Glen Haven

C. C. McCarty, brother-in-law of John E. Fisher, founder of Glen Arbor built a sawmill and an inn on the beach west of Glen Arbor in 1857. He called the settlement Sleeping Bearville and the inn was named Sleeping Bear House. McCarty built a dock at Glen Haven in 1865. The location of the dock in Sleeping Bear Bay offered a more protected harbor than some of the other docks in the area. McCarty also built a sawmill on Little Glen Lake where they used tugs to move logs from various parts of the lake to the sawmill and once the lumber was cut up, it was transferred to the Glen Haven dock by wagon or sled. By 1870, a tramway more than two miles long was built.

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

In 1878, NTC President Philo Chamberlain acquired Glen Haven in order to assure a reliable supply of wood for a 24-vessel fleet providing service between Ogdensburg, NY and Chicago or Milwaukee. To serve as NTC's agent in Glen Haven, Chamberlain picked D. H. Day, his sister-in-law's younger brother. Before long, Day had bought most of NTC's properties including the village of Glen Haven. He also bought shares of two NTC steamers (Lawrence and Champlain).

Steamer Puritan at Glen Haven Dock
Steamer Puritan leaves Glen Haven for Chicago about 1925.


The Glen Haven beach and dock were popular meeting places, and arrival of steamers was a festive occasion, with area citizens often coming by small boat to watch the docking. Another event prompting locals to get out on the beaches of Sleeping Bear Bay occurred when lumber was swept from ships and docks during storms. The wood was gathered to build many a home and barn.

When times were good for ship owners, the unloading of cargo at Glen Haven took twenty to thirty men about an hour. With expansion of trucking companies and improved highways, steamboat freight and passenger revenues fell sharply. The Glen Arbor stop was eliminated around 1918 and the pier allowed to deteriorate. Service continued to Glen Haven but by the late 1920s, there was little cargo and few passengers. Insolvency for operators of the steamships in 1931 brought the beginning of the end of Glen Haven's maritime role - and it's massive dock.

Glen Haven General Store in late 1800s.
D.H. Day General Store in Glen Haven

Glen Arbor History Group

According to an 1881 plat map, Glen Haven had 11 buildings including the inn, store, blacksmith shop, wagon shop, and school. Day retained the deeds to all of the more than 100 lots in the village. The D.H. Day store, which also served as a telegraph office, is currently operated as a General Store. The second story of the store served as home for the Day family for some time. To the east of the store stood a granary and root cellar. To the north stood an icehouse where thick piles of sawdust kept as many as 5,000 blocks of ice weighing 150 pounds each frozen for summer use. The cutting of ice on Glen Lake was a major winter activity.

Sleeping Bear Inn circa 1890s
Sleeping Bear Inn circa 1890s


Near the dock on the west side of the road is the Sleeping Bear Inn. It was used as a boarding house for the lumberjacks and dock workers and for passengers that wanted to stay overnight or get a meal. The dock and Inn were built about 1865. The back part of the Inn was added on a few years later, and the porch was enclosed in 1928.

The rooms in front of the inn were nicer than the ones in the back. They were more expensive and were usually rented to businessmen while the workers stayed in the large bunk rooms on the second floor in the back of the building. Most of the socializing occurred in the large parlors on the first floor or on the porch.

The rails for the tramway that was used to haul logs from the sawmill at Glen Lake to the dock ran along the road in front in front of the Inn. The track was moved to come into town behind the Inn around 1907 when D. H. Day purchased the locomotive to haul the flatcars. Before that, they were pulled by teams of horses.

D.H. Day lived in a 2-room suite on the second floor of the Inn from the time he came to Glen Haven as the agent for the Northern Transit Company in 1878 until he married Eva Farrant (daughter of the Innkeeper) in 1889. The newly weds moved to an apartment in the second floor of the General Store.

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


Lumberjacks and dock hands worked 12 hours a day and six days a week. Most of them were single or their families had not come to join them yet, so they stayed at the Inn. The married workers lived in small shacks along Main Street. Most of Day's employees were of Norwegian and Swedish descent, and some came from a small settlement of Native Americans which was just east of the village and west of what is now the D.H. Day Campground.

Blacksmith Shop
Blacksmith Shop

Kerry Kelly 2006

The red building is the original Blacksmith Shop. It was one of the first buildings built here. We don't have much use for a blacksmith these days, but before 1920, if something made of metal broke, the only way to get it fixed was to take it to the blacksmith. You couldn't run a logging operation without a good blacksmith. These fellows made horseshoes, fixed chains, anchors, and just about anything made of metal. The front yard was always cluttered with broken machinery waiting to be fixed. Today, you can still hear the ping of the blacksmith's hammer on a summer day.

Glen Haven was as an active recreation center for the Day family and neighbors, including the crew and families of the Sleeping Bear Point Lifesaving Service/Coast Guard Station. There was a 150x50 foot ice-skating and curling rink in the village. He also built a tennis court complete with bleachers.

Another popular pasttime was catching a ride on the tramway that linked Day's dock with his sawmill near Glen Lake, riding on flatcars pulled by the locomotive that Day bought in 1907.

Glen Haven Canning Company
Glen Haven Canning Company

Kerry Kelly 2006

By the early 1920s D.H. Day had established the Glen Haven Canning Company on the shore near the dock. Day had established a farm and orchard south of Glen Haven where he had over 5,000 cherry and apple trees. The Canning Company processed the fruit and shipped it to market from the Glen Haven Dock. With improvements in the roads and rail service, the importance of the Glen Haven dock continued to decline until it was closed in 1931. Today the Cannery is used as a Great Lakes boat museum.

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 started the rides with a used 1934 Ford that took four 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.


By the mid-1970s, the National Park Service had purchased all of the village, although some residents retained occupancy rights. The inn closed in 1972, and the General Store closed in 1978 when the Dunesmobile rides were terminated.

Today, several of the buildings are being used for visitors to learn about the history of the Glen Haven area. Visit Glen Haven and stop in to learn more about local history.


Much of the content of this page was excerpted from Sleeping Bear - Yesterday & Today, by George Weeks. The book is available from the bookstores in the Park and other local bookstores. It has much more detail and many historical pictures for those who would like to get a better understanding of the local history of the area.

Last updated: December 7, 2017

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

9922 Front Street
Empire, MI 49630


231 326-4700

Contact Us