Leland Township

Leelanau County, Michigan

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Leland Town Hall is located at 112 West Philip Street, Leland MI 49654.
Phone: 231‑256‑75467.

Beginnings [1]

As the only Township in Leelanau County with two villages, its history can be found in these two waterfront communities. Leland village finds its origins in settlers who crossed from North Manitou Island during the early 1850's.

The settlers came to take advantage of water transport for use in the logging industry. A dam was built on the Leland River which raised the level of Lake Leelanau (north and south lakes). This in turn made the narrows navigable for future steamboat use.

Docks and sawmills were built in Leland village and by 1860 the population had grown to 200 people. Stores, hotels, and shops were added near the present location of the county buildings. In 1870 an iron furnace was built on the waterfront and used to refine ore from the upper peninsula.

Leland's substantial population growth and size enabled the village to become the county seat. By 1884 the Township population had grown to 839, with 370 persons living in Leland village. Almost a century later, the village's permanent population remains nearly the same. Many of the buildings in both Leland and Lake Leelanau villages were built before the turn of the century and remain as historical evidence of past endeavors.

Commercial fishing has been a Leland industry since 1880 and although diminished continues today, with sport fishing added along the way. Fishermen's demands for a better harbor resulted in improvements in 1937. In 1965 the State of Michigan designated the harbor a "Harbor of Refuge," and installed a breakwall and marina.

As the lumber industry ran its course and the iron business yielded to major cities, Leland Township was saved from financial failure by the blossoming tourist business. Travelers arrived by rail to Traverse City and again by rail to Fouch on the southeastern corner of south Lake Leelanau. Here travelers boarded lake steamers for transport to both Leland and Lake Leelanau villages.

Hotels were built at Fountain Point south of the narrows in 1890 and in Leland village in 1901 and 1909. Summer visitors also began to arrive in Leland village by steamer directly from Chicago. The Township has been a tourist destination ever since and tourism is its primary economic anchor.

The first store building was built in Lake Leelanau village in 1881 by Noel Couturier. At that time the village was called Provemont, where the Schaub brothers had farmed since mid-century. The narrows were first bridged in 1864, and again in 1895 and 1935. Lake Leelanau village provided wood for the steamers from a lumberyard erected in 1884. In 1903 the village became the terminus of a railroad from Traverse City which provided service until 1944. A Catholic missionary founded a church at Provemont that developed into today's church, and school.

  1. Township of Leland, Leland Township Master Plan — Update, 2008, www.lelanau.cc, accessed January, 2014.

Nearby Towns: Suttons Bay Twp •

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