Glen Haven

A sign with an NPS arrowhead symbol stands in front of a road lined with trees. The sign says "Glen Haven, Historic Village".

NPS Photo / Phil Akers


Glen Haven is the best-preserved cord wood station on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, and perhaps in the entire Great Lakes. It was a company town, eventually diversifying into farming, canning of fruit, and tourism. Today, the history of Glen Haven is still preserved within several buildings that you can visit during your trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes:

History of Glen Haven

Black and white image of a smiling older man standing on a wooden dock. He is wearing a hat, light long sleeved shirt and tie, and pants with a belt and pocket watch chain.
D. H. Day standing on the Glen Haven dock.

In 1857, C. C. McCarty built a sawmill and an inn on the beach west of Glen Arbor. He called the settlement Sleeping Bearville. A dock was added in 1865, and he also built a sawmill on Little Glen Lake, where tugboats could transport logs. Once the lumber was cut up, it was transferred to the Glen Haven dock by wagon or sled.

Glen Haven's development slowed when many of the settlers left to fight in the Civil War. Through the Homestead Act of 1862, returning Union soldier P. P. Smith became foreman for the Northern Transit Company (NTC) at the Glen Haven cord wood station. He later became Glen Haven's postmaster.

D. H. Day

In 1878, NTC President Philo Chamberlain acquired Glen Haven. The 24-vessel fleet running between Ogdensburg, NY and Chicago or Milwaukee needed a refueling station, and Sleeping Bear Bay offered a protected harbor. Chamberlain picked D.H. Day, his sister-in-law's younger brother, to serve as NTC's agent in Glen Haven. Before long, Day acquired most of NTC's property, including the village of Glen Haven itself. He also bought shares of two NTC steamers (the Lawrence and Champlain).

D. H. Day lived in a 2-room suite on the second floor of Glen Haven's Sleeping Bear Inn from 1878, when he arrived, until 1889. In 1889, D. H. Day married Eva Farrant, the innkeeper's daughter. The newlyweds moved into an apartment above his general store. The property included a granary, root cellar, and icehouse capable of holding 5,000 blocks of ice cut from Glen Lake, each weighing 150 lbs.

According to an 1881 plat map, Glen Haven had 11 buildings including the inn, a general store, a blacksmith shop, a wagon shop, and a school. Day retained the deeds to all the lots in the village—and there were over 100 of them.

Workers on the porch of the Sleeping Bear Inn circa 1900
Workers on the porch of the Sleeping Bear Inn circa 1900.

D.H. Day III


Glen Haven Workers

The Sleeping Bear Inn, which was near the dock, provided food and board to lumberjacks, dock workers, and passengers. The front rooms of the inn were nicer and were usually rented to businessmen. Workers stayed in the large bunk rooms in the back, which were added later. Most of the socializing occurred in the large parlors on the first floor, or on the porch, which was enclosed in 1928.

Lumberjacks and dock hands worked 12 hours a day, six days a week. Most of them were single or living away from their families, so they stayed at the inn. Married workers lived in small shacks along Main Street. Most of Day's employees were of Norwegian and Swedish descent, but some came from a small settlement of Anishinaabe people near what is now the D. H. Day campground.

Black and white picture of a large steamboat, "Puritan", arriving at a dock with passengers.
Steamer Puritan arriving at the Glen Haven dock.


Village Pasttimes

The arrival of steamers was a festive occasion on Glen Haven beach. Locals often watched the docking in a small boat. It would take about an hour for 20-30 men to unload the cargo. When lumber was swept off ships in a storm, townspeople gathered the wood to build houses and barns.

The rail line used to haul logs from the sawmill at Glen Lake to the dock ran along the front of the inn. In 1907, D. H. Day purchased the locomotive to haul the flatcars, and moved the tracks. Before that, the flatcars were pulled by teams of horses. Visitors could also ride the tramway, which became a popular pasttime.

Glen Haven was an active recreation center for the Day family and neighbors, including the crew and families of the Sleeping Bear Point Lifesaving Station. There was a 150 ft x 50 ft ice-skating and curling rink in the village. Day also built a tennis court complete with bleachers.

Label for canned cherries, with illustrations of a sleeping bear and cherries. Text says "Sleeping Bear brand Black Sweet Cherries, packed by Glen Haven Canning Co."
Label for canned cherries, packed at the Glen Haven Cannery.

Evolution of Industry

By the early 1920s, D. H. Day had established the Glen Haven Canning Company on the shore near the dock. He supplied the fruit from his farm and orchard, located south of the village, where he grew over 5,000 cherry and apple trees. The Canning Company processed the fruit and shipped it to market from the Glen Haven Dock. As roads and rail services improved, the importance of the Glen Haven dock continued to decline until it was finally closed in 1931. Today, the Cannery serves as a Great Lakes boat museum.

With expansion of trucking companies and improved highways, steamboat freight and passenger revenues fell sharply. Ships stopped docking at Glen Haven by around 1918, and the pier was allowed to deteriorate over time. Although service continued to Glen Haven, there was little cargo and few passengers by the late 1920s. Insolvency for operators of the steamships in 1931 finally brought the beginning of the end of Glen Haven's maritime role—and that of its dock.

A black and white picture of a car driving on a dune, with a lake and forested hills in the background. Text on the car says "Sleeping Bear Dunesmobile".
One of the Sleeping Bear Dunesmobiles.

Since D. H. Day

In 1935, Louis Warnes and his wife Marion (D. H. Day's youngest daughter) began running Sleeping Bear Dunesmobile Rides out of Glen Haven. They began the business with a used 1934 Ford, taking 4 people at a time to the crest of the dunes and back for 25 cents each. By the time the rides ended in 1978, there were 13 dunes wagons each carrying 14 passengers on a 12-mile, 35-minute excursion.

The National Park Service purchased the village of Glen Haven in the mid-1970s, although some residents retained occupancy rights. Today, several of the buildings are being used for visitors to learn about the history of the area. You can visit Glen Haven and stop by the blacksmith shop, the general store, and the Great Lakes Cannery to learn more!


Much of the content of this page was excerpted from Sleeping Bear - Yesterday & Today, by George Weeks, which contains a detailed and illustrated history of the Glen Haven area. It is available at bookstores both within the National Lakeshore and in the local area.

Last updated: March 26, 2024

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