Bewabic Park

March 13, 2019 - Comment

Bewabic Park Image by MI SHPO Bewabic State Park is a 315-acre park located along U.S. 2 in Iron County west of Crystal Falls, Michigan, on the shores of Fortune Lake. The topography is gentle hills covered with hardwood trees. Originally a county park founded in 1923, it was developed by the Civil Works Administration

Bewabic Park
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Image by MI SHPO
Bewabic State Park is a 315-acre park located along U.S. 2 in Iron County west of Crystal Falls, Michigan, on the shores of Fortune Lake. The topography is gentle hills covered with hardwood trees. Originally a county park founded in 1923, it was developed by the Civil Works Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps from 1934 to 1937. The park follows the rustic park architecture and romantic landscape style developed by the National Park Service (NPS) for national park improvements built under New Deal federal relief programs. The park contains a log bathhouse that was featured in the NPS book Parks and Recreation Structures, as well as a stone toilet building, stone fireplaces, tennis courts, an island trail, bathing beach and a historic campground loop. The park is also significant for its role in the early conservation movement in Michigan, early highway development and automobile tourism, and for its association with Herbert F. Larson, Iron County Road Commission Manager-Engineer who established the first roadside park in America and initiated an amendment to Michigan state law that enhanced the ability of counties to establish county park systems. The park retains a high degree of historic integrity.

Bewabic Park was established as a county park in 1923 by Iron County Road Commission Manager-Engineer Herbert F. Larson to conserve a stand of virgin hardwood in the county and to provide public access to a scenic area. At that time it was minimally developed as a county park and provided a place for early automobile tourists to camp along the newly developed Cloverland Trail (U. S. 2). In 1933 further development of the park was undertaken by the Civil Works Administration as part of the first federal relief program established under Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal during the Depression. Between 1934 and 1937 major developments to the park were undertaken by the Civilian Conservation Corps. In 1966 Bewabic Park was purchased by the state of Michigan as part of a statewide effort to increase and improve Michigan’s state park system to accommodate the baby boom generation. Bewabic State Park is significant under Criterion A for its association with the early conservation movement in Michigan; the Good Roads movement and early highway development; early automobile tourism; and the development of national and state parks under two federal New Deal programs: the Civil Works Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. It is significant under Criterion B for its association with Herbert F. Larson, Sr., who joined the Iron County Road Commission in 1914 and served as its Manager-Engineer from 1917 to 1956. Larson was instrumental in pushing to revise Michigan state law to enable counties to expand county park development. He is also credited with establishing the first roadside park in the United States. It is significant under Criterion C for its examples of rustic park architecture developed by the National Park Service for state and national parks during the New Deal 1933 to 1943. The period of significance encompasses the year the park was established (1923) to its purchase as a state park (1966), the years when the most significant park development took place.

Bewabic Park was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on April 19, 2016.

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