Manistee Expands Historic Sites Tours

Manistee County will expand their historic sites tours thanks to a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development.

The county has 100 historic sites that can be seen throughout the City of Manistee in eight themed tours. Now, they’ll be adding 20 more sites, a Founders Walk, signage, guidebooks and online material. And the inclusion of Little River Band of Ottawa Indians’ history.

“The most exciting project for our organization is to be able to partner with tribal organizations and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians,” says Manistee County Visitors Bureau (MCVB) Chair, Tim Riley. “To be able to really tell the story of their rich heritage throughout the area we haven’t been able to do that as much as we’d like in the past so we’re super excited.”

The USDA granted $72.5k towards the project – half of the project total cost.

The tribe’s history will be told through narratives and added historic sites like the Cultural Corridor at Little River Casino Resort.

“We want our part of the story involved so people realize that there were individuals and people living here for at least a century or so before the starting of the Manistee area,” says LRBOI Historic Preservation Director, Jay Sam. “We do have some areas inside the city that have historic prevalence. The exact sites might not be in existence anymore like over by the car ferries.”

Ottawa History and tribal history expands further than the car ferries.

“We can talk about how the [Manistee] River was used,” says Sam. “We’re also going to elude to the fact that the Treaty of Washington,1836, established the reservation and it was established on that river. ”

The inclusion of the LRBOI history has been a long time coming according to Sam.

“Not all projects reflect the tribes or that the fact that the tribes have a history in the areas, all along the coast line,” he says. “And we think that it’s very important that these things be known. There’s a lot of history that could be told and ours added to it has been a long time coming and we’re very happy that it’s getting put into the story. ”

The Manistee Sites Tours is a result of athe 2013 tourism season. Nearly half of MCVB website questions that season were about historic sites. In 2015, the MCVB applied for and was awarded a $50k grant to create the historic sites. The Manistee County Historical Society identified 100 sites of historic significance and and created eight themed tours. Fifteen of theses sites are on the National Register of Historic Places. The tour project was officially dedicated in 2018.

“With the pandemic in the past 18 months going on, people really have enjoyed the tours that we have put together, especially the historic site tours,” Riley says. “I think it’s a really good opportunity for us to be able to expand the project and for people to be able to drive around and look at historic homes. I think that people are really going to love it.”

Riley also says the Historic Sites Tours expansion will be great for the local economy.

The project will take the next 12 to 24 months to complete. This Friday there will be a meeting to go over how the cultural sites in the area can be added to the downtown portion of the tour, according to Sam.