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Breezy Acres History
Breezy Acres' history begins in Chicago and the far reaches of Michigan's north on the Keweenaw peninsula. Mary Claire, Maria's and Anne's mother, was born to Jarvis and Mim Doucette in Hubble, Michigan, early in the twentieth century. Her brother William had preceded her by two years and Tom and her other siblings trailed a few.

Jarv had been a cavalryman who rode with General Pershing in the Punitive Expedition pursuing Pancho Villa into Mexico, 1916-17. He and his horse were later badly gassed in World War I.

Beyond being tough as hell, Jarv was a sagacious man. With copper mining nearly played out on the Keweenaw, he knew the future lay to the south. He counseled his eldest son, William, to become a draftsman, realizing technology was changing faster than anyone could keep up and knowing industry was going to need skilled people to put all the new ideas on paper. He likewise advised Mary Claire to learn secretarial skills, then booted them both out of the house and sent them to Chicago.

Mary Claire, who had become an exceptional typist, had no difficulty finding employment in the big city, although she related that the first time the telephone on her desk rang she had no idea what to do with it. Having never encountered one before, she calmly observed the secretaries around her to see what they did and followed suit.
  Jarvis on his cavalry horse ready for Pancho Villa  
  Jarvis Doucette, 13th Cavalry Punitive
Expedition pursuing Pancho Villa
Being an attractive young lady, Mary Claire also had no difficulty finding Thadeous Droz, recently discharged from the Navy, now employed designing and installing store front displays downtown Chicago. Ted and Mary Claire were soon married and starting a family.

William, Uncle Bill to all of us here at Breezy, had also listened to his father and applied himself to the task in the single minded manner of his that left anyone who knew him in awe. He hired into Nacy Automatic Fire Protection in Chicago as a young draftsman, more or less analogous to an engineer in modern terms. Midway through his career he took a sabbatical to be a fighter pilot in the Air Force during World War II, then returned to Nacy. As Bill was steadily rising in the ranks, the company installed the original plumbing in the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park on the lakefront in Chicago. He presided over installation of the fire suppression system in the John Hancock Center, the plumbing in countless fireboats on the Chicago river, and all manner of other projects.
  Ted and Mary Claire  
  Ted and Mary Claire
Bill eventually retired as president of Nacy, a fairly young man in his mid-fifties and very comfortably well off. He moved his family up the west shore of Michigan to just north of Pier Cove, purchasing the incredible Weed estate, a 19th century stage stop and boarding house sprawling on acres of towering bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. He spent the next many years single-handedly restoring the massive two story home with it's countless bedrooms, two kitchens, and huge ornate barn. Backed up to the bluff, the barn had one of the best views out a barn window to be found anywhere in the world.

This was not, by the way, Uncle Bill's last involvement with a barn. He later moved away from the lakeshore into Douglas, purchasing a barn that he converted into a very upscale residence. First though, he had to wait for the previous owner to move the pipe organ out. Anyhow...

One day in May of 1952, on a foray into Douglas just a few miles north, Bill noticed the little motor court on the south end of the city was for sale. Aware that his brother Tom shared a desire with Ted to get out of Chicago, Bill immediately called them and said, you need to buy this place. They came up, checked it out, and did just that. Mary Claire and Ted held a 75% interest while Tom and his German bride, Dorchen, held the remaining 25% of the only lodging available in Douglas at that time. They christened it Breezy Acres, inspired by the ever present lake breeze.

Breezy Acres circa 1952
Breezy Acres shortly after Ted, Mary Claire, Tom, and Dorchen purchased it.
Breezy Acres was a motor court with fourteen cabins and two houses on twenty acres of the old Plummer estate. The Plummers had also hosted a stage stop and the stone step and hitching post are still in their original place on the property. With the families installed in the houses the women and kids took care of the motel during the day while Tom plied his carpenter trade locally. Ted continued working in Chicago weekdays, returning on weekends to pitch in with the work required to maintain the cabins. In addition, Tom and Ted hatched a plan to combine the tiny cabins, creating nine larger ones to provide more comfortable lodging for visitors. Of course, with Ted still working in Chicago, the renovations had to be accomplished on the weekends with the lights burning late into the night.

The house that Ted, Mary Claire, and family were living in, which also served as the motor court office, was right up near the edge of the old Michigan Pike, now Blue Star Highway. It's the building near bottom center in the picture, above. Ted hand dug a partial basement, well back from the road, whacked the back room off the small one story house, then dragged it back across the coarse grass lawn onto new foundations, as you see it below. The bleached grass of the 1950s field still stands under the house in the crawlspace, and Ted's precisely sculpted earthen walls are just as he left them.

Breezy Acres Court, 1958
Breezy Acres Motor Court, 1958. Note the house is moved back & cabins joined.
Around this time Maria was born, following her brother and sister by around eleven years. She had the distinction of being among the last babies born in the old Douglas Community Hospital in the Kirby House, now yet another high end eatery. Anne trailed along a few years later. By then, Ted had added two bedrooms and a bathroom to the back of the house, an office on the front and, on the northwest side, a cathedral ceiling kitchen and veranda built with hand hewn beams salvaged from the big barn which was blown down in the 1956 tornado that also destroyed the old light house out at the oxbow. Maria was just old enough to remember him standing shirtless, mixing concrete in a wheel barrow with an old Army pack shovel which we still have. In that fashion, he poured all the sidewalks, the porch under the veranda and, after installing the brick wainscoting all around the house, he poured the concrete ledges and window sills that cap it off.

Tom, Ted, and Uncle Bill
Tom, Ted, & Uncle Bill (L-R) taking a rare break, new kitchen & veranda in background.
An interesting page in our history occurred when Breezy Acres nearly had the opportunity to provide lodging for Duke Ellington. Maria recalls Ted relating having answered a knock late at night to find a well dressed black gentleman at the door with a big car idling on the drive. He apologized for the late hour and said he had seen the No Vacancy sign but hoped that maybe there was still a room available. Ted regretfully told him they were fully booked. The man returned to the car and spoke to someone in the back seat. In a moment another nicely dressed black gentlemen got out and approached. He said they were very tired and asked again if anything at all was available. At this point Ted recognized the man was Duke Ellington, in town playing at the Jazz Festival of August 1960 at the Douglas Airport. Maria always figured she and her older sister were lucky they didn't get kicked out of their beds to accommodate him!

So, if you should stay in one of our cabins, you never know. It might be in the very one Duke Ellington almost stayed in!

Early in the '70s Ted decided it would be nice to have a pond on the property. Being Ted, he wasn't thinking small. He contacted the US Army Corp of Engineers and asked if they'd care to design a pond and dam to impound the Jaeger creek that ran through Breezy. Indeed they would, and did. Being Ted, he probably also considered hand digging it and volunteering Maria and Anne to help. Fortunately for them, he found a guy who was just starting an earth moving business, thereby getting a good deal on the massive undertaking. The result was the beautiful two acre pond that lies behind the cabins. Sixteen feet deep, the pond is now the center piece that the rest of Breezy Acres gathers around.

Ted wasn't the only one putting sweat equity into Breezy. In addition to tending to the motel rooms, Maria and Anne well remember being set to work in those days. They dug the trenches for the pipes when Breezy upgraded from septic tanks to city water and sewer, as just one example. Even now, only the unwary would expect an easy arm wrestle with either of them.

By this time Ted was working at Chris Craft in Holland. Never being one to pass up surplus articles that might have some use, he dragged home an odd assortment of boat artifacts. Many are now woven into the Breezy fabric throughout the cabins and grounds, ranging from the teak flooring in Anne's kitchen, door hardware in a number of the cabins and the mahogany used for wainscoting in Corsair and Little Gem and the trim in most the cabins. Also, the Corsair emblem from which Corsair Cabin got its name.

Somehow, in addition to the incredible renovations and the maintenance of the cabins and grounds, Ted found time to do all the wrenching on the family's cars and to pursue his love of Citroens. The family took months long trips to Mexico in a couple of old Citroens, including the ID19 wagon you can see parked out front in the picture below. In his spare time he was slowly restoring a 2CV sedan and Truckette.

The only time in Maria's and Anne's lives that they have not lived at Breezy Acres were the years they spent at college in New Mexico. Upon abandoning the halls of academe, they returned to their roots, taking up residence once again at Breezy and helping Mary Claire manage the place, Ted, sadly, having passed way too young. Maria started a business, Lakeside Cleaning, while Anne pursued a career in education, waitressing to fill the idle hours (Waitressing runs in all the girls blood. Their older sister co-owns Everyday People Cafe with her son). Both now turn their attention more and more to Breezy, Anne waitressing a few nights a week to keep her hand in and Maria down to one employee and a few favorite customers.

About this time Tom and Dorchen decided to get out of the motel business. Maria and Anne were in their late twenties to early thirties and Mary Claire thought it would be a good idea if they were to buy their aunt's and uncle's 25% share in Breezy Acres. When Mary Claire thought something was a good idea, her daughters knew it was a good idea to think so too, so the girls bought into the operation. Mary Claire always reminded them that, when debating a point on how the business was to be run, for every 25 words they could say she could say 75. One of those points was the decision to turn the motel into apartments, requiring a lot less effort to run.

Breezy Acres after all the hard work.
Breezy Acres after all the hard work, probably late '70s.
As the years, and Mary Claire, have passed, Anne and Maria have brought Breezy Acres full circle, returning to its original role as a motor court. They have retained a few full time rentals with tenants who have been here so long they feel like family, but the focus now is very much on providing a pleasant and memorable lodging experience for visitors to Douglas and Saugatuck.

As a side effect of the Breezy bunch's inveterate garage saleing, each of the cabins exhibits a part of Maria's and Anne's eclectic accessories and furniture collection, spanning Victorian and art deco to the '50s and beyond. No two cabins are alike, even to themselves from one year to the next, each with it's own continually evolving personality.

Anne's husband, Dave, does most of the remodeling and upkeep of the cabins. You will see his signature weathered barn wood and shaved cedar logs inside the cabins and on various buildings all around Breezy. His incredible organic garden is a major attraction in the summer, both to guests and the local fauna. He has also carved out the various trails winding through the back twenty.

Chuck, Maria's husband and the only one among the cast and crew who lacked the aptitude to be self, or at least alternatively, employed, fills in the gaps; fixing a furnace here, tending to the lights there, building the occasional garage and maintaining this website when he remembers to. Retired from near forty years in the aerospace industry and a five year stint driving buses (which he loved) he can now be seen skirmishing with the aforementioned fauna or puttering about on the tractor holding the flora at bay when he's not lying beneath a vehicle, tools in hand.

Monk, the head cat, takes his job very seriously, making the rounds of the decks ensuring visitors have a reliable supply of cat to pet. The chickens, gregarious and eternal favorites of our guests, diligently inspect every square foot of the grounds proper, muttering amongst themselves while making certain everything is up to their standards, raking leaves out into the open wherever they discover we've negligently overlooked a spot.

Last updated March 22, 2022
Email (site issues only please):  mechanique at wmol dot com