February 26th, 2024

African American Historic Resorts in Michigan Recognized by The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Idlewild Historic District and Woodland Park highlighted by The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Lake County Newaygo County

Two historic African American resorts from Michigan, Idlewild Historic District (Lake County) and Woodland Park (Newaygo County), were highlighted in the What’s Out There Guide to African American Cultural Landscapes from The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF). The guide features more than140 sites across the United States associated with African American cultural lifeways and nearly30 biographical profiles.

Woodland Park | Credit: Heritage Museum of Newaygo County

Woodland Park is a historic African American resort community located in northwest Newaygo County, Michigan, just west of the M-37 and 11 Mile Ave intersection north of Brohman. Founded in 1921, the community offered a place of rest and recreation, and had close interactions with Idlewild during the era of Jim Crow segregation.

Known as the “Black Eden”, Idlewild is located just east of Baldwin in Lake County, Michigan. Established earlier in 1912, this premier African American resort community hosted a vibrant mix of black intellectuals, religious and political leaders, entrepreneurs, and entertainers. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a nationally significant historic site.

Today, both Woodland Park and Idlewild continue to serve as retreats for residents and year-round vacationers. The communities remain committed to preserving their histories while supporting the current and future potential of their communities.

Idlewild Historic District | Credit: Detroit Public Library Digital Collections

For the Idlewild and Woodland Park communities, this national recognition comes on the heels of their historic community planning efforts. In 2022, a Collaborative Committee was formed to strategize the collaborative economic growth of the two historic African American rural communities. Particular focus was put on preservation, promotion, and capitalization of their historic significance.

With resources from the Fremont Area Community Foundation, The Right Place, and MSU Extension, community work groups and their consultants took stock of key sites, structures, and landscape elements for preservation, adaptive reuse, and recognition/education. They also engaged the local community to understand their values and priorities, before developing an implementation framework for long-term stewardship.

Idlewild Historic District | Credit: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

“We’re thrilled to see Idlewild and Woodland Park being recognized and are appreciative of TCLF for including them in this monumental guide,” said Julie Burrell, Senior Economic Development Director of Newaygo County Economic Development Partnership (NCEDP). “The collaborative efforts of The Right Place, NCEDP, LCEDA and our dedicated community partners have been instrumental in preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage of these historic landmarks.”

“The fragility and invisibility of significant African American cultural landscapes like Woodland Park and Idlewild makes them vulnerable to change or even worse, erasure. By working in collaboration with local communities, TCLF aims to amplify the awareness and understanding of these unique places where history happened,” noted Charles A. Birnbaum, TCLF President and CEO.

Idlewild Historic District | Credit: Detroit Public Library Digital Collections