Since 1939 when Mason County Historical Society was formed, numerous individuals have written stories, articles, books and memoirs related to the history of our community. Those documents have been become an important part of the archives of the society. The works of two of those historians, Dawn Dornbos who contributed to the Mason Memories series for MCHS and James Cabot who wrote numerous outstanding local history articles for the Ludington Daily News, are the inspiration and vital source material for this article.
In the 1890s Mason County was in transition from lumbering to another economic structure. What that structure would be was not yet clearly defined, but most white pine forests had been harvested, many sawmills had closed and the lumbermen – the men who had built this community fueled by the lumber business – were leaving to seek new opportunities in other communities.
There were, however, people who did not want to see Ludington added to the long and growing list of local “ghost towns” that had once been thriving lumbering towns in Michigan. These men incorporated the Ludington Improvement Association on May 28, 1891, with capital of $10,000. The stockholders included Mayor Fred E. Gary and men with the prominent local surnames of Danaher, Dowland, Foster and Stearns among several others. A few months later negotiations began with Charles Mears (1814-1895) to purchase 2,000 acres directly north of the Ludington city limits as a location for the new businesses the group hoped to attract to Ludington.
The land bordered by what are now Rath Avenue, Tinkham Avenue, Washington Avenue and Bryant Road (with the exception of a small portion of the parcel in its southwest corner) was added to the City of Ludington as the Manufacturer’s Addition (Note: various other spellings including Manufacturers’, Manufactures, Manufacturers were also used at times.)
The north-south streets within this newly platted addition were the extensions of the streets already existing that had been named by James Ludington; James after himself, Harrison and Rowe after his cousins and Delia, Lavinia and Emily after his sisters. For some undocumented reason the names of poets were attached to the east-west streets: John Greenleaf Whittier, James Russell Lowell, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and William Cullen Bryant.
A second organization was soon formed. The Citizens Development Company was headed by Charles Gordon Wing (1846-1920) with Hannibal S. Fuller as treasurer. Stockholders in this new group also included prominent residents with the surnames Cartier, Caswell, Danaher, Goodenough, Filer, Foster, Mendelson, Olney, Rath, Stray among others. Another of the investors was Frank A. Foster, Mason County Treasurer.
Efforts were begun to sell lots from this new addition to both businesses and homeowners. The July 2, 1892 edition of The Ludington Record reported the pre-sale of almost 150 parcels at prices ranging from $25 to $140 per lot. Antoine E. Cartier purchased a full city block for $1,000.
Promotion programs to sell the remaining lots were quickly undertaken. Dawn Dornbos in the autumn 1973 edition of MCHS Mason Memories described these efforts with these words, “Manufacturer’s Addition was the best published and most celebrated addition to the city of Ludington. P. T. Barnum couldn’t have done a better job of ballyhooing than the local businessmen who promoted it….’Booming’ was the objective of the company.”
The climax of this promotion campaign occurred that same month — July, 1892. On July 7 a proclamation from Mayor Lucius K. Baker reminded citizens that “Our beautiful city will be called upon to entertain a large number of guests on July 14.… I would therefore recommend that July 14 be a holiday, and that the merchants and business men close their various places of business at 12 o’clock noon that day. I would also ask the good citizens to decorate their buildings in a manner befitting he occasion…”
The July 14, 1892 edition of the Ludington Record ran a story with the headlines:
Ludington, the Pride of the Lakes
Cast Your ‘Lot’ With Us – It’s a Good Investment”
The July 21 edition of that same newspaper reported, “Boats from Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Manistee, Pentwater, and trains from the east and south as well as several thousand people residing in Mason County made in the aggregate quite a crowd.”
Of that memorable day historian James Cabot wrote:
“The festivities were planned by S. E. Gross, the Chicago real estate agent. He arranged for horse races, a parade and an old-time barbecue to put everyone in a good mood for the sale.
On Thursday, July 14, 1892, the procession to the site of the barbecue and auction in the Manufacturer’s Addition was led by Mayor Lucius K. Baker and Congressman Harrison H. Wheeler.
At the barbecue, speakers extolled the benefits of manufacturing industries and prophesized how Ludington was destined to be the metropolis of western Michigan. Then the auction commenced, resulting in the sale of about $10,000 worth of lots.”
While the sale of lots in this new addition to Ludington was successful, the challenge now was to bring factories and the jobs associated with them to the district. The story of that effort is scheduled to be published in two weeks.
This article, like the others provided every other week by the Mason County Historical Society, is based on materials donated to the archives of the Society. Because the Society is an organization controlled by numerous members of the community, and has been since 1937, these archives will continue to be available to future generations to explore these interesting stories. If you would like to help in this community effort, please contact us at 231-843-4808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.