The Northport Beach Resort lived a brief, but exciting life
So he commissioned an architect to draw up the plans for what turned out to be a place he advertised as: “One of the most modern of the Northern Michigan resorts. It is 215 feet long, has 110 guest rooms, is lathed and plastered, and has double floors throughout. Electric lights, steam heat and telephones in every room.”
The hotel opened in July 1903. The advertised rates were $2.50 to $3.50 a day — $12 to $21 a week. Mr. Leslie’s hotel was soon a popular tourist destination, and was growing in fame every year
The hotel was located on “The finest bathing beach in the whole northern resort country.” There were Pure Water Springs and Mineral Springs on the property, and behind the hotel one could wander through 26 acres of a Natural Pine Park. (A nine-hole golf course was in the plans, but I’m not sure it was ever completed).
Among other things, their brochure stated: “Northport harbor, being a natural harbor of refuge with plenty of water and seaway, is the finest harbor on either side of Lake Michigan. It is accessible at all times and in all kinds of wind or sea. Boats, large and small, in large numbers, can anchor here with perfect safety, where transportation, telegraph, post office and hotel facilities are at hand and where provisions can be purchased. Canoeing and rowing are perfectly safe, and small boats can safely lie at anchor off the beach at all times.”
“The Northport Beach Resort can be reached direct from Chicago by the Northern Michigan line of steamers stopping at Northport.” It could also be reached by train from Chicago, but with some transfers. And by the end of 1903 the Traverse City, Leelanau and Manistique Railroad began to come into Northport to connect with the car-ferry line to Manistique in the Upper Peninsula.
That line connected to the “Soo” line, which brought people from the west, Minneapolis and St. Paul. There was a little train station that served the hotel, and there was a wide boardwalk extending from the hotel (just north of 7th street) to downtown Northport. Pictures of the harbor at that time show the hotel dominating the harbor scene.
Fishing was a major sport at that time, with brook trout in the streams, and Lake Trout and Whitefish on the lake. Trolling boats were available nearby.
In July, 1908 the hotel was made ready for a big 4th of July celebration, with colorful Japanese lanterns strung all along the boardwalk. Alas, they were never used for that celebration, as a disaster in the kitchen caused a fire that quickly spread throughout the wooden building. Every able-bodied person turned out to join the bucket brigade along the boardwalk, but it was no use, and by morning there were only smoldering embers where the once majestic hotel had stood.
Mr. Leslie suffered a loss of near $100,000, and could not rebuild, because (just like in any good fairy tale) the secretary treasurer had not paid the insurance policy. His own house still stands, on the lot just south of where his dream had once been realized.
And Northport people sometimes speculate on how different this town might be had The Northport Beach Hotel not burned.