Fishtown: A Town Within A Town

IIMG_0860t’s considered one of the gems of northern Michigan: the Leelanau Peninsula. It’s home to some of the state’s best agricultural destinations, including vineyards and orchards… as well as some of the most beautiful landscapes in the midwest.
Leland is situated right between Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau, on the western edge of the Leelanau Peninsula. The quaint little community certainly isn’t northern Michigan’s largest, yet it is still big enough to host a town within a town… a hidden town, if you will.

Fishtown traces its roots back well over 100 years. It is home to one of the few commercial fisheries left on the Great Lakes and in recent years, it has become a destination for visitors from all around the globe.

It has also been run by a non-profit since 2007.IMG_0834

Amanda Holmes, Executive Director of the Fishtown Preservation Society, said that in 2006 the former owners of Fishtown, the Carlson Family, decided to sell. But the Carlson’s wanted to ensure that the tiny town-within-a-town was preserved for future generations.

So the Fishtown Preservation Society jumped at the opportunity.

“The whole energy of the organization was to saving Fishtown and raising the purchase price, because if we weren’t going to raise the money, what was gonna happen?” Holmes also said the IMG_0831society ended up purchasing just over a quarter acre of land for $2.7 million.

Today in Fishtown, visitors can step back in time and experience the past first hand.

Holmes said the old shanties can help serve as a reminder of the past of Fishtown.

Part of Amanda Holme’s job is to preserve not only Fishtown… but also the memories of those who have worked and been there.

IMG_0825Sometimes it’s getting people telling their story for the first time, because everybody harbors different memories and a different way of thinking and preserving a place” says Amanda, who over the years has interviewed more than 80 people, documenting and preserving their experiences with Fishtown.

Keith Burnham, a past board member of the society, has lived in Leland for 55 years and runs a daily blog about Leland and Fishtown, called The Leland Report.

His partner in crime is his dog Biscuit. The two of them visit Fishtown daily to snap a daily photo for The Leland Report.

Burnham says Biscuit gets fish sausage at one of the shops every morning.

“What’s my favorite part of Fishtown? Fishtown, I mean the whole thing” said Burnham.

Every turn in Fishtown has something new to see, something to smell, and something to purchase. The area is dotted with fashionable shops, unique groceries, and even Leland’s
oldest art gallery.

Holmes says there’s even a waiting list for people to be in the buildings.

The Preservation Society has now shifted their attention to the future of Fishtown, and a lot of that involves fundraising, events and individual donations.

Holmes says there are mortgage payments to be made, repairs to be done and history to be preserved. But she says protecting this area is crucial to Leland’s future.