‘Heaven on Earth’ – Summer in Leelanau

This summer is one of celebration here at the Leelanau Historical Society & Museum! With the completion and premiere of the “Lake Leelanau, Spirit of the Lake” Documentary on July 5th, 2024, we are all feeling that summer vibe!

This sold out premiere was met with great enthusiasm and serves as a great reminder that the love of this beautiful peninsula and it’s natural resources is what brings this community together. While every season in Leelanau has captured the hearts of many around the world, summer is by far the most beloved. The following vintage footage & excerpt from a 1948 Leelanau Enterprise article encapsulates this sentiment and we wanted to share it with you.

Vintage footage courtesy of Jim & Keith Burnham of the Leland Report. Snippets of this footage appeared in the “Lake Leelanau, Spirit of The Lake” documentary.
By Frank Brossy
Published in the Leelanau Enterprise - April 15, 1948.

Come with me on a drive through Leland, Michigan. The lake we just passed on our right is Lake Leelanau, fed by springs and trout streams and emptying into Lake Michigan by way of Carp River. Watch that arterial road on the left for cars coming out of the Indiana Woods, wherein reside the Hancocks, Mitchells, Owsleys, Balls and Finkes. All of the houses along this part of M-22 belong mostly to permanent residents. That old building, badly in need of paint, is Will Stander's boat works. Van's garage is on the corner there, in what used to belong to the Michigan Highway Department. On the right, and straight down the road is the biggest enterprise in Leland, Jake Schwartz' boat houses. Stop the car a moment here on the bridge. Going upstream you would pass the Riverside Inn, Jake's, the old Nedow laundry, Will Sander's, Doctor Sichler's cottage, and as you go out into the little lake, the Pendergast's miniature boatwell. As you can see, on the other hand, Carp River ends rather abruptly in the opposite direction. After going over the defunct powerhouse dam, the cascading water flows past the commercial fishing shanties, past the breakwater, and is swallowed up by the waters of Lake Michigan.

The whole of the community revolves around the next block of M-22. “Heaven's” business district boasts of the Leland Mercantile Company--the "Merc", as it is known to resorters and natives alike--and Johnson’s Market, on the left side of the main road. Joe Schwartz' service station, Miss Forrester’s gift shop, and the Mecca of every small town, the post office , are on the other side of M-52. We'll go straight on the main road up to the top of the hill and turn right. If we continued on toward the northern end of Lake Leelanau we would pass a number of little side roads, usually of the twin rut variety, sporting signs announcing the lakeside cottages of the McLeods, Jamesons, Kuntz, and Appels, among others. The first road to the left past the LaFever's house will take you to the Smith, Lind, Gould, and Lathrop cottages. We've left M-22 and are now passing "Black Mac" McNally's reconverted hotel , and on the right the Gillespie, Maguire and Salmon houses, The Ninds "house boat" is the first cottage we’ll see after we turn here. There it is, and beyond live the Brandons, "Mort" Decker, and the Reverend Mr. Schmidt. Turn left and keep going until I give you the word. That's the Lutheran Church we're passing, and there is the Leland School. During the summer, basketball games between town people and resorters, movies, J. Elder Blackledge's annual magic show for the benefit of the Leland volunteer fire department, and dances are put on in the school gymnasium. There's Leland's one and only real hotel. Apparently a number of guests stay there during the summer, hut they don't often mingle with the other resorters.

Hard a starboard now, and then a quick left and we're on the Leland Golf Club Road. Stop right here for a minute, look out over the ninth green, and enjoy the view of the little lake. Cemetery Point is that piece of land opposite us jutting into the lake. Almost directly across from the point lives Professor Waite, of the University of Michigan law school, and his family. This, then, is Leland, the resort village -- physically. No words of man, however eloquent, could ever describe the exquisite beauty of Lakes Michigan and Leelanau, the melancholy sound or the wind whispering in the pines on top of the hill; the majesty of the setting sun over the placid water of the big lake; or of the sound of the birds singing in the crisp, early morning. A person coming to Leland for the first time expects to find just another resort. It usually takes a month to become acquainted, not only with geographical Leland, but with the people themselves. After the first few weeks the town, the people, the spirit of Leland grows on the initiate. A wonderful thing is the way Leland gets into a person's bloodstream, and makes any other resort, however beautiful, seem drab and dull in comparison.

Changes come over the people who come to this park of the gods. Men and women who, in Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, or Dallas, Texas, are sophistication personified, let down their hair and act like human beings. From the youngest resorter to the oldest, there is a feeling of comradeship and friendliness that can be equaled nowhere else. As in any resort there are countless parties, but written invitations are seldom sent. The word is passed from one person to another that there is "a party down at Git's", and everyone is expected. The words LELAND, UNINCORPORATED, on the sign at township limits,
certainly rank with the ten or twelve words lexicographers set down as the most beautiful in the English language. There is no doubt, whatsoever, that Leland, Michigan, is the most wonderful spot on God's green earth. If you don't believe me, ask anyone who has ever been there.

Special thanks to Guy Brossy for sharing this excerpt with us after viewing the Lake Leelanau Documentary!

Miss the Premiere?

Save the Date!

Next screening September 15th, 4:30pm at The Bay Theatre.
Details to be Announced.