A luxury lakeside camp hasn’t forgotten its rusticator roots.
By Julie Senk
Photograph by Gabe Souza
In mid-October of 1923, Charlotte Vetter Gulick stood on the shore of Sebago Lake and witnessed “one of the most glorious sunsets” she’d ever seen. As the sun dropped to the horizon, the foliage would likely have been ablaze in crimson and gold, its brilliance mirrored on the water’s surface. “It is so gorgeous out there,” Gulick wrote in a letter to her daughter, Frances, “the beauty of it is actually painful.”
The founder, with her late husband, Luther, of two nearby youth summer camps, Gulick wasn’t alone in recognizing the lake region’s potential to attract visitors. Charles Goodridge’s Songo River & Bay of Naples Steamship Company had been ferrying travelers between Portland and, as Goodridge called it, “the Switzerland of America” for several years. In 1916, he built National Camps, a Craftsman-style lodge and seven cabins in South Casco — the same property that Gulick, in her letter, encouraged Frances to buy.
A 32-year-old welfare worker and World War I hero, Frances took her mother’s advice. She renamed her retreat Migis Lodge — migis is Abenaki for “place to steal away to rest” — and offered “the comforts of a modern hotel with the freedom of camp life.” With all their meals, as well as housekeeping, provided, guests were all but guaranteed a carefree stay.
Under the ownership of the Porta family since 1968, Migis still welcomes guests, including many extended families who return each summer. The handsome old lodge is now the focal point for 35 cottages, and there are more amenities and activities than ever, but what keeps most people coming back are the same timeless qualities that Frances Gulick valued: the restorative nature of a beautiful lake combined with the ease of a woodsy, gracious hotel.