Relocating the Martin Johnson Home to Irons, Michigan

The home of Martin Johnson himself was moved to the site in Irons from Martin Johnson Point back in the early 1980s to preserve something from the camp. Inside the structure, in the main living space, is a glass case with various objects, and different artifacts, including the original sign from the Camp Store. There is also a table on which certain documents are for sale: a history of the area (no doubt by Anne Louise Chase), postcards dating back to the early part of the century, a local area cookbook; and the green covered Martin Johnson autobiography.

Off to the right was Johnson’s room, containing a bed covered by an army blanket and also two plaques: one seems to be the plaque from the CMJ Dining Hall, the other is the plaque removed from the grave stone, kept in the house. The grave stone is still where it was, now behind a private home. Without a plaque, though, it just looks like a big boulder.

In the kitchen, there are all sorts of artifacts that have been donated. In the kitchen cupboard, under the stairs, they have retained the original grouting of the walls to show the construction as it had been done by Johnson himself. Upstairs, in the studio, there are several of his paintings. The wonderful roof window had to be replaced with a modern window structure. Yet, the floor in the studio is the original flooring, and the light from the new skylight, although not the same as on the point, makes this a very luminous room.

There is a green camp jacket hanging on a hook upstairs, and there is a camp Canoe Paddle. When the camp was closed, the property itself was wide open to the public, i.e. to anyone who wanted to go traipsing through the villages and cabins, buildings.

As I have detailed in another post, the four cabins on Four Winds Island have been preserved by the current owner who wants everything left as it once had been. Along the side of one cabin was a sign that indicated that the Ward Hills Ski Area was twenty miles in some direction. The camp had earlier purchased that property to be used fo winter activities.

Next time you are in Irons, Michigan, you might want to stop by and view the original house of Martin Johnson. It is a unique piece of history from the Big Bass Lake area.

It is disturbing learning that Martin Johnson’s house has been dislodged from the property on Big Bass Lake that he loved so much but also comforting to know that Irons, Michigan, thought enough of his legacy to allow his house to come to their town. Now it has become a tourist attraction and rightly so. I cannot imagine how former campers can even stand to look at their former camp site as it has been altered beyond belief.

Yet now all his paintings are on display for the public to see. And CMJ campers still have a place to call home that may have a new location but the same old feel that it always had. Johnson’s gravesite still exists at the old camp which can be found elsewhere on BBL and Beyond. Check the Camp Martin Johnson category for more.

4 thoughts on “Relocating the Martin Johnson Home to Irons, Michigan

  1. It really is a shame that this camp was lost forever. I didn’t even go there and it saddens me beyond expression.
    Is Martin Johnson still laid to rest beneath that stone? I have been looking for the stone but have not located it yet. I know it is on private property but the lake is public property and I can go there any time during the winter on the ice and look for the stone. I was under the impression the stone was on Martin Johnson Point. Is that correct?


  2. Yes, and it is near a deck. I have a picture of it somewhere on the site. Four Winds Island still has the original cottages from the camp era there and the present owner uses all of them.


  3. The camp CMJ was the most wonderful camp ever, my most happy childhood memories are of my time at CMJ, seeing Martin’s Johnson’d house etc… It is a tragedy that the YMCA ruined this property and sold it! Very sad-a huge mistake.


  4. Martin Johnson wanted to live on an island so he bulit his house on this pennisula, where he is buried, very sad, it couldn’t have stayed there, he gave all his land to the YMCA, and they didn’t even respect of gaurd his grave plot! SAd!


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