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Charlevoix Mushroom House | Northern Michigan Guides stock photo

Earl Young's Unique Mushroom Houses in Charlevoix

Unique. Unusual. Quirky. Elf cottages. Hobbit houses. Fairie houses. Gnome houses. Fairy tale houses. These are terms that are all used to describe the mushroom houses that Northern Michigan builder Earl Young created in Charlevoix. Young’s homes are known world wide and can be seen in just one place: Charlevoix.

Born in nearby Mancelona in 1899, Young moved to Charlevoix in 1909. He attended the University of Michigan where he studied one year of architecture and returned to Charlevoix and began building his quirky houses in 1918. From 1918 through the 1950s, Young built 30 stone homes in Charlevoix and each is so unusual, they are considered works of art.

The houses vary from tiny to huge. Many have undulating stone walls capped by a mushroom shaped cedar shake roof. Windows are framed with boulders. Chimneys have frosted stone caps. Doorways are lined with massive stones.

In his early years of mushroom house building, Young’s homes were of the arts and crafts style, a bit like Frank Lloyd Wright. In later years, the shapes became more rounded with a blend of hobbit and fairy tales. Like Wright, Young designed each home to blend into its surroundings which makes each so unique.

young_house_2Young married the girl across the street, Irene Harsha, and they built the first mushroom house at 302 Park Avenue built in 1918. One of the more popular houses is the Half House, a tiny home, at 306 Park Avenue built in 1946. At the same time, he built another home for his family at 304 Park Avenue. This house is one of the first to capture Young’s use of Onaway tone, a stone from nearby Onaway. Continuing on Park Avenue, Young built Betide at 308 Park Avenue and Abide at 310 Park Avenue.

Probably the most photographed house in Charlevoix is Young’s Mushroom House at the corner of Clinton and Grant Streets built in 1951. The unusual home has walls that are up to three feet thick. Young also built the Weathervane Hotel on the Pine River.

Young’s mushroom houses bring hundreds of visitors every year to walk through Charlevoix and photograph the houses. The chamber of commerce and the Harsha House have brochures that outline a self-guided Young tour.

Scroll below for more articles about the Charlevoix area.

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