ELK RAPIDS RESIDENTIAL & TOURIST AREA

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Boundary Description for the Historic Landscape:
The originally platted Residential Area; that borders old State Route 31 – now known as South Bay Shore Drive and U.S. 31 in the East and West and North and Grand Traverse Bay and Wetlands from the North to the South, respectively. The geographic boundaries for the village are located in the southwest region of Antrim County, which is located in the northwest region of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It compromises 1.6 square miles of the county’s 476.9 square miles. This specific area encompasses the following boundaries – north to Traverse Street, the west to South Bay Shore Drive, to the east of Bridge Street and to the south incorporating the wetlands, Iosco Street and the old brickyards. The Super Tool and Dye Company that came to the Elk Rapids region in 1952/53 renamed 1st through 4th streets, to be the opposite of what they were originally platted for, following the rerouting of U.S. 31to have an establishment at 1st Street.
 
Period of Significance:
The residential component of the Village of Elk Rapids is significant according to National Register Criteria A, at both the State level for its association with the development of the state’s automobile transportation system and Northern Michigan’s lumber, mining and tourist industries. Buildings within this component housed those directly involved in the development of these industries, both management and labor, that proved pivotal to the growth and expansion of the state of Michigan. Recreational tourism, which flourished in Elk Rapids from its inception, outlasted that of the heavy industries and is still significant to this day. Lastly, the residential component of Elk Rapids is connected to the state’s early automobile transportation system due to its situation along the historic “West Michigan Pike,” which was itself a part of the elaborate “Dixie Highway” system that connected northern Michigan to southern Florida.

The residential component is also significant according to National Register Criteria C at the National and State level as it contains a largely intact collection of late 19th century and early 20th century residential structures. Much of the historic housing stock is of simple vernacular forms, such as the gabled ell, the upright and wing and the
cross-gable. Moreover, along Ottawa Street, there are found housing specimens that display elements of popular house styles of the time, such as the Gothic Revival and Queen Anne.

The period of significance begins c.1866, with the completion of the Emmet and Grand Traverse State Road, which runs through the residential component Elk Rapids, and provides the first land route linking the coastal communities of the northwestern lower peninsula of Michigan, from Traverse City to the Straights of Mackinaw.  Historical development ends in this component with the establishment of a string of small cabin resorts, the last of which was the Pine Hollow Cabin Camp, built in 1939. This halt to the notable development in this section, in 1939, ends the period of historical significance.
See pages 7 - 8 for more detail.

General Recommendations:
1. Develop a vibrant interpretive program for the residential and tourism areas that incorporate the evolving nature of the town first by industrial development and then by auto tourism. A self guided tour with interpretive signs, like those placed in Ann Arbor, are a unique and interesting way to educate visitors about the past and the present.
2. Develop a natural area to the south of the residential area. This area is full of wetlands and is not available for development since law prohibits it. Therefore, this is a great opportunity to develop a nature center or parks system that connects the wetland area, county day park, library island park, and others that may extend to the other side of Elk Lake. A greenway for residents to walk, bike, or run throughout their neighborhood would encourage recreational opportunities and fitness among residents.
3. Develop a tour of the areas based on different themes that have changed the fabric of the landscape in the residential and tourism areas. This could be the evolution of industry, tourism, architecture, culture and everyday life, among others.
4. Provide adequate sidewalks throughout the residential and tourism area. Sidewalks often start and stop in awkward spots and prohibit visitors and residents from taking a stroll in safety. Many people choose to walk in the street or not walk at all and use a car. This could be a simple fix for a unified look in the residential neighborhood and an easy way to address pedestrian safety in the neighborhood.
5. Develop the rails to trails idea with the old railroad tracks. This national program seeks to reuse unused railway paths for recreational uses.
6. Develop a plan for South Bay Shore Drive, which creates a West Michigan Pike/ Old US- 31 Resort & Heritage Road Area. The plan should stress rehabilitation of cabin camps, restoration of the old gas station, rehabilitation of the old tourist campground along with a renewed emphasis on the recreational potential of this area including non-motorized touring such as bicycling, running, and kayaking. This should include adaptive reuse of the cabin camps to include mixed use, such as artist studios. Also a new sign that welcomes visitors to Elk Rapids from US-31 to South Bay Shore Drive.
7. Develop an overall landscape design plan that addresses the rehabilitation of the existing
historic tree canopy in both the residential and tourism areas.
See pages 57 - 61 for details.