestern Michigan Association. of Realtors.
“By 1968, the heyday and glory years of the ‘Atlantic City of the Midwest’ (as South Haven was known in the early 1900s) had faded,” O’Roarke said. “The bustling resort scene had diminished. Real estate was cheap and Monroe Park was a bit seedy. Alewife species had invaded the Great Lakes and the beaches gave off a deep stench.
But even though she had found her Chicago lakeside retreat cheaply, O’Roarke had a handful of maintenance issues to address in order to retain Pine Knoll’s original charm.
Its two stories of wraparound exterior porches make it distinctive to people passing through the subdivision, but proved to be an ongoing maintenance issue for O’Roarke, who stayed true to the home’s original look.
“These modest cabins included lots of windows and large porches to allow in breezes and a nice view of the lake,” she said. Shortly after purchasing Pine Knoll, she rebuilt all of the porches and strives to purchase furniture that reflects the early years of the cottage.
Kalamazoo resident William Wagner built the white cottage with the green trim for his family to enjoy during the summer months in the early 1900s. He was part of the first Monroe Park Association, a group of residents who have built large oceanfront homes overlooking North Beach. Few of these rambling dwellings remain.
The name “Pine Knoll” may have come from a reference to “The Pines”, the name given in the mid-1800s to the area north of South Haven Harbor, according to O’Roarke.
The heyday of the Monroe Park subdivision community still remains significant to O’Roarke.
In addition to preserving his historic cottage and recreating a scale model for people to view this summer at the South Haven Historical Association Museum, O’Roarke has previously worked with Ken and Lynda Hogan of South Haven to compile “Cottages and Resorts on the North Beach,” a local history book that contains photos and historical accounts of the historic LS Monroe Park Subdivision, from 1890 to 1960, along with an accompanying DVD .