Lake Orion, MI – Where Living is a Vacation
We have all been on those vacations where we couldn’t wait for it to be over so we could go home. The trip was stressful or boring or just unpleasant, and being there for one more day would be miserable. On the other hand, we have all been on vacation somewhere that made us never want to leave – everything about the trip was perfect and the idea of returning home made us sad. For almost 200 years the Village of Lake Orion has been that perfect vacation spot for people living all over Michigan. Early on travelers to the quaint village recognized the unique beauty of Lake Orion and took steps to capitalize on it, first developing the east side of the lake, and then the west side.
Greens Park & The Main Landing
In the late 1800s, E.R. Emmons built the “Main Landing” for people who were waiting for passenger boats to ferry them to the various destinations in and around Lake Orion. The landing used lighted arches for a grand entrance, and there were picnic pavilions, boat rentals, and a cafe for travelers to enjoy.
The Lakeside Hotel was owned by a man with the last name of Green, and was located very close to the main landing built by Emmons. The hotel was a hotspot for wealthier guests to stay in and experience.
Also in the late 1800s, constructing a summer cottage on Lake Orion became very popular for those who could afford to do so. The first cottages built were the Darling and Venice Cottages, followed quickly by the Simmons Point home. Darling Cottage and Venice Cottage look very similar to how they did when they were first built in early 1880, while the only remaining evidence of Simmons Point is the gazebo Fred and Emma Simmons had built.
For a less expensive way to have that dream summer home on Lake Orion, the “Kit Cottage” was introduced by Lake Orion Lumber. Kit cottages were exactly what they sound like – precut cottages that people could buy and quickly construct.
The West Side
The western shore of Lake Orion was developed much later than the eastern side, because the eastern shore was on the side of the village. However, development did begin around the 1930s with very large homes, landings used for evening church services, and even a gang made up of bootleggers and hijackers.
Lake Orion’s claim to fame as a tourist destination became more pronounced with the religious and cultural event held all summer long on Bellevue Island. The event, known as Chautauqua, brought famous acts from all over the country to entertain the tourists. Preachers, musicians, and specialists on a wide range of topics would all flock to Bellevue Island to present at Chautauqua.
The popularity of Chautauqua inspired businessman John Winter to buy land around the eastern side of Lake Orion. Winter built an amusement park and summer homes on Park Island, which he bought in 1911. He recognized the benefit of giving tourists activities to do during the summer and on Park Island he added a dance hall, a developed beach with a large waterslide, a roller coaster, penny arcade and more.
The history of Lake Orion is one filled with fun, excitement, and even a little intrigue. Tourists and residents alike have called Lake Orion a destination spot since the 1800s. While the days of amusement parks, Chautauqua, and penny arcades are gone, Lake Orion still maintains an air of permanent vacation. Which makes sense because in modern day Lake Orion, just as in the late 1800s and early 1900s, living really is a vacation.