Granot Loma boasts rich history

The interior of Granot Loma is pictured. (Photo courtesy of the Marquette Regional History Center)

The recent proposal to build a vertical launch spaceport at Granot Loma has brought the lodge back to public awareness.

Located 16 miles north of Marquette on the shores of Lake Superior, the lodge is one of the largest log cabins in the world (if not the largest).

The lodge was built by Louis G. “L.G.” Kaufman and his wife Marie “Daisy” (Young) Kaufman. L.G. was a Marquette native who became a multimillionaire New York banker and financier. Granot Loma was named using the first two letters of the names of the Kaufmans’ five children at the time: GRaveraet, ANn, OTto, LOuis, and MArie Joan. (They would later have three additional children: Juliet, Mary Louise and Jane.)

The chosen site was on a Lake Superior bluff where Kaufman and his childhood friends used to picnic. In 1905, L.G. purchased the Payne Camp near Sauks Head Point on Lake Superior and immediately started making improvements. The family used the original log cabin for several years, making additions to it as the family and L.G.’s fortune grew. But he had plans for a much grander structure.

Construction on the lodge began in 1919 and continued until 1927. Over the course of construction 22 architects and 300 workers and contractors worked on the building. The final blueprints for the main building were designed by Marshall & Fox, an architecture firm from Chicago.

Huge fir logs were individually wrapped in burlap and shipped in from the forests of Oregon. Oregon fir was used because of its long life span and resistance to weathering. These logs were then fitted over a reinforced steel frame.

The interior of the lodge has been described as a “northwoods fairyland.” The interior is mostly decorated in an American Indian motif which included large blanket draperies and even a steel fireplace built in the shape of a teepee, complete with a turned back door for its opening.

Most of the furniture was built of birch and cedar, with many of the pieces having bark left on.

The main hall contains a massive fireplace. The mantle is an 18 foot oak-beam that was salvaged from the wreck of the Independence, which was the first propeller ship to sail on Lake Superior. The chandelier was made from the root system of a pine tree under which L.G. had picnicked as a boy

Each root was hollowed out to carry (the) electric wires for (the) lights. The chandelier also has a maze of carvings depicting all kinds of animals including elk, falcon, and beaver.

Included in the amenities was a railroad spur off the main line between Marquette and Big Bay. This enabled Kaufman and his guests to get on a private train car in New York and not get off until pulling up to the lodge. There is also a cement bottomed marina complete with breakwaters against Lake Superior’s fury and the basement contains boat stalls.

The lodge was adjacent to the 10,000 acre Loma Farms complex, which began construction in 1926 and opened in 1928. The farm had dairy and swine herds, as well as racehorse stables, pheasant pens, pigeon coops and even an elaborate, fenced breeding area for beaver. The beaver breeding however, never quite worked out.

John “Jack” Martin, the caretaker of Granot Loma who later married the Kaufmans’ daughter Marie Joan, recalled, “The boys from Big Bay would sneak in here at night, steal ’em, and then sell ’em back to L.G. the next day. Some of those beavers would be recycled 10 or 12 times.”

Rumors have long held that Granot Loma was built to spite the anti-Semitism of Henry Ford and the nearby Huron Mountain Club to which Ford belonged. This story is rather dubious, given that 1) the Kaufmans were members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and denied being Jewish and 2) Ford didn’t even visit the Huron Mountain Club, much less join it, until 1923, some 18 years after the Kaufmans had first purchased the property and four years after work began on Granot Loma.

According to Jack Martin, the decision to build Granot Loma was made by Daisy Kaufman, who was trying to one-up Kaufman’s brother, Sam, and his wife, who had constructed an elaborate summer camp nearby.

The lodge passed from Louis and Daisy to their daughter Marie Joan and her husband Jack. After Jack’s death in 1982, the lodge was placed for sale. It was purchased by Lucian Thomas “Tom” Baldwin III in 1987 for $4.255 million. Baldwin restored the lodge shortly after purchasing the property and auctioned off a portion of its contents in 1990.

In April 1991, Granot Loma was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Since then the property has been listed for sale several times, most recently in October 2015 for $40 million. The current proposal to build a vertical launch spaceport on the property is still undergoing environmental studies and faces considerable local opposition.

From here, the next steps in the lodge’s story remain to be seen.


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