BALDWIN -- For more than 50 years, the Government Lake Lodge has been a staple in the Baldwin community.

A place for fishing, a place for boating, a place for hunting…but mostly a place to gather with family and friends to enjoy a good meal and good conversation.

Baldwin resident George Duffing established the Government Lake Park on the banks of Government Lake in the 1930's, as a privately owned recreation area.

Promotional material from the time described it as a lodge and overnight cabins "built on the high wooded shores of Government Lake."

The resort offered shelters, a picnic area, and a bathing beach, along with boating and fishing guides.

The eight cabins along the edge of the lake were described as "one, two and three bedroom, built of varnished logs with hardwood floors and three windows each for ventilation and cool comfort."

All cabins are equipped with electric lights, heaters, Simmons mattresses and box springs, washstands, chairs and tables, the brochure said.

In the main lodge overlooking the lake, patrons could purchase meals, fishing tackle, groceries and gas.

"Government Lake Park is a convenient, quiet spot where one may rest free from interruption or annoyance and enjoy the splendid Michigan outdoors in a beautiful setting," the brochure read.

Over the years, the Lodge became a favorite gathering place of locals and visitors alike.

According to a 1986 story in the Lake County Star, during World War II, Government Lake Lodge was a meeting place for young people going to, or on leave from the service, returning home from overseas, or those just wanting to forget about the war for a while.

Following the war, an addition was added to the lodge bringing the building closer to the water's edge so that patrons could feed the fish that swam in the lake. For generations, feeding the fish has been a tradition at the lodge.

Former owner Karen Snyder said that is something the people used to do a lot.

"They would bring the children to feed the fish and play in the game room downstairs," she said.

Snyder said when they owned the property, she and her family used to feed the fish out of the window from the upstairs living quarters.

"We would throw breadcrumbs out and the bluegill would feed on the bread, then we would see the bass come in. You could see them easily because the water is so clear," she said.

Today, only two of the original eight cabins remain, and they are privately owned. Snyder said the property around the lake has been sold to private owners over the years, and the lake has been privatized.

"The homeowners around the lake own the lot to the lake," she said. "It is no longer a vacation area."

'LET'S BUY A BAR'

According to Snyder, for 20 years the lodge was owned by Bill Olds, who offered access to the lake. He rented boats for fishing in the summer and skates for ice skating in the winter.

In 1986, Brent and Alice Nichols purchased the lodge. They modernized the kitchen and expanded the dining room to give diners a better view of the lake. They also opened the recreation room in the downstairs area.

The Nichols emphasis was on fine dining, offering a full menu that "trended toward seafood in keeping with the lakeside setting."

They owned and operated the facility until 1990, when it was purchased by Dean and Karen Snyder.

While living in Grand Rapids, Snyder said, her husband spent a lot of time in Baldwin fishing and hunting and got to know Brent Nichols.

"He came home one day and said, 'Let's buy a bar in Baldwin,'" Snyder said. "I had been in the restaurant business my whole life, so I said 'sure.' I didn't think it was going to happen, but it went very smoothly, and we were there for 18 years."

The Snyders moved with their two young children and lived in the family quarters in the upstairs part of the building while operating the restaurant.

They offered a full service menu that included burgers, burritos, walleye and steak.

They added a deck to the back for outdoor seating and brought live music to the venue.

"When we owned it, it was a restaurant and bar, and a music venue," Snyder said. "The world class jazz and blues concerts they do every year at the Pavilion, were started here at the restaurant. We did that for a number of years."

"Families would come in, and the children would go to the game room and play pinball and arcade games while the parents enjoyed the scenery," she said. "Guests could feed the fish from the deck."

Snyder said they learned a lot about the history of the facility from family members and heard a lot of stories over the years about people's experiences at the lodge.

A member of one of the bands that played at the venue once told her he used to sort bottles in the basement of the building, she said.

"When we did buy it, we became part of the community," Snyder said. "They accepted us. It was a good time in our lives."

When their children were grown, the Snyders decided to put the property on the market.

"We thought if we could get affair price, then we would sell it," Snyder said. "It happened, so we figured it was meant to be."

The property was purchased by Don Lamoreaux, who is the current owner. The Lamoreaux family could not be reached for comment.

"When the fire occurred, I mourned like everyone else," Snyder said. "I get tears in my eyes when I drive by. We have heard so many stories over the years. It is definitely a landmark that will be missed in Lake County."