From the kind and industrious souls who help this community “go” and prosper to its beautiful natural surroundings and the magnificent Bok Tower that sits atop Iron Mountain, greater Lake Wales truly is blessed with an abundance of treasures. One of its newest treasures can be found where Timberlane and Masterpiece roads meet on the southwest shore of Lake Pierce. It’s the new Capernaum Lakeside Lodge and Conference Center.


The lodge opened to the public on June 30 after completion of an extensive renovation project on a stately two-story structure that was built in 1925 and first used as a hotel. The lodge is owned and managed by Capernaum Ministries, a Christian organization that has operated the Capernaum Inn retreat and RV campground on the north end of Lake Pierce since 2009.


The 14,077-square-foot lodge, built in Mediterranean style on 10 acres of lush pastureland, has a rich and interesting history. It’s been host to several famous guests, including President Calvin Coolidge (in 1929, for the dedication of Bok Tower) and Marilyn Monroe. Well into the 1950s, it was known as the Bonaire Lodge, which hosted many elegant ballroom dances, wedding and dinners. In the mid-1960s, the property served as the home of the fledgling Vanguard School, which now operates from a large campus off U.S. Highway 27 in north Lake Wales. The lodge property went through several owners after that, and the structures fell into disrepair.


The Rev. Jim Way, the president of Capernaum Ministries, has said publicly that he and other leaders of the organization had considered buying the lakefront lodge and acreage a few years ago, but financial limitations at the time kept the property out of reach. Eventually, the time and circumstances for a deal became right, and the ministry purchased the property early this year for almost $1 million. Work on the lodge restoration was launched immediately, and the project was finished in about six months at a cost of nearly $350,000.


The lodge features 12 sleeping rooms, a banquet hall for meetings and events, a magnificent view of Lake Pierce, a boat dock, and abundant outdoor space for large events. The opening of the lodge restaurant is expected in September.


During my first visit to the lodge, I was greatly amazed by the wonderful restoration work and taken aback by the wonderful countryside and beautiful view of the lake. It’s one of the nicest settings you’ll find in Central Florida, and it’s right here — in our own backyard!


The Capernaum Lakeside Lodge will serve as an extension of the amenities offered by the Capernaum Inn retreat and will be used by the ministry to support its work, but plans call for a much broader public use of the lodge. It’s certainly a showcase location — a beautiful and relaxing environment for retreats, conferences, business lunches, Sunday brunches, weddings, special events, fishing vacations, and secluded family getaways.


For greater Lake Wales, the Capernaum Lakeside Lodge represents very good news on many different fronts: