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Following in Hemingway’s Northern Michigan Footsteps

Click on image to see edited/printed version.
Click on image to see edited/printed version.

By Dianna Stampfler

Most have at least heard of Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Ernest Hemingway, but some may be surprised that he and his family – parents Clarence and Grace, along with his five siblings – spent their summers at their cottage Windemere on Walloon Lake.

Hailing from Oak Park, Illinois, the Hemingways made their annual summer pilgrimage north via steamer from Chicago to Harbor Springs, when they would board the first of three trains that would transport them through Bay View, Petoskey and Clarion to Walloon Lake, where they would travel again by boat (and then horse-drawn wagon) to finally arrive at their cottage.

Summers in northern Michigan were magical for Ernest. It was here that his passion for the outdoors was fostered, where his love of writing blossomed and where he set many of his short stories – specifically The Nick Adams Stories and Torrents of Spring.

The Michigan Hemingway Society is currently updating its self-guided Michigan Hemingway Tour map of sites throughout Bay View, Petoskey, Horton Bay, Walloon Lake and the Pigeon River area near Gaylord. Most sites are identified by a 15-inch by 15-inch bronze historical plaque printed with a brief history.

Petoskey claims the majority of these historic sites, including the Pere Marquette Railroad Station (currently the Little Traverse History Museum near the marina, which features several Hemingway artifacts on display) and the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad Station (on the corner of Bay and Lewis Streets).

  • The Perry Hotel – where Ernest stayed in 1916 after hiking north from Oak Park, paying just 75-cents for his room;
  • The Annex – now known as City Park Grill;
  • McCarthy’s Barber Shop at 309 Howard Street (now Ruff Life Pet Outfitters) – where Hemingway went for a shave, haircut and likely for use of the public bathhouse in the basement;
  • Jesperson’s Restaurant (now High Five Spirits); Carnegie Library Building (451 E. Mitchell Street) – where he spoke to locals about his time as an American ambulance driver in Italy during World War I;
  • Potter’s Rooming House (602 State St., now a private home), where he spent the winter of 1919-1920 to focus on his writing;
  • Braun Hotel at 210 Howard Street – above Mettlers American Mercantile – was added in 2020 and is a noted site from the 1926 book Torrents of Spring.

In 2017, a bronze statue of Ernest Hemingway was unveiled in Pennsylvania Park, not far from many of the sites he was most associated and acquainted with. It has become a popular spot for those who want to have their picture taken with the noted author and former summer resident.

Horton Bay is also a prime area for Hemingway activity. Two boat launch areas are open to the public, for those who want to paddle in Ernest’s wake – including the Lake Charlevoix access at the end of Lake Street in Horton Bay and the Walloon Lake access at the end of Sumner Road. Those who wish to cast a line in Horton Creek can do so as well.

While the historic Horton Bay Methodist Church – where Ernest married Hadley Richardson on September 3, 1921 – is no longer standing, you can see Pinehurst and Shangri-Law (5738 Lake Street, the first two dwellings on the east side of the road) where the wedding party prepared for the day’s events and hosted their reception dinner afterward. The Horton Bay General Store, built in 1876, remains a top tourist attraction for visitors to this area.

Recent additions to the tour include Pigeon River Discovery Center in Vanderbilt – near the “Pine Barrens” that Hemingway later wrote about (dedicated in 2018) and Kalkaska Depot Station – where in 1916 a teenage Ernest followed the tracks north while hiking from Oak Park to Petoskey, likely hopping trains along the way (dedicated in 2019).

Over Labor Day weekend, the Village of Walloon Lake is expected to reveal an official marker adjacent to a series of historical and art installations that will be unveiled as part of its year-long “Hemingway Homecoming” celebration. The weekend will also include a “Wedding Reception” fundraiser dinner at the Talcott Center on Friday, September 3 – the 100th anniversary of Ernest’s wedding to Hadley in Horton Bay.

Other events in Walloon Lake this year include Walloon Lake Reads: The Nick Adams Stories, a virtual series beginning on April 1 (and coinciding with the airing of the PBS documentary about Hemingway by Ken Burns) as well as a Hemingway Birthday celebration on Wednesday, July 21 at Melrose Township Park where a Michigan Historical Marker was dedicated in 2010 in honor of Hemingway and his ties to the region.

The Michigan Hemingway Society is also hosting its Annual Literary Conference, October 1-3, at The Terrace Inn in Bay View. Registration will open soon at www.michiganhemingwaysociety.org.

Those looking to schedule a group tour of Hemingway sites should contact Chris Struble, president of the Michigan Hemingway Society and owner of Petoskey Yesterday at www.PetoskeyYesterday.com.

To download the current Michigan Hemingway Tour brochure, visit www.MiHemingwayTour.com.

For a variety of books by and about Ernest Hemingway, check out McLean & Eakin Booksellers at 307 E. Lake Street in Petoskey or online at www.McleanAndEakin.com.