Following the Footsteps of a Young Hemingway
With views of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay, Petoskey is an upscale and scenic town with a rich history. It’s named after the 19th century Odawa Indian Chief Ignatius Petoskey, originally Petosega, born to a French fur trader and Ojibwa Indian mother. His statue – looking ironically European – centers a small square opposite the 1899 Stafford Perry Hotel.
The history in which I’m most interested is that Petoskey and surrounding areas were once the old stomping grounds of a young Ernest Hemingway, where the famous American writer spent his summers after his parents built a cottage on nearby Walloon Lake. While in the town center, I take a self-guided tour of several of Petoskey’s more than century-old buildings that Hemingway would recognize today.
I start my tour on the town center’s stretch of green space with a stern-faced bronze statue of the writer modeled from an old photograph. “It’s Hemingway waiting for a train to take him to his first writing assignment,” explains Peter Fitzsimons of the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau. The statue, however, is not an exact representation of the actual photo in the town’s Little Traverse History Museum. “When the photograph was taken, he had a wine bottle in his pocket,” Fitzsimons continues. “In the statue, they replaced it with a book.”
Hemmingway frequented a 1875 billiards hall which is now the City Park Grill, housed in one of Petoskey’s oldest buildings which is just a stone’s throw from his statue. In the 1910s and 1920s, the fledgling writer would jot down ideas for his stories while sitting on the second seat from the end of the century-old, 32-foot mahogany bar. The bar was once called the Annex, which Hemingway mentions in one of his books with short stories of Nick Adams. The Annex is also mentioned in the author’s short stories, “A Man of the World” and “Killers.”
I follow Hemingway’s footsteps to a home at tree-lined State and Woodland streets where he briefly lived, once known as Potter’s Rooming House. Other buildings Hemingway would recognize today include two former railroad station depots, one now an office plaza and the other housing the history museum; the Perry Hotel, and the stately Carnegie Library building often frequented by Hemingway.
A short drive from Petoskey leads to the Oden State Fish Hatchery dating back to the 1920s and still in operation today. The hatchery produces nearly a million brown and rainbow trout every year that help restock inland lakes throughout Michigan. On the grounds is the Visitor Center and a small museum within a re-created 1914-1935 Wolverine train car which depicts how employees once transported and restocked fish across the state.
Another unique attraction to the area is Lavender Hill Farm with its 33 acres of fields that grow the purple-tinted delicate flowers from June through August. Stocking its store’s shelves are a myriad of products erupting with fragrant scents in locally made lavender maple syrup, lavender teas, honey, gin, and spa products including soaps and moisturizers, to name just a few. “I think in our area, such a farm is unexpected,” says co-owner Bill Mansfield. “People come here for the water and beaches. The ability to come out and see a farm this large with 13,000 plants is unexpected.”
“You’re initially lured to lavender because of the fragrance,” he adds. “And then you realize the medicinal and pharmacological benefits, and the anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.”
The area is also home to the official Michigan state stone known as Petoskey Stones – shiny, 350-million-year-old fossilized colony coral found along the rocky shore beaches of Little Traverse Bay. “You can tell by the six-sided fossilized coral patterns,” explains Fitzsimons. “When they’re dry they have a chalky look. But when wet, they look like they’re polished so they’re easier to spot.”
Boyne Highlands Resort, Harbor Springs, MI
I spent one night in this comfortable Bavarian-style lodge and resort with its multiple golf courses, ponds and sprawling forested grounds. And in the winter, it’s a colossal ski resort.
Stafford Bay View Inn, Petoskey, MI
With stunning views of Little Traverse Bay from its old-style porch – especially on cool summer nights – this hotel offers simple yesteryear charm and a wonderful Sunday brunch!