Adventures in Dreamland


Located along the shores of Torch Bay on Portage Lake– a section of the historic Keweenaw Canal, which connects Lake Superior to itself– lies a longtime summertime haven for one local family that I am visiting. The home has recently changed hands amongst family, and a less-aged generation is now charged with the task of revitalizing a much-loved and well-used home. At times, this average sized home would have sheltered and fed 13 children, and innumerable cousins; hence, eight beds in the large open room upstairs, nearly ten dressers, several dozen unmatched chairs, and a piano. The rest of the building wears the signatures of a tinkerer/inventor (self-closing doors: pulleys and weights) a Depression era reuse and repurposing mentality; and of course, thirteen or more children, aunts, and uncles. In it’s unimproved state, it has been described as “tenement-ish”. The task of repurposing this home into an uncluttered summer retreat, is mountainous.

Inverted, my head in a septic tank, I quickly decided I no longer needed to request permission to fix a snack from the fridge. My pedestal of guesthood had crumbled; I was now a tenant of the estate (in a tent, lakeside). If I am to be knee deep in this end of their business, I thought, I most certainly could help myself to their leftovers and a refreshing beverage in the kitchen.

Bedrooms have been framed and dry-walled; sanding, priming and painting have livened living spaces; water, plumbing and lighting– all working again– make all the difference; and a massive purge of stuff has made their house, a home once again. With equal parts optimism and sarcasm, they call it “Dreamland”, borrowed from another longtime, local establishment– the Dreamland Hotel.

Relax, breathe deep and avoid the dust. Welcome to Dreamland.

Coming up: Eagle River, WI; Grand Marais, MN; then west.

The Dreamland Hotel is now a colorful country bar; poorly lit and awash in wood-grain. The word Dreamland even appears up the road from here on a 1961 MI Dept. of Conservation map uncovered from a dresser drawer.


3 thoughts on “Adventures in Dreamland

  1. Awesome post– I am one of the generations of the original 13 –that place hold a special place in all of our hearts and we are glad to see it being revitalized. I also must share that we sometimes called it “NightmareLand” especially when the bats were flying in the rafters above our heads as we were trying to sleep up there with all the other family members. My sister and I still talk about sleeping under the covers afraid to come out 🙂

    • Melanie, The working title was “Nightmare on Bootjack Road”, but Marsha threatened to hide my bike and put me to work indefinitely. We compromised, and the title was thus changed to “Adventures in Dreamland”. You are unlikely to find any more bats upstairs. The place looks great, and the bedrooms upstairs offer some privacy. Thanks for reading.

  2. As a cousin of the new owners, I’m delighted to see that Dreamland lives again! I visited Dreamland a week after your stay and the renovations are like a dream come true. Petaja Bros. both in heaven and on earth are smiling!
    I felt a kinship growing with you as I read your blog having spent the better part of summer days on the end of a hammer or shovel handle myself. As a young female worker I was not considered a “heavy lifter”, but I did my share of labor! (<: It was "first we work and then we play" that weaved our family fabric. (Some would say "first we work and then we work some more!") Your post captured the essence of what the cottage was and has become. Great writing. Thanks for sharing.

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