Mar 22, 2021 at 11:45 AM in Things to Do
Petoskey’s Historic Highlights
Most beloved resort destinations showcase outstanding nature or a rich history as their main attractions. Some possess both and that’s certainly the case for Petoskey, Michigan. Located in the northwest part of the Lower Peninsula along Lake Michigan, this alluring destination has stood out as a very desirable place to live and visit for centuries. Each century of Petoskey residents left a distinctive mark, all of which contribute to the historical interest of this lovely and lively town situated on the shores of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay.
Indigenous people, known as the Odawa, lived here before recorded history. By 1715, the French settled the area leaving an imprint that lives on today, particularly in names such as Charlevoix. The Brits attempted to take over during the mid 1700s only to be driven out by the French. By the mid 1800s, steamships traveling around the Great Lakes brought goods and visitors to Petoskey’s shores. The railroad followed leading to a golden era of sorts for this bustling town that became a Victorian-era gem. Today you can see evidence of this grander time in the Gaslight District, a delightful shopping and dining area now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Be sure to look up to the steep gabled roofs, towers, turrets and dormers to take in the full view of the fine architecture within these few blocks and save lots of time for exploring the many shops, galleries, bars and eateries located here. If you’re tired or even just for fun, hop on the complimentary trolley that also transports you back in time. (Note that due to COVID, changes have been made to the trolley system. Check ahead here. Know also that you can relish nice views of Little Traverse Bay from many of the establishments in this part of town, so why not sit back and relax a while?
Named after Petosega, an Ottawa chief, Native American history imbues the culture of Petoskey in many ways. Learn about this at the Little Traverse Historical Museum through their collections, events and tours. Housed in an old train depot at the edge of Lake Michigan, this little gem has kept the history of Petoskey alive throughout the pandemic with its virtual visits and other programming.
While in Petoskey’s Gaslight District, be sure to check out Stafford’s Perry Hotel, an elegant and historic property where you can drink and dine while savoring beautiful lakefront views. Even better, check in for a romantic getaway sure to create many special memories. Stafford’s Bay View Inn and Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge & Suites (in Alanson) also figure among the Stafford family of fine establishments, so check them out, too, for a variety of other distinctive lodging and/or dining experiences. Casual diners find good times at the Noggin Room Pub, located in Stafford’s Perry Hotel. Sit back, sip a growler and soak up the spirit of Ernest Hemingway. One of America’s greatest novelists would hang at this pub during his many visits to the area.
Hemingway, in fact, spent his summers at Walloon Lake and Horton throughout his youth and into his early twenties. The Nick Adams Stories, his first published piece of fiction, feature short stories that take place in and around Petoskey and Walloon Lake. Petoskey also inspired Hemingway’s first novel. Learn more by booking a Hemingway Tour at Petoskey Yesterday. They also offer other interesting tours that will take you back in time through Petoskey’s rich history. There’s even a Haunted Petoskey tour because spirits and inexplicable happenings are as much a part of history as lakes and cottages.
Petoskey stones rank as perhaps the oldest bit of history in the area. Glaciers carved out the Great Lakes millions of years ago and oneofthe prized remnants of this era are the fossilized coral, known as Petoskey stones, that came about through these transformations. Waves washing over bedrock throughout the ages created these little marvels as magical looking as kaleidoscopes. Within the many boutiques and galleries in and around Petoskey, you can find polished pieces of these geologic treasures, all of which serve as prized mementos from the area.
Other historical places of interest include St. Francis Solanus Indian Mission Church, the Shay Hexagon House in Harbor Springs and, of course, many discoveries that you will likely come across on your own.