5 Must Visit Historical Locations in Petoskey

July 28, 2022
Petoskey Michigan Clock Tower
The iconic clock tower in Petoskey, Michigan.

Petoskey isn’t just for beachgoers and boaters. History buffs will also enjoy this Northern Michigan town steeped in history. Here are just a few of the historic sites you can visit in Petoskey.

A Brief History of Petoskey

Petoskey’s first residents were Native Americans. The area has been their home for thousands of years. Today they’re known as the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. The first missionaries arrived in 1855 and named the town Bear River. The railroad arrived in 1873, and the town began to grow. That same year it was renamed “Petoskey” after Ottawa Indian Chief, Chief Pet-O-Sega. The new railroad brought tourists to the area to enjoy the lakeshore along Little Traverse Bay. Today Petoskey is a modern resort town with an old-fashioned, hometown feel. The historic architecture adds to the town’s charming ambiance. 

Little Traverse Historical Museum  

At one time visitors coming to Petoskey to enjoy Lake Michigan and local the inland lakes arrived by train at the Pere Marquette train stain. Author Ernest Hemingway, who spent every summer of his first 22 years in Petoskey, likely passed through the train station many times. Today the building erected in 1892 is home to the Little Traverse Historical Museum. The museum houses several exhibits about the history of the Petoskey area, including one about Hemingway.

Petoskey Clock Tower

Petoskey’s famous Clock Tower is located in Bayfront Park just a short walk from the Little Traverse Historical Museum. Over 30 years old, the clock tower was restored in the summer of 2022. It’s an iconic sight loved by all who spend time at Bayfront Park on the shores of Little Traverse Bay. The park has 7,800 feet of shoreline on Lake Michigan. It’s a wonderful place to stroll along the water or watch the sunset.

Crooked Tree Arts Center

Crooked Tree Arts Center is housed in the former home of the Petoskey United Methodist Church. The building was constructed in 1890. Crooked Tree acquired the building when the congregation moved to a new location. Today the beautifully maintained building houses four galleries, a theater, a dance studio, classrooms, and a culinary arts kitchen. The art galleries are open to the public.

Petoskey Historic Gaslight District

The historic Gaslight District has been Petoskey’s premier shopping district for more than 100 years. The historic buildings in the charming downtown area house over 170 unique restaurants, shops, and boutiques. With its proximity to the waterfront, it’s a great place to spend a summer afternoon browsing the shops and grabbing a bite to eat. The district is on the National Register of Historic Places.

St. Francis Solanus Mission Church

The first Catholic church in Petoskey, St. Francis was built in 1859. Father Bishop Baraga, the famous Snowshoe Priest, was instrumental in the church being established in Petoskey. Restored in 2008, it’s the oldest building in Petoskey. You can tour the building on select Sundays, May through October.

Bear River Bridge

The Bear River Bridge was built in the Moderne architecture style in 1930. It’s Michigan’s fourth longest concrete girder bridge. The 265-foot-long bridge has seven spans. It passes over the Bear River Recreation Area where you’ll find walking trails along the Bear River and a one-of-a-kind whitewater rafting course.

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