Captain Billy Fawcett, 55, sits atop an empire of his own design. His story is a classic slice of American pie based on ambition, ingenuity and talent.
Fawcett reigns as head of the vast Fawcett Publishing, a family run enterprise and one of the nation's largest publishing houses. His friends run the gamut from skid row bum to famous movie star, all of whom he entertains at his multi-million dollar playground, Breezy Point Lodge in northern Minnesota. But it was not always such....... In the classic vein of a great American success story, Fawcett sprang from humble beginnings. Born in 1885 to a North Dakota doctor living in Manitoba, Canada, Billy succumbed to the wanderlust of youth early-on. At age 15 he ran away from home to join the army, becoming one of the youngest veterans of the Spanish American War.
After the war, Billy returned to Minneapolis to start a new life. Having a wife and five children to support, he took employment as a railway clerk for $80 a month. To supplement his income, Billy worked as a cub reporter on the night copy desk of the Minneapolis Tribune. It was there that his hidden journalistic talent blossomed. After receiving several promotions at the Tribune, Fawcett moved on to become the city editor of the Winnipeg Free Press. Shortly after the outbreak of World War I, Billy's penchant for adventure and excitement led him back into the army where he rose to the rank of captain. Billy established himself as a champion joke-teller with an unending repertoire of spicy anecdotes. He left military service with the idea of printing these jokes and distributing them to veterans in veterans' hospitals.
By borrowing a few dollars from each of his friends and acquaintances, the good captain gave birth to his joke book dream. "Captain Billy Fawcett's Whiz Bang joke book (named after an artillery shell that made the sound "whllZZZZ -bang!") with its risque jokes and comics, took an innocent and lusty America by storm. It became an overnight success. Fawcett sold nearly every copy of the initial "Whiz Bang" edition, which he wrote by himself. In fact, additional copies of magazine had to be printed. In less than three month circulation of the magazine had jumped to more then 500,000 copies.
In 1921 while dining with friends, one of whom was a realtor had described to him an 80-acre tract that his realty office had for sale on one of Minnesota's most beautiful lakes, and so far out in the boondocks you couldn't find a neighbor for miles. The owner Fred LaPage had a nice frame house already built and four out-cabins for housing friends, family, and acquaintances.
Even LaPage's cute name for the place Breezy Point rang loud bells with anyone who had repeatedly suffered through a Minnesota July and August within the confines of a city. Not only was the place precisely what the Captain wanted, but to the extent that he was smitten with 'love before first-sight". He slapped $500 on the table as down-payment. Breezy Point was his!
So excited was Fawcett about his new private fairyland that not even next week or next month was acceptable for a first visit. It had to be tomorrow, at the very latest, and don't worry about the February blizzards, below-zero temperatures and drifts in places higher than one's car.
After spending a totally restless night in anticipation of the trip, he and his friend Fred Roberts set out before dawn to Breezy Point. This, of course being Valentine's Day and perhaps the penalty these men paid for letting their own sweet valentines fend for themselves, while they gaily headed for the north woods, was that old Mr. Winter hit them with one helluva blizzard. In fact, it pounded them so unmercifully that they didn't reach Breezy until 3:00 a.m. the morning of February 15th. Furthermore, after finally arriving they had trouble even seeing what it was that Fawcett had purchased. It was entirely covered by snow and in some places to depths of ten feet.
However, love and/or imagination will always find a way. Billy thought the house not only ideal for his own temporary use, but the neighboring high bluff overlooking the lake literally howled for development. In fact, he had Fred stay right there and work up some plans for a substantial building program come the spring thaw. And so it was. Even before the spring thaw Fred had builders rapidly moving in. Many of these were from our own Nisswa/Pequot area, notably such as Ludwig Anderson and Edwin Berg. Up went a fine cottage called Aldrich, next one named Bryant, then Colfax and right down the alphabetical lineup of Minneapolis streets.
Through his charismatic personality and his many contacts in the publishing and motion picture industry, Breezy Point Resort became a mecca for the rich and famous during the Roaring 20’s, playing host to movie stars including Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Tom Mix and Jack Dempsey.
Captain Billy Fawcett embarked upon an aggressive building program at the Resort, including the construction of a magnificent lodge using native Norway pines, some of which exceeded 70 feet in length. The lodge was one of the largest in existence at the time, accommodating up to 700 people. The exquisite personal mansion built for Captain Billy, the Fawcett House, has been preserved and remains a focal point of the Minnesota Resort today. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Fawcett House has become a favorite of returning families and other groups with its 11 bedrooms, 9 baths, fireplaces and rustic elegance.
The Resort features a convention center, three 18-hole golf courses, boat marina, ice arena, four restaurants, four bars, recreation center and rental accommodations with approximately 250 rental units ranging from hotel rooms, suites, condos, multiple bedroom cabins. In addition, the resort functions as a rental agent with approximately 50 privately owned units, ranging from one bedroom accommodations to four bedroom homes.
In the center of the resort is the 118 room Breezy Point Inn & Suites combining Executive Suites, Kings and Double Queen room types. Each room is equipped with microwave and refrigerator. The Executive Suites also include Jacuzzi tub, fireplace, and kitchenette. Beautiful log furnishings (made in Nisswa) and décor in the “Up North” hues (made in Crosslake), log and stone exterior and views of Breezy Bay and Pelican Channel complement the Inn & Suites.
About the time summer was coming to full bloom, Fawcett began encountering a different kind of "snowstorm" - though of the same type produced by Whiz Bang. People not only loved the location, but his far-sightedness in such matters as using generator-powered electric lights (hi-tech for its day), instead of the usual candles and kerosene lamps simply wowed patrons. More cottages had to go up.
So up they went - another 13, and but quick. Upton he reserved for his kids and since Vincent, Wentworth, Xerxes, York, and Zenith ran him right off the end of the alphabet, he started all over again, this time drifting off into the wild blue yonder toward St. Paul, Avon, Baldwin, Como, Dale, Edgecomb, Fairmont, Grand, Hemline. Since even these failed to fulfill the astonishing demand, Billy erected a hotel to help with the 1922 season (the dining room of this building incidentally, would later become a mere lobby for his great lodge).
By the summer of 1923 even the hotel was overflowing. Perhaps a large 30 x 90 storage building might help - It didn't and was later converted to boat storage. When the season closed, and the quiet of winter permitted some planning for summer 1924, Billy had a brilliant idea; in those days the firm of Magney & Tusler, Inc. was the center of world attention for building one of the greatest "skyscrapers" west of New York City, the famed Foshay Tower. So Billy hired none less than said Magney & Tusler, Inc. to build something equally fantastic on his new property deep in the north woods, though of totally different type, of course.
Also at that very time, the great Shevlin-Carpenter-Clark Lumber Company was running its last cut of Minnesota pine near the Canadian border some 200 miles north of Pelican Lake. So Billy got the two of these ace outfits together and worked out the plans for his great new Breezy Point Lodge to be built of enormous logs of Norway Pine in the full-round. When the cut came in and it was still in the wintry weather of March and April, 1924, some of the logs were found to measure over 70 feet in length.
Seventy-two flat cars were required to ship them to Pequot Lakes by rail, where they were transferred to huge trucks and delivered to the construction site. Building then proceeded more or less simultaneously on the three-story lodge, a fine personal residence for the Fawcett's and a shop for machine and motor repair. One hundred seven men worked steadily on Fawcett's great new Breezy Point for more than seven months. The logs of the Lodge were laid without nails, using only "drift pins" and the fitting was of the "scribing and cupping" type where the upper log is hollowed longitudinally so as to cup over the one below. Since this form of building craftsmanship was unknown in the area, Billy imported carpenters from Norway and Finland to complete the buildings.
Built on sloping terrain, the lodge had its first floor only showing as such on the lake side and here were bowling alleys, billiard parlor, beauty shop, and other facilities precognizing the modern mall. Coming off the street entrance was the main or second floor with lobby, a huge dance floor and a dining room larger than any in the entire city of Minneapolis. Measuring 60 x 125 feet, and walled with varnished logs whose size absolutely staggered the beholder, this dining room had no problem seating 700 people and could accommodate as many as 1,000. On each side was an enormous fireplace measuring 12 feet in width and 44 feet in height. At the end was a raised and capacious stage for seating the dance band or handling stage productions. Of course, there was a spacious kitchen of medal design, equipped with the finest facilities of the time.
Guest rooms were on the third floor, along with further storage facilities and certain rooms for employees. Since these numbered about 140, special structures were added such as a girls' dormitory and additional cabins. To handle the fluid elements - water in and you know what out, Fawcett had an 80 foot well dug for the one and 20 septic tanks for the other, and it was all done under the direction of sanitation experts from the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Department of Health. He even set up his own pasteurizing plant to handle the Resort's milk and cream.
As for Fawcett's private residence, this was a two-story structure with a full basement, containing nine bedrooms and seven baths in addition to the parlor, dining room, kitchen and an office for the master. A spectacular spiral staircase connected the first and second floors. Ten years later Billy added two wings of distinctive sort and striking design. Today, the newly restored Fawcett House hosts family reunions and groups of all kinds.
On June 10, 1925, the magnificent place opened. Within weeks it was well on the way to taking its place as the greatest display of pure extravaganza in the entire "Minnesota Northwest". Never had there been anything like it before. Breezy Point Lodge became the Mecca for the famous, the rich and for those who had mistakenly assumed they had already seen everything. Opening was usually mid-June, with closure on Labor Day.
Then, here we go again, no room at the inn! So up went a three-story Edgewater Annex supplying another 63 rooms on its first two floors. The third was a conference hall seating 700 people. Still further buildings arose, until over 100 stood on the 400 acres comprising Fawcett's Breezy Point, with a capacity of accommodating 1,000 guests.
Meantime Captain Billy was filling his spare time by traveling all over the world, principally to exercise his marksmanship in the sporting field. Soon, and understandably, he became one of the world's most renowned big game hunters. Mounted trophies literally dripped from every wall troughout the entire Lodge. They were collected from the Rocky Mountains, Canada, Alaska, and places as far away as Asia, Africa and Zanzibar.
Understandably, with all Billy's traveling it left little or no time with his family and the result was divorce. Claire got the children, then took residence at 46th Street and Lyndale Avenue South in Minneapolis. Billy tried a second marriage with Annette Fisher of Georgia - a young lady he had met while in military service; then a third wife with Frances Robinson, ex-wife of the renowned sports writer Jimmy Robinson of Minneapolis.
On February 7, 1940, just short of the age of 60, Captain Billy Fawcett passed away.
As for Breezy Point, after Billy's death his sons took over the Resort from 1940 to 1941, replacing manager Gene Hawkins who had been there since the beginning. These boys, of course, had already had a certain amount of exposure to Breezy in earlier years for it was the custom of their father to put them on the staff during summer vacations doing tasks such as washing dishes to picking up garbage. Fawcett also hired local children from Pequot to pick the rocks and pebbles off his beach. This task they gleefully performed in such a fine manner that to this day the beach is a model for sandy shores, and many an area resident today remembers the event.
Because of World War 11, Breezy Point was closed from 1942 through 1945. The reason for this was simply that gas rationing killed the tourist business. Then in 1946 it was purchased by an energetic and interesting young man who held the Coca Cola franchise for the Brainerd area - Theron "Tiny" Holmes. Tiny met Elizabeth Hoffman, second daughter and third child of Edna and Charles Hoffman. Elizabeth's grandfather, A.L. Hoffman, had been a prominent Brainerd businessman, equally outstanding for a beautiful singing voice which made him much in demand. It was he who built the first cottages on what we now call Mission Point on Gull Lake, in the present City of Nisswa.
Tiny and Liz married and in 1946, they bought Breezy Point, then built their summer home which remains today, though in other hands, on the very tip of Mission Point north of the old Hoffman place. After some time, the Holmes sold Breezy Point and since then the story of changing ownership has not only been too complex for detailing here, but it became completely overshadowed by the terrible calamity of June 20, 1959.
It was on that day that the fire alarm sounded throughout the whole area and beautiful Breezy Point Lodge, built of the most expensive firewood in the State of Minnesota, burned to the ground while the rest of the world stood helplessly by.
Although the death of Captain Billy 19 years earlier had been a calamity in itself, heralding a general degradation of Breezy Point, the fire was more than a calamity; it was a disaster.
Thereafter, owners and managers came and went, each struggling under the downhill load of keeping up a tremendous public image which had lost its main support. At one time radio singer arid movie actress Ginny Simms with her associate Don Eastvold even took over Breezy Point in an attempt to bring glamour back to Pelican Lake, but instead they brought one of the Lake Region's greatest scandals when they declared bankruptcy and had their books examined.
Nisswa's "Brownie" Cote was one of those who attempted to lift the hot potato, then pass it along by selling - only to get it back into his hands when the new owner defaulted. A consortium of investors from Hopkins took it over and essentially initiated a totally new approach - forget the long-gone Lodge, and get on with the tourist resident show. Pelican is a beautiful lake, property is prime and tourism had long been producing many who want to own their own summer homes and the vastly improved highways and road maintenance facilities were now beginning to attract year-long residents. However, the investors relationship with the Resort didn't last very long and Breezy Point changed hands once again.
Under the leadership of the current owner, Robert B. Spizzo, Breezy Point has experienced aggressive expansion which has included the construction of a convention facility, new lodge, two large indoor pool areas, modular playground system, championship golf course and clubhouse, and new condominiums.
Whitebirch, Inc. was established in 1974 for the purpose of developing and marketing approximately 3,000 acres surrounding Breezy Point Resort. Whitebirch originally concentrated its activity on the development of subdivisions for single family residential lots and camping sites.
The Resort was acquired by Whitebirch in 1981 and began developing and marketing condominium interval ownership units.
Timesharing at Breezy Point Resort began in 1981 with the remodeling of ten individual units known today as the Chalets. An additional 222 timeshare units have since been constructed with more in the planning. Over the years, approximately 12,000 owners have purchased vacation ownership interests here.
The Resort is a member of Resort Condominiums International, (RCI), a timesharing exchange organization. Owners at Breezy Point Resort have the opportunity to trade their timeshare at over 3,700 affiliated resort locations in 100 countries worldwide.
RCI has selected Breezy Point Resort as one of its “Resorts of Distinction” every year since 1984, and has awarded its highest designation of “Gold Crown” status for its superior facilities and service.
Throughout its existence Breezy Point Resort has remained a leader in the resort. industry and with its present leadership.has grown to become one of the largest resort developers in the Upper Midwest.
In the planning stages at Breezy Point, removing the Bar, restaurant, and the indoor pool, and replacing them with a new building.
Click on Pictures to enlarge
The Main Gate
The Golf Coruse
A View from the Lake