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By Angela Kellogg
Cleaver Managing Editor
I was thrilled to be allowed to tag along recently on a historical tour of the Lost Lake Scout Reservation in Freeman Township. The scout camp is now for sale as a part of the reorganization of scouting properties.
Robert Knapp is currently researching a book about gangsters in and around northern Michigan. Knapp is an author, historian, and retired scholar. Locally he is known as the author of “Clare:1865-1940” and “Mystery Man: Gangsters, Oil, and Murder in Michigan”. “Mystery Man” is the well-researched and fascinating story of the shooting of Isaiah Leebove by Jack Livingston that took place at the Doherty Hotel in Clare.
Harry Bennett’s lodge on the property is the interest of Knapp’s trip to Lost Lake. Bennett is best known as the head of Henry Ford’s early efforts to keep the union out of his factories. Knapp came armed with a list of larger than life legends he compiled concerning Bennett and his northern getaway. Was the lodge a fortress to protect him from mobsters and enemies or a family retreat in the northern woods? These questions will no doubt be examined by Knapp.
The lodge on Lost Lake was built in 1943 in a style called faux bois. Faux bois is concrete construction made to look like wood. Indeed, at first glance the lodge looks like a log cabin. The workman, an artist, put in knots of wood, wood grain on the ends of the “logs”, and even a random branch. With a fireplace in every room, swimming pool, 128-ft porch, and views of the private Lost Lake, the lodge in it’s early years must have been very luxurious despite being in the middle of the wilderness.
The pool area is now filled in and the concrete construction is crumbling.
Bennett had other properties in Michigan and California and enjoyed the friendship of and entertained celebrities such as Jack Dempsey and Charles Lindberg. He was fired from Ford Motor Company in 1945 after the death of Henry Ford.
The boy scouts bought the property in 1964 and the lodge fell into disrepair, occasionally used for staffing quarters. It’s easy to see the natural beauty of the property being enjoyed by generations of scouts learning outdoor skills and creating lifetime memories. A railroad bed is visible on the property as well as the air strip used by Bennett that may have landed a B-52. Those and other stories we look forward to reading in Robert Knapp’s next book.
The 2300-acre former Scout reservation is currently for sale, but a lease is currently held on the property by a private group. The property is listed with Midwest Realty Group.