Who was Perry Hannah and why is there a statue of him in Downtown Traverse City? What's the best place to see historic buildings? Are there any shipwrecks in the region? The answers to these questions, and more, are highlighted below. Take a step back in time to appreciate the present and see how our northern Michigan city has developed into the thriving destination that it is today. 

Perry Hannah Mansion - The founder of Traverse City, Perry Hannah, has a special place in the hearts of citizens here. The native of Chicago began a lumbering business in the 1840’s on the Boardman River. As he hired more people for logging, his 200-acre property began to turn into a colony filled with shops, a grocery store, and a bank. He decided to move officially from the Windy City to what is now Traverse City to develop the area into what it is today. In 1893, Hannah built a 32-room mansion on what is currently the 6th Street historical neighborhood. Still standing today, the gorgeous home is now owned by Dan and Peg Jonkhoff and is a funeral home. The owners understand the significance of the home and allow visitors as long as there isn’t an event scheduled. Call ahead at (231) 947-6347 to see if you can take a peek inside. And be sure to stop by the statue of Perry on the corner of Sixth Street and Union. 

Perry Hannah Mansion
Perry Hannah Mansion

Logging - The logging industry in Michigan was essential for the development of the state and pivotal for the Traverse City region. What Perry Hannah began in Traverse City in the forties (see previous section) grew exponentially throughout the state from 1870 to 1890. In 1880, the roaring industry in Michigan was quickly producing as much lumber as the next three states combined. Due to the demand, railroads were established throughout the state to expedite the process. The railroads themselves can be seen around Traverse City, much of which has been repurposed into trails for the community, such as the popular TART Trails which follows track routes.

The Village at Grand Traverse Commons - As the area was booming from logging, more types of industries began popping up in the Traverse City region. In 1885, the state of Michigan decided to place the Northern Michigan Asylum on a 480-acre piece of property just a few miles from Grand Traverse Bay. The asylum provided numerous jobs and facilitated the growth of the city. Today, the hospital has been converted into unique village of shops, complete with a bakery, restaurants, a winery, a cafe, and plenty of green space for picnics and outdoor recreation. 480 acres of preserved parkland has been turned into a wonderful trail for hiking, biking or cross-country skiing in the snow. Speaking of wintertime, the Village also hosts a farmers market indoors that’s truly unique compared to your usual Saturday produce pick-up! 



Shipwrecks - Did you know that the Great Lakes are packed full of shipwrecks? Many of the best diving locations are right in the Traverse City area! The closest and best ship near Traverse City is by South Manitou Island where a 160-foot vessel is nestled in 12-feet of water. There’s a 282-square-mile underwater preserve along the coastline of Sleeping Bear Dunes that contains around 130 wrecks! Near the island, you can also explore the Francisco Morazan and Walter L. Frost. As Mike Norton describes in this article: “Though it [the Frost] was somewhat damaged when the Morazan sank on top of it, the Frost is a favorite with divers because large sections of the hull with machinery, boilers and related artifacts are open to divers of all skill levels.”

Three Brothers Shipwreck
Three Brothers Shipwreck

Additional Fast Facts 

  • The Northern Michigan Asylum (now The Village at Grand Traverse Commons) once held a larger population than Traverse City itself. 
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has only been a part of the national parks system since 1972. 
  • In the 1920s, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone used to drive up through the region in one of Ford’s motorcars to camp out on Power Island, which Ford owned at the time. 
  • The first settlement in the area was in 1839 by the Reverend Peter Doughtery, on what is now Old Mission Peninsula.
  • The Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in the 1840’s made their way to Leelanau County and settled in the region. The area was named Peshawbetown after the chief and is where the native tribes still own land and live today.