This huge, multipurpose resort complex spreads over a spectacular duned and wooded site on Lake Michigan where the Crystal River flows into the lake. For Robert A. Kuras, its current owner and developer, the site designers for Disney Development Company, Jerry Pearson of Peridian International, planned and landscaped the transformation of the Homestead Kuras acquired from the Arthur S. Huey family while retaining much of the 1970s plan. Today “America's Freshwater Resort,” as the owner markets the place, comprises five hundred acres, including one mile of shoreline and beach, and eight hundred property owners. The buildings, many from the 1970s development, include vacation and retirement houses, a historic inn (Earl H. Mead), a lodge, two resort hotels, restaurants, shops, and year-round recreational facilities. Recently created bigger than life man-made vignettes, such as the view through the Reception Center of Fiddler's Pond, seem to intensify and enhance the presence of the North Woods.
In 1923 William Beals acquired the site at the mouth of the Crystal River as a location for their permanent camp, calling it their homestead. Cora Mautz Beals was the aunt of Arthur S. and Helen M. Huey, former owner and operator of the Leelanau Schools and the small guest inn. Since 1929 this private institution sensitively managed the land around the schools and the inn. Because its use was deemed compatible with the park's purpose, the Homestead was omitted from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
As early as 1961 Huey bought a portion of the Leelanau Schools' land for development into the year-round Homestead resort with tennis, hiking, swimming, and skiing. Johnson, Johnson and Roy of Ann Arbor superbly landscaped the 193-acre site that rises 320 feet from the lakefront to a ridge, taking advantage of the landform. Steep slopes provide dramatic views for the clusters of condominiums, the units of which step down the slopes. With careful grading, boardwalks, and decking, the landscape architects preserved the sand dunes, vegetation, and trees. Parking is buffered by berms and vegetation, and a network of trails separates pedestrians from automobiles.
Promoted by the Friends of the Crystal River, aided by the Leelanau Conservancy, and authorized by the U.S. Congress, in 2006 the National Park Service purchased acreage on the Crystal River from the Oxbow to the Homestead's housing development at Woodstone to protect its pristine beauty from development as a golf course and condominiums.