Victorian Towns to Treasure

Explore West Michigan's Victorian Communities

If you and yours love Victorian architecture, you are in luck in Michigan. Along with Victorian communities, you'll also find many Victorian B&Bs in this region also.

ALLEGAN
Downtown Allegan boasts four historic districts, each listed with the National Register. Old Town, Griswold Civic Center, Marshall Street and Prichard's Overlook all feature multiple buildings dating from the late Victorian period. Many are also listed with the Michigan State Register. Allegan's commitment to historic preservation is symbolized by its Second Street Bridge, featured in the city's logo. This one-lane iron bridge, constructed in 1886, was saved from demolition in the early 1980s. Today, it's open again to automobile traffic. www.cityofallegan.com 269-686-1102

DOWAGIAC
There's more than one reason to explore Dowagiac. Known as "The Grand Old City of Southwestern Michigan," it was named one of the three best small downtowns in the state by Michigan Monthly Magazine. Dowagiac is located in part of an ancient, 10-mile wide glacial lake that once stretched from Grand Rapids to South Bend, Indiana. All that remains of the lake today is the Dowagiac River, Twin Lakes to the northeast and two small lakes on the Notre Dame campus.The name, Dowagiac, derives from the Potawatomi Indian word, Ndowagayuk. Loosely translated, it means "foraging ground." The Dowagiac Creek gave the city its start when the first business was built along its banks in 1831. A stage coach route brought land seekers to the area by 1836. Train lines followed in in 1848 and Dowagiac was on its way. Quaint, turn-of-the-century storefronts, many of which are restored to their former grandeur, create a picture-perfect Victorian downtown. www.cityofdowagiac.com 616-782-8212

GRAND LEDGE
Downtown Grand Ledge offers a pleasing variety of antique, craft, gift and specialty shops. Visitors can tour its the restored Victorian opera house, enjoy an historic home tour or take a river boat ride from Island Park to view the "ledges" for which the town is named. Grand Ledge was first settled by Edmund L. Lamson in 1848, who named it after the high ledges of rock along the Grand River, which flows through the town. The ledges are composed of Eaton Sandstone deposited 250 million years ago. Mostly quartz grains cemented to iron oxide, they are one of the most geologically-significant areas in lower Michigan. They are also a favorite destination for rock climbers. Grand Ledge was organized as a village in 1871 and later as a city in 1893. Today, its historic Victorian architecture is evident throughout downtown. www.grandlegemi.com 517-627-2383

MACKINAC ISLAND
Step back in time to a place where transportation is by horse and buggy, bicycle or on foot. Protected on all sides by water, the island has managed to escape the changes of time. Its authentic Victorian setting is preserved and enhanced by a small population of 500 permanent residents and scores of summer residents. Families love to explore the historic, natural beauty of Mackinac Island State park, honored by National Geographic as one of the 10 finest in America. Downtown, visitors experience the hustle and bustle of main street just as it was in the early 1800s. But the true story is found in the island's interior, its peaceful lakefront perimeter and its many historical sites. www.mackinacisland.org 800-4-LILACS

MANISTEE
Known as the Victorian Port City, the community was founded in the early 1800s. Nestled along the banks of Manistee River where it joins with Lake Michigan, the entire business district is on the National Register of Historic Places. Many authentic Victorian buildings were designed by nationally-known architects. For a leisurely look at history and architectures, two self-guided walking tours -- one commercial and the other residential -- let visitors glance back to the Manistee of a century ago. Throughout the residential area, you'll find many "Painted Ladies," Victorian homes characterized by their unique architectural style and paint schemes. In the downtown area, a look at the historic Ramsdell Theatre and Manistee Firehall are a must. www.manistee.com 877-626-4783

PETOSKEY AREA
For generations, visitors have come to northwest Michigan to enjoy the nautical flavor of Petoskey, Harbor Springs and Boyne City. They also come to experience the Victorian influences set among the natural beauty of rolling hills blanketed in hardwoods and pine. Visitors can see buildings constructed in the 1870s to the 1900s, when Victorian architecture was at its height. The buildings are original structures, carefully restored to their former elegance. The summer community of Bay View, just north of Petoskey's Victorian Gas Light shopping district, is designated a National Historic Landmark. www.boynecountry.com 800-845-2828

Discover West Michigan's Victorian Attractions

GRAND HAVEN
Located on the banks of the Grand River in an historic Grand Trunk railroad depot, the Tri Cities Historical Museum in Grand Haven offers a look back at history with Victorian period rooms, a medical history room, Coast Guard exhibits and maritime artifacts. Nearby, view the restored #1223 Pere Marquette steam locomotive. www.grandhaven.com/museum 616-842-0700

GRAND LEDGE
Built in 1884 as a roller skating rink, today's Grand Ledge Opera House soon became Blake's Opera House, which showcased traveling vaudeville and local entertainment. It opened on May 12, 1886. In 1976, the former opera house served as the Bicentennial Committee's headquarters. In 1984, the Mapes family, who had purchased the building and used it as a furniture store, donated the structure to the Grand Ledge Area Historical Society to house its growing historical collection. Shortly thereafter, the building was donated to the Opera House Authority, which restored its exterior to its original appearance. The interior is renovated to provide a modern, two-level community center with period decor. The Opera House provides an novel location for business meetings as well as an ideal setting for social occasions. The building is included in Grand Ledge's annual holiday home tour and offers frequent musical entertainment for the community and visitors to enjoy. The Grand Ledge Opera House is a Michigan State Historic Site. www.grandledgemi.com 517-627-1443

GRAND RAPIDS
Explore the elegance of the Voigt House Victorian Museum. Located in the nationally-known Heritage Hill Historic District of Grand Rapids, the three-storied, Chateauesque-style home was built in 1895. It contains original furnishings, personal items and clothing belonging to the Voigt family, who built and occupied it for 76 years. Watch for Victorian-era theme tours, Christmas holiday decorations and special exhibits. www.grmuseum.org 616-456-4603

The Earl and Donalee Holton Victorian Garden Parlor is located inside Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. The garden features plants popular during the Victorian era, including those sought by collectors >from far-off lands -- like tree ferns from Australia, chusan palm and rice paper plants from China and the umbrella plant from Madagascar. The Victorians also grew plants for their nutritional value, including citrus and guava. The Garden Parlor features changing flower displays which reflect the seasons. A fountain and an antique walnut hutch provide an elegant setting where Victorian teas are served on the third Thursday of each month. www.meijergardens.org 888-957-1580

HERE AND THERE
Many of West Michigan's lighthouses were built during the Victorian era. Tours are available inside White River Light Station in Whitehall (www.whiteriverlightstation.org), Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington (www.bigsablelighthouse.org), Grand Traverse Lighthouse in Northport (www.grandtraverselighthouse.com), Seul Choix Point Lighthouse in Gulliver (www.exploringthenorth.com/seulchoix/seul.html) and Sand Point Lighthouse in Escanaba (www.exploringthenorth.com/sandpoint/light.html). For more information, visit WMTA's Lighthouse Directory at www.wmta.org/lighthouse.

HOLLAND
Step back into the 19th century world of Issac Cappon, an immigrant who was Holland's first mayor and the father of 16 children. His 1874 Victorian home showcases original Michigan-made furniture, exquisite woodwork, early light fixtures and a family photograph gallery. Visitors also discover the rags-to-riches story of this poor Dutch immigrant who became a wealthy and influential community leader. Interior features include fine handcrafted woodwork, bronze hardware, original family furnishings and more. The home is maintained by the Holland Museum. www.hollandmuseum.org 888-200-9123

JACKSON
Ella Sharp Museum is a charming art and Jackson history museum inside beautiful Ella Sharp Park. It opened in 1965 in the 19th century home of Ella Merriman Sharp. In addition to touring the elegantly-furnished Victorian home, visitors to the museum may visit a one room school, an exhibition of carriages and a wood workshop They can also peek into other historic buildings, which are used for educational purposes. The Hadwin Center connects three renovated galleries, which feature changing exhibits of art and Jackson history. There are also three hands-on discovery areas for families, the Friends of the Ella Sharp Museum Gift Shop and Ella's Granary Restaurant. Each year, the Friends of the Ella Sharp Museum host a Victorian tea in honor of Ella's Valentine's Day birthday. This year's tea is Sunday, February 16. www.ellasharp.org 517-787-2320

JAMESTOWN
Noel Restaurant & Gifts is located in a beautiful old country church in the village of Jamestown. The structure features 20 original stained-glass windows. Its dining area is decorated year around in a Victorian Christmas garden theme. The menu features a group dining option for lunch and five-course family-style dinners in the evening. Noel Restaurant opened on October 1, 1994 after serving as a church for 67 years. It served first as the Jamestown Christian Reformed Church (CRC), then as the Jamestown Baptist Church. Although the Jamestown CRC was organized in 1894, the present structure wasn‚t built until 1927. The CRC congregation outgrew the building and moved to a new church east of town in 1976. It then became Jamestown Baptist and was used by them until Easter Sunday, 1994, after which they moved to a new and larger church just north of town. Robert Pressey and Phyllis Sjaarda purchased the structure in the spring of 1993 and began renovations for the unique Noel Restaurant. www.noelrestaurant.com 616-896-6472

KALAMAZOO
Have tea with Sallie Haner in Victorian style at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum. This is one of several themed birthday parties that can be hosted at the museum. A staff person dressed as Sallie Haner, a 19th century farm woman, leads children in hands-on activities. They spin yarn and participate in a make-and-take craft activity. Each child receives a good bag and the birthday child gets a surprise gift. Participants may wear costumes if they wish. Parties can be arranged for groups of 8 to 15. The party is best suited for children ages 6 to 8. www.kalamazoomuseum.org 800-772-3370

LANSING
Step back into the Victorian era with a visit to Michigan's award-winning State Capitol Building. Designed by Elijah E. Myers, one of the foremost public building architects during the Gilded age (1865-1914), construction of the Capitol Building took six years. It features more than nine acres of hand-painted surfaces. It was dedicated to the citizens of Michigan in 1879. Tours of the public areas and the House and Senate galleries are available every half hour, weekdays. www.michigan.gov 517-373-2353

MIDDLEVILLE
The Bowen House, a Victorian-era farm house at Historic Bowen Mills, is in the heart of the Yankee Springs State Recreation area. William Bowen and Adeline Richards married on December 31, 1874 and built the house across the road from his parents‚ home. Childless, William and his wife lived in the house for years. After their deaths, the house was owned and occupied by many families. In 1984, Neal and Marion Cook purchased it to become part of their historical Bowen Mills park. Owen and Carleen (Cook) Sabin moved in shortly afterward to begin restoration. Each year, they finished another room.To date, 11 rooms are complete and the house is used for many gala events. The Sabins now live on the third level of the mill in restored living quarters. The Bowen House is available for tours, luncheons, dinner parties and offers three bedrooms which sleep five adults. Rooms are available by the day or week. www.bowensmills.com 269-795-7530

MUSKEGON
The Hackley & Hume Historic Site is a great opportunity to view one of the rare, intact Queen Anne-style housing complexes in the region. Located one and a half blocks from the Muskegon County Museum, the Hackley & Hume Historic Site is one of three National Register sites in Muskegon County. The former residences of Muskegon's most prominent lumber barons feature lavish wood carvings, stenciling, stained glass and period furnishings in the highest tradition of Victorian decorative arts. The site is rated by AAA as "One of Michigan's best examples of Victorian homes." It was significantly restored in the 1990s and won the 1997 Michigan Historic Preservation Network Award and the 1998 American Association of State and Local History Restoration Award. The restoration of the site has also been featured on national television on A&E's "History Channel" and HGTV's "Restore America." Both homes are open for tours during the summer months. www.muskegonmuseum.org 231-722-0278

Enjoy West Michigan's Victorian Events

VICTORIAN DAYS
Grand Ledge
www.grandlegemi.com
517-627-2383

VICTORIAN WEEKEND
The Terrace Inn
Petoskey
www.theterraceinn.com
800-530-9898

Somewhere in Time Weekend
The Grand Hotel
Mackinac Island
www.grandhotel.com
800-33-GRAND

VICTORIAN PORT CITY FESTIVAL
Manistee
www.manistee.com
800-288-2286

HOW TO HOLD A VICTORIAN TEA
Courthouse Square
Charlotte
www.visitcouthousesquare.org
517-543-6999

VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS PICKLE FESTIVAL
Berrien Springs
www.fourflagsarea.org
269-473-3031

CELEBRATE A VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS
Historic Charlton Park
Hastings
www.charltonpark.org
269-945-3775

OLD FASHIONED CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION
Dowagiac
269-782-8212

For regional travel information, contact WMTA toll free at 800-442-2084 or log on to www.wmta.org. Founded in 1917, WMTA is the oldest continually-operating tourist association in the nation. Representing 41 counties from the Michigan-Indiana state line north to Mackinac Island and covering the entire west half of the Lower Peninsula, WMTA is dedicated to proving that "Nobody Knows West Michigan Like We Do!"

 


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