SYRACUSE — Centennial Lake Wawasee cottages were honored by the Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum during a presentation by the owners on their homes. The awards were given Saturday, July 23, at the Syracuse Community Center, home of the museum.
All the homes are 100 years of age or more and carry the history of many inhabitants. Some have remained in the same families the entire time. Coauthor of “Syracuse and Lake Wawasee” with Erin Lomax, Ann Vanderford Garceau introduced and organized the program.
Something that astonished some in attendance was Syracuse Lake and Lake Wawasee were both part of Turkey Lake, the original name. The railroad divided them in the public’s mind but not in the way the water flows. The dam in Syracuse controls the water level of both lakes.
Garceau noted, “According to George Miles, in 1886 Turkey Lake had 17 villages with about 700 residents and five large hotels. That is quite a change from today.”
Tim Needler represented the Needler family cottage on the north shore of Lake Wawasee, built in 1895. A Power Point presentation showed how the family has maintained the original features and design.
Pickwick Park on Kale Island brought Dan Kiley to the podium. The Kiley cottage has been in the family for 102 years and was constructed in 1892. Subsequent generations are continuing the tradition. The famous comedy duo of Abbott and Costello once spent the night there.
The Ideal Beach area was originally farmland with the farmhouse now the Anchor Inn Bed & Breakfast owned by Jean and Bob Kennedy. It once occupied the lake front but the lots between it and the shore were subsequently subdivided and sold. Jean Kennedy described and showed how the home has been kept and added onto in a complementary style.
Retired local history teacher Mary Lou Dixon is a descendant of the three brothers who founded Vawter Park. She still owns the original Vawter cottage from 1888 on Lake Wawasee and lives in the former school that served the Vawter Park community.
Ken Boles family has owned their Highland View cottage since 1951. It was built in 1897 and one time served as a restaurant. He displayed a sign advertising chicken dinners that was found in the cottage.
The home next door was an inn and is widely known as the “toothpick” house because of its angular structure. Debby Boles Leonard is the owner.
Terry and Karen Griffith’s home is on the peninsula that contains the bridge to Morrison Island. It is the oldest structure represented starting life as a barn in 1837. While remodeling, they found the original log beams underneath that are still in place holding the home together. It is near the Natti Crow sheep dip area on the lake.
The Natti Crow home is well known because of its previous life as a yacht club but it remains in the Crow family. The first part was constructed around 1848 and the Crow family moved into it from their log cabin. A project is underway to restore it according to Crow descendant Jim Fick.
The museum hopes preservation of local heritage will come to mind when some of the older cottages around Lake Wawasee and Syracuse Lake are sold and they will be restored instead of destroyed.