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Welcome Aboard the “New” Pastime! We are stepping back into history aboard a fleet of pontoons that represent the famous boat that toured the waters of Lake Manitou during the 1920’s. The original Pastime was a lake fixture for 20 plus years during the late 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. This double-decker wooden excursion boat had a 60 person capacity. It was docked by the Colonial Hotel, and cruised passengers around the Lake stopping at the main hotels—Fairview, Westside, Colonial and Dam Landing Hotell. The tour cost 25 cents.
We are leaving Moose Lodge 1107, which has been located on the Lake since 1951. At that time, the Moose purchased the deteriorating West Side Hotel and remodeled it. In the 1880’s this area was called Jewel Beach—this has always been a great natural sand beach on the Lake. The first structure in this area was the West Side Hotel, a single story structure with rooms and boats to rent. By 1914, the popularity of this resort as both a great place for Sunday dinner and a wonderful view of the Lake, led to its second story expansion. The hotel also boasted a sailboat. Sailing, as well as fishing, were leisurely ways to be on the Lake.
Lake Manitou for most of its early history was a fishing lake in both the summer and winter. There are bass, both black and largemouth, crappie, bluegill, spotted gar, northern pike, yellow perch, shad, sunfish and carp. We are passing an area where Duck Landing rented rowboats and there were fishing cottages all along Mitchell Park Drive. Wooden row boats rented for 10 cents the first hour and 5 cents each additional hour. Past Mitchell Park, is Sunset Bay, quite a fishing haven in the early days of the Lake. In the middle of Sunset Bay is Coney Island. All the islands are privately owned by the Lake. This island gets its electricity from land with an underwater cable. Like many of the islands, this one has been ravaged by beavers killing the trees, and waves eroding the shoreline.
There are six islands in the main Lake—Coney, Big Island—which is really three islands connected by marsh, Honey Moon, and Treasure Island. On the south end or “Head of the Lake,” there are numerous islands in the marshes that are just called, the “Manitou Islands.” The Lake would not even be here if it wasn’t for the dam. In the beginning there were 5 ponds. The federal government promised to the Potawatomi in the treaty of 1826, a dam and a mill would be built. In 1827, with the creation of the dam, the 775 acre Lake Manitou was formed. With the mill, came the first white settlement, Tiptonville, in Fulton County. The dam, mill, and the settlement fell into disuse when the Potawatomi removed to Kansas in 1838.
The Dam Landing offered food, lodging, boat rental in the early 1900’s. In 1920 the Dam Landing Hotel became a two-story establishment featuring famous fish dinners. Today, Dam Landing Restaurant is the only private restaurant on the Lake. You can still park your boat and dine on certain days of the week at the Moose, Elks, and VFW.
Right next to the dam on the north side where once stood Bailey’s, ice house, there is Lakeside Park. Here is a picnic pavilion, swimming area, boat ramp, fishing piers and a well-maintained. Before the park, in the 1930’s, the entire area was a fish hatchery that extended across the highway and now is the present site of Lakeview Park and the 18 hole, Mill Creek, golf course.
Lake Manitou, Manatau, or Manitau, derives its name from the Potawatomi word used for “good spirit” and “evil spirit.” The Indians never lived upon its banks. They believed that the lake’s waters held a monster fish or serpent with supernatural powers. Early settlers knew the lake as “Devil’s Lake.”
The Manitou Monster was actually described on July 21, 1838 newspaper, The Logansport Telegraph where two men reported spotting the monster and describing it as, “sixty feet long, and looked like a huge snake.” The famous painter of Native Americans, George Winter sketched his conception of the monster for the newspaper. In 1849, the Logansport Journal reported that a huge buffalo, carp that “weighed several hundred pounds” was caught in the lake, the fish’s thirty pound head was exhibited in Logansport. In 1888, a 116 pound spoonbill catfish was pulled from the lake by four men. The monster-sized fish was put in the horse trough and displayed at the courthouse in Rochester. People were charged 10 cents a peek. Eventually, the catfish was butchered and sold for 10 cents a pound.
In recent years, reports of the Lake Manitou monster have waned. Today when the northern Indiana winters freeze the lake over, the ice shifts and emits booming and roaring noises. Residents around the lake smile and say that it is the monster trying to force its head above the ice.
Right across from the dam is an area known originally in the 1890’s as Columbia Park. Within the Columbia Park area the Colonial Hotel and Terrace Garden were established around 1910. The hotel was in full swing by the 1920’s and a dance pavilion was added in 1927. It was rumored that gangsters visited the hotel. In October, of 1938 a terrible fire destroyed the entire hotel. After the fire, the hotel property was sold to Harry Paige and rebuilt to be an even more formidable destination. Big names such as Glen Miller, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Louis Armstrong were the headliners.
Big bands played and crowds came by train and automobile to dance on the open floor on starry nights. In the late 1940’s-50’s, swing music was declining. The Colonial continued as a restaurant until 1977 when it was torn down. The Colonial Condos built in 1982 and remain today.
As one heads east, there is section of the lake known for many Lily pads. This was Lily Pond and the point before entering Lily Pond was known as the Poet’s Point. The Lake Manitou cottages had no heat in the winter but there were large porches facing the lake with lots of windows to catch the summer breezes. Many were two-story for a better view.
Big Island can be spotted in the center of the Lake. Even though it looks like one island there are three islands that are owned by different owners. All three islands have cottages on them, but the only electricity is provided by generators.
Honeymoon island is still an island, but is disappearing. In the fifties, a small cottage was placed on the island but has since been torn down by 2000.
At the beginning of the Country Club East is the larger of the two public accesses. This one is owned by the Department of Natural Resources and the one by the Dam is owned by the City of Rochester. In fact, in 1987, the entire Lake was annexed into the city limits of Rochester.
The road along this area is Barrett Road. At the end of Barrett Road was an amusement park billed as the Lake’s best swimming beach---Long Beach Amusement Park. The park was owned by A. J. Barrett. This area operated for 15 years until 1937. It had a diving pier, toboggan (water slide), dance pavilion, and a hotel. This beach was also known as White
The shoreline turns at Long Beach and follows Bessmore Park Road heading toward White Creek. Two creeks feed the Lake along with numerous natural springs. The other creek is Rain Creek at the south end of the Lake. This area is rather shallow (4-5 feet deep) and this leads to the question, “How deep is this Lake? What is the bottom like?” Because of the way that this lake was formed---five ponds into one lake because of a dam, this lake is one of the holes. The average depth is around 4-5 feet, but where the ponds were, the lake can get as deep as 25 feet to 45 feet. The bottom is technically classified as sand, but because of years of heavy weed growth and natural forming muck, there are certain sections with vast amounts of silt.
Country Club Drive East turns abruptly south and becomes Country Club Drive South. The area gets its name from the Rochester Country Club, that later becomes the Elks Club. This was the first club in the county to have a nine-hole golf course which remains today
But long before the Country Club and further south along the Lake was another great hotel, the Fairview. In the 1850’s land was purchased by the Cincinnati, Peru, and Chicago Railroad to speculate on the lands along lakes in northern Indiana as possible resorts. One hundred twenty-two acres was purchased for an unknown sum but appraised at $21,400 in 1854. Obviously, a huge, over-valued speculative venture because in 1859, the railroad sold 94 acres off for $5,000. The same 94 acres was sold to Samuel Sibert in 1868 for $1,500. In 1908, the area was platted as Best View and still maintains that name.
Starting in the 1870’s a series of hotels were built at the east end of the Lake. The East Side Hotel was a two- story, rather plain wooden structure when it was purchased by Harry Paige in 1910. He transformed it into the Fairview Hotel and
Gardens. The Fairview too became a destination for rail travelers getting off at Rochester and taking carriages or horseless carriages to the dance pavilion, bathing beach, and the restful atmosphere of Fairview Gardens. The dance floor, built in 1915, was the first open air dance pavilion in the Midwest. In 1939, three months after the Colonial burned down, the Fairview burned, never to be rebuilt. Private residences now occupy the site today.
Past the former spot of the Fairview are the “Headlands” of the Lake---a beautiful, natural wildlife refuge that is the largest wetlands in Northern Indiana—Manitou Islands Wetlands, comprising 643 acres. Rain Creek meanders for 8 miles up though the wetlands to Mt. Zion Dam and pond. Two local families sold significant ground to add to the wetlands to enhance the area even further—Judy Burton Nature Preserve, 130 acres, and Bob Kern Nature Preserve, 162 acres.
On the southeast side of the wetlands across the southern edge of the Lake, are the houses of the Goose Pond Road. There are a series of new houses. Many of these houses are at the site of the former Sportsman Restaurant. Empty lots have become a rarity on the Lake and many times something has to be torn down, for something new to be built.
Past the houses on Goose Pond Road is the opening of the Lake’s channels. In the 1960’s, the Meiser brothers channeled the wetlands that now exist in this area. They made an entire series of 15 ft.-deep channels. Today, channeling is not allowed because of destruction of wetlands.
With the dredging of the channels, a passageway was opened to the Lake, and the island first known as Round Top can be seen. Today, the island is called Treasure Island and still has the original, 1920’s cottage. The house has been completely remodeled and has all the comforts of a new, year-round home. Electricity, cable, phone, and Internet are provided by overhead wires because the island is close enough to shore. A truly massive seawall surrounds half of this
1 ½ acre island which protects it from erosion from the waves.
Traveling down Wolfs Point Road, one can see many of the older cottages have been replaced by new, beautiful homes. After rounding the Wolfs Point Drive and heading west, one can see that today’s houses are just like those of the turn of the century---plenty of windows and very tall. It is all about the view.
As we approach the other set of condominiums on the Lake, we see another former, great swimming spot, Overstreet’s Resort. Kenneth Overstreet, a school teacher, bought all of Wolf’s point in 1938. He had swimming, concessions, boat and cottage rental. Overstreet’s Resort was open until the 1970’s and then went through various owners. Homes and the condominiums have replaced Overstreet’s resort.
Following the shoreline, Wolf’s Point Road turns on to West Side Road, and the Moose Beach comes into view. This is the close of our journey and we hope that you had an enjoyable tour of the Lake: As It Is and As It Was.
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