Frank V. Dudley Studio Cottage Site
Frank V. Dudley Studio Cottage Site
In my last post I reported my participation in a guided hike I took Sunday to discover the site of the Governor’s Cottage at the Indiana Dunes. As I mentioned, that cottage and all the others within the state park boundaries, which once numbered over 100 cabins, were demolished in the 1960s, and only a couple of small brick segments exist as traces of the Governor’s Cottage.
Nothing has been left behind of the other buildings, and the overgrowth of nature’s reclamation during the past half century has completely erased any evidence of their presence. This includes the famous studio cottage of Frank V. Dudley, “Painter of the Dunes,” whose work and leadership was so instrumental in activities promoting and preserving the Indiana Dunes.
I have often commented upon my admiration for Dudley’s paintings, some of which are held in the permanent collection of Valparaiso University’s Brauer Museum of Art. I also have frequently remarked about how much I hope my photographs of the landscape along the Lake Michigan shore might reflect an influence of Dudley’s artworks.
Consequently, one of my goals this summer was to engage in research to discover the original site of Dudley’s lakeside cabin, named “Duneland Cottage” by the artist and wife Maida after Dudley’s Duneland painting, sales of which provided money for building the cottage. (Duneland is now part of the permanent collection at the Brauer Museum of Art.) The Dudley house, officially Cottage 108, was a meeting place for artists and activists of the dunes community, and the Dudleys held an open house every Sunday for socializing and displaying paintings in the studio.
I had read some vague references to the four-room structure in books about Dudley. One hinted that the cottage had been positioned along the dunes between Mt. Tom and Mt. Holden. Another observation stated the studio cottage had been erected just west of an opening in the dunes where the base of a trail from Mt. Holden reached the beach. Another map I saw in a book about the artist suggested Dudley’s cottage was the next structure situated east of the Governor’s Cottage, and they were the only two residences along a “cabin path” between Mt. Tom and Mt. Holden. Otherwise, my research for a specific spot for the artist’s studio seemed to come up empty.
When I approached a couple of naturalists and a ranger at the Indiana Dunes State Park during a visit, they informed me that the site was not marked, and they could not identify the exact location where Dudley’s cottage had once stood. (In the years after Dudley’s death in 1957, the state had plans to turn his studio cottage into a landmark, but the location was deemed too far out of the way and funds were not provided.) However, I learned another naturalist at the park, expressing an interest in history of the region and a fondness for Dudley’s paintings, found a primitive map in nearby library archives that had “Dudley Cabin” written at a point between the Governor’s Cottage and the sandy trail to Mt Holden.
With that information, she discovered a place she believed to be the ground on which Dudley’s studio had been situated. Since she was the guide for my hike to the Governor’s Cottage on Sunday, I discussed my desire to photograph where Dudley’s cottage stood from its construction in 1921 until after his death in 1957. With her directions and permission, I was able to walk on my own along the bluffs on a somewhat remote and sometimes overgrown cabin path, concealed and usually restricted from hikers.
I found the location where Dudley’s cabin seems to have faced the lake from a level ledge of dunes overlooking the beach. The flat surface of the sand is situated in a little bowl along a low ridge, and it is now fully covered with marram grass as well as some small trees. Perhaps a width of a few hundred feet of beach stretched between the elevated cottage site and the water extending before it at the time I was present.
In the accompanying photograph, I have captured an image of this location with a glimpse at the lake view and a sliver of the beach showing below the bluff, similar to what Dudley and wife Maida most likely would have seen from the porch of their cottage or from the six windows in the front studio room.