A vacation community designed to nurture body, mind and spirit. If that description sounds appealing, you might want to visit the community of Lakeside.
"It's sort of a vacation with a purpose," said Wendy Eller, Lakeside's vice president of guest operations. "It's church meets a university meets a resort, all wrapped into one."
As one of 14 chautauqua communities in the United States, she said Lakeside is based on the values of religion, education, arts and recreation.
"At the highest point, at the turn of the (20th) century, there were right around 400," she said. "There are only a few chautauquas left, but there seems to be interest returning for that sort of community."
Each chautauqua is different, but they all are based on educational opportunities.
Lakeside is the second-largest one in the nation, behind one in New York.
"Those two were started by brothers, so they're similar," Eller said. "New York is more like a university campus and Lakeside is more family friendly - at least we think so."
Entrance to the gated community is $18.50 per person per day, which includes a show at Hoover Auditorium, but there also are short-term options.
"We try to keep our costs in line with the cost of living in this area of the country," Eller said. "The biggest value of the gate pass is the Hoover Auditorium. But there are a lot of other things."
A large pier jutting into Lake Erie is open to guests who want to sun bathe or fish, many stores offer shopping and several restaurants provide food choices.
"We draw all kinds of people who are interested in lifelong learning," Eller said. "We also draw people who just love to sit and look at the lake.
"It's a community of people based on the same idea," she said. "Nurturing mind, body and spirit."
One of the main draws to Lakeside is lifelong learning, Eller said.
"Programming makes us unique," she said. "That's what makes us a unique destination."
At Rhein Center for the Arts, a long list of educational classes take place daily, ranging from painting and making stained glass to drama classes or writing a book of memoirs and even "duct tape art."
"There's over 200 classes offered each week," Eller aid. "We have such a large interest in this that we have to place people through a lottery system."
A few seminar topics are health and fitness, financial management, history and music appreciation.
In the more physical realm, there are classes on bow and arrow, tennis camps, sailboats and kayaks for rent, sailing lessons, miniature golf - and one of the best-known shuffleobard courts in the world.
"That's not even everything," she said. "There's just so much going on."
In the area of arts and entertainment, performers who have been on stage at Lakeside include Victor Borge, Al Hirt, Lionel Hampton, Ray Charles, Shirley Jones, America, the Ohio State Alumni Band, the Dukes of Dixieland, Capital Steps, Peter Noone and Kathy Matea.
On this year's entertainment list are names such as the band America, John Tesh, Vicki Lawrence, The Coasters, Osmond Brothers and Judy Collins.
"Those are probably the most recognizable names," she said.
On the list of educators who have spoken at Lakeside are Jane Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Gov. William McKinley, Amelia Earhart, Sgt. Alvin York, Sen. Robert La Follette, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gen. Smedley Butler, J.C. Penney, Branch Rickey, Lowell Thomas and Drew Pearson.
Although not on stage, the website notes well-known visitors have included President U.S. Grant in the 1870s for a reunion with Civil War veterans. President Rutherford B. Hayes was a guest at the Hotel Lakeside in 1891. And in 1933, the Graf Zeppelin, predecessor of the ill-fated German dirigible Hindenberg, cruised over Lakeside on its way to the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.
The community has been placed on Ohio's National Register of Historic Places - one of five villages in the state with that distinction - and plans are to apply for national historical landmark status.
The community seeks to maintain its historic Victorian feeling while providing modern conveniences modern guests want, such as Internet service.
"There's a feeling of connectedness as being part of something that has such a rich history," she said.
After a group of ministers initially began clearing a space along Lake Erie in August 1873, the first Sunday school training session took place at Lakeside in 1877. During the 1890s, it began to blossom into a full program of religion, education, cultural arts and recreation.
As revivals and programs became popular, a permanent roof and open sides were built near the site of today's Hoover Auditorium.
Members of the German-speaking Methodist church joined in 1874 and later would built their own auditorium for programs in the German language. That building still stands as Lakeside's South Auditorium.
Cottages began to appear overlooking Lake Erie and more tents were erected during the first years, and a dormitory-style building called Pilgrim's Rest was built in 1874.
Increasing crowds demanded more comfort and the first unit of the Hotel Lakeside was built in May 1875.
At around the same time, Ohio manufacturer Lewis Miller and Methodist minister John Heyl Vincent founded the first chautauqua at Lake Chautauqua, N.Y., in 1875. While its initial mission was to train Sunday school teachers, it soon expanded into a summer center for adult education and cultural enrichment.
By the early 1900s, more than 300 chautauqua-style resorts associated with various Christian and Jewish congregations had been established across the United States.
The word "chautauqua" became a generic descriptive term for resorts that blend summer recreation with religious observance, education and culture.
The then-new chautauqua movement was a natural for Lakeside and evolved into a modern program.
"In this television and online age, it's hard for us to appreciate how important a place like Lakeside can be," the website states. "Families, extended families, singles and friends still vacation together here, often times with an eye or an ear connected to life outside the gates with work or other responsibilities. Parents and grandparents alike relax knowing that the kids are safe and happy, and have plenty to do, see and hear each day. Lakesiders come from as far away as Australia and as nearby as Sandusky and Port Clinton."
In addition to programming and entertainment, Eller said another aspect of Lakeside is hospitality.
The community has two hotels, an 82-site campground, at least six bed and breakfasts and more than 200 cottages for rent.
And that doesn't include cabins and dorm-style housing for youth summer camps.
"We host 10 youth camps each year," she said. "One of the groups is celebrating their 80th year coming up."
Although the community maintains its strong ties to the Methodist church, Eller said it's a myth visitors must be Methodist. No church membership is required.
"We welcome all faiths," she said. "We host events here for all types of Christian groups. And we have interfaith week where we study different religions.
"We're very open to educating ourselves on different religions," she said. "This year, we have classes on Judism, Christianity and the Muslim religion."
Eller said fees are required to allow the community to maintain its gated status and provide the best service. There are a variety of fees, depending on the reason a guest is visiting.
For more information, visit lakesideohio.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (866) 952-5374 or (419) 798-4461.