pointe aux barques postcard

History Of Pointe Aux Barques Cottage Community in Michigan’s Thumb

French sailors and voyageurs coined the name Pointe Aux Barques in about 1760. The name literally means the point of boats. This is because the rock formations found in the area looked like the prow of a ship. This area was also known as a hideout for sailors in the caves reefs and shallow waters of the area.

A Landmark for The Ages

The lure of the location as an entry to Saginaw Bay and its perfectly situated location at the tip of Michigans Thumb. It was a natural location for a lighthouse and Life-Saving Station. The Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse ranks among the oldest lighthouses in Michigan. Despite its age, the light is still an active lighthouse and maintained by the US Coast Guard. The structure is remote, located in Lighthouse County Park on Lake Huron near Port Hope, Michigan, in Huron County.

The Lighthouse made history in 1849 when Catherine Shook was appointed the first female lighthouse keeper in Michigan. She replaced her husband, Peter Shook, as keeper of the original Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse after his vessel capsized and drowned.

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Pointe Aux Barques Cottage Community

The modern history of Pointe Aux Barques Cottage Community begins in 1896. Stanford Crapo, an official of the Pere Marquette Railroad, saw the area’s possibilities as a lakeside resort for Detroit’s socialites. The little settlement was given a post office on June 12, 1897, with George T. Miller as its first postmaster, the office operating until June 20, 1957. The tiny lakeside community also had a small station on the Pere Marquette Railroad.

Gradually cottages were built, and the railroad ran club cars twice daily during the summer, bringing tourists to the Pointe and in 1912, rates were set at Board and room in a hotel, $14 per week; Daily rates, $3 to $5. But just before the hotel was to open, it was destroyed by fire.

By the early 1900s, Harvey Firestone owned two cottages. For many years Michigan poet, Detroit News writer, and NBC radio personality, Edgar A. Guest, spent summers at his cottage at the Pointe. It was also the summer home for William L. Clements, who founded a Library of American literature at the University of Michigan. The township is the smallest in the state of Michigan and only has 10 full-time residents. The name and the community of the Pointe have a rich history that continues today.

Michigan’s Elite Gather for Summer Social Companionship

We want to take you back to when it truly started. Imagine the year is 1912. The Titanic sunk on her maiden voyage after colliding with an iceberg in April. New Mexico and Arizona were admitted into the United States and William H. Taft is president. After a long train ride from Detroit, you’re looking for a place to get your family away from the hot smelly city in the summer. The air is fresh and you can smell the open water of Lake Huron nearby.

The following excerpt was taken from a publication issued in 1912 to prospective buyers of cottage estates at the very tip of Michigan’s Thumb.

Pointe Aux Barques Resort – A community for Summer Folk and Others- Issued by the Pere Marquette Railroad

The Thumb of Michigan is not the inappropriate name given to that portion of the lower peninsula that juts into Lake Huron. forms the southeastern shores of Saginaw Bay. The extreme point of The Thumb is a rocky headland, on which nature has deposited a rich and productive soil, and which has borne a heavy growth of pine and white birch to cover the gently rolling ground.

This is Pointe aux Barques, a promontory which is almost the last glimpse of land on the up-journey for the lake freighters which bear the commerce of the great inland seas. until they reach the Straits of Mackinaw or the Sault Ste. Marie River. An appropriate name. therefore, and one which it is supposed was given to it by Father Claude Allouez. one of the earlier explorers who. in 1665. traversed the shores with a canoe party, and landed at the then barren spot.

Although the character of the shoreline remains the same, and the headland is still Pointe aux Barques to the lake mariner, the reverend missionary and explorer would not recognize the place he christened could he bridge the dead centuries and stand once more upon the point which. hanging far out over the blue waters of the lake. forms the thumbnail of The Thumb.

The Beach at Pointe Aux Barques

The productiveness of the soil lay undiscovered beneath the heavy growth of pine trees until the lumberman had passed over the land like a scourge, leaving devastation and dead ruin behind the trail of the ax and saw, left acres of tangled limbs and worthless tree-trunks. With here and there a lone tree standing sentry over its dead comrades. Fire swept the face of the land, and then men discovered what lay underneath was far richer in possibilities than the virgin forest had been for the making of homes and the purpose of farming.

This point of The Thumb, comprising a tract of hundreds of acres, has been transformed from a lonely forest knoll into one of the most delightful of the summer rest spots dotting the shores of the great lakes. On the one hand, lie the deep blue waters of Lake Huron; on the other hand. the dancing waves of Saginaw Bay fret at the foot of the sandstone cliffs which bar their passage to the parent waters. Constant fretting of these waves has worn in the rock numerous caves and grottoes, which led Captain Anderson, of the government survey of 1833, to describe the Pointe as a rough, rocky, small-caverned cape.

Sunset at Pointe Aux Barques

Rough and rocky it still is. and the numerous caverns, cool in the most trying heat of the summer. are a grateful retreat where one may enjoy the luxury of comfort. The sands of the beach are fine and clean; the waters of the bay are blue and sparkling. The groves which crown the cliffs are cool and inviting, and nature invites the rest and recuperation of the soul which seeks escape from the heat and noise and grime of the city.

To the south of the Pointe lies one of the most fertile sections of Michigan, which a progressive people have made to blossom like a rose garden, and which supplies the summer residents at the Pointe with the best and freshest of edibles in season. Real country butter and eggs are here no myth, but an everyday part of life. Sweet milk and cream are not the least of the domestic comforts to be counted upon.

Michigan’s Elite Gather for Summer Social Companionship

It was in 1896 that the Pointe aux Barques Resort was formed, having for its purpose the upbuilding of a “family” resort where a community of interests would lead to the most delightful of social companionship, the summer of life with nature. The spot is ideal for the purpose. The air is clear and bracing; the temperature at all seasons, from early summer till late fall, is delightful; the waters are warm on the shallow bathing beach, and health cannot escape. Within a few hour’s ride of the populous cities of southern Michigan, it is easy to access, and the train service is specially arranged to meet the convenience of the residents. Two trains reach the Pointe every weekday. Detroit afternoon papers are delivered the same day of issue, and the convenience of this being in touch with the metropolis is evident.

The Pointe is unique in one particular: No excursions or excursionists are ever seen there. The Pointe aux Barques Land Company controls or owns the land available for picnic purposes, and the cottagers are thus guaranteed immunity from the undesirable element which too often mars the pleasure of an otherwise ideal summer home spot.

The Exclusive Rustic Charm of Michigan’s North

An untiring effort on the part of the Company has been rewarded with unqualified success. and pride is taken in the list of lot owners. and in the improvements which have been undertaken and accomplished.

Many handsome summer homes have been erected; the pride of the residents has been to build nothing that was not substantial and architecturally pleasing. And in keeping with the spirit of the residents, the Company itself has been content with nothing but the best in the way of improvements. The resort is platted with an eye to the beauty of surroundings, rather than to the economy of land; the streets are winding and picturesque. And the walks are well laid and kept up.

The Pointe Aux Barques Hotel

For the accommodation of transients, a hotel was built, and the plans were carefully followed out in every detail of comfort and convenience. The old colonial style of architecture was followed, and the building, which is 142 feet long by 40 feet wide and three stories in height, is the picture of comfort. A veranda sixteen feet wide surrounds the east and north sides of the building, affording a cool lounging place. The house is finished in white pine with hardwood floors. A wide fireplace in the spacious lobby encloses a cheerful fire on chilly days or evenings and grates are fixed on the several floors in which fires are kindled as occasion demands.

Modern Pointe Aux Barques Hotel Comfort of 1912

The dining room is spacious, having a seating capacity for three hundred guests, and the ladies’ parlor, gentleman’s smoking room, lavatory, toilet rooms, kitchens, and store-rooms are all on the first floor. The sleeping rooms on the second and third floors are spacious, well lighted, and ventilated. There are bathrooms and toilet rooms on each floor.

A perfect system of plumbing is one of the sanitary features. The Company has been at great expense in perfecting the sewerage system. Expert engineers having been employed and a large amount of work done which ensures a perfect system. The sewage is carried into the waters of Saginaw Bay, while the water supply is secured from the cool depths of Alaska Bay. The Pointe lying between and the outlet of the sewer being far removed from the intake of the water crib.

The hotel is under the management of Mr. E. J. Bannister and the cuisine is kept up to the excellent standard set when the service was first inaugurated. Everything that the season affords is to be found on the tables, and the service is excellent. The cooking is of the homelike sort that satisfies a healthy appetite and which the most delicate appreciate.

The Western Union Telegraph Company has an office in the hotel, and there is also a connection with the business world by means of long-distance telephone, while the government has made this a post office, where the summer residents receive their mail twice each day.

The season opens about June 20. As may be concluded, the class of patronage is of the best, and as far as possible removed from the undesirable element, which sometimes creeps in where the management is desirous of building up a pleasure resort for money-making purposes alone, which makes the Pointe a most desirable place of summer residence for the cultivated people of the cities.

Hotel Rates

Pointe Aux Barques Hotel Postcard
  • Table Board to Cottagers per week is $10.50.
  • Table Board to children under thirteen and maids is $8.00 per week or $10.50 in the Main Dining Room.
  • Board and Room in Hotel per week, $14.00 and up. Rates for Board and Room with private bath on application. Dally rates from $3.00 to $53.00 on the American plan.

Rooms and accommodations may be secured in advance on application to Mr. E. J. Bannister, the hotel manager. Address requests to Mr. Bannister at Pointe aux Barques after April 15, 1912.

Inquiries About Owning A Cottage at the Pointe

The Caves at Pointe Aux Barques

The Pointe aux Barques Land Company owns the resort property, including the hotel, the electric light, and water plants. The company has a number of choice lots for sale, in some of the best locations on the resort. Information about this may be had by addressing Mr. Bannister. The Land Company furnishes light and water to the cottagers at a very reasonable price and is responsible for the upkeep of the entire resort—the streets and sidewalks and sewers being part of its care. There are more than fifty handsome cottages on the resort now. and some of the lots which the company has for sale are located adjoining some of the most handsome of these.

The plat map in the back of this booklet shows the location of all lots and streets. The roads and walks throughout the resort are laid out, and as fast as buildings are erected, the gravel or cement walks and roadways are built. The company also owns the hotel and gives the best of service at a very reasonable price.

Fun on the Beach and the Lake

Situated on a point that projects into the sunlit waters of Lake Huron, the residents of pointe aux Barques are afforded the finest bathing and boating to be found anywhere. The waters of Saginaw Bay are always safe and pleasant during the summer, for either sailing or rowing, and to the more adventurous spirits, with suitable craft, the broad expanse of Lake Huron invites a more extended voyage. The numerous coves and inlets indenting the shores of the lake and bay are fresh in interest each year, and in the caves which the fretting waves have dug in the rocky cliffs, there is always a pleasure in exploring and haunting their cool recesses.

There are few things in life more enjoyable than a plunge in crystal waters, tempered to the most pleasurable point. The bathing at Pointe aux Barques is an enjoyment that one will not soon forget. The shore is gently sloping from the base of the cliff. and is formed of pure white sand, which carpets the bottom of the bay for a distance of many yards from shore. The water deepens gradually, and there are no treacherous currents or undertows to fear, making it a perfectly safe bathing place for the smallest children. The waters are as pure as the air and as bracing as new wine.

Motoring in the Upper Thumb

Automobiling is a pleasure at Pointe aux Barques, for the roads of Huron County, in which the Pointe is located, are well-graded and graveled, forming a smooth, hard highway that delights the automobilist. The country is gently rolling, and the farmers take pride in their reappearing properties and are hospitable and entertaining.

There are a number of attractive summering places at a convenient distance from Pointe aux Barques which the autotest, or those who prefer to drive, may make the objective point of pleasure excursions. Among them is Port Austin, with its picturesque shore, situated on Saginaw Bay. There is Bay Port, with a fine hotel and excellent fishing, nestled in the shelter of Heisterman and North Islands. There is Harbor Beach, with its fine harbor and government breakwater, upon which millions of dollars have been spent to make it the finest and safest harbor of refuge on the great lakes, which is a short ride from the Pointe. At Harbor Beach, there are also mineral springs, the waters of which have developed marvelous curative properties in certain diseases. Finally, there is Grindstone City, near the shore of Lake Huron, which is a quaint little town and well repays the curious visitor.

Health Care and Access to an on-call Doctor

As may be readily imagined, the services of a physician are rarely required at Pointe aux Barques, the tonic of the air and water doing their part when the visitor will indulge in out-of-door amusements. but for the rare cases where medical attendance is desirable. a physician will be at the Pointe throughout the season and within instant call of anyone who may require his services.

Water Safety at the Resort

Life Saving Station – Pointe Aux Barques

Safety for yachting or rowing parties is assured by the Life Saving station at the Pointe. Manned with the gallant life-savers who are ready at a moment’s notice to send their heavy lifeboat leaping to the rescue of the inexperienced sailor or the shipwrecked mariner. There is always a watchful figure in the tower that stands sentinel on the beach. His powerful marine glass sweeps the expanse of water continually in search of those who may be in trouble.

At night the cheerful light flashes from the beacon on the reef, warning the lake craft of the danger of coming too close in. The great passenger boats which pass up and down on Lake Huron often send their searchlight beam dancing into the eyes of the residents at the Pointe, flashing greetings from ships that pass in the night. A regular patrol is maintained throughout the day and night, and alert and skilled help is near in case of fire or other needs.

As at all resorts worthy, the name Pointe aux Barques has a most excellent golf course and the links are open to the use of all guests at the hotel. There are nine holes in the course and the naturally favorable lay of the ground has been artificially improved by the erection of hazards and bunkers until the course is pronounced as one of the finest in the state. To the golf enthusiasts, this means a great deal and it is with much pleasure that the Company calls attention to the excellent schedule of events for the season of 1912.

In weather that is uncomfortable for outdoor sports the bowling alley and billiard room at the hotel present an indoor attraction which is greatly appreciated. Connected with the hotel by a covered passageway. The bowling alley is convenient and comfortable, and the ladies find as much pleasure in the contests of skill as do the gentlemen. This is the favorite amusement of the younger boys and girls, and while their elders are struggling around the links, chasing the elusive little white ball, the youngsters make merry on the alleys.

Travel to the Point Via Train and Steamer

Pere-Marquette-Railroad Ad

There is nothing the summer resident likes so much as a place that combines the features of being easy of access and yet exclusive. Pointe aux Barques combines these two features perfectly. The care which has been taken to keep out the undesirable excursion crowds has been before spoken of. The ease with which the Pointe is reached by rail will be appreciated by a glance at the following schedule of routes.

From Toledo and the South.
Pere Marquette Railroad to Saginaw, Bad Axe to the Pointe.

From Chicago and the Southwest.
Grand Trunk Railway to Port Huron.
Pere Marquette Railroad to the Pointe.

From Detroit from the South. There are three routes

Route Number One
Pere Marquette Railroad to Saginaw, Bad Axe to the Pointe.

Route Number Two
Grand Trunk Railway to Port Huron.
Pere Marquette Railroad to the Pointe.

Route Number Three
Steamer to Port Huron.
Pere Marquette Railroad to the Pointe.

During the resort season, through parlor and sleeping car service is operated from Detroit and Southern cities.

Today the summer cottage resort continues as one of the smallest townships in Michigan and from the water the location hosts the famous Turnip Rock. This is a popular stop for sea kayaks and is deemed the most unusual rock formation in America by CNN.

Michael Hardy

Mike Hardy is the owner of Thumbwind Publications LLC. It started in 2009 as a fun-loving site covering Michigan's Upper Thumb. Since then, he has authored a vast range of content and established a loyal base of 60,000 visitors per month.

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2 thoughts on “History Of Pointe Aux Barques Cottage Community in Michigan’s Thumb

  1. Interesting article, but in your first line, I think you meant to say “voyageur”, not “voyeur”.

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