Future United State President Gerald R. Ford’s mother and father, Gerald Ford Sr., who adopted and renamed him, owned the cottage on lot lots 132-133 which had been built by Adison Barber in 1899. At the beginning of World War II, the Fords sold the cottage, but purchased lots 127-129 which sat vacant after a fire had destroyed an earlier cottage.
Young Jerry Ford is the blond good-looking guy sitting next to his half-brother Dick, who is dressed in tennis whites. At Ottawa Beach, Jerry organized games and activities for the younger cottagers.
In 1956, the Ford Family built a single story vertical log-sided cottage on their vacant land purchased from the Bellaire (Michigan) Log Home Company. The Ford sons, Jerry, and his half-brothers Tom, Dick and James and their wives and families would take turns staying in the cottage.
Several West Michigan girls helped the Fords with their children in the 50‘s and 60‘s. On August 1, 1963, Congressman Gerald R. Ford wrote to Miss Linda Lound in Holland. Offering her a job for the last two weeks of the summer at the cottage as a maid and cook for $20 per week “plus bus fare to and from the cottage.” Miss Lound treasures the memory of those two weeks fondly. “…most of all, it was just taking care of the children, being with them. We went to the beach every day because we were right on the waterfront.” This is a photo of Lound in 1975.
Steve Ford napping in the cottage in 1963.
Jerry Ford’s daughter Susan Ford, age six, burned her left foot at the 1963 Labor Day cottagers’ picnic when she stepped on some hot coals. “The boys and Susan were very friendly, very open, easy to get along with – just like their parents,” recalls Miss Lound. This picture taken inside the Ford cottage shows Susan sitting in one of the Ford family’s split bamboo-wrapped chairs.
Here’s Jerry Ford’s son Mike Ford in August of 1963 inside the Ford Cottage. The window behind Mike afforded a clear view of much of the Lake Michigan beach front where he and his brothers and sister would go sailing with Miss Lound. “They tipped the sailboat over several times,” recalls Miss Lound, “ and knocked me into the water, but we were all excellent swimmers so we just got back into the boat. Sometimes the boys just did this for fun.”
Eleven-year-old Jack Ford, Jerry Ford’s son, stands near the Ford Cottage in the “zig zag” sidewalk switchback which connects the upper and lower walks adjacent to the Ford Cottage. Thirty-three years later, Jack Ford recalled these tranquil vacation days: “Some of my fondest memories were spending every summer at Ottawa Beach.”