Behind Charlevoix Area Hospital is the large stone house designed by Earl Young in his inimitable mushroom style. It is considered one of the best examples of his work. There is a tall, carved statue of a blue heron in the window. Up and down this peaceful lakeshore drive are many other of his famous stone houses.
The family of the famous filmmaker Norm Panama used to spend summers in this house in the 1920s and 30s. He wrote, produced and directed "The Court Jester" and "Knock on Wood," the Danny Kaye vehicles. He was the screenwriter for "White Christmas" and Panama had a number of popular comedies to his credit from the 1930s through the 1970s, including "Li'l Abner" and "Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House" starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas. He often worked with his University of Chicago college friend Melvin Frank in writing, producing and directing his movies, especially his earlier works.
Earl Young, the architect of the Panama house, was a well-known Charlevoix realtor, who had real estate transactions with Vollie Fox. His wife, Irene, a Harsha (the Harsha House Museum in Charlevoix was named for her family) was an accomplished artist who drew up maps of the Grand Traverse region and of the Little Traverse region (Charlevoix and Emmet counties) that are popular to this day. She also is credited with the interior layout and decoration of the mushroom houses.
James Vol Hartwell is owner of the Red Fox Inn Bookstore in Horton Bay, which has been part of the family for more than a century. He is a Northern Michigan history aficionado. Excerpts from his "Lost and Forgotten Northern Michigan" writings will appear here regularly.