Models of Reform: Protestant Resort Communities and Loeb Farm
Erin Eckhold Sassin
Brown University/Connecticut College, Providence, RI/New London, CT, USA
This paper will examine the intersection of reformist architectures in the resort community of Charlevoix, Michigan, concentrating upon the impetus behind the establishment of an architectural model that stood in contrast to the existing resort communities ringing Lake Charlevoix.
While the Belvedere Club and Chicago Club remain exemplars of the Protestant summer resort communities popularized during the last decades of the nineteenth century, the model farm built in 1918 by Albert Loeb, the acting president of Sears, Roebuck and Company, provides another model of reformist architecture. Certainly, the Jewish Loeb would have been unwelcome in the established resort communities and so drew upon another model of a summer resort, one that had not only been favored by social elites during the waning years of the nineteenth century, but was also in keeping with the reformist ethos Loeb embraced.
Importantly, the Loeb Estate indicates not only Loeb’s knowledge of earlier model farm experiments, and allowed him to exhibit the farm implements sold by the company he headed, but also links this experiment to Sears, Roebuck and Company’s popularization of the arts and crafts ethos and style throughout the Midwest, particularly via their kit homes.
However, unlike the houses produced by Sears, the buildings of Loeb Farms did not consist of balloon-framed craftsman style kit buildings, but drew loosely upon late medieval French chateaux, albeit rustic versions constructed entirely of giant fieldstones, a material both local and plentiful. In this way, the farm more honestly illustrates the arts and crafts aesthetic than many other American attempts, in both truth to materials and the creation of a total work of art, a Gesamtkunstwerk. Most importantly though, the Loeb farm can also be read as a statement of difference, a reaction against the existing reformist resort model of the area.