A Short history of Norwood

Norwood got its start in 1867 when Orvis Wood, Lucius Pearl and Orwin Adams built a massive lumber shipping dock and sawmill here.

The village lies on a bluff overlooking the mouth of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. The bay itself got its name here. Before the lumbermen— perhaps for thousands of years— native Americans launched canoes from this shore to reach the peninsula on the western horizon. They called it the “Great Crossing.”  Early French traders here translated the daring seven mile paddle as le Grande Traverse.

From 1867 until the turn of the century, millions of board-feet of hardwood were loaded onto schooners and steamers bound for growing urban Lake Michigan ports. Much of the Norwood timber sailed to rebuild Chicago after the disastrous fire of 1871.

By 1890 Norwood reached its population peak of 400. But the sawmill burned in 1901 amidst a declining industry, and the port never recovered. Norwood remained a farming community, as well as a north woods summer destination for Chicagoans and others. Vacationers continued to come by steamship, and in 1915 by automobile via the new West Michigan Pike.

Today dock pilings from 1867 are still visible beneath the water. The original 1915 auto pike still connects the village to main roads, and nineteenth century architecture abounds. There are many original homes and three community buildings. The original Schoolhouse, Methodist Church and Township Hall are all in use today.


How the Society began

A handful of us would-be historians began the task of organizing the Norwood Area Historical Society in the fall of 1994. We set out to rediscover and document area history and to preserve family chronicles. Catherine Lord, 82 at the time, became an invaluable source of priceless photographs and stories of bygone days. The editors of the Charlevoix Courier graciously published my stories over a period of five years. —Nancy Ritsema (adapted from her 2001 first edition Norwood, A Legacy of North Woods Living.)



The mission of the Norwood Area Historical Society (NAHS) is to preserve and maintain the 1890 Schoolhouse and to collect, catalog, and preserve information and artifacts pertaining to the people and community life of the Norwood Area. The NAHS strives to promote interest and knowledge of Norwood area history, be of service to researchers and the interested public, and preserve its historical landmarks for now and into the future.



The Norwood Area Historical Society is a 501c3 nonprofit organization in the State of Michigan. It is funded primarily through membership dues, events and charitable contributions. Its activities are supported by members, volunteers and its current officers.


What we do

Officers and Members meet regularly at the Society’s headquarters, the Norwood Schoolhouse. We actively preserve settlers’ history, ancient native heritage, antiquities, geology, archaeology, architecture and culture of Norwood Township, Michigan. During the summer we host educational events and social gatherings.