Grand Island Walking Tour set for July 19

GRAND ISLAND – Alger County Historical Society and The Grand Island Association is hosting a walking tour of six privately owned historic cottages on the south shore of Grand Island on Saturday July 19.

The tour includes ferry service between the mainland and the island, a lunch catered by Johnny Dogs, souvenirs, six chances to win fabulous gifts, and interpretation of the history of the cottages on the tour as well as buildings no longer in existence.

Grand Island, in Munising Bay, is a National Recreation Area maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. It is the second largest island on the south shore of Lake Superior and forms Munising and Murray’s Bay, both of which served as an important section of the oldest highway in the Old Northwest. The route was used by all: voyagers, fur traders, missionaries, geologists, surveyors, prospectors, and long before that, the fishing and hunting ground of Native peoples.

Before 1990, when the island became part of Hiawatha National Forest, it was owned by Cleveland-Cliffs who first maintained it as a nature preserve, a resort, and commercial maple syrup operation, allowing their executives to build summer homes on leased lots.

The resort closed in 1959 followed by the maple syrup operation and the island was opened up to selective logging of its virgin timber.

Island residents were allowed to keep their summer homes when the property was transferred to the U.S. government. These cottages qualify as an example of the rustic elegance of ‘great camps’ that were built in the nineteenth century in beautiful remote locations throughout the United States. The tour takes in the architecturally commissioned Jopling (or Reynolds) Cottage 1911; Menge I & II Cottages 1914; and the Maitland Cottage 1911.

Also included on the tour are two of the homes Abraham Williams built on the island. As the first permanent European residents, Abraham Williams, his wife, Anna, and their large family settled on the island in 1840 living in four log buildings abandoned by the American Fur Company until their log home on the main part of the island was completed in 1k841.

Their second home on the island, a stately two-room Georgian Colonial style reflective of Williams’ New England roots, was completed in 1867. Cleveland-Cliffs used the home as a 10-room hotel before they built the Hotel Williams. The house was connected to the hotel by a long covered porch and used as business offices and staff housing. The hotel was razed in 1966, but the Williams home was converted back into a residence.

The cottages have all been preserved by their owners and maintained as summer homes of families who have spent parts of their summers on the island for at least three generations, and some have come for as many as seven.

They are a community of 11 extended families who formed the Grand Island Association to address their issues which face them as a group of island residents, as well as for social activities. They have graciously offered their cottages for this tour as a fundraiser for the Alger County Historical Society.

Tickets are available now and can be purchased at the Heritage Center in Munising or by calling 387-4308. Ticket cost is $100.