Located at the intersection of three major highways and on the shore of Lake Mitchell, Cadillac is the principal community of Wexford County. It was named for Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, founder of Detroit, by the lumbermen who founded it. An exception within the region, Cadillac became a railroad lumbering town, shipping sawed lumber by rail, rather than by lake vessel. Although rail transport cost more than water transport, trains allowed the Cadillac sawmills to ship hardwoods, which because of their density could not economically be floated downriver to lake ports for sawing.
Construction of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad in the 1870s and the proximity of Lakes Mitchell and Cadillac soon made Clam Lake, what is now Cadillac, the focus of the county's commercial activity. Platted in 1872 by William Mitchell, a director of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, Cadillac became the county seat in 1882. Cadillac was a leading source of hardwood products, specifically flooring, at the turn of the twentieth century. Cadillac maple flooring was used in the White House renovations of the 1920s. Other industry was established in Cadillac, and outdoor recreation and tourism now are part of the county's economy. The city displays an unusual number of splendid public buildings.
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