By Mary Hursh
George Freese; his sister Sylvia Freese Duncan; and author of “The People of Pickwick Park,” Julie Clifton Laughner, will speak about the history of Pickwick Park at the second summer series on centennial homes presented to the public on Saturday, July 22, at the Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum. The panel will share memories of the park and highlight the 1893 Milford Clubhouse. The program is scheduled to begin l0:30 a.m.
Much of the information on the early days of Pickwick Park came from the Pickwick Park newspaper written and produced by Sylvia Freese, Marianne and Martha Lu Torrance.
According to their research, William W. Williams was the first owner of lots 4 and 5, now Kale Island and Pickwick Park. From him, land was passed to the Iddings, Rupert, Story, Miller, McKewin, Hillabold, Walsh, Lee, Spielmann and Moore families. Emma Spielman actually gave Pickwick Park its name in 1914. In 1896, Jon Spielmann sold lots 3 and 4 for $4,000 to George Lamb.
According to the “People of Pickwick Park,” George and Joseph Moore were the first to begin to develop Kale Island and the part that would become Pickwick Park. The first building on Pickwick Park was a log cabin. In 1893, the Milford Clubhouse was built by Milford businessmen George Kleder, Charles Horton, Dr. Bechtel, Ed Higbee and Preston Miles.
“Beadboard walls surrounded the large downstairs rooms,” said George Freese. Bunk beds for the boys and rooms for other family members were located upstairs. “A large dining room and living room with a grand piano were featured in the first floor tower area where dancing was quite popular. This information comes from my grandmother,” said Freese.
After 10 years, Preston Miles bought the other Milford businessmen out and remodeled the clubhouse and, upon his death, his son Roy had the house cut in two and one part, Pier 739, was remodeled into the Weesner /Haram (Hopen) cottage, and the other part, Pier 740, was remodeled into the Freese cottage. George Freese and his sister, Sylvia Freese Duncan, and their children inherited the cottage that had originally been the east half of the Milford Clubhouse from their father Karl Jr., in 1941. “ I suspect that Preston Miles added two bathrooms and a kitchen to our portion. He may have dug a ‘Michigan’basement before adding the kitchen or perhaps converted what might have been a root cellar in the process,” said Freese.
“We now use the tower from the original clubhouse as a part of a second floor bedroom and as an adjunct to the first floor dining area,” said Freese.
Freese and his wife, Kathleen, were avid Lightning sailors at the Wawasee Yacht Club from 1962-1975. “ We were fleet champions in 1971. We qualified for the North American Championships held in Milwaukee. I first started sailing at 10-years-old with my neighbor Ward Stilson. I sailed Sailfish and Sunfish boats for years and I won many races. Later I bought a DN ice boat and a Hobie 16.
“I have always believed the Milford Clubhouse, now our cottage, was largely maintained as a residence clubhouse as opposed to an organizational or activity hub with a transient population.