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Charlevoix - Mushroom House | by Kathleen Tyler Conklin
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Charlevoix - Mushroom House

Try a walking tour of the mushroom houses of the late Charlevoix real estate developer Earl Young.


The best way to describe them: Think about the digs of Hansel and Gretel. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Little Red Riding Hood's grandma.


Buyers snap up these unusual homes as soon as they go on the market. They have a distinctive charm that have made them a sought-after commodity and a special tourist attraction.



Young, at 5-feet-4, loved the cozy cottages in the rural areas of Great Britain. From the 1920s-1970s, he transferred these images to Charlevoix and built, without plans, many homes and several commercial buildings, including the Weathervane Terrace Hotel.


The Ice Age boulders of the Great Lakes region were his favorite building material. They became his signature, along with the wavy, overhanging shingled roofs he used. These give the smaller homes a mushroom-like shape.


"My name for them is 'Early Mother Goose," says Charlevoix architect Jack Begrow, a friend of Young's who sometimes remodels and enlarges the homes for present-day owners.


"Earl used to bury certain boulders he found so no one would take them before he could use them," Begrow says. "He'd create the houses as he went along, just pacing off the rooms to the builder."


Young died in 1975. The largest concentration of his work is Boulder Park, a development of vacation homes near Lake Michigan. Some of his most imaginative houses are on Park Street, and his own, a spacious multilevel structure is on Clinton Street.




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Taken on August 30, 2006