It's Ugotta Regatta weekend in Harbor Springs and our town is filled with boat enthusiasts and community members eager to watch the racing. Did you know that this annual tradition dates back to 1891 when the Little Traverse Boat Club (now the Little Traverse Yacht Club) was first established?

An article in the Daily Resorter from July 21, 1891 reads "IT'S A GO. THE AUGUST REGATTA AN ASSURED EVENT. Organization of a Permanent Association to be Known as the Little Traverse Boat Club." August Regatta assured event

The article chronicles the history of other boat races on Little Traverse Bay, like the regatta held a year earlier, but mentions that none of these events gained much traction and none managed to build up enough enthusiasm to become an annual tradition. Finally, Commodore J. I.  Hair of Chicago and Harbor Point managed to organize the Little Traverse Boat Club and began this annual regatta tradition. 

You can read the entire newspaper article on the front page of the paper at this link: The Greenwood Cemetery in Petoskey has done a truly outstanding job of digitizing these old newspapers and making them available for researchers. This fun find about the regatta is just one gem we have uncovered here at the Historical Society by using Greenwood's newspaper research page. 

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The Harbor Springs Area Historical Society's Board of Trustees has selected Kristyn Balog to serve as the organization’s Executive Director. “After an extensive search, the Board of Trustees is excited to welcome Kristyn Balog to lead the Historical Society into the future,” said David White, President of the Board. “Kristyn has been with the Historical Society since April 2018 serving as the organization’s Development & Campaign Manager. More recently, she has been serving as Interim Executive Director. She is innovative, energetic and has great experience with community building. Under her leadership, the Historical Society has already taken steps to implement our new strategic direction, as we advance our mission of bringing history to life. We look forward to Kristyn helping build the organization and having a greater impact in the Harbor Springs Area.”


Ms. Balog has over 20 years of experience with non-profit programming, fundraising, organizational polices and volunteer engagement. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Michigan State University in Design & Photography. She is an active volunteer with a number of community service organizations in the Harbor Springs/Petoskey area, and enjoys year-round outdoor activities and ongoing creative art projects. The pairing of her professional and volunteer experiences helped lay a foundation for what has become a career in nonprofit leadership.

"I am looking forward to bringing my enthusiasm, fresh perspective, and experience to the dedicated team of staff and volunteers at the Historical Society. Together we will explore new ways of connecting the museum’s collections and the Shay House with local and regional audiences, and enhancing our role in the community through collaboration and partnership. This is an exciting time for the Historical Society and I am honored to have been chosen to provide leadership as Executive Director," Balog said.

Since joining the organization, Ms. Balog has deepened her understanding and broadened her awareness of the Historical Society’s needs and its role in the community. Her knowledge of the organization's operations and her strong interpersonal skills make a great fit for the position, the group's leadership noted. 

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Imagine the excitement local residents experienced in December 1909 when an authentic Civil War cannon arrived by rail in the Village of Harbor Springs. For over a century, the cannon in Zorn Park has stood sentinel along our historic waterfront yet it speaks little of its own history.  The IX-inch Dahlgren cannon saw service in the Union Navy during the Civil War aboard the USS Powhatan. It weighs over 4½ tons and was capable of throwing a 90-pound shell two miles. Many decades after its Civil War service, the cannon arrived in Harbor Springs.

On December 7, 1909, the Petoskey Evening News reported that “the cannon and balls secured for the village through the efforts of Congressman Loud arrived here Wednesday and were deposited in the village hall yard for the present.”  The cannon was moved shortly thereafter to the recently established Zorn Park.  As a naval cannon, it stands in silent vigil facing the water and honors the veterans of our armed services.

As part of the Smith-Hoover American Legion Post’s annual Memorial Day services, the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society will rededicate the cannon with a bronze plaque giving voice to its history. The Historical Society is honored to shine a light on this unique piece of our community’s and our nation’s history and invites the public to attend. The Memorial Day service will be held Monday, May 28, 2018, immediately following the Memorial Day Parade down Main Street which begins at 10:00 am.  The plaque was made possible with support from the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation and the Smith-Hoover American Legion Post 281.

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2017 HSAHS presidents Tippett White

Last month, the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society's Board of Trustees welcomed its new president, David C. White. White succeeds past president Tim Tippett who finished two terms on the Historical Society’s board. 

“This is an exciting time for the Historical Society,” said Tippett, a Harbor Springs graduate and elementary educator. “2017 was a big year with the gift of the Shay Hexagon House. I’m proud of the progress we have made as an organization.”

Incoming president David White and his wife Cathy retired to Harbor Springs about three years ago after many years of visiting northern Michigan. A Michigan native, White brings over 42 years of banking experience with Comerica Bank holding executive leadership positions in Detroit, Chicago, and, most recently, California.

“It’s my honor to be part of the Historical Society,” White said. “This organization has established itself as an essential part of the fabric of Harbor Springs. We have a unique opportunity to continue our service to the community with the Shay House.”

Joining White on the society’s board are vice president Tom Graham, secretary Jan McDonald, treasurer Dave Roche and trustees Amelie Dawson, John Fergus-Jean, Tim Jardine, Molly Jones, Jordan Karlis, David Lyle, Mary Beth Masimore, Vince Mihalik and George Tippett. Together with Historical Society staff, the board has embarked on a strategic planning process that includes preservation of the Shay Hexagon House and long-term goals for the organization to best serve the community at large.

Tim Tippett (left) turns over the gavel to current board president
David White in the museum’s Local History Gallery. 

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The Harbor Springs Area Historical Society invites the public to submit original artwork for our summer 2018 exhibit titled Memories and Art in the Making: Celebrating the Community We ShareThis juried exhibit will run from July through September 2018 at the Ephraim Shay Hexagon House at 396 E Main Street, Harbor Springs.

Individuals aged 16 and older are encouraged to submit two-dimensional artwork for the exhibit. (One piece of artwork per artist, please). Types of art which will be accepted include but are not limited to: paintings, sketches, mixed-media, and photographs. Pieces should not be larger than 24" x 30" and should come ready to hang. 

Submissions must relate specifically to the Harbor Springs area, and artist applications are due by May 1, 2018. Detailed submission guidelines and applications are available at the Harbor Springs History Museum, 349 E Main Street or online here. The show will include cash prizes for first, second and third places.

The Shay Hexagon House, recently gifted to the Historical Society by previous owner, the late Mary Cay Jones, will serve as the exhibit’s home. Ephraim Shay, the inventor of the Shay geared locomotive, built the Hexagon House in 1892 and lived there until his death in 1916. The Historical Society is pleased to open this storied building to the community as a place where the memories and stories help celebrate the rich history of the Harbor Springs area.

For more information, please contact the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society at (231) 526-9771 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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The year 2017 marks the 125th anniversary of the historic Shay Hexagon House located at 396 East Main Street. Ephraim Shay, notable creator of the Shay geared locomotive, built the Hexagon House in 1892 where he lived until his death in 1916. But this year marks another important reason to celebrate this remarkable stamped-steel building. The Harbor Springs Area Historical Society (HSAHS) is excited to announce that it has acquired the historic Shay building from previous owner Mary Cay Bartush Jones.

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“The Historical Society is honored and humbled by this ultimate gift of history,” said Mary Cummings, executive director of the Historical Society. “Mary Cay Jones has entrusted us with this historic treasure, and we will continue to steward the building as she has done during her 30-year ownership.”

The Shay Hexagon House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was renovated in 1990 just after Jones first acquired the building. The outright gift of the building to the Historical Society has sparked its board of trustees to look toward the future, both for the historic structure and for the organization as a whole, now in its 27th year.

“The Historical Society has a wonderful opportunity with the Shay House,” according to Tim Tippett, current HSAHS board president. “We plan to explore potential uses for the building that both strongly align with the Historical Society’s mission as well as serve and benefit our entire community. We thank Mary Cay for recognizing the Historical Society with this generous gift.”

The 14-member board of trustees has already embarked on a strategic planning process that includes the Shay Hexagon House and is currently exploring a future comprehensive campaign to complete needed renovations to the Shay House with an endowment component to be able to maintain both it and the museum building for generations.  At the heart of the Historical Society is its mission to connect learning about the past with appreciating the present by preserving our histories and traditions.

For more information about the Historical Society, please call (231) 526-9771.

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The Historical Society is pleased to announce the opening of our new Voices from the Vault recording space inside the Harbor Springs History Museum. Once this metal and brick vault on the east side of our building kept important records safe for the City of Harbor Springs; now the space has been turned into a recording area to capture and safeguard our community’s stories. (The building's east vault is visible in the photograph below, taken around 1910).

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The Voices from the Vault recording space will officially open on Friday, May 26, 2017 during the museum’s regular exhibit hours of 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. The community is encouraged to stop by to view the new space, which will remain a permanent part of our exhibits after its opening. 

The idea for the recording space came to Historical Society staff members after interactions with museum visitors kept uncovering great stories; stories that unfortunately vanished as soon as the visitors left. 

“We feel that it’s an important part of our mission to find a way to chronicle and preserve these treasured memories and stories from our visitors,” said Mary Cummings, Executive Director of the Historical Society. “Reclaiming the unused vault area inside the temporary exhibit gallery seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.”  

The Voices from the Vault space will provide a dedicated area for both impromptu recordings from museum visitors as well as traditional oral history interviews. We hope the community will take advantage of this unique space and are happy to answer questions or provide more information to interested individuals. Call (231) 526-9771 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn more. 


Voices from the Vault was made possible in part through the generous support of the
Ayrshire Foundation and the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation. 

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Welcome to the fifth and final installment of our blog series celebrating Women’s History Month. In this blog you can learn more about restaurateur Myrtle “Myrt” Johnston.johnston myrt

Myrtle Johnston was born in Cross Village in 1917 to Edna and George Kruzel and was raised there. Later she attented Harbor Springs High School before marrying Samuel Johnston in 1934.

Known for her hardworking nature and generous spirit, "Myrt" took on the chores that face the wife of a would-be dairy farmer while earning extra money by working at the Old Trail Inn. Her summer routine was to arrive at 7:00 am to bake pies, cook breakfast, then lunch and dinner, returning home at 9:00 pm.

Myrt is best known for her years running Johnston’s Restaurant at State and Bay streets. She took over the restaurant from her brother-in-law Roy and ran the store for 17 years. The restaurant and especially her presence there made Johnston’s a fixture in downtown. Generations of Harbor Springs residents, both year-round and summer, will long remember Myrt for her hospitality and homemade cooking as well as for her fiesty temper and generous heart.

Myrt passed away in 2012 at age 94.

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Welcome to the fourth installment of our blog series celebrating Women’s History Month. In this blog you can learn more about Josephine Darling Ford. 

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The 1960s and early 1970s were a difficult time in Harbor Springs despite its distinction as a summer resort town. In the mid-1970s the charming yet sleepy town was reborn, and Josephine Darling Ford helped foster that rebirth.

Born in Harbor Springs in 1911 to Willard S. and Bertha (Stutsman) Darling, Josephine Darling Ford loved her home town and the people in it. She showed that love through service to the community on the school board for eight years, city council for four, and a term as mayor in 1975-76. During her tenure as mayor, the City of Harbor Springs was recognized as an “All American City” by the National Municipal League. Harbor Springs was one of ten cities and the smallest among the honorees. 

“I feel Harbor Springs has a lot to look forward to,” Ford was quoted in a 1976 interview about the award. “We aren’t stopping, we want to continue to make this a better place to live.” Cited in the city’s application for the designation were revitalization of the downtown business district, creation of the Kiwanis Sports Park, community school programs and a new senior center. Also listed were projects Ford championed including the creation of a public boat launch. Today that boat launch bears her name.

Following her unexpected death in 1977, city manager Robert S. Anderson, Jr. delivered Ford’s eulogy: “Josephine Ford was in a very real sense a mother to all of Harbor Springs. Sitting in the window of Rosenthal’s watching Main Street as a mother watches her children at play, seeking a chance to solve citizens’ problems as a mother waits to bandage a scraped knee, Jo tackled her community responsibilities as a mother guards her brood.”

This short feature is a part of the fourth volume of the Essence of Emmet magazine. A digital version of this magazine can be found here and hardcopies are available throughout Emmet County. 

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Welcome to the third installment of our blog series celebrating Women’s History Month. In this blog you can learn more about teacher and Odawa leader Margaret Boyd.boyd margaret

Margaret Blackbird Boyd (pictured at right as portrayed by local artist Jane Cardinal) was born in Harbor Springs around 1817. She is best known for her role as an educator and for defending Odawa land rights during the 1870s and 1880s. Margaret grew up in Harbor Springs with her family, including her brother Andrew J. Blackbird, but in her life also ventured away from the Little Traverse Bay. 

Around 1825, missionaries and local Catholic Odawa, realizing the growing importance of a Western education in a rapidly changing time, began choosing promising young Odawa to send to school. Margaret was chosen along with her brother William and their cousin Augustin Hamlin Jr. to travel to Cincinnati, Ohio. Their elders hoped that an education at the large convent school in Cincinnati would mold the young students into adults who could then help their community.  

Margaret completed her schooling and fulfilled that wish, first teaching in Detroit and later returning to the Harbor Springs area where she took up a position as a schoolteacher. She worked as a teacher off and on before marrying Joseph Boyd and establishing a farm and family of her own. 

In later years, Margaret faced harsh discrimination along with the rest of the Odawa community as a result of the flood of white settlers to the area. Hundreds of Odawa lost their land and homes, often due to illegal seizures, unethical tax hikes and intimidation. Margaret was outspoken in fighting against these forces, writing numerous letters to government officials in Michigan and working with her brother, Andrew, to help Odawa families. In 1876 she took it upon herself to intervene by traveling, alone, to Washington D.C. to meet with President Ulysses S. Grant. 

An accomplished beadworker and basket maker, Margaret sold her art along the way to pay for train fare and food and eventually arrived at the White House. She was allowed to see the President but barely had time to state her case before Grant excused himself. Devastated but not beaten, she returned to Harbor Springs are continued to lobby and fight for the rights of Odawa people for the rest of her life. 

- Gah-Baeh-Jhagwah-Buk: The Way it Happened- A Visual Culture History of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa      by James McClurken.
- Blackbird's Song: Andrew J. Blackbird and the Odawa People by Theodore J. Karamanski

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Welcome back to the second installment of our blog series celebrating Women’s History Month. In this blog you can learn more about conservationist and author Alice C. Erwin (pictured at right). 

Alice Clementina Erwin was born in 1880 in Athens County, Ohio to Albert and Ellen Young. Later in life she married Charles Fayette "Fay" Erwin and lived in Harbor Springs, where she was adopted by the local Odawa tribe in honor of her efforts to protect wildlife, forests and wetlands. Alice passed away at the Petoskey hospital in 1938 and is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Harbor Springs. 

Alice is best remembered for her writing and her conservationist spirit. She wrote about her observations of nature and all things natural in a series of conversations, “Nature Talks,” carried in a number of Michigan newspapers in the 1920s and 1930s. These included Harbor Springs’ own Emmet County Graphic, the Grand Rapids Press and the Detroit News. Through her writing, Alice became a recognized leaded in the conservation movement in Northern Michigan. Her editor said, “Alice Erwin loved and felt kinship with every living thing.” After her death, Alice's husband Fay published her writings in a book in 1939.

“Nature Talks” in book form is a collection of Alice Erwin's writings throughout the course of one year (see an excerpt at the end of this blog).  It covers topics from native berries and spruce trees to meteorites and porcupines. One memorable passage deals with the installation of nets over the fish-rearing ponds at the Oden State Fish Hatchery. Alice was a firm believer that "bird life need not be destroyed in order to have fish" and was saddened by the killing of egrets and herons at the hatchery to protect the young fish. She suggested a simple method for protecting the ponds stating that “clever uses of wires and poultry netting do the trick more efficiently and cheaply in the long run than patrolling with fire-arms.” 

In his acknowledgments at the beginning of “Nature Talks,” Fay Erwin notes with "greatest happiness" that the plan hatched by Alice to protect water birds was being enacted. The superintendent of the hatchery wrote to Fay that "five of our ponds are already covered with screens and a new project is underway to cover the remaining ponds with the aid of CCC labor." 

Alice encouraged curiosity with her friendly, commonplace writing style that appealed to all ages in her short, daily journals of the world around her. Harbor Springs' history and natural resources are immeasurably enriched by her life and work. 


Nature Talks excerpt

Above: An excerpt of Alice C. Erwin's writings, published by her husband in a book called "Nature Talks" shortly after her death. Click the image for an enlarged view. 

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“On the end of the Point stands the lighthouse with its red light flashing out at night over the waters, looking like a great red ruby set with diamonds as the electric lights are shining around the bay and harbor. What more is needed of nature’s beauty to make the picture complete?”EWWilliams

Elizabeth Whitney Williams (pictured at right) wrote these words in her autobiography, A Child of the Sea, and Life among the Mormons, about the Little Traverse Lighthouse on Harbor Point, Michigan where she was the keeper for 29 years. Her story, much like the Fresnel lens she describes in the above passage, helps to illuminate the trials of a female lighthouse keeper in an age when women rarely worked outside the home. 

Born on Mackinac Island around 1844, Elizabeth’s family had moved to Beaver Island by the time she was four years old. Her father, a ship’s carpenter, found work on the island from the notorious Mormon leader, “King” James Jesse Strang. William’s autobiography focuses mainly on this time in her life. Eventually the schisms between the Mormons and the other groups on the island caused the Whitney family to move to Charlevoix in 1852 and later to Traverse City. 

After the assassination of King Strang and the release of the island from Mormon control, the Whitney family returned. Shortly after their return, in 1860, Elizabeth met and married Clement Van Riper. Clement was a cooper who had come from Detroit to the island for his health. He was soon appointed a teacher at the local Native American school and Elizabeth passed a happy two years helping him by teaching European gardening methods. 


Elizabeth and her husband were neighbors to the McKinley family at this time, who tended the Beaver Island Harbor Lighthouse (pictured at left). This arrangement would prove crucial to Elizabeth’s close connection to lighthouses in the years to come. When the keeper of the light, Peter McKinley, resigned his post to due ill health Elizabeth’s husband was appointed to take his place. 

Clement, however, was also often in poor health himself and many of the keeper’s duties fell to his wife, specifically the cleaning and polishing of the Fresnel lens. Elizabeth thought of tending the light as both a duty and a pleasure writing, “My three brothers were then sailing, and how glad I felt that their eyes might catch the bright rays of our light shining out over the waste of waters on a dark stormy night.” 

Women taking on light-keeping duties unofficially for ill husbands or other family members was more common than the strict gender divides and roles of the day might have suggested. Light keeping was normally thought of as a man’s job, involving heavy physical labor and an enormous investment of time. However, many woman rose to these challenges and earned the respect of their communities through their actions. Only a small number of these women were ever officially appointed as light keepers. Elizabeth would become one of those few after a stormy night in 1872.

On that night Clement rowed out to help rescue the crew of a sinking ship during a storm and never returned. His body was never recovered and the sole duty of keeping the light burning in the tower during the three-day gale fell to Elizabeth. Clement’s death left Elizabeth “weak from sorrow” and other sorrows soon followed including the deaths of two of her brothers and three of her nephews to drowning. A few weeks after her husband’s death she was officially appointed the keeper of the Beaver Island lighthouse.


In 1875 Elizabeth remarried, this time to photographer Daniel Williams, and requested a transfer to a mainland station. Only the last few pages of her memoir reflect upon her time at the station to which she was transferred, the Little Traverse Lighthouse. The lighthouse had only just been finished when Elizabeth arrived there in 1884. Situated at the tip of Harbor Point, the lighthouse would be home to Elizabeth and husband for the next 29 years. (Pictured at right, the lighthouse and fog bell on Harbor Point, Michigan, taken by Elizabeth's husband, Daniel). 

Elizabeth retired from light keeping in 1913 and she and her husband moved to Charlevoix, Michigan. They spent another 25 years together in quiet retirement before they passed away, within 12 hours of each other, in 1938. 

Did you know: The Historical Society's archive houses some of Elizabeth Whitney Williams' personal items, including several aprons and a pair of gloves which can be viewed in our online collections database. 

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Harbor Springs loves its traditions particularly those associated with holidays. In 2015, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of a community Christmas tree placed in town, a tradition started by local contractor George B. Hartung. As a young man, Hartung cut and hauled a Christmas tree into downtown Harbor Springs for the townsfolk to enjoy. 

Of the first community Christmas tree gathering, the Petoskey Evening News reported in their December 27, 1915 issue that two thousand people were in attendance at the event held on Christmas Eve in Zorn Park. “Ideal weather conditions combined with 100 percent pure Christmas enthusiasm made Harbor Springs’ first municipal Christmas tree a grand success and an event long to be remembered.” 

Hartung's grandchildren remembered him fondly. "It was his idea that Harbor Springs needed a city tree and he had the equipment," said granddaughter Mary Booth. "He was just a lumberjack at heart." George Coveyou remembers his grandfather as a very honest and good man. "It was a great experience to grow up and spend time with him."

The Evening News wrote further about that first gathering in 1915. "The address of welcome was followed by several well selected musical numbers by the children from the public school, and then came Santa Claus with 2,400 sacks of candy and nuts which were distributed by this genial old friend to the good children of this community. Much credit is due the band for their efforts in making the entertainment complete. The idea of a municipal Christmas tree seems to be a good one. Our citizens joined in the movement regardless of religion or politics and stood united, with one aim in view; namely, the dispensing of Christmas cheer among the people, both young and old of the community.”

image2 Hartung grandkidsAt left, George Hartung holding his grandson George Coveyou with his wife Ida May holding granddaughter Mary Booth at the 1941 Fourth of July Parade.

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We are honored to announce that the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council (MHC). MHC awarded nearly $600,000 in grants to 26 Michigan organizations in the first round of funding for the Heritage Grants program.

Heritage Grants support projects that bring the authentic voices of cultural identity groups to the foreground and help the people of our state understand cultural differences by sharing local stories about race and cultural history. In Harbor Springs, this means supporting the Historical Society's next exhibit, Anishnaabeck Art: Gift of the Great Lakes, which is set to open on Tuesday, June 30 at the Harbor Springs History Museum. 

The exhibit showcases Anishnaabek (Odawa, Ojibwe and Potawatomi) art from throughout the Great Lakes region, focusing on various media, styles and tribes. Using handcrafted items such as wooden tools, quill boxes, baskets and beadwork, the exhibit will explore the political, religious, cultural, and social changes the Odawa and other native groups navigated throughout their history. The exhibit and accompanying programs will also explore stories of assimilation, forced removal and discrimination as well as the stories of leadership and perseverance in tribal communities.

"We are honored to be among the recipients in the first year of MHC's Heritage Grants program, " said Mary Cummings, executive director of the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society. "Working on this exhibit has been an amazing collaboration with collector Bob Streett and Eric Hemenway, director of archives, records and repatriation with the Little Traverse Bay Band. We are looking forward to sharing this exhibit with the public." 

In addition to the exhibit, plans are currently underway to offer several presentations and workshops on specific types of Native art including quill work and bead work presented by local, traditional artists such as Yvonne Walker Keshick and Daniel Chingwa. 

The museum will host a special exhibit opening for Anishnaabeck Art on Tuesday, June 30 from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Admission will be free and light refreshments will be provided. 

MHC Heritage Grant

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In this post we are taking you inside our archives to look at some of the most beautiful artifacts in our collections - small, handmade quill boxes. These unique Native American objects are still made today by the local Odawa people and have a rich cultural tradition that dates back centuries.

Quill boxes are constructed using birch bark, sweet grass and porcupine quills. Traditionally, the Odawa used birch bark for making boxes and baskets because its natural antibacterial properties made it perfect for storing food. Porcupine quills were harvested from animals hunted for food. Nowadays they are gathered from animals killed on the roadways. When moistened, the quills become highly pliable and easy to work with and can also be dyed. 

What began as a simple and effective means of storing food became an art form at the turn of the century as the Odawa created thousands of these quill-decorated boxes for the tourist industry. Today the art is still highly sought after and admired. The Historical Society has several quill-decorated objects in our collections including the items pictured below. You can view these and other objects in our online collections database on our website. You can also visit the National Endowment for the Humanities site to read about renowned local quill artist Yvonne Walker Keshick. 

Stay tuned! We will be installing a new exhibit about Native American art, culture and traditions at the Harbor Springs History Museum this summer. Do you have quill boxes or other Native American artwork you’d be interested in seeing in our upcoming exhibit? Please contact Mary Cummings at (231) 526-9771 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any inquires. 

Be sure to "like" us on Facebook and check out our website for updates on the exhibit and other events at HSAHS.

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You've survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday and now the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society invites you to join an international movement connecting nonprofits like us to donors like you - it's #GivingTuesday! The official #GivingTuesday website describes this unique holiday as "a global day dedicated to giving back" when "charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate giving and to give." This December 2, 2014 is #GivingTuesday and we wanted to take a moment to encourage you to give to the Historical Society on this special day.

We've partnered with Network for Good to make your donation go even further. For one day only, December 2, Network for Good will match a percentage of any donation you make to the Historical Society! This is a great way to make your dollar go even further while supporting history's home in Harbor Springs. Click the button below to donate today! Please feel free to donate after December 2 as well, every donation helps!



Why donate?

The Harbor Springs Area Historical Society is a private nonprofit that relies on your generosity to sustain our efforts. With your support in 2014 we have shared stories both large and small, old and new with thousands of people.

We told the story of the passenger pigeon—once the most abundant bird in North America and now extinct. Through a national movement called Project Passenger Pigeon, we developed a special exhibit focused entirely on this bird.

During our popular Harbor History Talk series, we reached back in time to share stories of the NM, the Northern Michigan sloop, for its 80th anniversary and tapped our feet to the tunes of the Beach Boys while learning about clubs Manitou and Ponytail.

We celebrated stories through special events too including Shay Days (which honored inventor Ephraim Shay), our second annual Blessing of the Fleet and Summer White Party on Harbor Springs' historic waterfront and our tour of the Little Traverse Lighthouse.

Won't you consider making a donation to the Historical Society on this unique day of giving?

If you've already given this year, know that we sincerely appreciate your support. Thank you!

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Despite the very wet weather throughout the day Saturday, October 4 the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society's Little Traverse Lighthouse Tour was a big success. In fact, the cloudy, drizzly weather was actually a perfect teaching moment for Terry Pepper, the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association. Terry was on hand during the tour and described how the day was a great example of "thick weather," or weather where early sailors would have needed help from lighthouses and fog signals to navigate. There's nothing like learning new historical lingo while dashing through a downpour!

The Historical Society's tour of the Little Traverse Lighthouse sold out almost a month ago and we were thrilled to welcome over 300 guests to tour the lighthouse. The Harbor Point Association generously allows the Historical Society to do these tours and we are extremely grateful to be able to take people through the building and to show off all the hard work the association's Lighthouse Committee has put into the site. We would also like to thank our sponsors who helped make this tour possible: Abent Pest Control, Gurney's Bottle Shop, Lauer Pest Control, Stafford's Hospitality, Tom's Mom's Cookies, Harbor Springs IGA and the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau. 

Enjoy some snapshots of the event below. Be sure to sign up for our email newsletter to be the first to hear about other events and programs at the Historical Society. 

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Above left: Docent Tim Tippett and guest Delyte DeLong in their rain gear. Delyte was a resident of the lighthouse in the late 1950s when her then husband Norm Ruessman was stationed there. 

Above middle: The fog signal building and the Little Traverse Lighthouse.

Above right: A bus full of Lighthouse Tour volunteers. Between room monitors, docents, registration desk workers and more we had over 180 hours of volunteer time donated to this event. We couldn't have done it without our amazing volunteers! Thank you.

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Above left: When the lighthouse was decommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1963 the government sold the house back to the Harbor Point Association. The government then bought a smaller chunk of land near the lighthouse and erected this metal frame and light to replace the lighthouse.

Above center: This oil house was reconstructed on the original foundation in 2011. It was originally used to house the flammable kerosene needed to light the lamp in the tower.

Above right: Beautiful green shutters on the lighthouse.

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 Are you a life-long learner? Are you always on the lookout for new opportunities for growth?

The Harbor Springs Area Historical Society’s Board of Trustees and staff like to consider ourselves life-long learners. In this spirit we periodically hold training sessions to help us be the best stewards of Harbor Springs’ unique history. Recently, on August 11, the board and staff gathered for one of these sessions led by Pam Evans of the NorthSky Nonprofit Network.

The session highlighted new ways for the board and staff to tackle strategic planning, fundraising, educational outreach and more. From our morning session with Pam, we identified a short list of action items that the board will tackle when we’re back at the board table next week.

We were able to bring Pam to work with our board through funding from the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation. With their support, we continue to grow as an organization and look forward to putting our new knowledge to work.



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"History is not just something that happened long ago and far away. History happens to all of us all the time. Local history brings history home, it touches your life, the life of your family, your neighborhood, your community."

-       Thomas J. Noel

The Harbor Springs Area Historical Society is thrilled to have been visited by a number of school groups this winter, from second to eighth grade! As the quote above suggests, connecting students to our local history, to their history, engages them in a way that textbooks often don't.

All of us here at the Historical Society are stewards of the history of this community and sharing that with local kids is an important part of our mission. We wanted to share a few moments from these school visits with you.

We have worked most closely with the fourth grade classes from Shay Elementary. Back in March they toured the museum and were given a special history lesson about inventor Ephraim Shay from Mr. Shay himself (portrayed by our costumed actor). The kids loved meeting Mr. Shay and bombarded him with all sorts of questions about his work on geared locomotives and about his time in Harbor Springs. The students then walked down to Mr. Shay's house, the Hexagon House, and got a tour of the building. 

 IMG 8568 web IMG 8576 

The fourth grade classes were also treated to a special tour of the LIttle Traverse Lighthouse on Harbor Point. Not only did the students get to explore the lighthouse and its grounds but they also learned what life was like around 1900, exploring novel concepts like outdoor bathrooms and oil lamps.

As the fog rolled in off the harbor, the children got to see first hand how important the lighthouse and fog bell were for navigating ships. They also learned more about keeper Elizabeth Whitney Williams (portrayed by HSAHS staff member Beth Sylak) who was on hand to answer questions like "why are your sleeves so puffy?" and talk about William's life as a female lighthouse keeper. Despite a sudden downpour, the students had a great time. Thanks again to our dedicated volunteers and to the Harbor Point Association for making this local learning experience possible.

HSAHS Lighthouse Gorney 2709 HSAHS libbie fogbell HSAHS Lighthouse Kowalski 2762

Most recently, the second grade classes from Blackbird elementary toured the museum. Our invaluable volunteers Jan McDonald and Linda Leavitt led the students through our Local History and Discovery galleries at the museum. Shortly after their visit the students sent thank you notes and pictures to us at the museum, and we couldn't resist sharing some. Their notes are part of what makes giving these tours so worthwhile. 

David Letter             Fishing Picture 


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Although we serve up great local history at our monthly Harbor History talks, we are also well known for our hospitality, specifically homemade goodies. Last month we had a number of requests for this amazing recipe created by one of our wonderful volunteers. These “club cracker cookies” were a hit at our last talk and we wanted to share the recipe with you.

Do you have any great recipes you’d like to share? We are always in need of volunteers to make homemade treats for our talks and for other events throughout the year. Our programs and events are always sweeter with your help! Volunteer your baking skills today by calling us at (231) 526-9771 and we’ll happily add you to our “cookie list.”


48 club crackers, lined in a jellyroll pan
sliced almonds
1 cup of butter
2/3 cup of sugar

Boil the sugar and butter together for 3 minutes. Pour over the crackers and sprinkle them with almonds – as many as you like. Bake for 5 minutes at 300 degrees then broil for1 minute more, watching carefully. Remove from pan and separate while warm. 

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The Harbor Springs Area Historical Society is thrilled to announce that we have been granted a lifetime of free email marketing and communications services from Emma, Inc. We were selected as part of the 2013 "Emma 25" program which annually awards charitable organizations free email marketing tools. This year, Emma received hundreds of applications, from every state in the U.S., and we were picked as one of the 100 honorees! To learn more about the Emma 25 program, click on the image below!

Emma 25

We urge you to sign up for our email newsletter as we put this free Emma subscription to use! Our eNewsletter will keep you updated on all the latest events, programs and more going on at the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society and is a great way to see what is happening in your community. 

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Here at the historical society we are always exploring new ways to make the rich history of Harbor Springs more accessible to the public. With this in mind we are proud to announce the launch of our own channel on Historypin! is a website that utilizes Google Maps to allow photographs, videos and other content to be “pinned” to a digital map. Users can search anywhere on the globe and find interesting photographs and stories tacked to specific locales and can add their own material as well.

Below is an example of how amazing this site really is. Shown is an old photograph from our collections which has been pinned to Google maps. We then placed this image over the existing image of the building in Google's Street View. Using the sliding "fade" button at the bottom of the screen allows users to see what current buildings and places looked like in the past!Screenshot 2014-01-09 15.24.44

Using this site we will be able to share countless historical images and stories - which you can view right from home, comment on, and share with friends and family! Visit our channel to discover what we’ve pinned so far and stay tuned as we add more images and even walking tours to our page.

See what We've pinned on Historypin

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exhibitsawDecember was an important month for the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society and for the Harbor Springs History Museum which celebrated its fifth birthday on December 7! An open house was held in celebration of this special day with a chance for visitors to see both the permanent and temporary exhibits downstairs and Christmas crafts and refreshments upstairs. Over one hundred guests attended the open house and helped us end 2013 on a high note.

 In preparation for the open house, several new elements were installed in the permanent exhibit gallery. Dick Babcock volunteered his time to install two large artifacts in the local history section of the exhibit. First was a crosscut saw that now hangs just above the panels on logging. The second artifact is a large metal Texaco sign, loaned to the museum by Tim Tippett, which hangs above the section on the post-war era.
The local history galley also got four new flip books that were installed on special pedestals spaced throughout the different sections of the exhibit. These flip books expand on the information already provided in the exhibit and allow visitors to gain more in-depth knowledge on various topics from logging to resort life. HSAHS's newest staff member Beth Sylak took on this project in collaboration with board member Eric Hemenway and director Mary Cummings.

Stay tuned for more exciting exhibits and events in 2014! From all of us here at the historical society, have a happy holiday season and we hope to see you here soon!

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With the new year comes a new exhibit! The temporary exhibit case on the 2nd floor has been changed out and an exhibit of local artifacts and letters from both World Wars have been put on display. These include ration stamps and tokens, letters, and articles that pertain to our local area during World War I and World War II.

We also have our first Harbor History Talk of 2013 this week. Join local resident, artist and author Jane Cardinal as she delves into the history of the Good Hart area and its transition to a resort community.

Cardinal recently published "The Place Where the Crooked Tree Stood" with co-author Connie Cobb after years of research on Good Hart and its long history.

The talk will begin at 5:30 pm (please note the new, earlier time) in the second-floor Anton Library at the Harbor Springs History Museum, 349 E. Main Street. Admission is $5 per person and free to current Historical Society members. Cookies and coffee will be served. The Harbor History Talks are presented ten months out of the year by the Historical Society. Special thanks go to our 2013 sponsors: Harbor Springs IGA, Graham Real Estate and John Demmer.

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Winter is here! The snow may have left us for a little while, but anyone can tell you that it will surely be back! It's hard to imagine how people coped without snowplows and snowblowers but somehow they did. I imagine that there were some hardworking horses before automobiles and tractors became more common in the snow removal industry.

Winter Toboggan

Harbor Springs Winter Bay

Our Holiday Open House is taking place on Saturday, December 29 from 11:00am to 3:00pm. The 20 man bobsled pictured above will be out and we will be showing a slide show of other historic winter photos from Harbor Springs and surrounding areas.


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One of the most fascinating things about going through older photographs of Harbor Springs are the glimpses of the past that they bring. You can recognize buildings and places in these old photographs and see how they were 100 years ago. Often as a child, I would look at the world around me and wonder how it looked in the past, without paved roads, cars, or houses. What activities went on in these familiar places that I knew nothing about? This is the reason that photographs of recognizable places are so exciting to me, it shows how they looked in the past and I can reconcile the difference in my mind.

Ingalls and Main Street

Here are two photographs I came across in the Berry Ratliff collection of the Shay Family. The first shows Ingalls St. in Harbor Springs with Dorothy Shay in her little car in 1913. The two houses are still standing so the street looks much the same as it did in this photograph 100 years ago. The second photograph is of East Hill coming into downtown Harbor Springs. One thing I notice between the older photograph and the modern one is the lack of trees in the past. The bay was clearly visible whereas now there are trees that somewhat block the view. The differences and similarities in both pictures show just how much has changed as well as the things that have not.


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Hello everyone!

My name is Talia and I have been working as an archivist and collections manager at the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society since June. I grew up in Harbor Springs but I have never been so aware of the history of the town as I have been going through the archives. There are so many great things here on a large array of subjects that I can’t wait to show them all to the town!

Backus Republican Caucus

Recently, in honor of the upcoming presidential election in November, I gathered together interesting items from the archive on the subject of older elections in Harbor Springs and put them on a temporary display on the second floor. Items include an instructional ballot from the 1900 election with vote tallies for each candidate and the Republican Caucus poster pictured as well as other items from Harbor Springs election history. Please come to the museum and view these fascinating pieces from the archive!

Our Museum hours are Friday and Saturday 11:00 am to 3:00 pm and our Office hours are Tuesday through Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.


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At a recent gathering of historical society and museum folk, our group facilitator started off our meeting by asking us to introduce ourselves, our organizations and, as an icebreaker of sorts, tell what we like most about living in northern Michigan in January.

Postcard Winter

My answer was simple. I like January because, slowly but surely, the days are getting longer. Those who know me well know that winter generally takes fourth place in my favorite season rankings. January ranks equally low amongst my favorite months. But in this new year, something was different about January.


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History Collage

That's right, the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society is turning 20. Can you believe it?

The date was March 6, 1990, when founders Marge May, David deWindt, Linda Rosenow, Jan Morley, Nancy Morton, Nancy Gurney and Arthur Barnes had their first official meeting.


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HSAHS Building Triad

Last month, the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society learned that we are the recipients of a 2009 Award of Excellence given by the Builders Exchange of Northwest Michigan in Traverse City. Our museum project was nominated by Spence Brothers, the general contractor for the renovation that was completed in December 2008.

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Exhibit Hours

Friday & Saturday
11:00 am to 3:00 pm

Office Hours

Tuesday - Friday
9:00 am to 5:00 pm

January 1, 2020

Museum Address

349 E. Main Street
    Harbor Springs, MI 49740

(231) 526-9771

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Newsletter Sign-up

To stay informed of upcoming events and exhibits, sign up for our HSAHS eNewsletter here. It's free!

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