Crystal Cove

North Shore

A.A. Nixon Guest Lodge, 1935: Wolbrink [Sheet 047, Photo D], ISRO Archives.


he McGeath Compound, located at Crystal Cove on the northeast end of Amygdaloid Island, was originally built as a private resort compound by the McGeath family of Omaha in the early 1920s. During the boom of the tourist industry at Isle Royale in the 1920s, George W. McGeath, a principal of the Sheridan Coal Company, purchased land at Crystal Cove and built a large private resort compound for himself and his family. (The compound has been said to have cost more than $40,000 to build, and was sold by McGeath's estate to the Nixon family of Omaha in the early 1930s for about $2,500, who sold it to the government in the late 1930s at a profit.) The McGeath compound included several buildings and an elaborate system of boardwalks. The McGeath's, both large people, had three oversized bathtubs installed at the island, and a 110' passenger yacht. The National Park Service acquired the McGeath Compound in 1939, and in 1958 the property was leased by the park to Milford and Myrtle Johnson, who moved there from Star Island in Rock Harbor. The Johnsons used the property as a commercial fishery.

The McGeath property has a high degree of integrity as a private resort compound, and many of the original resort structures survive, including the McGeath residence, two identical guest cabins, a main lodge (used by the Johnsons as a residence), a boathouse ruin, dock and crib ruin, generator house, and sections of the old boardwalk system. The presence of the generator/pump house and lack of privy in the compound attest to the opulence of the McGeath Compound.

The buildings in the McGeath Compound are all log construction, and were probably built by the same individual. The same type of log construction exists on Captain Kidd Island, in the McPherren Compound, where the builder has been identified as Emil Anderson. Accounts name Mr. McGeath as the designer of several of the buildings in the McPherren Compound. The McGeath resort buildings are a peeled log, saddle-notched construction method, tightly filled with quarter rounds-identical construction to that of the McPherren Compound buildings. Additionally, the sleeping cabins are identical at both sites, further substantiating the probability of one designer and one builder. Together, the buildings at both compounds provide a good example of Northern European log construction. The McGeath residence measures 31' x 21', the two guest cabins are identical and measure a generous 25' x 15', and the main lodge (used as central dining cabin) is a one-story, U-shaped building, and measures approximately 61' x 36'.

Nixon Compound, Crystal Cove, Isle Royale Institute, 2015.

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Several structures at the McGeath Compound are unlike the log buildings in materials, but similar in design. These include the storage house/net house/blacksmith shop (#570), the boathouse ruin (#568), and the smoke house (#563). These three buildings are all one-story frame structures with droplap siding, and all but the smokehouse (which has a shed roof), have the same hipped-roof as the log structures in the compound. Both the storage house and boathouse date to the early 1920s, as may the smokehouse, judging from the similarity of siding. The boathouse and storage house have low integrity of materials and are in poor condition (the boathouse has collapsed). The smoke house is in fair condition.

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Help Tell The Story

Are you related to this family? Would you be willing to share stories or photos associated with related events? If so, we would love to hear from you! Please contact the Cultural Resource Manager at Isle Royale National Park. Or write to:

Isle Royale National Park
800 East Lakeshore Drive
Houghton, Michigan 49931-1896


  1. Franks, Kathryn E. and Arnold R. Alanen, 1999. Historic Structures at Isle Royale National Park: Historic Contexts and Associated Property Types. Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Wisconsin-Madison, January 1999.

  2. National Park Service Cultural Landscapes Inventory. 2010. Crystal Cove - McGeath Compound: McGeath Residence. Park Historic Architecture and Cultural Landscapes Program, U.S. National Park Service.