Cover to A Nationalized Lakeshore: The Creation and Administration of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Cover Page


Table of Contents


Chapter One,
"National Parks Are Where You Find Them:" The Origins of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Chapter Two,
"We're Going For The Right Thing:" The Legislative Struggle to Create Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, 1971- 1977

Chapter Three,
Changes on the Land: The Early Management of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, 1977-1983

Chapter Four
Plans, Programs and Controversy: The Reassessment of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, 1977-1983

Chapter Five,
"A Local and National Treasure:" Managing the Sleeping Bear Dunes Park, 1984- 1995

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore At Twenty-Five

Appendix One,
Budgetary Progress of Sleeping Bear Dunes N.L.

Appendix Two,
Selected Past and Present Employees of Sleeping Bear N.L.

Appendix Three,
Selected Visitation Statistics

Appendix Four,
Public Law 91-479

Chapter 1 Notes

Chapter 2 Notes

Chapter 3 Notes

Chapter 4 Notes

Chapter 5 Notes

Conclusion Notes




A Nationalized Lakeshore:
The Creation and Administration of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Chapter One

Tourism: A New Way in the Woods

     The career of D.H. Day illustrates the change in the Sleeping Bear area. Day was a lumberman whose company harvested hardwood and cordwood. But unlike so many lumbermen, whose interest was in short-term profits, Day was committed to the future of the little towns of Glen Haven and Glen Arbor. During the 1880s he introduced the tourist industry to the area by operating two passenger and freight steamers between northern Michigan and Milwaukee and Chicago. Although the venture was not a success, it did serve to make the Sleeping Bear area better known in the cities along the southern rim of Lake Michigan. A medical doctor from Chicago who visited the area in the wake of World War I argued: "The great charm of Glen Lake is its natural beauty which to date is largely unspoiled. There is no spot in Michigan, nor for that matter anywhere in the middle west, that can compare with it." While lumber was the core of his business activities, Day was also an early proponent of fruit growing. His farm boasted 5,000 acres of apple and cherry trees as well as a large dairy. When his logging operation declined, he tried to transition his business and the community into fruit growing and tourism. To develop the former he established the Glen Haven Canning Company and for the later the Sleeping Bear Inn. The inn was a holdover from the nineteenth century, which was thoroughly remodeled in 1928 to take advantage of the growing number of automobile tourists. He founded a local tourist council that later developed into the Western Michigan Resort Association. Day's biggest bet on tourism was Day Forest Estates, a subdivision of his private second-growth forest. He promoted the area as the "Adirondacks of Michigan." At the time the elite of Chicago and Detroit were building "Great Camp-like" personal estates in northern Michigan. One brochure for the promotion even speculated that the area was "deemed fit for the permanent Summer White House" as well as the site "for homes of the residents of the Gold Coast of Chicago or Millionaire's' Row of New York." But the expected millionaires did not come to Sleeping Bear as fast as Day's failing fortunes required. Even an eighteen-hole golf course could not attract enough buyers to keep the venture from failing in the Depression. Day's heirs, following his death in 1929, continued to promote tourism by operating the Inn and a fleet of "dunesmobiles," cars that transported excursionists over the sand hills. [7]

     Day's work in the field of conservation had more of a lasting, if delayed, impact on the development of a recreation industry in the area than his real estate endeavors. A dedicated and important member of the Democratic Party in Michigan, Day served as the chairman of Michigan's first State Park Commission. In 1919, Day set an outstanding example by donating thirty-two acres on the shore of Lake Michigan. This area was named D.H. Day State Park, and it was the first commitment of public lands to recreation in the Sleeping Bear Area. The area included only just over thirty-two acres and 708 feet of frontage on Lake Michigan. The Commission established a campground, log cabin pavilion, and access road at the park. Unfortunately, public conservation developed very slowly after Day's grant. The single other park project in the Sleeping Bear area was Benzie State Park, created in 1923, which included 180 acres near the mouth of the Platte River. These two small state parks were the germ from which grew Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. [8]

     Lumbermen like David Day played a role in developing a recreation industry in northern Michigan. Throughout the region men with investments in land and buildings tried to adjust to the altered economic landscape. The bunkhouse of the Glen Arbor Lumber Company was converted into the Sylvan Inn and opened to tourists. But more significant than lumbermen's efforts to attract tourists was the unlikely alliance between hay fever, religion, and the railroads. Before the development of antihistamines thousands of Midwesterners suffered through the spring and early summer from wind-blown pollen. Most suffered through the season, short of breath and with tear-blurred vision. The middle class, however, had the option of seeking relief in a hay fever-free environment like northern Michigan. Colonies of hay fever exiles began to form during the 1880s. Informally they were known as "Achoo Clubs." Mackinac Island was a favorite retreat, although in 1882, the Western Hay Fever Association named Petoskey, Michigan its headquarters. That village was deemed the "most favorable resort for hay fever sufferers." Another spur to tourism was religious retreat camps. The biggest of these in northern Michigan was the Bay View Association, founded by the Methodists in 1875. What started out as an informal gathering of like-minded Methodists on vacation in the Little Traverse Bay area, developed into a major Chautauqua-like summer resort, complete with religious and educational programs and a resort village of private summer cottages quaintly styled with Victorian gingerbread detail The Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad recognized a good thing and offered financial assistance to develop Bay View. Railroad access was critical in determining which locations in northern Michigan succeeded in attracting tourists. As lumber declined in the region, transportation companies came to rely on tourism more and more to sustain their operations. [9]

     Early recreational developments in the Sleeping Bear area reflect these same trends. At the mouth of the Crystal River the site of John LaRue's 1847 trading post was utilized by William Beals, a Missouri school teacher who fell in love with the area, as the spot for Camp Leelanau, a summer boy's camp. Camp Leelanau offered boys a rustic experience with army-style dormitory tents set-up right on the beach and the only real structure the Beals' frame summer house, the Homestead. Founded in 1921, Camp Leelanau had two purposes: education and recreation. In later years the educational mission developed into the Leelanau School, a private college preparatory school, while the recreational function matured into the prosperous Homestead Resort. Spurred by a major investment by the Toledo, Ann Arbor, and Northern Michigan Railroad, Frankfort also bid to develop as a recreational center. In the 1880s, the railroad chose the town as the eastern terminus of its Lake Michigan car ferry to Kewanee, Wisconsin. By 1928, there were six boats on regular runs across the lake. An 1898 traveler's guide praised Frankfort's "quiet beauty" and noted "it is always left with a little sigh of regret." In 1901, to induce visitors to make Frankfort a destination the Ann Arbor Railroad built a major resort hotel in the town. The Royal Frontenac was an imposing 500-foot long wood frame hotel in the tradition of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island or the railroad lodges in the American West. Elegant and popular, the Royal Frontenac attracted tourists from across the Midwest. Frankfort's bid, however, to become a resort city was short-circuited when the Frontenac burned to the ground in 1912. Railroad access, however, did succeed in making the Crystal Lake area a popular place for summer homes. Cottagers from Ohio, Indiana, and other points south took advantage of "resort special" trains replete with Pullman cars. They would disembark in Frankfort and board a little shuttle train that took people along the shores of Crystal Lake to Beulah. [10]

     By the turn of the century a pattern began to emerge in Michigan's developing recreation industry. Close to the major urban centers weekend or day trip destinations developed. For Detroit these were located along Lake St.Clair and the accessible shore of Lake Huron. Chicagoans via steamers and trains had colonized southeastern Michigan with a string of resort towns between the Indiana Dunes and Saugatuck. There were elite resort communities and those with a more egalitarian atmosphere. There were communities which specifically catered to Methodists or to Jews, who were often excluded at elite resorts. Towns like Grand Haven and Benton Harbor promoted their mineral springs while Harbor Springs and Petoskey emphasized their pollen-free cool lake breezes. Those interested in boating and fishing, with all the comforts of home, might favor the Les Cheneaux Islands while those looking to rough it might settle for a tent or shanty in the Upper Peninsula. Mackinac Island, of course, was the premier resort destination in the Midwest, followed closely by the Little Traverse Bay communities of Petoskey, Harbor Springs, and Charlevoix. Here elegant fall-service hotels catered to long-standing, long-staying, and discriminating customers. On Grand Traverse Bay a more complex picture presented itself. More than most of the towns in northwestern Michigan, Traverse City had developed an industrial character, yet northward along the bay were a string of resorts which clearly fancied themselves as a slightly more rustic extension of genteel Charlevoix. Leelanau County was influenced by these developments. While Frankfort and Benzie County failed to make the most of then-opportunity to utilize their railroad connections to attract an elite, out-of-state, tourist clientele when the Frontenac Hotel burned down, Leelanau County was picking up the spill-over from its successful resort neighbors to the north.

     As late as 1884 Leelanau County was dismissed with the observation: "There is not a single village of any commercial importance, and not a railroad in the county." But by 1900 tourism had begun to shape the county's growth. Steam launches were put to work on Lake Leelanau which allowed vacationers traveling north by rail from Traverse City to comfortably reach the area. Large hotels were built in Leland in 1901 and 1908, while summer homes were built along Lake Leelanau's extensive shores. In 1903, a branch line was built from Traverse City to Northport and the tourist industry thrived. As elsewhere in Michigan Leelanau County developed a distinct pattern of recreation.

     Resorts did best along the shore of Grand Traverse Bay, particularly at Suttons Bay and Northport, while summer homes dominated the shore of Lake Leelanau. Transportation connections determined who came to build those summer homes. People from Illinois, especially the Chicago area, and Indiana, mostly Fort Wayne and Muncie, dominated summer home ownership in the Leland area. The Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad gave the Hoosiers direct access to Traverse City and Northport. The railroad also had a summer policy of attaching Pullman cars originating in Chicago to the trains as they went through Grand Rapids. Chicagoans also had the opportunity of availing themselves of the regular steamer routes to the Sleeping Bear area. A review of a resort directory for the Leland area in 1937 indicates that about ten percent of summer cottage owners were local residents of Leelanau or Grand Traverse counties while more than half of the summer residents were from Indiana and Illinois. These "summer neighbors," as they styled themselves were an economically and socially distinguished group: numerous industrialists (including F.E. Ball of Muncie), the expected large number of lawyers and physicians, as well as a surprising number of scientists and academicians. The yacht and country clubs were the gathering place for evening or afternoon socializing in a setting that was both congenial and controlled. [11]

     The little towns of Glen Haven and Glen Arbor, at the extreme southwestern comer of Leelanau County, were on the fringe of the county's developing tourist industry. Glen Haven could boast excellent steamer connections to Chicago and that made it the point-of-entry for many of the first vacationers in the area. The first resorts were rough affairs run by local cherry growers or city folks charmed by the gentle pace of life into relocating in the Glen Lake area for the season. The Tonawathya Resort was purchased in 1906 by a burned-out Chicago businessman and run by his wife for several decades. The resort enjoyed a faithful clientele, largely from the Windy City. Meals were served family-style and featured locally grown fresh produce. Boating was a prominent feature of the recreation scene at Tonawathya. Over time, each of the resorts along the lake developed its own character, reflecting the interests and personality of its owner. George Grady's Sylvan Inn was noted for its good food, Dunn's Resort catered to guests from Detroit, the Glen Eden Hotel, located near Fishers Point was run by a homeopathic doctor and functioned as something of a health resort. The resorts served to introduce to the region many urbanites who eventually purchased lakeside summer homes of their own. Not infrequently they purchased lots near the resorts at which they stayed during their first few summers in the Glen Lake area. Most visitors arrived by lake steamer. During the period between 1910 and 1931 crowds would gather at the Glen Haven docks on Saturdays and Sundays. Motorcoaches awaited newly arriving resort guests while many summer home residents rode to the docks to meet husbands or fathers arriving from the city. "They leave Chicago Friday night," explained a tourist publication, "and get here the next morning; first stop. They're with their families until Sunday night when the boat takes 'em back again, ready for the job. Great for 'em!" [12]

     But such gloss could not obscure the fact that the lack of good rail connections, which were the backbone of most successful vacation spots, retarded the growth of a recreation industry in the Sleeping Bear area. A Chicagoan who purchased 170 acres of wooded land on the shore of Glen Lake in 1919 credited himself with having "discovered" the area: "I say I 'discovered' it," he wrote a friend, "because it was readily accessible only by boat from Chicago, the main roads being little more than sand trails." David Day understood the importance of improving road access to the Glen Lake area. As president of the Western Michigan Development Bureau he was one of the early leaders of the "good roads movement" in Michigan. In 1910, Day joined the Western Michigan Pike Association, and for a decade he served as county road commissioner. It was with the rise of automobile travel that the Glen Lake area of the lakeshore began to really experience the tourist boom.13

     Just as the fur trade had transformed land use and population distribution in seventeenth century Michigan and the logging industry had radically altered the state's landscape during the nineteenth century, tourism and conservation reordered land ownership patterns and public attitudes toward the north country during the twentieth century. The tourist industry had begun in Michigan via steamers and railroads but the industry drove to prominence in the state on the wheels of the automobile. America in 1920 was for the first time in its history a largely urban nation. The automobile, which did so much to expand Michigan's industrial cities, was also responsible for providing average working people with a new flexible means of accessing the countryside. Michigan became a case study in the linkage between transportation and recreation. It is no accident that state park development began in the 1920s, a decade when automobile ownership became a part of the American Dream. In 1920, there were 8 million cars on American roads. Of those, an estimated 5 million were used for camping trips to the countryside. Unfortunately, there were literally no facilities available for these visitors. Not only were there no camp grounds, there were no roadside public restrooms. The first public roadside rest area was established in Iron County, Michigan in 1919. Before that time car campers put up tents where they pleased on private land, utilized farmers' out houses, and disposed of their trash as they saw fit. County and state parks were a way to preserve public access to attractive camping and picnicking grounds but they also were a needed step to channel the unregulated flow of campers away from private property. State action in promotion of tourism was essential on two fronts: the acquisition and management of recreation lands and in the establishment and maintenance of surfaced roads to expand urbanites' range of access to the countryside. [14]

     The opening of M-22 in Leelanau County was one of the most important developments in the spread of tourism in the Sleeping Bear area. Quick to cash in on this more mobile tourist trade, the Leelanau County Association of Commerce produced a glossy color promotional booklet in 1924: The Captives: Being the Story of a Family's Vacation in Leelanau County (Michigan), The Land of Delight. The narrative told of a fictions all-American family's discovery of Leelanau County's many attractions and reveals the way tourist promoters of that era wished to present the area. The father, a iron-bottomed, hard-driver, is determined to push down the highway to Mackinac, but wife and children persuade him to turn off the main road and take M-22's "Seventy-five miles of Lake all the Way." With stops at Empire, Glen Lake, and Glen Haven the father is gradually seduced by the gracious people, charming accommodations, and landscape so striking, that when he looks down from the vista at Miller Hill "there were no exclamations, no cries of delight. It was too tremendously beautiful for that." The family enjoyed meals such as "they had not tasted in months" swam at beaches so level and pure that there was "no chance of accident or disease," caught creels of trout, played golf, camped, and canoed. The moral of the tale was summed up by a kindly local who, after recounting the history of the area, says: "Folks 've been comin' ever since to settle and now city folks 've found out that we've got better roads, that we're off the beaten trail and they've come to find contentment... like you have, friend." [15]

     Despite the egalitarian tone of such an appeal, there is no doubt that during the 1920s and 1930s the Glen Lake area aspired to the elevated social standing of Petoskey and Mackinac. Day Forest Estates billed itself as "America's Premier Exclusive Summer Community" and agents for the subdivision pitched lots to some of the most wealthy and influential men in the nation. The inclusion of an air-strip and golf course in the initial plans for the project reflected this orientation as did the 1929 brochure which promised readers: "Estates ideally restricted." The Glen Lake Country Club was more blunt. It specified "Gentiles Only" on its 1931 program. The Crystal Downs golf course had a large rock outside its entrance emblazoned with the same anti-Semitic sentiment. At the time, such restrictions were common at the watering holes of the well-to-do all across America. Such policies reflect summer residents desire to control the social interactions. Not infrequently lake lots would be sold only to friends, cousins, or acquaintances from the city. Strangers lacking such personal connections often found it hard to purchase property on Glen Lake or Lake Leelanau. [16]

     The automobile created two new types of outdoor recreation in America that would shape the development of the tourist industry in twentieth century Michigan. The middle class summer cottage owner were the first of these, while the institution of the "vacation" and the "weekend" were the second. The automobile democratized access to the countryside. Rural retreats were long a symbol of the status of the wealthy. Beginning in the 1920s, a cabin on a lakeside lot gradually became both desirable and attainable for a broader range of the population. Collective bargaining agreements won by organized labor in the automotive and steel industries during the 1930s gave an even large circle of Midwesterners both the time and the money to acquire their own piece of the north woods. The ritual of going "up north" begun by the working class in the 1920s as a male-only recreation became, with the acquisition of a family car and paid vacation, an annual family ritual A ring of development pressure radiated outward from the major cities of Michigan, planting summer cottages with increasing density along the shores of all available lakes. The Sleeping Bear area, due to its location was not as severely affected by this trend as popular downstate resort lakes such as Paw Paw, Kent, Gull, and, of course. Lake St. Clair. Nonetheless, during the 1930s and 1940s the shores of Crystal, Platte, and Glen lakes all saw an expansion of summer cottages.

     The other type of outdoor recreation created by the automobile was, of course, the car camper. This group grew dramatically from its beginnings in the 1920s. By the eve of World War II car campers had clearly exceeded the capacity of public facilities in southeastern Michigan and even remote parks in northwestern Michigan began to overflow with campers on holiday weekends. The Michigan Department of Conservation, the largest single landowner in northern Michigan, became the vehicle through which the ordinary citizens attempted to influence the direction of Michigan's recreational boom. This multiple-use agency was called upon to balance the needs of outdoor recreation with timber production, the growing demand for summer homes with the obvious need for more state parks, and calls for game stocking with the need for habitat protection. A National Park Service study of outdoor recreation planning in Michigan, done as part of the 1941 A Study of the Park and Recreation Problem of the United States predicted that the future of the tourist industry in the northern part of the state "will depend upon proper land use, the proper distribution of public areas and private holdings, and enough control over private developments to protect community interests." Yet, the dependence of the recreation industry in its early years on government expenditures was problematical because there were few established revenue streams to fund the infrastructural investment needed. Public officials were forced to choose between competing goals and often, competing communities. [17]

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Last Modified: January 10, 2001 10:00:00 am PST

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