Dreams come true at Lakeside Chautauqua

Lakeside OH, jogging
Early run.

By Bruce Stambaugh

As I walked along the lakeshore on my morning stroll, the clock tower chimed “All is well with my soul.” I smiled at the apt anthem.

Indeed, that’s just how I felt. After all, I was at my favorite vacation spot, Lakeside, Ohio, the Chautauqua on Lake Erie.

My wife and I have spent a mid-summer week here every year since 1987. The last three years our daughter’s family has joined us.

Why do we keep going back to the same place when there are so many other marvelous destinations in the world to explore? The answer is simple. We love Lakeside.

It’s a dreamy place, a step back in time, a sanctuary of sorts, a retreat to escape from the hustle, bustle, and negativity of the other world to this dreamland. I could dream this dream every day.

I’m not alone in that sentiment. The usually sleepy town of hundreds morphs into a gated resort for 10 weeks each summer. Weekly visitors number in the thousands.

Why? Lakeside is a beautiful place. It’s a safe place where people don’t lock their doors, where children run free, where strangers smile and say hello, where families like ours gather for a respite generation after generation, year after year.

A quick check of car license plates reveals Lakeside’s universal appeal. Lakeside’s tranquility, setting, familiarity, and planned nurturing draw folks from Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Virginia, and Ontario, Canada and places beyond.

What lures them? The Chautauqua community’s four pillars of purpose ensure a variety of stimulating activities for every age. Religion, education, arts and entertainment, and recreation soothe the soul of each participant.

That’s true even if you decide to sit on a bench and read a book or quilt. The dreamy world that is Lakeside envelops you.

Ferries shuttle vacationers and delivery trucks back and forth on the waters from Marblehead to Kelley’s Island. Freighters wait their turn to take on their payload at the limestone quarry dock.

Joggers and walkers and parents with baby strollers amble along the shore, the busyness of home and work overwhelmed by the vestiges of this remarkable space.

Immaculate lakefront homes and cottages line Plum, Poplar, Maple, Walnut, and 2nd and 3rd Streets, and all the other gridded streets. The variety of their architectural styles and colors inspire passersby and artists alike.

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A stunning assortment of flowers and landscaping accentuates the historic homes and buildings. It’s like a different calendar photo on every block.

Folks gather in parks for sports, picnics, and introspection. Birds of all kinds cohabit with the humans among the tall trees and ornamental shrubs.

Children enjoy the kiddy pool and splash park while admiring grandparents smile and supervise from the parameters. Older siblings and parents play shuffleboard or listen to a noted lecturer. Kayakers and sailboats zip in and out of the little harbor near the dock, the magnet for all the Lakeside dreamers.

While teens and seniors sunbathe on the dock, three generations of fishermen angle for perch, smallmouth bass, and walleye. In reality, it’s sheep head, channel catfish, and white bass they reel in the most.

After the evening’s family entertainment at historic Hoover Auditorium, the little business district is abuzz with lovers of ice cream, caramel corn, and yummy pizza. All are satisfied.

In 1873, the founders of Lakeside dreamed of a place where people could gather to recreate, learn, create, and worship in a sacred setting. Because those dreams have come true in Lakeside Chautauqua, all is truly well for those who care to partake.

sunrise, Lakeside OH
Silhouettes at sunrise.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

The cottage tradition continues

Shoreline in the evening.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The smoke from the evening campfire rose up and over the cottage my parents had built three decades ago. Stars and planets were beginning to twinkle through the broken canopy of the mixed hardwoods that clung tight to the steep hillside.

Through the thicket down the hill, the lake shimmered with the evening’s last light. All was still except for the crackle of the fire and a few katydids.

We humans broke the spell with inquisitive conversation. The couple with whom my wife and I shared this pleasant woodsy setting was new to the cottage neighborhood. For them, it was a dream come true to own a cottage an hour from home where they could find peace and quiet away from his busy construction work.

The Briar Hill fireplace that is the centerpiece of the cottage.
My father had made it clear that he wanted the cottage to stay in the family after he was gone. To honor that desire more than fulfilling my own dream, my wife and I purchased the cottage the year before my father died in December 2009. It has been a labor of love and restful retreat ever since.

Dad had had cottage fever for a long time. When a small building lot became available 50 years ago on his favorite fishing lake, he bought it for $500. I think he actually had to borrow the money to complete the deal. That’s how passionate Dad was about making his dream come true.

Design and construction of the cottage followed a decade later. Contractors laid the foundation, and built the massive sandstone chimney, which is the cottage’s centerpiece. Its earthy colored stone came from the Briar Hill scrap pile in Glenmont, Ohio.

There was nothing fancy about the cottage in either its style or structure. Basically a 24 by 24 foot square building, our artist mother realized setting the cottage on the lot diamond-like would enhance the view from inside and out. It was a most excellent decision.

Deer often pass close to the cottage.
After it was framed, Dad was determined to finish out the cottage on his own. In other words, he had lots of help from friends, family and hunting and fishing buddies.

Dad was way ahead of his time. He repurposed as much of the building materials as he could in the cottage. That included some white oak lumber he obtained on the cheap, and had planed smooth. It became the porch held up by beams he had salvaged from the old roller coaster at Meyer’s Lake Park in Canton, Ohio.

To Dad’s delight, many family gatherings were held on that porch. The problem was that Dad only saw the cottage as it originally was, not as it really was as it aged.

The porch, for example, began to deteriorate, despite Dad’s patching efforts to keep it repaired. As our families expanded with grandchildren, Dad’s organized gatherings became smaller and as tenuous as the porch itself.

When we bought the cottage and began the remodeling process, the first thing to go was the old porch. Dad wasn’t too happy with me. While he and Mom were still mobile, my wife and I gave them a tour of the refurbished cottage on what was to be Dad’s last Father’s Day.

A view of the cottage from the campfire circle.

Today we use the place as a get away to renew our spirits and connect with nature. Just like Dad, we particularly enjoy hosting others.

Like our new neighbors, we wanted Dad’s cottage dream to continue. Gazing upon that heavenly host of constellations, I think I saw Dad winking his approval.

The campfire circle hosts many enjoyable conversations on summer evenings.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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