Petoskey, circa 1900
If you could stand in downtown Petoskey and take a time machine back more than a century, chances are you’d not be all of that disoriented once you’ve landed in Petoskey, circa 1900.
The horses and buggies might throw you a bit, but you’d still be in good company with the throngs of tourists who—even then—were heading north by luxury steamship and railcar for pursuits remarkably similar to those that draw visitors today.
Downtown boasted 42 dressmakers, 20 grocery stores, 14 hotels and 19 saloons; and a train dubbed the “fishing” line was bringing tourists in search of healing air and relaxing vacations. Some were even staying at the Perry Hotel and dining at the City Park Grille. At one time, notes Petoskey tour guide Christopher Struble, City Park Grille offered lobster in seven delicious ways.
Ernest Hemingway was just a year old when, in 1900, his physician father and an opera-singing mother first took the train from their Oak Park, Illinois home to their family cottage on Walloon Lake.
Advertisements were billing the region the “Lake Lucerne” of North America, and the Hemingway’s were joined by far wealthier industrialists like the Gambles of Procter and Gamble Co. and the Upjohns of pharmaceuticals fame.
“Who has not heard of Petoskey?” one author wrote at the time. “This famous summer resort town, in considerably less than a score of years, has already achieved a continental reputation, so that veteran travelers speak of going up to Petoskey as a most natural and matter-of-course experience. ‘See Naples and die’ will be paraphrased by the aphorism: ‘See Petoskey and live.’”
The Legacy Continues
Much like today, travel stories focused on the commanding view of lake, bay and surrounding shores, but they then unusually (and perhaps inaccurately) mentioned the way the prevailing winds are “invigorating and healthful” and the region devoid of “that intolerable pest of many watering places—the mosquito.” A national hay fever association was holding its annual convention on the shores of Little Traverse Bay. And the “endless amusements” of sailing, boating, dancing, bathing, fishing, tennis and gathering agates reads like a list of today’s vacation must-dos.
Victorian inns still outnumber modern hotels across the Little Traverse region, says Peter Fitzsimons, executive director of the Petoskey Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Many like knowing that they can shop in a fish market that’s been in the same family for generations or order pie at a counter at which Hemingway used to dine. But new traditions are here for the making, too. The region is buzzing with new culinary, wine and craft brew tourism options. New shipwreck museums and tours capture the region’s maritime heritage in new ways. And there’s entertainment like ziplines, parasailing and fat-tire biking not even conceived of at century’s turn.
“People are expecting more out of their experiences, more than just traveling to a place,” Fitzsimons says. “They want an experience that’s meaningful.” And with staying power.
You will certainly love your stay in Petoskey, and Hearthside Grove is the perfect place to hang your hat after a long day of experiencing all that the awe-inspiring Northern Michigan has to offer.