By Glen Young
Bay View, An American Idea
By Mary Jane Doerr
Color Photography and Giclee Fine Art Prints by Robert Cleveland
Many locals and visitors to Northern Michigan believe they know the
story of the Bay View Association, Petoskeys seasonal Victorian
neighbor. Regular promotion surrounds the neighborhoods theatre,
music, and educational programs, while the Bay View Inn and the
Terrace Inn welcome guests and diners just as they have for
Even so, though both visitor and passersby alike soak in the benefits
of the tidy enclave, the associations history is often unwieldy.
That is until now, thanks to Bay View: An American Idea, a new book
by long-time resident Mary Jane Doerr.
A retired educator and widely published freelance writer, Doerr has
sifted voluminous piles of records, both paper and electronic, to
complete her book. The result, with an introduction from former Wayne
State professor of history Dr. Phillip Mason, is a comprehensive look
at the small community tucked tight to Petoskey, which has been
welcoming tourists and residents alike since the late 19th century.
For Doerr, writing about Bay View was a natural extension of her
regular freelance work. In doing coverage of Bay View for the
Petoskey News-Review, I met these people who had this great history
here, she says.
Doerr says her focus was simple. I wanted to be as chronological as
possible. She therefore begins the story of the Bay View Association
in the Reconstruction-era years of the camp meeting movement, which
gave way to the Chautauqua period.
Bay Views roots are in the camp meeting movement that preceded the
Chautauqua movement by a century, she says. Initially, camp meetings
began as a way for slaves to share religion and song; thereafter, the
practice spread into the culture of the 1800s.
Doerrs goal was modest.
I wanted to show how important this place was. But it wasnt just
Bay View, she says, noting the vital connection between the summer
community and its year- round neighbors, Petoskey and Harbor Springs.
Combing local sources, including those of the Little Traverse
Historical Society, where she has served on the board of directors,
Doerr has culled a wide variety of materials, some of which are being
published for the first time. Doerr especially appreciates a
previously unpublished photo of the African Boy Choir taken near the
turn of the 20th century.
African-American visitors were more common than some might think,
Doerr says. She says Booker T. Washington visited the community
twice, as did the Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen.
In true Chautauqua fashion, Bay View emphasized the value and variety
of education. One outlet for adult education was The Bay View
Magazine. Under the guidance of superintendent John M. Hall, the
magazine offered a college level correspondence course. Published
seven times a year, Hall concentrated on yearly studies of specific
countriesthe religion, music, literature, history, culture,
philosophy, politics, geography, and economy.
With chapters ranging from A Watering Place, to Women in Council,
Doerr transitions from the early years of Bay Views rapid growth to
the challenges of sustaining such a democratic experiment. She
highlights many of Bay Views notable guests. Progressive feminists
and suffragists, among others, were drawn to Bay View. Religion at
these camp meetings and cultural assemblies provided an umbrella of
propriety, and the reading circles offered the goal of educational
purpose, Doerr writes.
I did not realize the depth of the music here in the early days, she
says. Music was obvious as a focus. We had many of the great opera
stars, and this is generally well known. Bay Views music festival
-- the oldest continuous event of its kind in the country -- hosted
talent such as Robert Mann, founder of the Juilliard String Quartet,
as well as Etta Motten, the first African-American to entertain at the
White House, and George Gershwins first choice for the role of Bess
in his musical Porgy and Bess.
Though her searches took her from the shores of Little Traverse Bay to
Europe and even Australia, electronically, there are those details of
Bay View history Doerr admits she would still like to know more about.
She is intrigued by The Bay View House, a hotel destroyed by fire
just before the stock market crash of 1929. All the early talent
stayed at the Bay View House, she says. All the black talent stayed
there. I would have liked to have seen the registration book.
Bay Views history is not without its bumps. The Chautauqua movement
died in the late 1930s, Doerr says, choked by the rising popularity of
radio, the pitfalls of the Great Depression, and the gas rationing
that accompanied World War II. Bay View, however, survived, in spite
of these challenges. I think it was because the people in Petoskey
supported them, she believes. I think the whole area was very
Today, the Bay View Association continues to provide education and
entertainment for guests and visitors alike. For the history of how
this all began, Bay View: An American Idea, provides a comprehensive
look. Doerr is donating a portion of the book proceeds to the Little
Traverse Historical Society, as well as to the Bay View Association
To learn more about Bay View: An American Idea, or Doerrs schedule,
visit her website at maryjanedoerr.com
Mary Jane Doerr will have a book signing November 27 at Horizon Books
in Traverse City from 12-2 p.m.