If these walls could talk: 218 and 220 Lake Shore Drive

In our ongoing series of virtual 'walks' through the historic buildings of Culver, nowadays the next establishment (since we last visited the former Clara's restaurant just east of the movie theater) is the Lakehouse Grille. But it wasn't always so.

In fact, today's Lakehouse occupies space which once played home to three different simultaneous businesses, one of which remains in the form of the "bar" side of the Lakehouse, which most Culverites will remember as the old Lakeview Tavern.

Located at three addresses, 618, 620, and 622 Lake Shore Drive, we first see mention of the Lakeview under its best-known name in 1936 (it was an empty lot in 1908 and listed on Sanborn Fire Maps as a dry good store in 1922). Jack Taylor opened the Lakeview in `36, and by the following year it included a restaurant.

Apparently the business changed name, as the Citizen noted the Hawkins Tavern at that site had been purchased by Delbert Jordan in 1945 from Mrs. Lottie Duddelson. "Deb" Jordan was the proprietor until 1951, and in 1955, Bob and Katie May began their long and well-known run in charge of one of Culver's "big two" watering holes (the Corner Tavern on Main and Madison, of course, was the other).

In Jan., 1963, the Marshall County Alcoholic Beverage Board granted a three-way retailers permit to "the Lake View Restaurant" (which before had only boasted a two-way permit). The victory was not without resistance, however, as a delegation of Culver citizens remonstrated against the permits, including representatives of the Union Township Council of Churches, the Culver Ministerial Association, the Culver Town Board, and a few individuals as well.

The liquor board, however, countered that "every effort will be made by these gentlemen to conduct their businesses in a lawful manner."
The whole thing seems to have come to naught, however, as business carried on (and undoubtedly increased) at the Lakeview.

The Mays ended their long tenure in 1995, after which the names of Thomas Arnett, Harry Huddle, and Karen Hughes became attached to the business.

In Dec., 1999, Larry and Joette Surrisi became de facto proprietors as they formed the Edgewater Grille. But more on that later.

Don't forget today's Lakehouse is only partly comprised of the old Lakeview Tavern. A perhaps equally fondly remembered establishment occupied part of the land on which the Lakehouse today sits.

The early years of the building east of the tavern are still shrouded in mystery, but certainly by 1946, a bowling alley had been established at the site, as the Jan. 9 Culver Citizen that year reported Jack Kowatch and his brother Ed had purchased the bowling alley from Emil Ruhnow. From 1947 to July, 1951, Jerome "Zeke" Zechiel operated Lake Shore Recreation there. In my interview last year with later owner Jim DeWitt, he reported part of the original bowling alley had been derived from the old bowling alley used as part of the Kreuzberger saloon operation across the street (remaining is the saloon building itself, the large brick house owned today by Jim and Diane Greene).

In `51, Zechiel sold the alley to George Robinson of South Bend, who ran it until May, 1953 as the Lakeshore Recreational Hall.

As detailed in our interview with Mr. DeWitt last year, he and his wife Mary took over the alley in 1953 and ran it until late 1977, making a host of improvements including the addition of automated pinspotters in 1959, and a remodel of the grill area ad installation of new lanes and pinspotters -- as well as an exterior facelift to the building -- in 1969. When the new lanes were installed, an additional six feet was added to the back of the building to allow the bathrooms in the basement to be relocated upstairs.

In the early 1970s, the fryer at the coffee shop next door -- which shared the east wall of the bowling alley -- started a fire which surprisingly did little damage (DeWitt recalled he was able to reopen the bowling alley the next night).

The DeWitts sold the bowling alley to Don Neidlinger, who reopened it in 1977 under his own name; over the next year, Mary DeWitt stayed on to manage the business, with Jim helping out gratis.

However, a new fryer ignited a massive fire on the afternoon of Oct. 21, 1978. The $500,000 blaze hept Culver and surrounding fire departments busy into the night, as the large coffee ship structure next door also burned into rubble (more on that next time).

“Culver History Corner” is a semi-regular feature sponsored by the Antiquarian and Historical Society of Culver. whose quarterly newsletter is also sponsored in The Culver Citizen.