DAYS GONE BY: Historic Dunrovin Lodge
At a time when successful downstate and out-of-state businessmen were purchasing hunting and fishing resort properties on the Pere Marquette River, Clinton Whittemore chose 110 acres on the Baldwin River for his personal retreat. 80 acres was purchased from the state and the remaining acreage from a private owner.
Originally, the larger parcel had most likely been logged, and then ownership reverted back to the State of Michigan as often happened when logging crews moved on. The acreage was located on both sides of the river and is located midway between the Village of Baldwin and the junction of the Baldwin River with the main branch of the Pere Marquette River, and fronts on what has become known as M-37. As the forest regenerated, the property became renowned for fly fishing, wildlife watching and hunting.
Dunrovin Lodge was chosen as the name for Whittemore’s seasonal resort because it was his place to stay when he was “Dun – Rovin”. His wood frame lodge was constructed on the banks of the Baldwin River in what was becoming a secluded beautiful wooded setting. The buildings were sited on the property in such a way to minimize the impact of vehicular traffic. Walks meander through the property keeping nature close at every turn.
Built in 1931, the resort served as Whittemore’s destination when traveling between his home in St. Louis and his summer residence near Port Huron. While he spent spring and fall on the river, his grown children and grandchildren enjoyed the lodge during the summer months.
In 1932, Willard (Bill) and Eva Drilling and their family moved into the caretaker’s cottage and began their long history with the property. Adding to the natural environment, Bill built a beautiful rock garden next to the kitchen-dining room building which included a large pudding stone. While Bill, who worked as a carpenter throughout Lake County, did the handyman work, Eva managed the daily activities of the resort. Their children, Milo and Sara Jane, grew up at Dunrovin, attending and graduating Baldwin High School.
Around 1956, Wittemore sold his beloved Dunrovin to Eva Drilling. She ran the property as a public resort for a short time before selling all but 20 acres to Fred and Janice Lewellyn. The home she constructed on the acreage she kept remained in the family for over five decades.
The Lewellyns retained the name Dunrovin Lodge, while they worked to expand the resort’s amenities. They produced a brochure noting the Dunrovin Lodge to provide “Restful Comfort in a Northern Setting, Telephone 183, Baldwin, Michigan.” Fishing and hunting trips, lamb-chop shore lunches and marked hiking trails were advertised as available activities.
By 1958, the Whirlpool Corporation purchased the resort from the Lewellyns and over the subsequent years turned it into a state of the art conference facility for their company’s use. Fred Lewellyn continued to manage the property for Whirlpool in the summer months. Whirlpool added acreage to the resort as it became available. In recent years the Drilling family also sold their 20 acres to Whirlpool, so the property acreage has grown from the original 110 to 151 acres today.
The early 1930s rustic buildings still remain and have been renovated to keep up with the times. Living and sleeping facilities are together under one roof with the dining and kitchen areas in an adjacent building. Fortunately the Whirlpool Corporation has been sensitive to the relationship of the buildings to the natural surroundings and has retained the original rustic charm of the property. Dunrovin Lodge still has the special ambiance today as it did when it was built.