“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Monroe in Monroe County, Michigan — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Monroe Piers

"Resort along the Lake"

Monroe Piers: "Resort along the Lake" Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Joel Seewald, June 5, 2022
1. Monroe Piers: "Resort along the Lake" Marker
Monroe Piers - Southeast Michigan's Resort
One of the most colorful periods of Monroe history is that of the Monroe Piers. With the completion of the canal, piers and lighthouse, the people of Monroe had access to the lakeshore of Lake Erie. By 1890, the piers had become a major tourist attraction. People came down from Monroe by boat to hunt ducks, gather lotus blossoms and enjoy the sandy beach along the piers. The Lotus Hotel, built in 1895, was an immediate hit. In 1901, electric streetcars transported more than 700 people a day to the piers for a nickel a ride. A bathhouse, casino, saloon and refreshment stands soon were built.

To meet demand, the bathhouse was enlarged to two stories and had 300 changing rooms. For 25 cents, one could use a changing room, which included a bathing suit, towel and a locker.

In 1905, electricity came to the piers. A spectacular 75-foot roller coaster, crowned by a circle of 1,000 incandescent lights, became a major attraction. Picnics during the day, and parties and nighttime swimming were popular.

Lotus Hotel and sailors competed in weekend regattas.
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It was a special time in America's history when leisure time first became a reality. Travel options were limited, and the lakeshore piers provided a convenient getaway for thousands of families in southeast Michigan.

Monroe Yacht Club
In 1886, the Monroe Yacht Club was formed with local lumber baron W.C. Sterling named its first commodore. Memberships were sold and in 1902 a 30-foot by 60-foot clubhouse was built on the south pier. Its 12-foot veranda on all sides provided pleasant breezes and excellent views of the harbor. The main room had a hardwood floor and was the scene of summer dances on Tuesday and Friday nights.

The club soon became part of the Lake Erie sailing scene. Regattas were an event for the ladies to wear their finest summer dresses and for the men to proudly display their "yachting uniform." Competition between the Monroe and Toledo clubs was keen.

In 1905, a large entertainment building was built on the north pier. Called "The Casino," it offered refreshments on the first floor and a dance hall on the second. The Yacht Club purchased the financially struggling enterprise in 1916 and, after making several improvements that included the addition of double porches on all sides, moved into its new clubhouse.

Muskrat Dinners
One of the most prominent social events of the year
Monroe Piers: "Resort along the Lake" Marker - left images image. Click for full size.
All photos: Courtesy of Monroe County Historical Museum
2. Monroe Piers: "Resort along the Lake" Marker - left images
Top right image caption: Lotus Hotel, beach and bathhouse 1909
Bottom right image caption: Electric trolley from Monroe to "the piers"
was the annual Monroe Yacht Club dinner held each December. On December 28, 1905, Commodore W.C. Sterling welcomed more than 1,000 guests. The unique entree of muskrat received national media attention. Over 1,800 "rats" were served. Social dignitaries from as far as Seattle and New York came to dine at the annual affair. One year, Commodore Sterling created a large replica of a muskrat house in the center of the ballroom, complete with stuffed "rats" and glass to simulate ice. Sterling wanted each guest to understand what a marsh rat was.

Monroe Marsh Club
The Monroe Marsh Club was a bird hunting club organized in 1880 by a handful of wealthy eastern businessmen and a few locals including W.C. Sterling. An elegant two-story building was built on Guyor's Island with private quarters and boathouses for its exclusive members.

Sterling began buying marshland from the state, often for as little as 30 cents per acre. Eventually, the Monroe Marsh Club owned 5,000 acres and five-and-a-half miles of shoreline. Hunters would shoot from "punt boats" poled through the marsh by skilled boatmen called "punters," usually of French descent.

Club members set their own laws and rules regarding when and how to hunt. With no state or federal laws, there were no limits. Competition was fierce. Sterling often would challenge his eastern guests
Monroe Piers: "Resort along the Lake" Marker — right images image. Click for full size.
All photos: Courtesy of Monroe County Historical Museum
3. Monroe Piers: "Resort along the Lake" Marker — right images
Bottom right photo caption: Ferry passengers unloading on pier 1907 (shot from lighthouse tower) note Lotus Hotel in the background and the addition of the "casino" pier building.
by shooting 125 ducks per day. Hunters were served their own ducks at evening meals in the clubhouse. An over-heated oven was to blame for the clubhouse burning to the ground in 1920.

Lightning on the Water
The Sho-wae-cae-merres Boat Club was formed in the 1870s. Meaning "lightning on the water," this mighty rowing crew competed in numerous exhibitions and races throughout the area. Rowing was America's most popular spectator sport, and the club first gained national status competing at the Watkin's Regatta in New York. Winning national titles in 1877 and 1878, the club competed against the London Boat Club in England. Monroe rower Joe Nadeau became violently ill on race day, and the club narrowly lost to the favored London club. Nevertheless, the crew returned to Monroe with a hero's welcome.

End of the Piers
The 1920s saw the end of the piers era. The development of highways and changes in recreation demands caused a loss of interest and revenue. In 1927, faced with substantial losses, the Yacht Club decided to move its monstrous clubhouse over the ice to the site of a conceived lakeshore development. The development failed and the clubhouse was given to the state as part of the new state park. That same year, the Lotus Hotel was demolished to make way for a steel plant. The original Yacht Club building
Monroe Piers: "Resort along the Lake" Marker — lower left images image. Click for full size.
All images: Courtesy of Monroe County Historical Museum
4. Monroe Piers: "Resort along the Lake" Marker — lower left images
Bottom image caption: Painting by Max Leder of Marsh Club on Guyor's Island
was sold and an attempt was made to again move it across the ice to another location. This time, however, it fell apart and sank into the lake.
Erected by Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: EntertainmentParks & Recreational AreasSports. A significant historical year for this entry is 1890.
Location. 41° 54.614′ N, 83° 20.067′ W. Marker is in Monroe, Michigan, in Monroe County. Marker is on North Lakeshore Drive south of State Park Road, on the left when traveling south. Marker is in Sterling State Park and can be seen from the beach parking lot. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2800 State Park Road, Monroe MI 48162, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Monroe (here, next to this marker); Wm. C. Sterling State Park (here, next to this marker); Famous Waterfront (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Sandy Creek Settlement (approx. 0.6 miles away); Capt. Norman W. Heck Jr (approx. 2 miles away); Monroe County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Tree (approx. 2 miles away); POW-MIA Chained Eagle (approx. 2 miles away); M29 81mm Mortar (approx. 2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Monroe.
Monroe Piers: "Resort along the Lake" Marker — lower right image image. Click for full size.
Courtesy of Monroe County Historical Museum, June 5, 2022
5. Monroe Piers: "Resort along the Lake" Marker — lower right image
Monroe Piers: "Resort along the Lake" Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Joel Seewald, June 5, 2022
6. Monroe Piers: "Resort along the Lake" Marker
This marker is behind and to the left of the Wm. C. Sterling State Park marker in front.
Credits. This page was last revised on July 1, 2022. It was originally submitted on June 30, 2022, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan. This page has been viewed 826 times since then and 238 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on June 30, 2022, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.

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Mar. 5, 2024