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Les Cheneaux Club Subdivision

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1887. Marquette Island, Les Cheneaux Islands. Visible from the water

In 1887 the completion of the railroad to St. Ignace and Mackinac City, along with the expansion of steamer service to the Upper Great Lakes, opened up the natural beauty and spectacular fishing of the Les Cheneaux area for development for summer resorts. The following year, Bay City railroad executive William L. Benham purchased and subdivided a point of land on Marquette Island, the largest in the Les Cheneaux group. He intended to develop a summer resort similar in plan to Bay View. Accordingly, the original plat of the Les Cheneaux subdivision featured clusters of small lots outlined by gently curving avenues linked by footpaths; a large central area was reserved for a clubhouse and a dock site was selected. Benham, together with a group of prominent Bay City businessmen, organized the Les Cheneaux Island Resort Association, later named the Les Cheneaux Club, for the purposes of “recreation, rest, amusement . . . improvement of such property as it may from time to time own, and the erection and maintenance there of Residence, Hotels, Club Houses, etc.” The earliest club shelters were canvas tents on wooden platforms or unfinished frame cabins, erected along the shore. The club grew rapidly as well-to-do residents of Chicago, Detroit, and other urban centers built permanent summer dwellings. By 1900 a large clubhouse/hotel and some thirty cottages with boathouses had been built. Each cottage typically occupied several of the 245 original platted lots. A tennis court and playground were on the grounds and a nine-hole golf course was laid out across the channel.

Families enjoyed swimming, hiking, hunting, fishing, and dancing. After World War II, the availability of other vacation options led to a decline in summer resorting at the Les Cheneaux Club. The old clubhouse is gone, but many cottages remain, including the gabled Shingle Style S. J. McPherson House with its upper-story porch, erected in the 1890s on Lots 56–58 on the southwest side of Club Point; and the gable-dormered C. G. Waldo House, also built in the 1890s, on Lots 51–55 on the southwest side of Club Point. Today vintage boats are displayed in the c. 1920 O. M. Reif Boathouse.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert



Kathryn Bishop Eckert, "Les Cheneaux Club Subdivision", [Cedarville, Michigan], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Michigan

Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 561-561.

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