In the late 1880s, George Hart cleared the land north of Manistee where Orchard Beach State Park now stands and planted an apple orchard, which gave the park its name. The orchard sat on a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. By 1892 Hart had built a boardwalk and theater to attract more tourists. With its growing popularity, A trolley line ran from Manistee for people to visit enjoying the view and sunsets over Lake Michigan.
As Michiganders fell in love with the automobile few people were using the trolly and passenger trains. Trolley service to the park eventually stopped and the site was purchased by the Manistee Board of Commerce which deeded it to the state to become part of the Michigan state park system in 1921. The state built a campground among the apple trees and purchased the dairy farm across the street which is now a natural area and used for hiking trails.
The limestone buildings in the park were designed by architect Ernest F. Hartwick and built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal”. The apple trees are gone and large oak and maple trees have taken their place. The park was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2009, cited as “one of the most intact examples of a Michigan state park developed in the 1930s and 1940s
Because of the erosion of the Lake Michigan shoreline, the historic pavilion will be moved back 200 feet in order to save it for future generations.
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