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 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
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 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 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, & 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
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, 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
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
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
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