When I saw this photo of a tent under the stars on North Manitou Island by Chris Arace, my second thought – right after Wow! – was “Hey, didn’t Cody write some stories about Ghost Towns of Leelanau?” Sure enough, she had…
The Manitou Islands were the first places in Leelanau County to become settled. The islands provided natural safe, deep harbors for schooners and steamers and excellent fishing. Families lived on both the North and the South Manitou Islands working as lumbermen to supply fuel to the steamers, or fishermen, or farmers. In 1844 Nicholas Pickard built wooden docks on the western shore of North Manitou Island. The site soon developed into a small settlement known as Aylsworth.
As the village grew, education for the children was deemed a necessity and a school was built in what was then known as Crescent City, in 1909. The school was closed in 1917, as many settlers moved off the island to the mainland. Today Crescent City is nothing more than a memory with a few pilings of the docks left.
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore manages North Manitou Island as a wilderness area (with the exception of the Village) and has a detailed history of the island and Crescent City.