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A History of Petoskey

Waterfront – Petoskey

The picturesque town of Petoskey, located on Little Traverse Bay, was known as Bear River when the first missionary arrived in 1855. The town was later renamed after the Ottawa Indian Chief Pe-to-se-ga. Petoskey was officially granted a charter in 1879.

Lumbering was a mainstay for Petoskey during the late 1800's; its Lake Michigan access was the key to developing logging in the community. Great Lakes freighters ferried lumber to ports around the Midwest. Lumber from the region was instrumental in helping rebuild Chicago after the Great Fire. Passenger trains and steamships played a major role in the growth of Petoskey. From 1873 to 1960, several major rail lines brought thousands of summer visitors from cities like Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Detroit to the area's fresh air and resort atmosphere. The passenger depot for the Chicago and West Michigan line today houses the Little Traverse History Museum.

Steamships like the North American and South American carried passengers from ports throughout the Great Lakes to Petoskey and Harbor Springs. Cabin rates to Petoskey were $8.50 one way and $15.00 round trip from either Chicago or Milwaukee. Once in the area, visitors got around via stagecoach, ferry, local rail lines, carriage, bicycle and on foot. Petoskey's oldest building is the St. Francis Solanus Mission, built in 1859. Symons General Store, built in 1879, exemplifies the trend toward brick construction in Petoskey, an attempt to safeguard against the destruction fires caused in other area lumber towns. The building now known as Stafford's Perry Hotel was Petoskey's first brick hotel. At the turn of the century, the Perry was advertised as the only fireproof hotel in town and is the only original resort hotel still operating in Petoskey.

For more information about Petoskey's history, contact the Little Traverse History Museum at 231.347.2620.

Petoskey Walking Tour

Take a look back in time when strolling through Petoskey.  This brochure will guide you through the history of the historical buildings that have been around since the early 1900's. 

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