Explore Leelanau Ghost Towns with the Leelanau Historical Museum

J.J. Kilwy's store in Good Harbor taken in 1909

J.J. Kilwy’s store in Good Harbor taken in 1909

A big shoutout this morning to the Leelanau Ticker for highlighting the Leelanau Historical Society’s Ghost Towns of Leelanau County series this morning:

It might be a handful of deserted buildings. An idyllic but desolate barn you drive by every day. Or even a go-to spot to walk the Lake Michigan beach. There are some 3,800 ghost towns in the United States, according to a recent article in the New York Times, and of course, Leelanau County is home to its own handful of these lost villages. Some simply vanished, others became part of the National Lakeshore. And Emma Keaton, the newly hired archivist at the Leelanau Historical Society Museum made it one of her first pet projects to shine a light on these once lively, prosperous places.

Kim Kelderhouse, who was named the executive director at the museum this spring, shares that Keaton is “our summer 2020 intern-turned-employee. She did Museum Studies at MSU and we are lucky to have her.” She adds that while cataloging and responding to research requests, Keaton encountered these places and wanted to share them in a Ghost Towns Series on Facebook.”

Kelderhouse says though many of these abandoned Leelanau landmarks are referred to as ghost towns, “it’s important to note these places could still have inhabitants and structures, and the reason places become ghost towns is not always because they naturally die out.”

View of Good Harbor Main Street taken by Erhardt Peters c.1924

View of Good Harbor Main Street taken by Erhardt Peters c.1924

Here’s their feature on Good Harbor:

Once a booming town focused around its saw mill, Good Harbor has all but vanished. One of the only standing reminders that there was once a town there is the Lutheran church that is still holding services to this day. Starting in 1863, Good Harbor began when H. D. Pheatt came to the area and built a dock, getting his beginnings in the wooding business with further development in 1868 when he built the saw mill.

Changing hands a number of times, the mill and dock eventually fell under the ownership of the Schomberg brothers who increased the size of both dock and mill and brought about the peak of business and development in Good Harbor. Nothing can last forever, and when the mill burnt down in 1906, villagers began to gradually move out, leaving their homes behind. Standing abandoned, the homes remained until the winter of 1924-25, when they were disassembled for their lumber. Though not much remains of the small community, it is still a popular place to visit and the beach remains one of the more popular ones for locals and tourists alike.

More great stories of Isadore & Sleeping Bearville at the Leelanau Ticker & the Leelanau Historical Society Facebook page!