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“BOULDERDASH”…. or the actual “Mushroom House”

“Boulderdash” or the actual “Mushroom House”

Mushroom House Tours Owner, Edith Pair

I cannot tell you how many times I get asked during our 45 min. tour of why on earth all these houses are called “Mushroom Houses?!”  When the tour starts out and for most of the first half, they simply look like fairy-tale houses and Gnome Homes no doubt…… but a “Mushroom House”?  What’s the reason they want to know?!

It’s simple I say, and if you can hang on a bit longer….the 2nd to last house we see will explain everything.

As we make our descent down Clinton street and turn left onto Grant….all becomes clear, like a beacon in the dark.   I like to tell everyone that in my opinion….this is Earl Young’s most famous house and voila…the reason we call these Mushroom Houses.

Keep in mind one thing……..Earl Young NEVER called his houses Mushroom Houses.  He called them Earl Young Houses….BUT….he did in fact….want to build a house that looked like an actual mushroom growing right out of the ground.  So…in 1952….he decided to go for it.  He had the perfect corner lot and was an avid mushroom hunter.  He also loved having his houses look like they grew right out of the ground so why not build and design a house around a button mushroom?

Mushroom House Tours, Walking Tour

What makes this house so intriguing is for one….its basically a circular floor plan.  All the rooms literally revolve around a big fireplace and chimney thus giving it the resemblance of a mushroom stem.  Earl Young adorned these mushroom stem walls with beautiful, ornate, one-of-a-kind windows he managed to find, save and use on this house from a Polish Castle!!!.  He loved using original doors and windows as he knew this would add to the ambiance and intrigue and also….the fairytale feel.  One thing though…these windows (as on most of his houses) were welded shut so no opening and closing.  Some people do not like that and thus…can make them hard to sell….but not this home owner.

Janine Wallace has owned “Boulderdash” since the 60’s.  A former business owner with a gift shop previously located in Earl Young’s former office…..she was friends with his daughter and had the utmost respect for keeping the vision of Earl Young in tact.  One funny story Janine has shared….she had to get the roof re-done in the early 90’s….she actually spent more on the roof than she did buying the actual house!!  To her amazement….the workers would give her daily phone calls to explain the strange things they would find under the shingles of the original roof such as screen doors and bicycle tires.  This is what Earl used to make the roof sway and have movement.  To achieve the same look now, they simply stack the shingles….a lot easier and makes more sense.   This proves its possible Earl could have used that extra 3 years of school to learn the proper way of building certain things….but what fun would that be??

The shingles are stacked up to 9 pieces thick in some areas.  Janine was not about to skimp on this roofline as it is what makes this house look like an actual mushroom growing right out of the ground (see picture below.)  No other roof will cut it and now these famous houses are actually historically protected so whomever owns the house after Janine…will need to keep in with the same style and design….thank goodness!!

Mushroom House Tours, Boulderdash House

The Mushroom House had been the most photographed house in all of Charlevoix until the recently renovated Thatch Roof house was built.  People come from all over to get a glimpse of this fantastic house much to the joy and amusement of the owner.  Janine loves the way it makes onlookers smile but a word to the wise….keep off the property!!  The owners are used to people looking at their houses and usually are fine with it but that all ends when you try and step foot on their property.  Imagine how you would feel??  I believe Janine actually had someone open her door….and proceed to walk into her house while she was in her bathrobe in the kitchen.  No thanks right?  A good balance of enjoying what you are seeing and keeping the privacy of the homeowners is a delicate balance, but one we can all achieve just by common senses!

If you are desperate to see an interior mushroom house….check out the photographs in Mike Barton’s “Mushroom Houses of Charlevoix” book sold everywhere in town.  You can also visit the insides of Earl’s 3 commercial buildings, (they do NOT mind anyone stopping in to check things out) The Weathervane Restaurant, The Weathervane Hotel and The Lodge Hotel.  This will give you a fantastic idea of what some of these houses look like inside and no one will yell at you!!

Hope you enjoyed this blog post….keep on reading and contact me anytime for questions or concerns…or simply take a tour!! (Sketch below available for purchase and all houses will be available in a card set coming soon!!) (all drawn by your truly ;))