Cottages: Decker came to renovate, ended up staying

VERMILION TWP. For Walk in the Water Cottages owner, Chris Decker, restoring the lakeside getaways t
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



For Walk in the Water Cottages owner, Chris Decker, restoring the lakeside getaways to their yesteryear splendor was anything but a walk in the park.

Decker put sweat equity into the cottages with 370 bundles of shingles to re-roof the cottages, hauling more than 70 tons of shingles to the Erie County Landfill. It took 102 gallons of exterior paint to restore the sides of the cottages to endure the Lake Erie winter gales without chipping.

All these improvements don't even begin to include the work done on flooring, remodeled bathrooms, a new in-ground pool and new plumbing in many of the cottages.

A cottage was meant to be a temporary homes for Decker who was helping out a friend who had bought the cottages during a sheriff's auction.

Decker, a skilled carpenter, began fixing up the cottages for Crist Winterstein.

He planned to live there until Winterstein flipped the cottages for a profit.

But fate had other ideas for Decker. Winterstein sold the cottages to him.

"The lake view spoiled me," Decker said laughing looking out across the overlook that leads down to a private sandy beach.

"I think he wanted to see a dying icon comeback," Decker said, adding without Winterstein's generosity such a purchase wouldn't have been possible for him.

Decker's daughters and parents helped him bring the cottages back to life.

The cottages are named after a Wyandotte Indian chief, Walk-in-the-Water.

A steamboat with the same namesake entered service in 1818 in the Niagara River. Because of her low horsepower she wasn't suitable for the Niagara's forceful currents and was towed to Black Rock Buffalo.

She made a number of trips among the Great Lakes until 1821 when a storm was worse for her wear and she washed up on what is now Main Street in Buffalo after a storm.

The cottages looked about as good as the land-crashed boat when Decker began the renovations.

But this past season, Decker's fourth, all his hard work has begun to pay off.

Events like bass tournaments have helped. Decker's guests spread the word that he has a quiet, comfortable, quaint and affordable place to stay.

But, like most other cottages along the waterfront, the vacancy sign is lit from time to time during the lodging season.

"I guess, years ago you would flip your sign on and by 7 p.m. you would be booked," Decker said.

Former long-time owner Colette Fisher might know more about that era.

Decker took Fisher, who wasn't the owner when the cabins fell into disrepair, on a tour of the renovated cottages. She shed tears upon seeing the place that held so many memories restored to its former glory.

Decker is open from mid-may through November.

This time of year Decker mostly sees couples, who can enjoy a private sunset view on the lake.

But the cottages ranging in size from housing couples to large families are welcoming most having kitchenettes and newly remodeled bathrooms.

There are 12 cottages to choose from.

A courtyard area provides cottage side gardens, picnic tables, a barbecue area, playground equipment and a hammock for lazy days in the shade.

A series of stairs leads down to a sun deck and sandy beach where guests can literally walk in the water.

Just 2 1/2 miles west of Vermilion guests can choose from catching their dinner and cooking it in their kitchenette or barbecuing or headed to town to eat.

Decker also offers wireless Internet in the homey cottages. Decker said it's meant to feel like family at the cottages.

Cottages along the lakeside were once meant for family vacation and relaxation and at Decker's cottages, the same is still true today.