Cottage on the verge of being swallowed by Lake Michigan.

December 4, 2019

Cottage on the verge of being swallowed by Lake Michigan.


By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

CLAYBANKS TOWNSHIP – A cottage that is on the brink of falling into Lake Michigan will hopefully be salvaged after last Wednesday’s storm surge ravaged the home.

The water level on Lake Michigan is at a record high, and violent waves from the storm Nov. 27 knocked down walls; destroyed half the floor and part of the foundation; and ripped out a sliding glass door.

Owner Cindy Weisling said the cottage is over 50 years old and was designed by her father. “It was built in the late ’60s. My dad designed it a couple years out of architecture school. It’s designed in Frank Lloyd Wright style.” Her father also designed another cottage down the road.

Despite the obvious financial loss Weisling is suffering, the cottage’s sentimental value is what motivates her the most to save it from total destruction. Her father passed away 10 years ago, and she just lost her mom last March.

“There is a lot of repair work to do,” she said.

Her homeowner’s insurance does not cover erosion damage, and repairs to salvage the unique cottage will be substantial. A brand-new couch is one of many household items that fell into the water.

The plan is to build another seawall and to install supports on the foundation. A new seawall can be built in approximately a month to six weeks, Weisling said, and sandbags will be used to fight the erosion in the meantime.

“We’re trying to save it,” she said. Contractors have been “very encouraging. They think the house can be saved.”

Weisling, who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, said she received news of the collapse from the Michigan State Police. She didn’t realize how bad the damage was until her friend sent her pictures. The Grant Township Fire Department shut off the electricity to prevent a fire. The cottage’s well, which was in a galvanized steel tube, washed into the lake.

She and her sons traveled to Michigan last weekend to salvage what they could. “We’ve gone through a lot of stuff that we put in storage,” Weisling said. Some items of sentimental value they were able to salvage were framed puzzles that the family put together every year since they’ve had the cottage. Although three or four of them were swallowed by the lake, they recovered at least 30 of them. About a dozen are too high up on the wall to retrieve at this point.

The land was purchased in 1966 when lake levels were at an all-time low — unbeknownst to her family. In the 1970s, they put in their first seawall. Then another seawall was installed years later. Over time, the wooden walls have deteriorated.

During the record high water levels in 1986, the cottage sustained some damage but not to the extent it currently has suffered. “This damage is way worse.”

As recently as 10 years ago, Weisling said there was “tons of beach” at the cottage property.

The recent erosion “happened suddenly,” she said. The family was at the cottage until the third week of September when the first seawall was “breached,” but the cottage was not in “imminent danger.” During the first week of November, they were still able to walk on the decks facing the lake. “The week before (the collapse) happened, we lost some of the front decks.”

“The storm Wednesday really did it in,” she said. “I never imagined this kind of damage.”

“We’ve been very fortunate some good friends of ours have a year-round cottage.” She and her sons stayed there last weekend when they came to save their belongings.

Weisling rents out the cottage most of the summer and has already cancelled most of next summer’s rentals.

Cottages north of their property appear to be in danger of falling in the lake, too. Weisling worries what next year will bring as the lake level is predicted to be a foot higher. In the meantime, she is hopeful her beloved cottage will not be swallowed by Lake Michigan’s angry waves.

“We’re praying and crossing our fingers.”

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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