April 17, 2024

Spring Break Destination: Stay in a Schoolhouse

Boyne Schoolhouse Lofts, a DIY dream turned reality
By Abby McKiernan | March 23, 2024

Found along the charming streets of downtown Boyne City is a hidden gem, once known as the Second Ward School, brimming with the unique charm that only a century of history can bring.

Built in 1912 and reportedly operating until the early 1960s, the walls of the Boyne Schoolhouse once echoed with the laughter and chatter of eager young people ready to learn. After its schoolhouse days, the building underwent several transformations, ranging from an organ-manufacturing facility to a municipal building, then a community center and even a dance hall in later years, until its transition into private ownership in the 1980s.

Eventually, the once-vibrant building fell silent. Its halls were emptied and its windows boarded up—forgotten and overlooked, silently awaiting its next chapter.

The People

It was just a few years ago a dynamic quartet emerged, determined to revitalize the local landmark.

With a passion for preservation and a knack for renovation, Eddie and Lesa Louch—longtime visitors of Boyne—alongside Dave and Carolyn Hendricks, began the process of purchasing the building in 2020.

Dave says that although the schoolhouse was a “very cool old building,” it had also become “a huge eyesore” and he didn’t want to see it demolished. The motivation behind the purchase was “wanting to create something … to take something old and add to it and make it new again.”

After the first couple of walk-throughs, the concept for the lofts started to come together. The group knew they could fit four to six flats in the space, but didn’t know the full layout until they got going with their architect. In the meantime, there was the approval process for the project, which Dave says had broad community support and only a few naysayers.

“We got a lot of positive feedback from the community,” he adds. “Anybody who knew what it used to be and could see it now is pleasantly surprised. I would hope it brought the value of the neighbors’ homes up around us.”

But upon signing the final paperwork, a seemingly insurmountable challenge had arisen in the form of COVID-19. With the world on pause and most industries impacted, including construction, every task from finding workers to finding building supplies came with a variety of complications that proved impossible to work through, forcing the team to stop before they could begin.

But the new owners refused to be deterred and spent the remainder of the year creating a clear vision to execute as soon as regulations allowed. As small business owners and serial renovators, Eddie (Crooked Tree Nursery and Landscaping) and Dave (Elite Coatings) are familiar with rolling up their sleeves and getting to work, which is exactly what they did in 2021 when restrictions were lifted.

The Process

Struggling to find enough workers for the project post pandemic, they showed up almost daily for 14 months with their hammers in hand, a small local crew, and a DIY attitude, ready to do whatever it took to complete the project and revive the 110-year-old building to its former glory.

It quickly became clear that of the dozens of renovation projects the two couples have completed, the journey to resurrect the 10,000-square-foot Boyne Schoolhouse into rentable lofts would be the most difficult project they had ever taken on—and the most expensive.

“Almost nothing was salvageable except the subfloors, the roof, and the walls. Everything else had to be completely ripped out,” Eddie says, “but we did manage to save the staircase railing and the front window as small tokens of the history.”

According to Dave, the most challenging—and perhaps the most interesting—part of the process was cleaning out the belongings of the previous owner, who had owned the schoolhouse from the early 1980s. By the time they were done, the building was “a very bare bones shell.”

While they didn’t have any HGTV-worthy drama in the reno—you know, when homeowners find out their foundation is shot and the budget is blown—there was still a lot of work to be done. New steel beams were added in the basement, custom porches and patios were built for each loft, and just about every inch of the space inside was built up from scratch.

Dave, with his expertise in commercial flooring, lent his skills to ensure every surface bore the mark of quality and craftsmanship. Meanwhile, Eddie’s background in renovation and degree in furniture design infused the space with an artisanal flair, transforming each corner into a work of art.

The Space

Fast-forward a year and a cool $1.6 million—a far cry from the $9,800 that was originally borrowed for the building in 1912—and the lofts were completed in spring 2022 and began receiving bookings shortly thereafter.

Today, Boyne Schoolhouse Lofts offers six condominiums, each named with homage to the local surroundings (think “Bunny Hill” for the ski bums and “Lake Lookout” for the beach bums).

Step inside any one of the suites (which accommodate four to six guests), and you will find a complete kitchen with stainless steel appliances, modern living areas adorned with cozy industrial decor, high ceilings, gas fireplaces, luxurious beds, and flat-screen TVs throughout. Outside, guests are invited to explore the expertly designed greenery, where a fire pit and grill offer the perfect setting for alfresco gatherings and starlit nights.

Dave says the reception for the lofts among visitors has been strong. “Summertime has been great,” he tells us. “I think by far that’s our busiest time up there. Fall has actually also been pretty good.” While winter—especially a snowless one—and spring are slower, Dave adds that they’re looking forward to being nearly fully booked for the heart of the summer season between mid-June and mid-August.

Whether you’re a history buff, a DIY enthusiast, or a local looking for a staycation, Boyne Schoolhouse Lofts invites you to step inside and discover a world where the past perfectly pairs with the present.

Learn more at boyneschoolhouselofts.com.

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