Dr. Ruthven, former President of the University of Michigan (for a tenure of 22 years) and his family came to Frankfort from Ann Arbor in 1929 as guests of the Dean of the Dental School who owned a cottage on Crystal Lake. While here, he fell in love with the area as most people do. He purchased this property from the railroad. At that time, the property was believed to be 24 acres.
The Ruthven’s and other Ann Arbor friends were equestrians and brought their horses up from Ann Arbor via train or riding them, every summer. The property was vacant and proved to be an excellent place to build stables, a bunk house and adequate riding facilities with pasture land. If you look at the aerial view in the photo in the north hallway, you can see what the property looked like.
Soon it was determined that there was not sufficient pasture land, so Dr. Ruthven purchased the property to the north, on the other side of George Street. This property extended from M-22 to the Lake. The Ruthven’s built a small barn for their Morgan stallion which still stands today on George and Michigan Ave. It should be noted that Dr Ruthven, an avid horseman, brought the first Morgan horses from Vermont to Michigan.
The Michigan Shores property was named The Rolling R Ranch. The main house was completed in 1932. Stables were built and what is now called “the white house” was the bunk house for the stable boys.
The main house included 5 bedrooms because Dr. Ruthven hosted the U of M regents in the summertime. As such, there were separate bathrooms, one for men and one for women.
Subsequently, many Ann Arborites were charmed with the beauty of the area and built their own summer homes here, including Mrs. Ruthven’s sister. The pink art deco house next door was built by the Dean of the Medical School, Dr. Furstenberg. Mrs. Canfield, widow of a prominent medical doctor in Ann Arbor, built the house now known as the “King House” and the property where “The Bluffs” stands.
I have long wondered why in downtown Frankfort there no consistency in the naming of the cross streets is. For example, it doesn’t go from 1st, 2nd, 3rd streets. Instead what should be first street is called Michigan Avenue. I have been told that when all the University of Michigan people moved up here, it was referred to as “Michigan Avenue” and the name stuck.
The Ruthven’s had three children: Kathryn, Peter and Bryant. I married the younger son, Bryant, in 1940 and we spent our honeymoon here.
When Mrs. Ruthven passed away, the property passed on to us where we lived from 1972 to 1989. During this time, we converted “the bunk house” or “white house” into a guest cottage.
In 1985, a group from the Congregational Church in Benzonia, Mook, Hook, Good and Howe, approached us to ask if we would ever consider selling the property. We told them, ‘yes’, but not right away. They said that they could wait as they were just getting started on their imagined project which was to become Michigan Shores.
My husband, Bryant Ruthven, while not at all eager to sell, was very pleased with their idea of a not-for-profit co-op for retirees, thinking that his parents would like the idea for the best use of their property.
These visionaries were able to complete the purchase in three years and groundbreaking took place on September 9, 1990 (see picture in the Great Room).
We moved into Michigan Shores in the year 2000. Michigan Shores has provided a home for many people throughout its long life, so we are overjoyed to be celebrating 25 years of its existence.