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How historic Glen Haven became a ghost town

Jan 22, 2015

Former Glen Haven Canning Company building.
Credit Flickr user Joel Dinda / Flickr

Ghost towns don't only belong to the Old West. You can find them scattered all over Michigan, including Glen Haven, located in the Leelanau Peninsula right inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Marie Scott is a park ranger in the area. She says the town began before the civil war as a stop for steamers to pick up wood for fuel. As the traffic picked up, it grew from only a dock to a fully functioning town.

According to Scott the lumber industry became a primary source of income for the area. D.H. Day was a lumber visionary for the time who planted cherry trees where the forest had been clear cut. 

But then the Great Depression hit, and Scott says the town began to slide. Glen Haven had been easy to reach by steamer ship. But as cars became the primary mode of transportation, the town became more isolated because of its swampy surroundings.

Eventually, a road was built from the highway to town, but upkeep was difficult. The town continued to keep the inn running and started dune wagon rides for tourists, but it had already reached its peak. According to Scott, the last of the dune wagon rides were in 1978.

Now the village is located within the National Lakeshore and is being restored. The original wooden sidewalks are back, many of the buildings have been stabilized, and visitors can even stop by the general store and fully-functioning blacksmith's shop.