by Brian G. Spare
In 1935, Larry Baarts immigrated from his native Holland to Canada settling in what was then Fort William, Ontario. What appealed to him most were the wide open spaces of this region. Along with his pleasant disposition, he brought his hard work ethic, too. Larry had learned the diamond business in Holland and continued his craft in the Lakehead. He starting Memory Diamonds Ltd. in 1945. Larry also owned the Adanac Hotel where he met his wife to be, Ann, a local woman who was working there at the time. Ann had the same hard work ethic as Larry. The two of them purchased the St. Louis Hotel that Ann ran as a fine hotel until they sold it in 1970.
A jewel begins
Larry and Ann Baarts bought land on Pine Bay and built a 4 mile (6.4 km) road, Memory Road, to it from Hwy 61 in the 1950s. After the road was completed, Larry and Ann built Memory Lodge (named after Memory Diamonds Limited). They constructed the 20 acre resort in the shape of a polished diamond. The facility initially was to be used to entertain diamond dealers. It became a honeymoon spot for people who purchased a Memory Diamond. Eventually, by 1957, it was open to anyone wanting to stay in the motel, or just come to visit for a while. The motel section had 15 units all overlooking Pine Bay. The fully staffed lodge could accommodate up to 100 persons in the main dining room. The Twilight Lounge could seat 35 people. The lounge had a fireplace, overstuffed easy chairs, a games area and a colour TV. The best part of the Twilight Lounge was the gorgeous view of Pine Bay and the wonderful picturesque sunsets. The lodge was also an ideal place for meetings in a tourist setting. Beside the lodge, were four separate cottages each with two bedrooms, a dining area, a kitchen, a four-piece bath and a large picture window with an excellent view of Pine Bay. On the resort’s grounds outdoors were a miniature golf course, a shuffle board and a children’s play ground.
Memory Lodge was only 10 miles (17 km) from Isle Royale and 6 miles (10 km) from the Pigeon River Canada/US border crossing. Its marina was capable of docking up to 40 boats. Many American boaters dropped into the lodge as well as people sailing a circle tour of Lake Superior. Cabin cruisers came, too. Charter Boat service was available upon request. Several city residents rented space. After work they’d come to unwind, relax fishing or go for walks along the 300 ft (90 m) long sandy beach. The sheltered bay was ideal for swimming, pedal boating, kayaking or enjoy watching the abundant wildlife there. All this was in a retreat that was less than an hour’s drive away.
The end of an era
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. On February 6, 1982, Larry Baarts died at age 77. Unable to keep it going, Ann sold Memory Lodge and the land upon which it stood. The new owners eventually tore down the lodge and subdivided the property. Today, private homes are there. Ann and daughter Maryann continued to work at Memory Diamonds Ltd. They both liked meeting the people who came through the door. Ann took great pride in watching her granddaughter, Jordee, grow, as well. Sadly, on November 29, 2011, Ann Baarts passed away at age 87.
Remembering a time gone by
I spoke with Larry and Ann’s daughter, Maryann Baarts-Matson, on the phone about Memory Lodge. She said she was nearly born on Memory Road. Ann went into labour just as the it was being completed. Maryann said that she knows that road and Hwy 61 so well because she had ridden them many times since before she was born. Memory Lodge ensured Maryann always had a job. She did everything there from cleaning guest rooms to waiting on tables. Maryann remembers the shuffle board most fondly because it was there she met her husband of 37 years, George. The couple settled down not far from Memory Lodge and raised their daughter, Jordee.
Later, I had the privilege of meeting with Maryann, husband George and their daughter Jordee with her boyfriend Jake. They first showed me the grotto to the Blessed Virgin Mary which Larry had built for Ann in 1964. It is still perched on the ledge built for it on the side of Mt. Molly on private property. The grotto overlooks Pine Bay and where Memory Lodge once stood. As I stood by the grotto looking down on Pine Bay and where Memory Lodge would have been, I understood what attracted Larry and Ann to this area. Advertising for the resort described Pine Bay as beautiful. Majestic is the word that comes to my mind to describe the view I saw from the grotto. Then, they took me down to the place where Memory Lodge once was. Memory Lodge has become a part of history, but in the minds of many, it will always be remembered as the shining diamond it was.
Thank you to the following for their assistance with this article:
Maryann Baarts-Matson, and family (George, Jordee and Jake)
Jo-Ellen Logan and David Goldsworthy
Thunder Bay Public Library
Thunder Bay Historical Museum
Brian G. Spare is a local author and freelance copywriter who is a regular contributor to Bayview Magazine. Contact him at https://BrianGSpare.com
*Previously published in Bayview Magazine*