The structure that houses the Clark Lake Community Center is familiar to most. From it’s perch on Kentucky Point, it watched Clark Lake grow up and blossom over a century. When it was about to meet the business end of a bulldozer, Clark Lakers were horrified. How could this historic structure simply disappear? Over the years, this house had taken on the Clark Lake Spirit. It held within its walls the history of not just one family, but had come to represent everyone’s good times at Clark Lake, and the indelibly connected love of family and friends. How could this cottage be reduced to a pile of rubble?
This collective anxiety gripped the lake. But the troublesome unease succeeded in motivating a better outcome. Clark Lakers gathered weekly, lined two deep at a roundtable in the old Eagle’s Nest. On cold winter nights, they came up with a plan—save the cottage by moving it. But how? It took a grander movement within the Clark Lake community to execute the plan—to orchestrate the engineering skill, get the permits, to raise the many dollars required, and stay focused on the goal. On a June day in 1997, the east end of the lake was crowded with boats. A blimp flew overhead and cameras whirred. The Graziani cottage floated down the lake on a barge. Once mounted on the hill in the County Park, a major restoration project began. The beloved icon had been saved.
Today the structure is doomed again unless Clark Lakers change the trajectory. The 2021 threat is not a bulldozer, but destruction by disrepair. The good news? An engineering study confirms the house has “good bones.” Restoration will be costly, estimated at $192,665. To review the needed repairs, click here.
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Why save the CC? A bond deeper than the lake’s 55 foot depth connects us to Clark Lake’s past—intricate and delicate, but powerful. It’s the summer sun, the boats, paddleboards, rafts, water skis, and finding your cares washed away by jumping into its waters. Most important are the people who share it, and remembering those no longer here. It’s the twinge in your heart that is far more powerful than memory alone. The Community Center is like a time machine, preserving Clark Lake’s past. It takes us to place we ache to go again—the Clark Lake we love, and where we love to be.
The Clark Lake Spirit Foundation has launched fundraising to Save the CC. To illustrate how determined Clark Lakers are to preserve this cultural icon, some have already cast checkbook votes—$131,275 donated or pledged so far. Donations have ranged from $100 to $10,000. Will you join them?
You can double the effect of your donation. Every donation up to $2500 will be matched by the Michael Ibold Wilger Foundation, retroactive to November 1, 2021. Use your credit card by clicking here (check box that says “I would like to donate to a specific fund, then choose Community Center.” Or mail your check to PO Box 224, Clark Lake, MI 49234. The check should be made out to the Clark Lake Spirit Foundation with Community Center on the memo line. The Clark Lake Spirit Foundation is a 501c3, and your donation is tax advantaged.
Who was Michael Wilger, and why is the foundation in his name offering a $50,000 match? During his life, Mike had a deep affection for all things Clark Lake. He held dear its history. He took great interest when the house moved down the lake, and was generous with his support.
Mike’s family at Clark Lake reaches back to the 1930s. He enjoyed spending youthful summers here from 1957 through the 70’s. Then beginning in 1997, he jointly owned a cottage with his brother and sister-in-law, on the north shore, east end. Today Fritz and Karen Wilger continue to enjoy the location.
Sisters Emilie and Ellen, and Michael
In 2016, and at age 59, Michael left too early. It’s a Wilger family tradition when departing the lake, each will toss a penny into the water. At Michael’s passing, the family sent with him a penny and a vial of Clark Lake water. As the Community Center was also part of what connected him with the lake, Michael’s memory will live on as part of this project to save the CC.
Young Mike is seated looking back, perhaps appropriate considering his love of history. His two sisters are also on board—Emilie (red shirt) and Ellen between her and the driver.
To read more about the Wilger’s and their time at Clark Lake, please click here.
The names of donors will be recognized on a handsome wall display designated with $10,000+, $5000+, $1000+, $100+ donations. (The appearance of the display may be altered for space and number of donors).
Questions? Please contact Mick Thorrez 740-0197, email@example.com, or Rick Belcher 748-1758, ClarkLakeSpirit@gmail.com.
In 1967, Carlotta Graziani wrote of her experience in the Kentucky Point cottage. In her writing you’ll also find a history of Clark Lake noting the many changes that occurred since 1896. Click here to read it.
A video tells the story of how the cottage was first saved from destruction. It begins with comments of the owner of the house when it last stood on Kentucky Point. Fortunately video and photos of the move survived, and some of them are included. Click here to watch it.