Our son, Ray LaFoy, belongs to a small church in rural Montana. The church is located on the side of a mountain on Highway 200, 20 miles east of Missoula. In the course of a year over 1.6 people per vehicle drive by their church. The church thought of a wonderful way to spread God's word, so back in 2013 they erected a custom electric two-sided illuminated reader board sign. The messages on the board are changed weekly. Some people see only a small church by the side of the road but now they read a message each week, coming and going.
The world is full of people who see beyond the slough, hill, mountain or road as a potential for a project. Mr. James Beck had that ability and imagination to observe a negative and imagine all the ways those things could be utilized. In his lifetime, he constructed various projects to transform our Lakes Area. What a visionary — to construct The Inn, Crescent Beach Hotel, Hi-Point Hacienda, and the Lakewood canals. Wow!
James Beck left a wonderful legacy at the Iowa Great Lakes during his lifetime. He left five projects that lasted many years: The Inn, Hi-Point, a cottage on Eagle Point, Crescent Hotel and the Lakewood canals. Only two of his endeavors are still in existence: the cottage on Eagle Point and the Lakewood canals.
Following is the obituary of James Beck published in the Spirit Lake Beacon-Oct. 9, 1930:
"PIONEER RESORT MAN PASSED AWAY-J. A. BECK BUILDER OF THE INN AND CRESCENT BEACH HOTEL, DIED MONDAY
J. A. Beck, 81, hotel owner and pioneer resort man on West Okoboji Lake, passed away at his home at Fairfield, Iowa shortly before noon on Monday. He had attended to some business matters about town during the forenoon and just before noon he had asked to be escorted to his apartment where he died.
Mr. Beck had only recently gone to Fairfield from his summer home to arrange his affairs prior to leaving for California to spend the winter. Mrs. Beck had remained at their cottage and was there at the time of Mr. Beck’s passing.
Mr. Beck could be termed the pioneer in conceiving the idea of West Okoboji as the summer resort it is today. He became interested in the lake region about the time of the coming of the Milwaukee railroad (1883) and possibly, at that time, the holder of more property around the lakes than any other man. He first owned what is now known as the Inn farm, from Okoboji around past the present Inn. At first, he only built a few small cottages and set of farm buildings. In 1896 he erected the Inn hotel which he conducted until about the year 1913 when he sold it to Mesdames Callendar and Jacquith.
In 1911, together with H. E. Mills of Spirit Lake, they engaged a dredge to dig a series of canals between Miller and Emerson Bays and platted a considerable number of lots on the canal and lake shore. Mr. Beck also built the Crescent Beach Hotel and a number of cottages. He erected his hacienda on the ‘highest point in Iowa” overlooking Millers Bay which he occupied as a summer home for many years. (For many years Hi Point was advertised as the highest elevation in the state but later found not to be the case.)
Mr. Beck was a man whom all loved and he will be sorely missed by the older resorters on all parts of the lakes."
I remembered very well several of his projects. His summer home on High Point was empty for many years. I recall taking our bicycles and peddling there from my home in Milford. The road was gravel but it was worth the effort as the view from Mr. Beck's home was specular. Later it became a wonderful restaurant. We spent many happy times and enjoyed wonderful meals in the place. We never boated in the Lakewood canals but in the winter it was a treat to traverse the many canals in our snowmobiles. The Inn was also on our agenda with shows, parties, and food. It was a real treat to dine in the upper room of the Inn and we enjoyed many occasions there. The atmosphere in the Crescent Beach hotel restaurant was wonderful.
We thank Mr. James Beck who had the visions to see their potentials for people to enjoy Lake West Okoboji.
One of the most elaborate dreams to bloom and fade was Lakewood Park. Few people realize the area between Emerson and Millers Bay is laced with canals, lagoons, and little ponds. Some of the canals and lagoons are explored and used in the summer but snowmobilers have discovered them and it is wonderful to travel between the two bays skimming the frozen canals. Ice skaters have used the canals for years.
James A. Beck of Fairfield was one of our early dreamers and developers. Lakewood Park was to be the American Venice where gondolas were to glide on calm waters. There were to be lagoons, islands, waterways, rustic bridges, soft music and moonlight nights on the canals. A Dutch windmill was to be built with a reading room in the tower. The area encompassed over 1,000 acres.
In late September 1911, a dredge was brought here from Royal Center, Indiana, by train. Mr. E. B. Thomas was contracted to dredge and carve a canal system in 300 acres of land between Emerson and Millers Bay. The floating dredge weighted 100 tons and was 72 feet long and 16 feet wide and had the capacity of dredging 2.000 cubic yards per day. It was powered by steam and had its own electric system so was used at night.
Five openings to West Lake Okoboji were shoveled out: one north of Eagle Point, one south of Gull Point, two into Emerson Bay and one into Millers Bay. The one south of Gull Point has been filled in and cottages have been built on the fill but the rest of the openings can be found. Three are used today, but the one that enters Little Emerson Bay was not utilized.
The project cost in the neighborhood of $20,000. Lakewood was plotted into 500 lots. Many of the early buyers were from Fairfield. In 1914, Mr. Beck built Crescent Beach Hotel. The hotel took its name from the crescent-shaped beach between Breezy Point and Eagle Point. He also built The Inn and who else would think of building a hacienda on the "highest point of land in Iowa."
J. A. Beck was a well-known figure in the area because he rode a fine horse and wore a long white coat while overseeing the Lakewood Project. It was reported that Mr. & Mrs. Beck were a "handsome pair." Mr. Beck passed away in 1931 and is buried at Fairfield