Getaway: Hemingway for the Weekend

David Beier, owner of Walloon Lake Inn, doesn’t advertise that Hemingway slept here. He doesn’t have written proof. But he can make a pretty good case for it.

The Walloon Lake Inn—built in 1893 and called Fern Cottage in its early years—was the spot where summer resorters debarked the train and met the small steamboats that chugged them to their cottages. The late train into Walloon Lake carried folks who’d begun their journey in Oak Park, Illinois—as the Hemingways did. Rather than open their cottages in the dark, they sometimes took rooms at Fern Cottage. It’s not hard to suppose that Hemingway’s parents, with their young children in tow, did the same.

At the Walloon Lake Inn, then, you can sleep where Hemingway might have. With its quaint white clapboard siding, the inn looks much as it did in Hemingway’s time. The five upstairs bedrooms with their lake breezes have a simple, European feel. The food is like that, too. Beier, an acclaimed chef, fuses sophisticated flavors with rustic regional ingredients—very Hemingway-esque.

Hemingway’s sister, Sunny (Madelaine), was a regular in the dining room into the 1990’s. She helped christen the replica steamer that Beier uses to tour his guests around the lake on Sunday mornings from July until the weather changes at the end of September. Ask him, and he’ll putt past Windermere, the old Hemingway family cottage. Today it’s privately owned, but you don’t have to go inside Windermere to imagine the six Hemingway children splashing in the lake.

Horton Bay, on Lake Charlevoix, where Hemingway spent so much of his teen and young adult years, lies about 5 miles from Windemere, as the crow flies. Pack your Nick Adams Stories—Horton Bay is where many of them are set. Visit by car or bicycle, or row—as Hemingway did—to the end of Sumner Road, then hoof it to the village of Horton Bay. Longfield Farm, the family’s other Walloon Lake property, is adjacent to the Sumner Road public access—it’s private, so stroll by. Head on into Horton Bay’s Red Fox Inn, where Jim Hartwell, whose grandfather Vollie Fox fished and hunted with Hemingway, sells Hemingway books and memorabilia (Be forewarned: Store hours are unpredictable—catch as catch can.)

The Red Fox Inn appears in the Nick Adams story “Up in Michigan” (as the Fox house), as does the Horton Bay General Store next door, which is also thought to be the model for Mr. Packard’s store in “The Last Good Country.” In the book Ernie Hemingway’s Sister “Sunny” Remembers (1999 Ernest H. Mainland), Sunny writes of stopping there with him to “buy some sweet goodies to take home to Windermere.” The store still carries plenty of those, and nowadays steams up a fine latte—a good excuse to take a seat on the porch bench where Hemingway used to sit.

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