Resort has programs to excite the intellect

Travel Q&A

December 07, 1997|By Jean Allen | Jean Allen,SUN-SENTINEL, SOUTH FLORIDA

Do you have any information about an enclave in Michigan with a program like that of the famous Chautauqua in New York state?

The Midwestern near-clone of Chautauqua is Bay View, in Petoskey, Mich. The city is a comfortable, slightly old-fashioned place along Little Traverse Bay, an arm of Lake Michigan, about 250 miles northwest of Detroit. Petoskey has been a summer resort for Midwesterners ever since the first railroad arrived in 1873, and Bay View has existed nearly that long.

Since the 1890s, the original Chautauqua, on the identically named lake in central New York state, has attracted thousands of visitors per week in summer, offering "intellectual stimulation, spiritual balm and cultural enrichment." Classes, speeches, seminars, concerts and other programs are open to everyone, not just those who stay in the enclave of about 800 Victorian-era cottages.

Petoskey's Bay View Association was organized as a Methodist retreat at about the same time, and like Chautauqua it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for the preservation of its Victorian architecture. It offers seminars, lectures, classes and an annual music festival, productions of a Broadway play and musical, and an opera. Children's activities and sports programs are offered.

Founders said Bay View's ideals are "based on the principles of intellectual and scientific culture and to promote the cause of religion and morality."

Bay View began as a tented summer camp. Then 440 Queen Anne-style Victorian "cottages" were built in the 1880s and '90s. They share a sprawling, rolling and partly wooded 300-acre site in Petoskey with 30 common buildings, tennis courts and other sports venues. Rules are strict: Cottages can be occupied only from early May to November; architectural standards must be maintained; garage sales can be held indoors only, with no signs permitted; alcoholic beverages are banned.

Bay View still has United Methodist church connections, but it is an ecumenical place: The 1997 president of the elected board of directors is Presbyterian.

Activities are open to anyone, and for visitors who are not staying in one of the cottages, two inns operate in Bay View. Stafford's Bay View Inn, open since 1886, is famous for its Sunday brunch and is open May through October and winter weekends. Call 800-258-1886.

Owner Stafford Smith and his wife, Janice, also own the Perry Hotel in downtown Petoskey, the only remaining big old hotel from the era when trains brought crowds of tourists to town. In the 1880s, 21 hotels and rooming houses were within walking distance of the railroad station. Only the Perry was built of brick, and it is the sole survivor.

Another Bay View choice is Terrace Inn, built in 1911. It is open year-round and draws guests in winter with Murder Mystery events, sleigh rides, cross-country skiing and dance weekends. As in all of Bay View, no liquor is sold at the Terrace Inn, but guests can bring their own wine to dinner; call 800-530-9898.

Petoskey itself is a pleasant place to shop, eat and relax. A popular diversion is walking the shore of Little Petoskey Bay looking for petoskey stone, fossilized coral formed some 350 million years ago when the area was a sea.

The Petoskey area is barely larger today than it was at the turn of century, but according to one local, "It's getting too big. A strip shopping center is going in, anchored by a Wal-Mart." Folks are devoted to preserving their architecture and the ecological balance, working to improve state parks and supporting a nature conservancy. Tree huggers love it.

For information about the Petoskey area or its accommodations, contact the Petoskey, Harbor Springs and Boyne Country Visitors Bureau, 410 E. Mitchell St., Petoskey, Mich. 49770, or call 800-845-2828. The bureau represents the communities around Little Traverse Bay, all small, tidy resorts. The bureau also has information about Bay View. You can also write to the Bay View Association, attention Rod Slocum, 202 Encampment Ave., Bay View, Mich. 49770, or call 616-347-6225.

Pub Date: 12/07/97

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