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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) will host a special presentation and book signing event on August 5, 2016 at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire, MI with Stacy L. Daniels, author of the book The Comedy of Crystal Lake. Mr. Daniels will present a short program in the visitor center auditorium beginning at 10:00 a.m., followed by a book signing that will last until 1:00 p.m.
The Comedy of Crystal Lake details the real-life drama of the lowering of Crystal Lake (Benzie County), which resulted from an attempt to build a slack-water canal to nearby Lake Michigan. It is a sequel to The Tragedy of Crystal Lake, a classic pamphlet by William L. Case (1922).
Daniels covers this part of Benzie County history with a focus on Archibald Jones, “the man who (allegedly) pulled the plug at Crystal Lake.” Jones founded the Benzie County River Improvement Company in 1873 to improve waterlots on Crystal Lake, remove obstructions, and construct slack-water canals between Crystal Lake and Lake Michigan, and build a steamboat to facilitate shipping of settlers and goods to and from the interior of the county to the nearby port of Frankfort.
By Jones’ maneuverings, the level of Crystal Lake was dramatically lowered in an attempt to construct a slack-water canal between it and Lake Michigan in 1873. Most other canals had differences in level of only a few feet. The original level of Crystal Lake was 38 feet above Lake Michigan, which made it especially attractive for a canal. Unfortunately, the whitecap waves of Crystal Lake washed out a temporary dam before a permanent canal could be completed. The level of the lake dropped precipitously by 20 feet and 76 billion gallons of water poured down its outlet.
Although a canal system was never realized, the lowering of the lake exposed a 21-mile perimeter of sandy beach where none had previously existed. This made possible the founding of the Village of Beulah, the coming of the railroad, installation of telegraph and telephone lines, development of lakeside resorts and construction of 1,100 cottages, all connected by an infrastructure of perimeter roads and trails.
Such is the “Comedy” of Crystal Lake - an epochal event with unintended consequences which has evolved from perceived “failure” of an “ill-conceived” project by an apparent scapegoat to unqualified “success” by a visionary celebrated as a local hero!
Come join us on Friday, August 5, 2016 to learn more about this fascinating story and to meet the author as he signs copies of his book, The Comedy of Crystal Lake.