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Katy Kern sent along this fascinating story about the Neahtawanta Hotel, which burned to the ground in 1914. Katy says the hotel was quite grand and included tennis courts, a bowling alley and a separate building for the laundry.

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Neahtawanta Hotel, Circa 1800s | Photo courtesy of Katy Kern

The book “Michigan Summer Resorts,” published by Pere Marquette Railway (get it here), describes the hotel this way:

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Hotel Neahtawanta and cottages, on terrace overlooking Grand Traverse Bay; in heart of fruit and dairy district; reached from Traverse City by splendid auto road or by steamer. A modern family resort, with accommodations for 300 guests, rooms en suite and with private bath; gas light and heat. Rates, $2.50 to $4.00 per day; $12 to $22.50 per week; special table board for cottagers; golf, tennis, croquet, bowling, fishing, boating, bathing beach, safe for smallest child; complete livery, including saddle horses; dance music by excellent hotel orchestra. No hay fever. Write Mr. S. Fred Cummings, manager, Neahtawanta, Mich., via Traverse City. 

Despite that glowing advertisement (publication date unknown), the Neahtawanta Hotel was not doing well and headed for bankruptcy. In fact, the Fire Marshall report from 1914 indicates that the fire was suspicious, and many of the owners and board of directors were at the hotel the night of the fire. Here’s the report of the State Fire Marshall to the Governor of Michigan (obtained here):

“On November 4, 1914, the Neahtawanta Hotel at Neahtawanta Resort was destroyed by fire of mysterious origin; on November 1, 1915, a cottage belonging to the hotel association was also consumed by a similar fire. In connection with the investigation of these fires it was ascertained that a livery barn and garage belonging to one of the gentlemen who was interested in the hotel and cottage, was burned. All these fires were apparently the work of a fire bug, but sufficient evidence to cause arrests could not be obtained.”

I wandered over to Neahtawanta this morning, to get a better feel for where the hotel was located, and ended up talking with Bob Treadway, whose great grandfather, E. A. (Elmore) Treadway, owned one share of capital stock of the Ne-Ah-Ta-Wanta Hotel Company (valued at $10,000).

neahtawanta hotel, bob treadway
One Share of the Ne-Ah-Ta-Wanta Hotel Company, E. A. Treadway | Photo Courtesy of Bob Treadway

Bob and his wife Mary Alice Treadway own “Lone Pine” Cottage, one of the original cottages on the resort, located near where the Neahtawanta Hotel was located before it burned.

Bob notes that the Treadway family was part of the Grand Rapids contingent of the resort, who built and owned cottages there prior to the Cincinnati families, who migrated there at a later date. Per Katy Kern, there are four Neahtawanta families with bragging rights to six generations on the resort – Treadway, Eaton (Gates), Marckwald (Price), and Kern (Hunt).

bob treadway, mary alice treadway, neahtawanta resort, lone pine cottage
Mary Alice and Bob Treadway at Lone Pine Cottage, Neahtawanta Resort | Jane Boursaw Photo

When the Grand Rapids families established the resort, it was known as the Universalist Resort Association. Here is Elmore A. Treadway’s membership certificate, courtesy of Bob Treadwell.

neahtawanta, bob treadwell, universalist resort association
Universalist Resort Association, which later became the Neahtawanta Association | Photo courtesy of Bob Treadwell

Here is a memorandum written by Katy Kern’s grandfather, Graham Hunt, about the 1914 fire that claimed the Neahtawanta Hotel in 1914. (Per Bob Treadwell, Graham Hunt is no relation to James A. Hunt, who signed the above certificates).

Memoranda of Trip to Neahtawanta; December 15, 16, 17 & 18 (1914) – by Graham Hunt

I reached Traverse City at 1:30 Tuesday afternoon, and after leaving my grip at Park Place Hotel, I went immediately to Germaine’s livery stable and hired a horse to go to Neahtawanta. While in the stable, I interviewed the Germaine who seems to be the stable-boss. I asked him how the fire out at Neahtawanta had occurred, and he told me that all the stockholders had been out there having a dinner that day, and nobody knew the cause of the fire. I asked him if the hotel was going to be rebuilt by the present owners, and he said he thought it was. While I was talking to him, his brother, the Ex-Mayor of Traverse City and the one who seems to be personally interested in the stockholders of the Neahtawanta Hotel, came in, passed me hurriedly, had a little talk with the brother with whom I had had my talk, and left with a very quick, curt how-do-you-do. I asked the talkative Germaine as to whether insurance had been entirely collected, and he said he thought it had. Everything that this man had to say was agreed to by “Frank,” the man who seems to be the superintendence of baggage transportation.

I got out to Johnson’s at Bowers Harbor at about 3:15, where I picked up E. E. Hunter. I took him on over to Neahtawanta with me. I stopped at Frank Kroupa’s, and there saw Frank Kroupa and his wife, and Bill Dome and his wife. There is no diversity of opinion apparently among these residing near Neahtawanta, about the fire. From Frank Kroupa I learned that Ex-Mayor Germaine and two friends, neither one of the latter being interested in the property, were the only visitors to the hotel the day of the fire. These last people asked me more questions as to what I thought would be done than I was able to ask them. I left them and went on with E. E. Hunter to see the ruins.

There is absolutely nothing left of the hotel except the fire escape, remnants of one or two iron bedsteads, three brick chimneys and two cook stoves. Even the concrete foundation to the new kitchen was in very bad shape. What is left of the brick chimneys is useless. The fire destroyed completely the new kitchen and the laundry. It left the old dilapidated building to the rear of the laundry and the little cottage that was moved up last summer fairly well intact. In fact, the cottage is not hurt at all, but the old building is badly charred on the side nearest the hotel. It took only an hour and a half for the fire to run its course. The heat was so great that some of Renner’s personal belongings, which had been brought out to the concrete walk in front of the hotel, were burned. Hunter gold me that the Brough cottage had a little fire on it, but that was easily put out. From all I could learn, there seems little doubt that had the spontaneous combustion come in the night season, most of the cottages, from the Van Antwerp cottage, would have been destroyed. The wind was in that direction during the early part of the fire, and then suddenly shifted so as to carry cinders down toward the ice-house into the bay.

After looking over the ground carefully, I returned with Hunter and had another talk with Frank Kroupa. Hunter told me that the owners had taken away nearly everything that was moveable, including the boats. Kroupa told me that the owners had asked him to make a bid on the building, such as the bowling-alley, ice-house, stable and old shack to the rear of the hotel. There is a good deal of healthy anxiety on the part of the dwellers around and about Neahtawanta, as to its future. Of course, I was personally interested, although my real purpose in going to Neahtawanta was to arrange with Ernie Hunter about his situation with Van Antwerp. I finally told both these men that I did not know what anybody from Cincinnati, or anyone else interested in the property as cottage owners, would do; that Mr. Gates had stated to me he would simply leave the key turned in his cottage in the event the owners did not arrange to give some decent service, but that on a gamble I might personally pay $1500.00 for the property. Both Hunter and Kroupa agreed that it wouldn’t be touched for that, as they told me that kind of land was selling for $100.00 an acre. To that I replied that the present owners of Neahtawanta had purchased what was known as the golf links, which I understand to be 130 acres, for $135.00. That was admitted, but was alleged to be a great bargain, and I was informed by these two men that the owners had on foot a scheme to divide up this tract in ten-acre lots, and sell it off that way for fruit farms.

I then dined at the Johnson homestead with Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, his mother and the school teacher. Around that table I found the same unanimous opinion as I had found in all the others I had interviewed.

I left the Johnson place at about 8:15 and arrived in Traverse City just at ten o’clock. I saw nobody else that day.

Wednesday, December 17, I saw and interviewed the youngest Germaine, Mr. Morrison at Hannah-Lay’s, Mr. O. C. Moffatt the title examiner, Mr. W.P. Crotser the attorney, Mr. Brosch the butcher, Mr. Shearer the plumber, the head-waitress of the Park Place, and Mr. L. F. Titus.

The younger Germaine told me that it was his understanding that the hotel would be rebuilt.

Mr. Morrison told me that he had no accurate information on the subject of rebuilding; that personally he didn’t believe the present owners would rebuild, but that gossip was to the effect that they would.

Mr. Moffatt apparently knew nothing of interest. He said he had talked to none of the owners of Neahtawanta.

Mr. Crotser was not in his office at the time, but I finally reached him and had him come there, and it developed that he in his correspondence earlier in the year had been representing Mr. Musselman, Mr. King and Mr. Milliken. While I was there in his office, Crotser called up Musselman, and the latter was out of the city. I then had him call up Milliken. Milliken said that he did not know what the owners wished to do, but that Titus would know. I had Crotser call up Titus, but found that he was engaged in a lawsuit in the Court House. I remained with Crotser until almost twelve, and in the meantime he had connected with Titus at the Court House, and I heard his end of the telephone conversation. The result of that conversation was that Titus apparently acquiesced in Crotser’s statement that it would seemingly take between six and seven thousand dollars to buy what was left at Neahtawanta. Crotser himself told me that he believed the property could be bought for $5000.00. I made an arrangement with him that should I require his services, they would be rendered in lining up Musselman, King and Milliken, and using that influence upon Titus and Germaine, for the sum of $50.00. I at the same time told him that I was personally not interested in the property at any such figures, but I might be able to do something if I could get it for about $4000.00. He said he did not believe $4000.00 would buy it.

I then went to the Court House and waited for adjournment, at which time I got Titus and went with him to his office in the Bank. I spent about an hour with him. Titus showed me the inventory which they have, covering all that which is left. This totaled about $11,200.00. I took no copy of it, as I was not interested. This inventory puts the land which the Company holds down at $6000.00, the hotel plat down at $1000.00, the cottage down at $1200.00, and its furnishings down at $300.00, the new pump down at $750.00 and the new well at $75.00, septic tank at $150.00, and the balance of the inventory is made up of such items as ice-house, bowling-alley and lighting plant, which Titus says is intact and in the ground.

Leave thoughts about the Neahtawanta Hotel fire of 1914 in the comments section at the bottom of this story. 

Bay View Insurance of Traverse City Michigan


    • It was one of those stories that sort of grew over the day. Katy had sent me the memo written by her grandfather about the fire, so I went over to Neah to figure out where the hotel was, and ended up talking with Bob Treadway, whose great grandfather had a share in the hotel. Everyone seems to agree that the hotel was headed for bankruptcy, so someone burned the place down. But according to the Fire Marshall report in the story, there was never enough evidence to convict anyone. -jb


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