McIntyre’s Resort: Simply Magic

Nestled between Delavan Lake and Whitewater Lake on County P north of Delavan is a small, placid spot called Turtle Lake. It’s off the beaten path, all rustic charm and solitude, and it’s also where you’ll find McIntyre’s Resort, a small, family-owned lakeside resort reminiscent of a much earlier era.

To get the story of McIntyre’s Resort, you need to talk with its owner, Pat McIntyre, whose parents, the late Louis and Evelyn McIntyre, bought this quaint slice of Americana over 70 years ago. McIntyre, a petite and soft-spoken former commercial artist and auction company owner, needs only two sentences to explain this vintage haven to the uninitiated.

Not so long ago, it wasn’t unusual for vacationing families to stay in humble cabins like the two at McIntyre’s Resort. Original to Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, these one-bedroom cabins, with a simple kitchen and bathroom, were the accommodation of choice for many city families looking for a summer country escape.

Nearly three-quarters of a century old, these cabins have been modernized to allow for year-round use. Insulated, heated, air conditioned, and outfitted with screened porches, they are still a popular destination for families in the summer, ice fishermen in the winter, and sometimes even locals in need of a nearby respite. The grounds on this multi-acre property are also available to campers and feature water, showers, and a picnic shelter.

The main cottage, where owner pat McIntyre lives, has never been rented out, but could be, she says, “for the right price.”

McIntyre’s Resort doesn’t take online reservations, and its owner isn’t big on email either. She books all of her guests over the phone or in person. The cottages sleep four and cost $125 a night, with a two-night minimum, or $825 a week. Use of the resort’s rowboats is included in cabin rentals. Lakefront camping costs $20 per person, per night. Most pets are welcome, and the resort is close to the Kettle Moraine State Park, known nationally for its hiking and biking trails.

The resort is also available as a special-events venue for weddings, reunions and business events. Finally, daily row boat and canoe rentals are available for those not staying on the property.

“This place is magical,” she says, looking directly into your eyes. “Everyone who comes here feels it.”

It’s a message straight from McIntyre’s heart, one that reflects her belief that we all need to slow down and find a way to emotionally connect to the world around us.

On this overcast day with a light rain falling, McIntyre stands in the living room of the Cream City brick cottage on the resort’s property that she calls home. Like a Monet painting behind her, a floor-to-ceiling window frames the water lilies edging the shoreline of Turtle Lake. Outside, a few steps from her cottage, are two simple cabins rescued more than a half century ago from nearby Lake Lawn Resort. A massive weeping willow shelters row boats and canoes, and a string of life vests hang ready for the taking.

From the beginning of the twentieth century through the 1960s, small, family-run resorts like this were common throughout the Midwest, the vacation lodging of choice for city dwellers looking for a summer retreat. But over time, these small resorts gave way to modern resort hotels, with their water parks, spas and five-star restaurants. McIntyre’s Resort, however, has survived the test of time without altering its vintage charm, proving that sometimes all we really want is to be wrapped in memories, not high-thread-count sheets.

“My family actually bought it in the ‘40s,” explains McIntyre. “My dad was a policeman in Beloit. It was a business then where they rented boats. We bought a little house up on the hill and we lived up there. I knew how to make change for $1 when I was four years old because boat [rentals] were 50 cents. When my dad was a little boy, his dad was a realtor in Beloit, and he would bring him up here in the summer and he [dad] fell in love with it. He showed it to my mom and she loved it, too. They saved up every penny they had and bought this place.”

Under her parents’ ownership, what had been just a small boat-and-bait operation soon offered lodging as well. When the owners of nearby Lake Lawn Resort began modernizing the grounds of their resort, they sold off Lake Lawn’s iconic cabins.

Louis McIntyre purchased two of them.

“I think he got them for, like, $50,” recalls McIntyre. “They had [people camping] out here, too. Mom had so many fishermen they’d have to stand in line and wait for their turn to take a boat out. My mom loved it, and my dad loved it, too, but he loved anything she loved because he was so devoted to her.”

For decades, McIntyre’s Resort has attracted a loyal following of repeat customers. Day fishermen, overnight campers, and cabin guests all find what they are looking for in this rustic retreat.

“The people who come here,” says McIntyre, “they love being in this situation. They want the escape from Chicago or Milwaukee or wherever they come from. They just want the peace and tranquility this place brings. And I think they love the unity they find out here in each other, and they have to make the simple things important when they’re here. That’s what this place is: simple.”

NEW BEGINNINGS ON OLD GROUND

McIntyre’s father passed away in 1989, and in 2000, with her own three children grown, she left a successful career to come home and help her aging mother run the family business.

“You have to share things,” says McIntyre. “I totally believe in that old Indian saying that we don’t own anything, and we’re just a part of it and our job is to take care of it.”

Though in 2003, nobody would have blamed McIntyre if she had decided she was done taking care of things — especially her parents’ resort. Tragically that year, a swift-moving fire burned her family’s home to the ground and claimed her mother’s life; all that was left of McIntyre’s Resort were the Lake Lawn cabins. But in her enormous shock and grief among the smoldering ashes, McIntyre eventually realized that the best way for her to proceed forward was by staying put.

How did she find the strength she needed to not just remain, but rebuild? Moving stones — lots and lots of stones. When she decided to rebuild, the plan, she says, was to construct something that “looked as if it had always been here.” So she put ads in local newspapers, asking farmers for field stones; a farmer in Burlington responded.

“I spent one whole summer going over there every other day, like two or three times a week, going through field stone,” she says.

“It was so therapeutic. You wouldn’t believe it. I really felt better after I did it. I love rocks. I always have. To me, I’d rather have a pretty rock than a piece of jewelry. I just went through all these stones, and not just for me, but the farmer’s son was building something and needed certain types. So I sorted them for both of us. It just helped me so much.” She built the cottage she now lives in with the stones she sorted in Burlington that summer.

Today McIntyre continues what her parents began, welcoming fishermen, campers, and cabin dwellers to her eponymous resort nearly every day of the year. Carrying on her parents’ legacy in the aftermath of the fire isn’t hard, she says. In fact, she finds comfort in it.

“I feel more protected because of it,” she says. “It’s like they’re here and taking care of everybody. They’re taking care of me and all the people who come here.”

PAT’S 6 RULES FOR LAKE (AND LIFE) BLISS:

If you come to McIntyre’s Resort, you have to play by Pat McIntyre’s rules. Fortunately, they aren’t that hard to follow and you’ll be better for it.

  1. “You have to celebrate every moment, and celebrate every day.”
  2. “You have to have fun, and it’s not hard to do here. In fact, you can’t help but have fun and it’s not a fun that’s about big things. It’s all about the little things.”
  3. “You have to look at the sunset either from the porch, with a glass of wine and with some fresh flowers by you, or from the lake. But you have to really watch it. It’s never the same twice and changes while you’re watching.”
  4. “You have to have a bonfire at night.”
  5. “You have to look at the stars.”
  6. “You have to do those things that are so little, yet so big and so good, you have to do them while you can because that’s what makes us happy. That’s what we remember.”

IF YOU GO:

McIntyre’s Resort
N6471 Milwaukee Road
Delavan, WI
262-728-9313 | mcintyresresort.blogspot.com

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