Ottawa County Parks & Recreation Commission


BLACK LAKE BOARDWALK INTERPRETIVE SIGNAGE
Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission – Holland, Michigan     

Curatorial work including, research, writing, image selection, and the design of three different outdoor signage systems:
1 A four-panel kiosk located at the site of the former Ottawa Beach Hotel in Holland, Michigan with an audio tour set to period music for the visually impaired installed in 2015.
2. A four-panel and two panel interpretive sign at the fishing access.
3. A single panel sign at the Pump House

About the content: For centuries before Holland’s  founding, the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Pottawatomie tribes fished the area where the Muck-i-ta-wog-go-me (Black Water) emptied into Michigami (Lake Michigan). In the mid-1850s Dutch settlers began using small sailboats called Mackinaws, setting string hooks or gill nets.  The earliest fishermen kept their Mackinaws and shacks at the western end of Black Lake (known as Lake Macatawa after 1935), but that prime land on both sides of the channel was quickly turned into resort hotels and cottages in the 1880s, forcing fishermen to relocate six miles away at the east end of Black Lake. The additional time and cost to reach the big lake made their logistics more difficult, but the industry continued.

By the late 1870s, West Michigan’s chief industry, lumber, began to play out, but that product had helped build burgeoning cities in the American Midwest populated with an increasingly affluent middle class seeking to avoid the summer heat and congestion of those metropolises. With its excellent fishing, fine scenery, cool lake breezes, and close proximity to Chicago and Michigan’s largest cities, Holland proved a magnet to these vacationers, and railroads and steamboats carried growing numbers of resorters to the shores of Black Lake. In December 1885 a group of prosperous Grand Rapids businessmen, including executives from the Chicago & West Michigan Railway, formed the West Michigan Park Association. The new group bought 75 acres of land on the north side of Black Lake (since 1935 today’s Lake Macatawa) to create a resort of family cottages and a superb hotel. The association named the new hostelry Hotel Ottawa in honor of the Native Americans who first populated the area. The presence of the hotel spawned the name for the entire area: Ottawa Beach.

As the Ottawa Beach hotel grew in 1901 to service the many thousands of tourists that came to the area annually, it erected an electric power plant with dynamos to generate electricity to illuminate the hotel and grounds. Later, the building became a pump house providing water to the community until 1988.

 

BlackLakeBoardwalk