Pilothouse cottage?

(UPDATE: Tuesday 9 p.m.) Paula of Grand Haven asked, "Is there a story behind a funny little cottage on Lake Avenue in Grand Haven Township, on the north shore of Pottawattomie Bayou? It looks like it was part of a boat."
Mark Brooky
Jul 2, 2013



It was, indeed, part of a very old boat. The cottage at 15129 Lake Ave. was once the pilothouse for an old wooden steamer that likely plied area waterways 100 years ago.

It was not, as I was misled to believe, the pilothouse for the May Graham.

The property, coincidentally, went up for sale on Tuesday. It has 100 feet of bayou frontage and is 277 feet deep, and is listed for sale by Patti Styburski of Coldwell Banker Schmidt Real Estate office in Grand Haven for $225,000.

The property is currently owned by Eileen Cory of Grandville. It has been in her family's hands since the early 1900s, and her father transferred its ownership to her in the 1950s.

According to a family friend, Cory's father and a group of men bought an old riverboat and turned its pilothouse into a cottage on the Pottawattomie Bayou. They aren't sure what the name of the boat was, but it was not the May Graham. The family friend said they always called it "Pokegon."

As to the May Graham, some sources say it was built in 1900 in St. Joseph and named after the daughter of its one-time owner, E.A. Graham. Other sources say it was built in St. Joseph in 1879, and its hull was punctured by a log in August 1897. "Her captain ran the steamer, which was taking on water, full speed toward a sand bar," explained the Ohiolink report. "After the steamer ran aground, the 75 passengers were taken back to St. Joseph via row boats and carriages. The hull was repaired, and the May Graham was put back in service."

In his book "Grand Times in Grand Rapids," Gordon Beld wrote: "The May Graham was the last steamer to make the run between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven, passing through the swing bridge at Eastmanville shortly before it rusted shut about 1917. After being disassembled, it was used as a barge. Its pilothouse and upper decks served as a cottage at Grand Haven until the 1950s."

From the bassriver.org website: "The May Graham was retired in 1918 after 39 years of service. Its pilothouse was removed and placed on the west side of the Grand River, at the future site of North Shore Marina. When the marina was constructed in 1952, the pilothouse was relocated; this time to the north side of the Grand River, east of Grand Haven."

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Local historian(s) might disagree with you:
Some believe the May Graham cottage was moved to Pottawatomie Bayou. It is an urban myth. There is a similar
structure at 15129 Lake Avenue on Pottawatomie Bayou that still serves as a cottage but is not the former May Graham cottage.
(Lake Avenue had been Pottawattomie Street until the late 1940s when Township Supervisor Clarence Reenders and Township
Fire Chief Harold Radikopf changed it to “Lake” because “Pottawattomie” wouldn’t fit on the standard street signs.)
According to Clyde Arkema, who has lived next to the Pottawatomie Bayou cottage since 1946, the unique dwelling was
moved to Lake Avenue in the 1920s by Pete VanZylen, who owned the property on Pottawatomie Bayou. Cornell “Corky”
Beukema grew up in Grand Haven and, since 1947, has lived on the Grand River Channel near the Bosman cottage location.
Beukema also remembers seeing the Pottawatomie “boat” cottage when, in the 1930s, as kids they swam at Pottawatomie Bayou.

Taken from "Grand Haven:In the Path of Destiny" Dave Seibold, p.311

Mark Brooky

I may have been misinformed about the address. A recent letter to the editor in Michigan History noted the May Graham pilothouse at that property (15105 Lake Ave.). I'll have more on the correct address and owner soon.

Now, whether it is the May Graham or not ---- let me say this: I would never doubt Dr. Seibold! But it sure looks like the May Graham.

Mark Brooky

Thanks for the tip, biped. The answer is corrected and updated.


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