Lakeside Inn, a three story frame structure, speaks of less hurried times. The rich wood of the pillars in the lobby complements the stone of its fireplace. The ballroom, which faces Lake Michigan, also has a stone fireplace. Furnishings reminiscent of the early 20th century create a casual atmosphere in which to meet friends, play cards and board games, read a magazine or just relax.
The 100 foot long front porch is lined with dozens of rockers and bathed with breezes off the lake. Step off the porch, descend the stairs and cross the road to find yourself on the bluff overlooking the private beach that awaits you.
Lakeside Inn is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. The Inn was also designated a State of Michigan Historic Landmark in May of 2004. The Lakeside Inn’s state historical marker, located next to Lakeshore Road, reads:
“Known as Ames Grove, this property served as a picnic ground and recreation area beginning in the 1880s. John Aylesworth purchased the property in 1901 and opened the Lakeside Inn in this building as early as 1915. The hotel once had its own zoo and extensive gardens. During the 1930s and 1940s Chicago orchestras played at the Inn. The Lakeside Center for the Arts occupied the premises from 1968 to 1994 and hosted artists from around the world. In 1995 the inn was restored to its 1920s appearance.”
In 1844, Alfred Ames purchased seventy-eight acres including land now occupied by the Lakeside Inn. By the 1890s, Lakeside was already becoming a summer resort community for Chicagoans, with its delightful location near the lake, and good railroad transportation. Because the prevailing winds are from the west, it has the best of both worlds as compared to Chicago — cooler air temperatures in the summer, and warmer lake water for swimming.
After Alfred Ames passed away from small pox in 1884, his 12 year old son Fisher helped his mother, Mary, open the first lodge on the Lakeside Inn site.
Aylesworth and his brother persuaded their parents to purchase the lodge in 1901, including almost 30 acres of land for $4,500. Arthur Aylesworth’s father died in 1917, and two years later his mother deeded the property to Arthur. He had been a world adventurer, having traveled in South America, and produced films about his game hunting in Alaska. He had toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, operated a gambling hall and bar in Las Vegas, and had married and divorced Florence Young, the sister of a movie star named Clare Kimball Young. At this time the property was referred to as the Aylesworth Hotel.
Aylesworth expanded the resort, and in 1915 the final addition was constructed. The three story tall structure to the south of the present lobby included the ballroom and restaurant, health spa below, and two floors of sleeping rooms above. Aylesworth owned the inn into the 1950s.
The modern history of Lakeside Inn began when John and Kay Wilson purchased it in 1968. They renamed it the Lakeside Center for the Arts. John ran his print business from several rooms in the inn and converted the large building in the rear into studio space. For three months each summer, the inn was opened to artists from around the world, including Richard Hunt, Ed Paschke, and Roger Brown.
Devereux Bowly, a lawyer and writer from Chicago, purchased Lakeside Inn in 1994, three years after purchasing the nearby Gordon Beach Inn. Bowly had been coming to Lakeside Inn since the 1960s and had rehabilitated a hundred-year-old stable in Union Pier. During the winter of 1994-1995, Bowly completed a major renovation of Lakeside Inn. Bathrooms were installed in each of our rooms, the building was rewired, and the heating system was upgraded.
Devereux Bowly passed away in 2014, leaving Lakeside Inn and Gordon Beach Inn to the care of his sister Judy and her son Zach. Judy and Zach are excited about the future of Lakeside Inn. Devereux used to say he did not think of himself so much as the owner of the property, but rather as its custodian for present and future generations. Zach and Judy share his sentiments.
We encourage you to explore Lakeside Inn’s history during your stay with us. Our staff is happy to answer any questions you have about the inn and highlight some of its historical elements for you.