Nestled among a wooded country road stretching the distance of South Lake Leelanau, you may be surprised to discover one of the oldest historic resorts in the state of Michigan, second only to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Known as Fountain Point, this enchanting hotel and collection of cabins summons guests back to a coveted time in American culture–when family stood at the forefront of our social and communal lives. Building on their own rich family history, brothers Erik Zehender and Theo Early are beginning a new chapter–as proprietors–with minds on a mission, while holding the Fountain Point’s core values at heart.
First, to speak of Fountain Point with an eye on the future, one must understand a bit of the resorts past. The “Fountain” sprang up unexpectedly in the mid 1800’s, when a French fur trader sank a drill in the sandy shore of Carp Lake, now known as Lake Leelanau. Hoping for oil, he instead struck a gushing geyser of fresh water flowing in a terrestrial river–900 feet deep–far below the glacial substrate that shaped the region and gave birth to Lake Michigan. Ownership of the land changed a few times, then a hotel was built before roads reached that far; families from mid-western states began ferrying from the south end of the lake, gathering at this aqua oasis for fun and relaxation.
In 1936, the depressed economy had whittled the resort’s financial strength to the bone. Erik and Theo’s great-grandfather, Victor A. Gebhardt, a diamond importer and Cincinnati jeweler (he and wife Blanche had been guests since 1917), purchased the resort and the establishment has remained under the care of this family since. The two men spent the summers of their formative years working for their mother. In that time, they observed and participated in the rich legacy of family traditions brought by their guests; today, some of those same families gather in the exact cabin they have shared for five generations. Under quiet observation, the brothers have relished the power of place and the renewal of family spirit that their guests experienced year after year.
The next generation of leadership at Fountain Point anticipates success and strength. Change is destined to greet the resort, as the brothers bring to life their personal dreams and visions for this historic treasure. Together they have witnessed the erosion of family values and are dually aimed at providing a place where restoration can occur for present and future generations. Collectively, the community and the seasoned guests are likely to benefit, as the new owners bring their rich and fond memories of the past at Fountain Point with their shared vision of the resorts success for years to come.
Check out the Fountain Point website, or drive by the resort on County Rd. 641 just before the village of Lake Leelanau. The place is a pure oasis of fun, old-time family style: without the television. The perfect setting for a romantic and playful wedding, a staff retreat or a family reunion. Turn in and tune up to a big Northern Michigan family adventure!