The north end of this small park overlooks the Pine River Channel. The channel, once a shallow creek that people crossed by wading or footbridge, was dredged, widened, and deepened in 1873. Since then it has been characterized by treacherous currents that flow in both directions, causing whitecaps, even in calm weather. Some months after the dredging, following lively public debate over funding, the first bridge was built. Hoffmann Park is today bounded by a steel fence that came from the swing bridge built in 1901 over the channel; a commemorative plaque describing it is found in the park. The large key that turned the bridges from 1878 to the early 1900s is also found in the park.
Amos Fox, one of the earliest and most prosperous settlers in the area, owned a large lumbering operation that serviced Great Lakes steamers. Because the Pine River was too shallow and narrow to admit ships to the protected harbor of Round Lake before the dredging, Fox and his partner Hiram Rose built a 900-foot dock out into Lake Michigan from the north side of the river. Ships were able to pull up to this dock, and it was wide enough so that horse-drawn wagons could carry lumber out to them. It was Amos Fox’s near drowning following a spill into the channel that convinced the town to speedily build the first bridge.
At the sale of Philo Beers’s estate in 1879, Amos Fox purchased the western-most third of block 2, the site now known as Hoffmann Park. He built his beautiful Victorian home there, on Main Street. The picture to the left shows the home in 1889.
In 1908, the Fox house, then 103 Park Avenue, was purchased by the U.S. government for a lighthouse keeper’s residence, and the first keeper, Eugene Ripley, moved in. Lighthouse keepers continued to occupy the home until 1944.
It was purchased in 1962 by Dr. Walter Hoffmann. The house, in deteriorating condition, was donated by Betty Hoffman to the City of Charlevoix. It was razed by the city in 1984. A plaque describing the house can be found in the park today. Pictures of the house can be seen at the Charlevoix Historical Society.
Picture courtesy of the Charlevoix Historical Society.
Copyright 2011 by Charlevoix County History Preservation Society. All rights reserved.
Sally Grutch, neice of Walter and Betty Hoffmann, adds this:
Some info about your brochure. Hoffmann, two f’s, two n’s. And Uncle Walter didn’t pull down that house, the city did. And Aunt Liz wants to know if your official address is now 103 Park Avenue because the original is gone. She says your building was called 102 1/2 for awhile!! Also, I wanted to tell you about the silver Christmas tree if JoAnne Beemon doesn’t beat me to it!! Uncle Walter was Santa Claus at the bank for years. One year, they stored their silver Christmas tree in the top story bay window. I didn’t know until years later that going by the house to see the Christmas tree–year round, wasn’t just a family thing. All the kids in town did it. It was a tradition! And JoAnne found out about this and now the tree is at the consevancy house across the street. There was an article about this several years ago in the Courier. Aunt Liz says that they were often asked why they had a Christmas tree in their window. She said it was because Walter kept Christmas in his heart all year long.