Glen Lake and Inspiration Point
Where Old M-22/M-109 veers left toward Glen Haven, M-22 veers right, runs north through remnants of the D.H. Day Forest, and hits the south shore of Glen Lake. M-22 runs briefly along Glen Lake’s south shore before intersecting with MacFarlane Road. A quick side trip on MacFarlane Road takes one up into the hills surrounding Glen Lake to a small roadside park known as Inspiration Point. Perched high atop Glen Lake, Inspiration Point provides beautiful views over Glen Lake, the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Lake Michigan, and South Manitou Island.
From the intersection with MacFarlane Road, M-22 heads north through the middle of Glen Lake over the State Route 22 Bridge. The bridge is a popular spot for viewing Glen Lake, taking in sunrises and sunsets, and watching boat traffic cross between Little Glen Lake and Big Glen Lake. Glen Arbor The road continues along Glen Lake’s shoreline past numerous stately summer cottages before rejoining Old-M-22 in downtown Glen Arbor.
Glen Arbor’s upscale gift shops, restaurants, wine tasting rooms, and scenery have always attracted visitors from the Midwest, but the town has seen a sharp increase in tourism from the East Coast in recent years. Bloomberg News recently described the Sleeping Bear Dunes region as “The New Hamptons” and Glen Arbor as its epicenter. In 2012, The New York Post wrote, “Wineries, beaches, little towns like Glen Arbor, bustling and cosmopolitan Traverse City, endless back roads and open spaces. Really, this is one of those sweet spots, like California’s Sonoma, both rural and sophisticated, hip but not hipster, rarely all that exclusive and never terribly up itself. . . . Is it perfect? Kind of.”
D.H. Day and the Development of Sleeping Bear Dunes, M-22, and Glen Arbor
Although Glen Arbor has seen a recent boom in tourism, it has always been a popular destination. Like other towns along M-22, Glen Arbor started as a logging town. It was settled in 1851 and had its first sawmill by 1857. By 1867 it had two sawmills, four stores, two hotels, a blacksmith shop, and a cooper shop. One of the most influential figures in the area’s history, D.H. Day, bought his first lumber mill in 1895, and the course of Glen Arbor’s history was forever changed. Mr. Day would acquire thousands of acres of forest in the area. In 1911, the Grand Rapids Press reported, “So widespread are his realty holdings throughout the district where he first gathered firewood for lake steamers and so numerous and varied the industries and improvements he has put upon them that the valley from which he has carved a fortune is popularly known as his domain and he has become wildly known through Michigan as Kind David of the Glen Lake Valley.”
Unlike other loggers, however, Mr. Day managed his forests to preserve them for future generations. Instead of clear cutting, Mr. Day selected only mature trees, allowing younger trees to grow and the forest to regenerate. The Grand Rapids Press reported, “He was first probably in all America to see the promise in reforestation and he has gone farther in this than perhaps any private citizen in the United States.”
His interests expanded beyond logging and into fruit orchards. He planted apple and cherry trees and oversaw the rapid expansion of the area as a cherry and apple growing hub. “Always he has preached that every acre of western Michigan land will grow fruit if the proper care is exercised and the correct variety is chosen,” the Press reported.
Mr. Day also recognized the area’s potential for tourism. In 1922 he unveiled plans for the D.H. Day Forest Estates on Alligator Hill. The hill was formed by glaciers and sits high above Lake Michigan, Glen Lake, and the surrounding dunes. A real estate publication declared, “The project, deemed fit for the permanent Summer White House, can provide homes for residents of the Gold Coast of Chicago or Millionaire’s Row of New York and leave nothing to be desired that nature or men can provide. It will be a center of society.” A 1929 brochure declared that D.H. Day Forest Estates would be “America’s premier exclusive summer resort community.” A 19 hole golf course was built, an airstrip cleared, and access roads graded. However, the Great Depression prevented completion of the project. The golf course operated until 1941. Many of its fairways are still evident today along the Alligator Hill hiking trail in the Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Even though the D.H. Day Forest Estates were never built, the project planted a seed in the imagination of area residents. With the logging industry in decline and farming limited by area land, tourism offered an opportunity for the area to thrive. With the advent of the automobile and shift from logging to tourism and agriculture, Mr. Day was one of the first to appreciate the need for improved roads. The Grand Rapids Press reported, “The highways of King David’s domain are in keeping with the other modern ideas. He started the good roads movement in this section of Michigan and set an example the townships surrounding were somewhat slow to profit by. But the economical value of improved highways has been demonstrated to their satisfaction now and gravel roadways leading into Glen Lake Valley from the nearest railway points and markets.”
Mr. Day had perhaps more influence on the development of M-22 than any other individual. In 1909 he founded the West Michigan Development Bureau, which he used to promote road construction and attract investors and settlers to the area. He was also a leader in the Western Michigan Pike Association, which promoted road development and hosted automobile rallies in Glen Haven called the “Good Roads Pike Tours.” The section of M-22 and M-109 connecting Empire and Glen Haven was planned, built, and paid for by Mr. Day himself. Thus, Glen Haven and Glen Arbor were pioneers in M-22’s development, completing improved roads long before implementation of the State Trunkline Act. Because of Mr. Day’s visionary thinking, the area’s road development ran 15-20 years ahead of the development of other stretches of M-22.
Even though Mr. Day’s grand plan for a resort community never came to fruition, others took advantage of Mr. Day’s advanced roads and built resorts of their own. In 1924, a young St. Louis couple named William and Cora Beals searched the shoreline to find the most beautiful stretch of beach in Michigan. They settled on a stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline just north of downtown Glen Arbor where the waters of the Crystal River emptied into Lake Michigan. They set up a camp offering family-friendly outdoor activities, and the Homestead Resort was born. Satisfied guests asked the Beals to open a boarding school at the site. Despite the Great Depression, construction on the school was completed in 1932. The Homestead would serve as a boarding school in the fall, winter, and spring, and a family resort in the summer. The Beals family operated The Homestead until it was sold in 1974. Over the next three decades, it was expanded to become Northern Michigan’s largest resort. It now spans 500 acres, features inns, private residences, a spa, a golf course, and downhill ski runs. The boarding school, now called the Leelanau School, still operates next door to the present-day resort and is one of the top-ranked boarding schools in the nation.