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A Brief History of Wanigan


Construction jobs in Northern Michigan were few and far between in 1957 when brothers, Gordon & Denny Converse, decided to start their own company.

Their first job was a home on Crystal Lake just north of Frankfort, Michigan. There were very few new homes being built around Elk Rapids at that time.

The brothers had been introduced to the area by their parents back in 1948 when their parents purchased property on Grand Traverse Bay. The family spent all their vacations ‘on The Bay’ along what would eventually become Joe Marks Trail. The family lived in Franklin Village, near Birmingham, Michigan, at the time. It was their father, Vernon, who taught them the basics of construction. Their father didn’t make a living as a builder, but he was always buying old houses and remodeling them. "There were not many mornings that I didn’t wake up and see a table saw at the foot of my bed," Gordon explains.

As a young boy Gordon spent several summers working in the area, picking cherries and working at the local packing company. Later, after graduation from Alma College he married his wife Joan. They immediately moved to Elk Rapids and Gordon went to work for The Super Tool Company working in Methods-Time-Measurement. It didn’t take long for brother Denny to relocate to Elk Rapids.

It was Joe Marks, the man for whom the road is named, that inspired the Converses when they began searching for a name for their new company. They had a small cabin they had built on ‘The Bay’ and Joe Marks would always refer to it as their ‘Wanigan’ which, he said, was Indian for ‘cabin-in-the-woods.’ They did some research on the name and found that it was also a lumbering term that meant roughly the same thing. Desirous of building many "cabins in the woods" they named their business after that little cabin.

From the beginnings, as a business venture hatched in Gordon’s living room, Wanigan Corporation has continued to grow and prosper. Through hard work and many struggles the brothers gradually built the company that would produce many of the private homes and commercial buildings now dotting the local landscape.

The Company, which celebrated its 60th year in business on January 7th, 2017, still specializes in the construction of custom homes and remodeling and the construction of commercial buildings.

Brother Denny retired many years ago and Gordon is still active as a consultant for the company.   Most recently, Connie and Jeff Nault, Gordon's daughter and son-in-law, purchased the business and Connie serves as President and General Manager.   Connie and Jeff are both licensed builders and enjoy working with the customers and serving the area. 

Floyd Brooks, talented in design and drafting, found Wanigan Corporation several years ago and has become a valuable asset to the company. His expertise in design and his ability to work with and communicate with customers, and his love of building, has added a new dimension to Wanigan.