From Cabins to Homes (1950-1975)
A Time of Transition
From 1950 to 1975, the Independence Beach neighborhood was gradually transitioning from cabins and cottages to year-round residences. There was a housing shortage after WWII, so some of the cabins were converted to full-time homes. Many of the families that became year-round residents started out with very small homes by today’s standards - 20 ft x 30 ft cabins, gradually adding rooms over time. Some of today’s existing houses were built around the original cabin. By 1975, many of the family cabins had been remodeled and expanded for year-round use, and some cabins had been replaced with full-size homes. There were approximately 90 residences: 60 year-round homes, 20 cabins and 10 rentals.
In the 50’s, the atmosphere was casual: one family rented boats and sold bait from their garage in the summer; a guy was living in an old streetcar; another lived in a trailer. There was a cottage on the lake that was a hodge-podge of logs, lap siding, concrete block and stucco, painted yellow and pink. Two sisters on Ardmore Ave were living in a filthy house with dozens of cats. And a woman on Lakeshore Ave also had a house full of cats. On County Rd 19, there was a house, owned by an artist named Felix, with a cartoon of Felix the Cat on the garage door.
In the 50's, the resorts began to disappear. Maple Hill Farm stopped renting cottages around 1952 but continued to be a popular locations for picnics and group events. The only remaining resort with rental cabins and boat rentals was Glampe’s (ADD LINK) (formerly Gertz’s). The former Wilson’s Resort had been sold in 1944. The dance hall remained, but was re-named Lakeview Pavilion (ADD LINK). It was still a popular Saturday night destination, with cars parked all up and down Lakeshore Ave.
In the 50’s, the lake level was lower, with 10 to 20 feet sandy beach along the lakeshore. By around 1960 the water level was higher. In the early 70's, water quality was deteriorating; the formerly clear lake was now turning green. The neighborhood relied on outhouses and septic systems that drained into the lake, and the resulting increase in phosphorus led to excessive algae growth. Fishing wasn’t great, mostly crappies and sunfish, but after the DNR started stocking the lake with walleye in the early ‘70s, fishing improved. Carp were already beginning to be a problem.