History of Grand Traverse County
Brief History of Grand Traverse County
The name Grand Traverse comes from the French in the early fur trading days who describe the nine-mile voyager trail along the shore across the foot of Grand Traverse Bay, as Le Grand Traverse or "the long crossing." Originally, it was named Omeena, with the probable meaning, "the point beyond." The County was a part of Mackinaw, but was organized by act approved April 7, 1851, as Grand Traverse County. Traverse City was incorporated as a village by an Act of Legislature in 1881 and on April 30, 1895 was incorporated as a City under a special charter. The territory west of Grand Traverse Bay was called Leelanau and to the east was called Omena. The Grand Traverse area was part of Omena.
The first meeting of the Board of Supervisors was held at the store of Cowles & Campbell, in the town of Peninsula on July 27, 1853. The first County building was erected in 1854 and destroyed by fire approximately eight years later. A schoolhouse located where the Park Place Annex was located west of the Park Place Hotel, was used as a courthouse during a session of Circuit Court. As of June 10, 1861 there were located two buildings in the public square known as the courthouse and jail, but the courthouse burned down and the jail was of little value. Soon after, a small wooden structure for the jail was erected on County grounds and County offices rented. The Honorable D.C. Leach erected a building on the corner of Front and Park Streets and provided it with a room for holding Court and with County offices.
At a session of the Board of Supervisors held0 October 1882, it was resolved to build a jail and sheriff's residence of brick. This building was completed in February 1884 and the County offices were moved into the new jail building.
On the 24th day of June 1898 the Grand Traverse County Board of Supervisors entered into an agreement with Jordan E. Gibson of Indiana, contractor for the construction of the present Courthouse building on the grounds known as the "Courthouse Square" to be completed before May 1, 1899.
At a meeting of the County Board of June 12, 1963, a resolution was adopted creating the County Building Authority to undertake the construction of a new County Jail and Sheriff's residence. The jail and residence were completed August of 1965, and were financed by Revenue Bonds to be retired by an annual rental from the County.
On October 27, 1964 the board entered into an agreement to build a modern County jail and on May 6, 1966 it was completed and the Grand Traverse County Building Authority formerly accepted the building.
A joint meeting was held at that time by the Grand Traverse County Board of Supervisors Construction Committee and the Traverse City Commissioners to discuss the advisability of constructing a City-County Building.
A City-County Governmental Center was completed in 1979 and the old courthouse was under agreement with the firm of Architects International of Chicago, IL to renovate the Courthouse building to be used by the Circuit and District Courts and other offices serving the courts.
The following Townships were created by a vote of the Board of Supervisors as follows:
Peninsula February, 1853
Whitewater October, 1859
Grant October, 1866
East Bay January, 1867
Long Lake January, 1867
Blair April, 1867
Paradise April, 1867
Mayfield November, 1867
Fife Lake April, 1870
Garfield January, 1883
Green Lake January, 1883
Union October, 1884
Acme January, 1891
History of the Grand Traverse Civic Center
The site formerly called the fairgrounds was purchased by Grand Traverse County from Howard and Isabelle Whiting on May 1, 1912 for $10,000. Its use was primarily for the Northwestern Michigan Fair. In 1962, it was considered advisable, by some, to sell the property for private use. However, public reaction was so great in opposition to this, that the idea was dropped. The property was used by the Fair Association and rentals for events such as Mexican dances, trailer conclaves (Tin Can Tourists), teenage dances, Scout-o-rama, Little League baseball, kennel shows, community bazaars and other community events. In spite of these worthwhile projects, it was felt that better use could be made of this valuable property, and the firm of Johnson, Johnson and Roy were engaged to make a study of the property for recreational use.
On November 8, 1967, a resolution was adopted by the Board of Supervisors to change the name County Fairgrounds to Grand Traverse Civic Center. On March 20, 1969, an agreement was signed with the Paul Easling Memorial Fund Committee for the construction of the Easling Memorial Swimming Pool. The year 1973 ended with the holding of the Northwest Michigan Fair at this location.
The master plan as presented by Johnson, Johnson and Roy consisted of illuminated athletic fields, parking areas, access and egress away from the main flow of traffic on East Front Street, picnic sites, with the eventual addition of a conference center and an exhibit park.
In 1989, the County Board of Commissioners authorized the building of the Howe Arena next to the Easling Pool. It was financed through a bond issue of $80,000 by the County Building Authority. A local group of hockey and ice-skating enthusiasts, ICE (Involved Citizens Enterprises), donated $200,000 and Rotary Charities contributed a matching grant of $200,000. Opening ceremonies took place in September of 1989.
History of the County Swimming Pool
Following the premature death of a young Traverse City leader in 1968, N. Paul Easling, a group of his friends, colleagues and co-workers decided a fitting memorial to him would be a previously discussed community swimming pool. A fund-raising organization, The Easling Fund, was incorporated, talks were had with the schools, college, city and County regarding site, operation and other aspects. The list of people and organizations working on this truly community project is as great as the decision to convert the Fair Grounds into a Civic Center, rather than sell it to a private developer. In the fall of 1969, the County and the Easling Fund were proud to announce that a community swimming pool would be the first step in the transformation of this extremely important area of public property. Ground was broken in late 1969, the pool completed and opened in December 1970, with dedicatory ceremonies presided over by Senator Robert Griffin, and attended by Governor William Milliken. The Easling Pool Building was presented to the County on October 9, 1973. Grand Traverse County opened the pool on August 26, 1971.