Historic Buildings in Traverse City

Traverse City is known as one of the best and most popular tourist destinations in all of Michigan. When people think of Traverse City, they think of Lake Michigan, sandy beaches, cherries, and good food with even better drinks. Not many people, locals included, know the rich history of Traverse City. Traverse City has a history that is rich in transformation.

Beginning in the mid-19th century, Traverse City began to take shape. A small sawmill town was established in 1847 on the banks of the Boardman River and was dubbed Traverse City. As production at the sawmill increased roads began to be built, and eventually, railroads were built that led in and out of town. Logging was the leading industry for Traverse City for many decades but eventually gave way to a combination of different industries. However, during that time when sawmills ruled the city limits, a number of historic buildings were built. These buildings still stand tall in different parts of Traverse City and are on the shortlist of the most fascinating stops in town.

City Opera House

Built in 1891, the City Opera House stands tall on the south side of Front Street. The red brick building is one of only six historically intact Victorian opera houses in all of Michigan. The City Opera House was the first building in downtown Traverse City to have electrical lighting. Hosting plays, lectures, meetings, balls, and concerts the City Opera House did not receive any major renovations until the 1990s when funds began to be raised to restore to the opera house to its restore and preserve this one of a kind city landmark.

Perry Hannah House

The Perry Hannah House is a 32-room mansion, located on the corner of Sixth Street and Pine Street. This home is 14,000 square feet with four floors that include ten fireplaces, eight of which are made with Venetian tiles. Perry Hannah, the owner of a sawmill in Traverse City, had the house built in 1891 by Grand Rapids architect W.G. Robinson and it was completed in 1893. Hannah lived in this home until his passing in 1901. The home was passed down to his family until they decided to sell to Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home in 1976.

Mission Pointe Lighthouse

Beginning on September 10, 1870, Mission Pointe Lighthouse guided mariners through West Grand Traverse Bay. The lighthouse was constructed after a large ship hit a shallow reef and sank just in front of where the lighthouse sits today. The lighthouse was operational until 1933 when automatic buoy lights were installed just offshore. Today, you can visit Old Mission Lighthouse and enjoy a self-guided tour where you can explore all up to the top of the tower.

Sleder’s Family Tavern

Michigan’s oldest restaurant is located just blocks away from the West Bay shorelines in the Slabtown neighborhood in Traverse City. On Randolph Street, you’ll find a family tavern that started as a social club for Bohemian woodworkers. Today, it’s still a local’s favorite, while visitors must stop by and see the original mahogany bar, and dozens of stuffed animal heads on their walls. Don’t forget the tradition of kissing the Moose head while you’re there.


Don’t Forget About Nifty Things

Although not historic, another place you must stop at while you’re in town is, of course, Nifty Things. Our store is the most unique gift shop in all of northern Michigan. With over 1,000 different products in our three locations, you’ll be sure to take something home that you probably never would have expected. To get the full Nifty Things experience stop by our location in Traverse City right in the heart of downtown on Front Street and see why we are the most shopped store in all of downtown TC.