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White Lake Heritage
A natural harbor lake along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, White Lake is approximately seven miles long, one mile across and flows into Lake Michigan through a deep water channel. Such an ideal waterfront setting brought the first Native American tribes to the picturesque White Lake area. Potawatomie and Ottawa bands settled and thrived for many generations along the pristine shores of both White Lake and Lake Michigan.
As early European explorers and adventurers began pushing westward from Canada and Pennsylvania, fur trading dominated White Lake commerce which was aided in its growth by the establishment of several West Michigan trading posts between 1730 and 1830.
The Lumbering Era
Early American lumbermen, who had logged out the huge stands of timber in Maine, New York and Pennsylvania, eventually moved west into Michigan to see for themselves the immense stands of white pine that trappers and traders were telling them about. To this enormous woodland bonanza came the Eastern loggers and with them the Scandinavians, Canadians and Irish.
As lumbering began to dominate, so too did the proliferation of sawmills to process the forest’s bounty. The first mill, powered by water, was built by Charles Mears in 1837. Sold in 1871 and renamed the Staples & Covell Mill, it enjoyed great success prior to closing in 1907, 15 years after all rival mills had ceased operation. Logs and finished lumber were shipped south to Chicago and points further south on the big lake and inland to the growing populations in such towns as Grand Rapids and Lansing.
The tannery was built in 1866 and remained the most consistently active—and largest—employer in Muskegon County until 1960 and the arrival of Alcoa/Howmet. Originally named the Eagle Tannery, then later the Eagle-Ottawa Tannery, it was purchased by the General Shoe Company (Genesco) in 1944 when it was renamed again as Whitehall Leather Company. During the war years, the tannery manufactured combat boots for U.S. servicemen stationed all over the world. After 134 years in operation, the facility was closed in 2000.
The Industrial Era
The 1940s and ‘50s saw the beginning of the industrial era on White Lake when Whitehall Leather Company was joined by Misco-U.S. Chemical (1951), Hooker Chemical (1952), and E.I. DuPont Nemours (1956). Pollution from this manufacturing era contributed to White Lake being designated an “Area of Concern” in 1985.
Restored to its pristine past
Fortunately, a variety of public and private cleanup efforts have led to dramatic improvements in the water quality of White Lake over the past three decades. Today, those efforts have resulted in a level of water quality that allows for safe swimming, fishing and boating.
Just as the tannery brought jobs and prosperity to White Lake in the past, today this sparkling harbor, renamed Tannery Bay, beckons families once again to marvel at its serenity and matchless beauty. To learn more about the history of White Lake, and the commitment of local and state officials to maintain its beauty for generations to come, please visit the websites indicated below.
Tannery Bay is a Southshore Development community offering gracious lakeside living on the eastern shore of White Lake, just north of Muskegon in Whitehall, Michigan. West Michigan has an abundance of beautiful locales, but none more picturesque than Tannery Bay where spectacular vistas, stunning lakeshore beaches, and the clear, sparkling waters of majestic Lake Michigan combine to create a haven unlike any other. This private lakeside community offers newly built single-family homes and condominium living.
The homes and homesites at Tannery Bay continue the Eastbrook legacy begun nearly 50 years ago by incorporating our experience, craftsmanship and style in a way that reflects our professional standards and that this magnificent lakeshore property deserves.
Tannery Bay offers great local activities in the surrounding areas. Enjoy a show at the historic Howmet Playhouse, dinner at the Dog and Suds Drive-in, homemade Ice Cream at the Country Dairy Farm, and Saturday’s at the Farmers Market in Montague. For outdoor activities, enjoy a trip on the 22 mile Bike Trail to Hart, rent a kayak, canoe, or raft from Happy Mohawk Canoe Livery, or spend the day golfing at the White Lake Country Club, Old Channel or the Double JJ Resort in nearby Rothbury.