BY THE DAM ON THE MAPLE RIVER
Dam Site Inn
The Dam Site Inn:
In 1923 Nancie Hady and sister Elbie Effting opened the Maple River Inn restaurant and hotel in their farmhouse across the street from what is now the Dam Site Inn. The sisters remained in business until 1940. They sold the property here to investors, later called “confidence men”, who built a log cabin dance hall called Wrightington Gardens, later renamed The Battle Creek Club. You could dine and stay at the Maple River Inn and dance and drink (illegally) here. Once their scheme over oil drilling rights had run its course, these men were run out of town as well.
The building sat vacant from 1947 to 1953 when Ken and Kathy Mclaughlin purchased it as a vacation retreat. They decided to sell it to someone who wished to open a restaurant, and the equipment was delivered before the deal fell through. Ken, who was a Buick auto dealer in Flint (hence the 1950’s auto Naugahyde walls and bar) decided to try his hand at the food industry and the Dam Site Inn opened on August 13th, 1953, with the menu similar to the one served at the Maple River Inn. He purchased the surrounding 300 acres and built the dam with the intent of creating a golf course and 150 lakeside, luxury homesites. This plan stalled over wetland issues. In 1976 Kathy became ill and the search for new owners began.
In 1977 Betty and Joe Church decided they wanted to retire up north and purchased the Dam Site Inn. They already owned a restaurant in Roseville and wanted to come up to the beauty of the north. The restaurant business was nothing new to Betty, whose father was the sommelier who set up the original wine cellars at the Ponchatrain in Detroit, for Les and Sam Gruber. He was also the sommelier and Maitre’d at both the London Chophouse and Caucus Club. He later had several restaurants of his own. Fine dining runs in our blood.
After 14 years, Betty and Joe wished to retire and in 1986 approached their daughter Pamela and her husband Ray East, from Royal Oak, with the opportunity to apprentice and become the next owners. Pam and Ray loved the idea of raising their two daughters, Erica and Olivia, in the country. Pam and Ray apprenticed and then purchased in 1992. It will soon be time for the next generation to take the reins. Their daughter Olivia and her husband Steven Brinks have been working, for years, towards this goal.
As a side note, yes, this place is haunted.
Pellston’s history is long and full of stories of fortunes made and lost in the lumber trade. Among those fortunes lost was a lumber baron who built a large sawmill on the Maple river to power his enterprise, creating a 30-acre pond. So large and modern, in fact, that it bankrupted him. Over time the dam deteriorated and eventually washed out. Consumers Power purchased the land and constructed a new hydro -electric dam that sent power all over northern Michigan. Rumor has it that Alanson got its power for free with a deal allowing the electric cables to cross their area. This, too, eventually was abandoned, and washed out around 1952. Ken Mclaughlin purchased flowage and riparian rights and on May 26th, 1967 the first water flowed over his new dam. This dam created a 100-acre lake specifically designed for trout, with 36 webbed weirs, wired down stumps and specially designed stepped resting areas, in the dam, for spawning fish. After 50 years of limited maintenance, the current property owners decided to remove, rather than replace, the deteriorating dam that was once again threatening to wash out. This removal took place in 2018, and the river is now reverting to its original flow pattern with the convergence of the east and west branches of the Maple River.