Birch Lodge & Motel
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History

The history of Birch Lodge actually begins before recorded history in Michigan. Dating from at least as early as 500 AD, archaeological evidence indicates that Native Americans camped at this favored location on the lake. Stone tools, flint chips and pottery have been observed, and the State of Michigan has officially recorded archaeological sites 20CH171 and 20CH172 on the grounds of Birch Lodge.

Shoreline at Birch Lodge

Lakeside, Trout Lake ca 1912

Birch Lodge Beginnings

Living in tents during the construction of Birch Lodge 1911

The late 1800's brought logging and the railroads to Trout Lake Michigan. With an eye toward developing business, Edgar D. Ford and his wife Cornelia (Hawley) Ford acquired the property on which Birch Lodge stands in 1911. They moved to Trout Lake from Cambria, Wisconsin, where he had had an active medical practice. Dr. Ford designed and had the lodge constructed, but never saw his dream open. He died of rabies contracted through the bite of a patient's dog by the time it opened in 1912.

Birch Lodge

Birch Lodge ca 1912

Birch Lodge - Winter

Birch Lodge in winter, ca 1915

Trout Lake Depot

Early photo of the Village of Trout Lake, MI

Swimming at Birch Lodge in the early years

Promotion of the "Birch Lodge Hospital and Summer Resort Sanitarium" began early on and the first post cards of the lodge date as early as 1913. Dr. Ford's wife and sons carried on for a short time but in 1915 the property was transferred to mortgage holder Oliver W. Smith, one of the village's most prominent businessmen. A local history (Tales of Tro-La-Oz-Ken) states one of the first units of the mounted State Constabulary (forerunner of the state police) established an outpost in the building in 1918, with horses housed in the barn behind the building. After the Constabulary left in 1922, the Tull and Brown families occupied the lodge for a short period.

Early years at Birch Lodge

Birch Lodge Sanitarium

In 1926 Charles and Estelle Moore, from Chicago, acquired Birch Lodge with the objective of establishing "a first class resort." They installed central heating, improved the grounds and water frontage, and built two log cabins. Moore was elected Justice of the Peace, and one of his sons became a deputy sheriff – and they reputedly held court in the room that now, somewhat ironically perhaps, houses the Birch Bar. Vintage flyers reveal that Mr. Moore actively promoted the lodge; a number of post cards were printed during his tenure.

Birch Lodge Orchestra

Birch Lodge orchestra

Birch Lodge Motels

Taylor's cabins ca 1940's

In 1938 the Moores sold the lodge to John C. (Jack) and Mabel Taylor, who continued to build the business. They moved a couple cabins from a resort they owned in the village (called the "seven dwarfs") to a spot overlooking the lake south of the lodge. From 1942 until 1945 the lodge was owned by the Jim and Susie and Jake and Eva Miller. Between 1945 and 1952 Birch Lodge was operated by Lee and Marion Thurlow from Saginaw, and it is believed they were responsible for converting a portion of the downstairs of the lodge into the unique Birch Bar and building the "big cabin" north of the lodge building.

Deer and Fishing Boat

Cliff (Red) Badgley and fawn, ca 1950's

Feeding Deer

Paul Ford with Mr. Moore feeding "Ruth" the deer on the porch

In 1952 the lodge was bought by brothers Cliff and Harry Badgley and their wives Ann and May. Within a couple years Cliff and Ann became sole owners. They actively built up the business through advertising, participation in Michigan hunting organizations, and politics - Governor Soapy Williams attended a Governor's Picnic here in 1953. Cliff and Ann built an 8-room brick front motel east of the lodge in 1964, moving two of the former Taylor "dwarf" cabins to the rear of the lodge. These survive today as the lodge workshop and bait shop. Ann and Cliff had by far the longest tenure of ownership, over half a century (Cliff died in 1981 and Ann in 2006).

Soap Williams at Birch Lodge

Governor "Soapy" Williams on the grounds of Birch Lodge

"Soapy" speedboat

The lodge passed through Ann's estate and had experienced a lack of upkeep before we acquired the property in 2010. We have undertaken extensive stabilization, restoration and clean-up, and plan to eventually reopen the old lodge building that has been closed to guests since 1985. The motel will be open for the 2011 season.

Dr. Ed and Cornelia Ford

Dr. Ed and Cornelia Ford

Ford Family at Birch Lodge

The Fords with fawns, ca 1912

Deer in Birch Lodge Bar

Deer at Birch Lodge Bar

Deer in Kitchen

In Birch Lodge kitchen

Lobby - early years

Lobby of Birch Lodge prior to restoration

Winter at Birch Lodge in early years

Fishing at Birch Lodge

Ann Badgley holding her big fish!

Ice Fishing

Ice fishing at Trout Lake

Historic Photo of Birch Lodge

Historic View of Birch Lodge