Christa Newhouse starts a new adventure.
By Maureen McDonald
Photography by Jerry Zolynsky
CHRISTA NEWHOUSE HAS HAD A STORIED LIFE. When she was growing up in Germany during WW II, she learned how to knit to distract her while taking shelter under the kitchen table. Later the six-foot-tall young woman became a fashion model and has also enjoyed a rich career in photography and film production. At this point in her life though, she’s returning to where she started, knitting. There’s an amazing new demand for that old-fashioned skill. At a time when most people are retiring, she’s moving back to Farmington Hills to start her next dream of creating a yarnmobile to drive around the country to teach knitting classes. She never lost the skill and has sold garments with hefty price tags to clients and made donations to museums.
“I’ve had a wonderful life surrounded by people from all over the world,” says Christa, who stands tall in her signature black leotard top and black slacks. She and her husband, on-air talent, film editor and B & B host Shelby Newhouse, 89, have run a nine-bedroom, Swiss chalet-styled inn on the 34-square-mile island of Bois Banc in the Straights of Mackinac for 14 years.
“We’re hoping to sell our B & B to a foundation, perhaps a cancer recovery center or a home for veterans,” Christa says. “This is such a wonderfully relaxing place, close to the water, to the forest, to daily views of the deer in the backyard, the loons on the lake and the sand hill cranes scurrying across the yard. There are no paved roads; all cars come in by ferry from Cheboygan, so traffic is minimal.”
Christa fell in love with Bois Blanc on a visit in 1976 and bought a two-bedroom cabin in 1980 from Peter Fisher, a distant relative of the family that produced bodies for General Motors, namesake of the Fisher Building in New Center.
Shortly after, she married Shelby Newhouse, a longtime business partner in making documentaries, corporate films and advertisements.
They used the same skills they honed in business on a new project, converting the Fisher cabin to a bed and breakfast. “We’ve enjoyed visits from guests all over the world, Argentina, China, Uruguay, Great Britain, Germany, Spain and even Mongolia. This is a little paradise,” she says. It is the land of spectacular sunsets and eagles flying overhead. Rooms rent for $105 to $185 a night in this quiet get-away and wedding parties have rented the entire house.
Prior to becoming a B&B host, Shelby enjoyed a 40-year career in film-making. He served as an announcer for WWJ-TV from 1950 to 1975, worked on Mort Neff’s “MI Outdoors,” Doris Eaton Travis’s “Arthur Murray Dance Party,” George Pierrot’s “Travel Show,” and Sunny Elliot’s weather reports. What started as a work relationship between Christa and Shelby blossomed into a romance over the years.
As the couple embarks on their 34th year of marriage, she credits their years working together as a great test of compatibility, ethics and cooperation. “It is easy to be married to him; he is absolutely wonderful in all those areas,” she says. NS
For more information:
Insel House, visit www.inselhausbandb.com.