An Up North Tour for Mid-century Modern Junkies | Features

Architecture for the ages
By Lynda Wheatley | November 6, 2021

Not that we ever need an excuse to drive the scenic roads that wind west from Traverse City to Leelanau and Benzie counties, or north to Charlevoix, Petoskey and Harbor Springs. But this year seems very special. A particularly mild autumn left many golden and orange leaves on these temperate lake shores. And while traditional fall color tour activities like apple picking and hay wagon rides have past prime, a leisurely ride to cool destinations never goes out of style.

One that we and modern mid-century architecture fans will especially love this year: Docomomo’s Northwest Michigan Driving Tour 2021, hosted by Jacqueline Shinners and Susan Bandes, Northwest Michigan members and chairs of the Michigan Chapter of Docomomo, also known as the International Committee for Documentation and Conservation, of Buildings, Sites, and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement, founded in 1988 in the Netherlands.

The tour they put together shows dozens of homes, churches, schools and other buildings in the north of the country that epitomize mid-century chic – and the many local architects who brought the innovative style to our rural and small-town region in the region to have. 50s, 60s and 70s.

If you’re looking for a reason to road trip before the November storm sweeps those leaves away, you can choose any or all of the three self-guided, pre-planned laps in Traverse City – or create your own from the multi-county selection of gems, recommended below

Here is an excerpt of what to expect:

Doug Murdicks Fudge
4500 U.S. 31, Acme
Maybe it was the Murdick family who put Fudge on the map of Michigan. The original family of fudge makers sold a fudge known for its unduplicated creaminess. Her descendant, Doug Murdick, opened his first store in downtown Traverse City in 1964. In 1965 he opened a second location in the East Bay (pictured here), in a small building along the highway that can be seen from afar on his “roof box with fudge.”

Although a fire in September 2018 that broke out in the basement and blazed under the floors and into the walls of the building threatened the legendary street stall from the 1960s, only the fudge, which smelled of smoke after the fire, was a total write-off. The shop is still operating today and – tip – Murdick’s seasonal pumpkin fudge is available until the end of November.

Round restaurant
1033 East Eighth St., Traverse City
This 1948 low, single story building, originally called the Round’s Circle Inn Restaurant, is in the former Eastfield District and has retained its original exterior with minimal changes. The door has been moved to the center and the stone wall has been raised to create a semi-circular garden bed. The building is notable for its semicircular extension and reflects the circular shape of the signage based on the original owners William and Mary Round. Today it’s best known for an all-day breakfast that specializes in homemade velvet corned beef hash.

The milk hut
405 North Division St., Traverse City
While everything else around this small, square building from 1959 was changed or demolished, the Dairy Lodge has stayed the same. It’s a prime example of the now disappearing street architecture that once symbolized a growing America when the automobile and new roads to explore this vast country ruled. It’s easy to spot by its iconic image of a woman with blonde hair on one side and brown hair on the other, wearing a Santa hat in front of an igloo and riding an ice cream cone.

Lutheran Church of St. Michael
912 S. Garfield Ave., Traverse City
By Orus O. Eash, Bauer & Eash, 1955

Shirley S. Okerstrom Fine Arts Building

1701 E. Front St., Traverse City
By Norman Fletcher, The Architects Collaborative
When Northwestern Michigan College was founded in 1951, it operated from the terminal building at Cherry Capital Airport until 1955 when it moved to its current location, a 100-acre campus under a grove of magnificent and stately white pines. The first campus building was completed in 1955 and served as an administration building. Some buildings, namely the gymnasium and the old library, have retained their original architectural style.

The most remarkable [NMC] Campus building, however, is the mid-century modern Shirley S. Okerstrom Fine Arts building, completed in 1971. It was designed by The Architects Collaborative, a company founded by Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius and seven young architects in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1945. Deviating from the typical campus architecture of the time, this building was intended to reflect the ideals and principles of creating Reflecting art in a space devoid of cramped classrooms. The asymmetrical architectural design is characterized by its alternating sloping walls made of cedar wood and glass.

Traverse City Central High School
1150 Milliken Dr., Traverse City
By Gordon Cornwell, Cornwell & Associates, 1959
West Michigan AIA Chapter recipient, 1959 1st Place Award
On an open campus, the classrooms, gym and library of what was then Traverse City Senior High School were housed in separate, one-story buildings. At the time, it was uncommon for a high school in a northern climate to have such an environment. Gordon Cornwell, one of Traverse City’s most prolific architects, was also responsible for the junior high school, which sits high on a hill overlooking the city. Unlike the high school, the junior high was built as a one-story row of interconnected buildings.

Private residence

2018 Timberlane, Traverse City
By Donald Bouschor, Gordon Cornwell & Associates, 1966

Private residence

7380 Maple Terrace, Traverse City
Architect unknown, 1955

Golf course Interlochen Restaurant & Pro Shop

10586 US-31, Interlochen
A great way to spend an afternoon is the beautiful Interlochen Golf Course, which was built in 1965. Bradley’s Pub and Grille makes up most of the interior space with a dining area, kitchen, bar, and pro shop. Although slightly changed, the original open plan dining area and pro shop have been retained.

Art Center Interlochen

4000 J Maddy Parkway
Nationally renowned architect Alden B. Dow was responsible for the original campus layout, designing over a dozen buildings from native stone, wood, and cast concrete blocks. Of particular interest are its three vaulted classrooms for science, language arts and library, which extend from a closed and heated hall that serves all three buildings.
Photo courtesy of Alden B. Dow Home and Studio

The Lakeview Resort, Shanty Creek
5780 Shanty Creek Road, Bellaire
Shanty Creek Resort, Bellaire A modern mid-century gem, Shanty Creek Resort is set on 4,500 acres of pristine beauty overlooking Lake Bellaire. It is made up of four separate and distinct villages: Summit Village, Cedar Village, Hawk’s Eye Village, and Schuss Mountain, each with slightly different accommodations, dining, and recreational options. The Lodge on Shanty Creek, a streamlined building made of wood, stone and glass designed by architect H. Jack Begrow. Today the lodge is called The Lakeview Hotel and Conference Center.

However you tackle your tour, please remember that all private residences and non-public sites highlighted on the tour are for exterior street views only, and check the websites of all public sites for current opening hours.

Special thanks to Docomomo – Michigan and Northwest Michigan Docomomo Chairs Jacqueline Shinners and Susan Bandes for providing the photos and location descriptions in this story.

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