If you've wondered what's been going on lately at the main building on the Lake Vista hill along Highway 34 just east of Red Haw State Park, you'll have a chance to see for yourself Saturday. Nick and Deb Cattell will host an open house in the first phase of their Country Cabins and Glamour Camping Resort from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in conjunction with an anniversary open house next door at the Frontier Trading Post.
That's Nick in several of the photos here. He did not willingly throw himself into them. I made him do it because room pictures without people make me nervous. Nick and I have chased artifacts, information and anything else related to Smith H. Mallory and his legendary Ilion (aka Mallory's Castle) together for years. We actually own two of the stone mantlepieces from the castle, rescued from storage several years ago in a chicken house, one of which will end up out here. Which reminds me that mine is intended for the historical society and needs to get to the museum fairly soon.
The photos are all interior because the exterior of this building was far from finished on Wednesday when I drove out for a tour. If it were anyone other than the Cattells, I'd say there still would be a considerable distance to go by Saturday --- but Nick and Deb routinely move mountains, so you just never know.
Future phases of the project call for development of the wooded grounds, which slope north and northwest down toward the shore of Lake Ellis, into a venue for recreational vehicle and tent camping interspersed with room-size cabins. You'll be able to see plans for the project, rendered by Chariton artist Steve Scott, inside on Saturday.
Anyhow, the old Lake Vista Supper Club now contains four suites, each containing various numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms as well as living rooms and kitchens. Each has its own deck --- and its own camper, one inside a room and three attached --- a vintage Airstream, a small pull-along and a huge new fifth-wheel. Nick calls this indoor camping. The units, called camps, are intended for family, hunting and other parties of considerable size since most of the units --- depending upon how many people share beds --- will sleep somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen.
The first photos here of are in Camp Tucker (three of the suites are named for Cattell grandchildren; the fourth for a nephew --- the current supply of grandchildren ran out), which has a Harley theme. In order to get the Harley camper inside one of the bedrooms, a wall was removed and it was hauled up nearly a full story and inside on planks.
Another suite, Camp Cheyenne, has a western theme, emphasized by artwork by artist Steve Scott. When completed, there will be shakes on the overhang above the beds and the saloon doors will have been mounted.
Some of the furniture has been constructed especially for the building, including this television stand that incorporates a vintage screen door Nick found in storage at his parents' place down near Cambria.
Another camp will have a Margarativille theme; the fourth, an historical theme centered on Nick's collection of Mallory and other memorabilia.
This vintage door and another, both augmented by Scott artwork, will end up either as closet doors or headboards --- that still hadn't been decided upon Wednesday. This Scott painting incorporates the WPA shelter house at Red Haw.
Take a look while you're there Saturday, too, at the old lodgepole pine cabin and barn just to the east of the main building. These were built here during the 1930s but their days may be numbered because of their badly deteriorated condition.
The cabin and the barn were the first buildings on this hilltop, acquired by the late Jerry and Opal Wells during the late 1940s. She died in 1989; he died during 2008.
They operated the first Lake Vista Supper Club in the log cabin, then built the new supper club building to the west during the 1950s, converting the cabin into a comfortable home. The food --- and some of the goings on --- at the supper club are legendary in Lucas County.
Later on, the Wells added the Lake Vista Motel (now a separately owned private home) farther to the west. When Judy and the late Ron Poush purchased the supper club, they more than doubled its size.
Nick and Deb purchased the supper club and motel during 1991, converting the supper club first into a motel annex --- and Lucas County's first visitor center --- and then apartments after selling the motel.
After Jerry Wells died, the Cattells purchased the remainder of his property, including the old log buildings. These had deteriorated to the point where it may not be possible to salvage either.
I toured the old log house just after it had been purchased. Everything inside was just as Jerry Wells had left it, down to dirty dishes in the sink. But in the years it had been sealed and abandoned, the roof had failed and in some cases fallen in, creating an indescribable mess. That's all been cleared away now, but because of their condition the future of the old buildings is in doubt.
There's a lot of history out there on the Lake Vista hill, so drive out Saturday and take a look at both its newest expression and, while you can, a lot of its past.