Earl Young Gnome Houses – Charlevoix, Michigan - Atlas Obscura

Earl Young Gnome Houses

Unique Michigan homes look like something out of Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings." 


In Charlevoix, Michigan, the residents of Park Avenue are proud to live in some of the most unusual homes in the United States. Designed by the architect Earl Young, the homes on this street have been called Hobbit houses and gnome houses because they look like something out of Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

The Young homes look like they would fit in this fantastical land because of the cedar shake rooftops and walls crafted from fieldstone, red stone, limestone, Onaway quarry stone, and boulders.

Ten years old when he moved to Charlevoix, Young had no formal architectural training. He went to the University of Michigan before working in the real estate industry in his hometown. By the 1930s, Young had started building and remodeling homes in the area, all with the same basic properties. The mushroom houses that are most recognizable from the street and by passersby started to pop up in the 1950s.

In 1971, the Ludington Daily News described Young’s homes: “Sometimes the rooflines sweep so close to the ground that side windows are cut into them. The homes feature large fireplaces, generous use of stonework, and creative landscaping which helps the houses blend and snuggle into the hillsides.” In that same article, Young told the reporter that he always builds and designs the roofs of his houses first and then shoves the rest under them. Young died in 1975 and the residents of the area have worked to continue restoring the homes ever since.

Know Before You Go

The house is on a side street, and there's limited parking in front.

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December 8, 2010

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