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Located in the North Michigan region of the Lower Peninsula, the City of Charlevoix is in northwestern Charlevoix County and serves as the county seat.

The city is situated between Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix, which drains into Lake Michigan through the Round Lake/Pine River in downtown Charlevoix, the channel into Lake Michigan is marked by the Charlevoix South Pier Light Station. Round Lake is the gateway to boat traffic from Lake Michigan to Boyne City, East Jordan, or other locations on Lake Charlevoix, so it receives a great deal of commercial, industrial, and recreational boat traffic.

Situated on the Lake Charlevoix end of the Pine River Channel, a U.S. Coast Guard Station has been in Charlevoix since 1898, although it was originally located nearer to Lake Michigan.

The chief route through the city is US-31, which connects Charlevoix with Traverse City and Muskegon to the south, and with Petoskey and Mackinaw City to the north. M-66 originates at US-31 in south Charlevoix and continues south through East Jordan and Kalkaska to the southern Lower Peninsula. C-65 begins at US-31 just west of the M-66 junction and continues south toward Ellsworth and Central Lake. C-56 begins at US-31 just northeast of Charlevoix and continues in an east-southeasterly direction toward Boyne City.

Mostly located within the city, in the southwest, the Charlevoix Municipal Airport serves private air traffic, as well as charter flights to Beaver Island and other attractions through Island Airways and Fresh Air Aviation.

Passenger train service to Charlevoix ended in 1962 when the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway discontinued its Traverse City-Charlevoix-Petoskey line. Freight service ended in 1982 when the Chessie System abandoned its track. Although the state contracted with Michigan Northern Railway to operated the Charlevoix to Petoskey portion of the track, it was discontinued in the 1990s. Since then, portions of the track have been removed and sections of the rail line now serve as a bicycle trail. The Charlevoix Historical Society operates the Charlevoix depot as a museum.

Named for Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix, a French explorer who traveled the Great Lakes, the city originated as a fishing village in the 1850s. John S. Dixon acquired land in the area in 1854. The Homestead Act of 1862 brought several Civil War veterans and land speculators to the area, as the government was selling 160-acre parcels for $1.25 per acre.

In 1864, Dixon arranged to have a large dock constructed at the mouth of the Pine River. As boats were exposed to the harsh Great Lakes weather, the US Army Corps of Engineers began the work of dredging the Pine River channel, connecting Lake Michigan to an inland harbor at Round Lake. This was completed in 1869, connecting Lake Michigan to Lake Charlevoix, and establishing Charlevoix as the gateway.

In 1866, Dixon platted the town, originally named Pine River, as he was the major landowner at the time. By the 1870s, resort associations began to settle the site, and Pine River was incorporated as a village in 1879.

While part of Emmet County, voters opted to move the Emmet County seat to Pine River in 1867. However, in 1869, Charlevoix County was created out of Emmet County so, for a short time, the village served as the county seat for both counties. County seat wars resulted in the seat of Charlevoix County being moved to East Jordan, and then to Boyne City, then back to Pine River in 1897, which had since been renamed Charlevoix. Charlevoix was incorporated as a city in 1905.

From its beginnings as a fishing village, Charlevoix's economy was heavily dependent on commercial shipping from 1870 through the 1880s, particularly of lumber products. Around 1880, the area began to transform into a popular resort destination, particularly while the railroads were providing passenger service, although passenger liners also docked at Charlevoix. World War I brought a suspension to resort operation, but they continued following the war. However, the city suffered economically during the years following World War II. As more and more people had access to automobiles and air travel, its prominence as a destination faltered. At the same time, its manufacturing base slowed, and the railroads began to suspend operations to Charlevoix.

Nevertheless, its population continued to climb, reaching its peak population of 3,519 in 1970, but it has declined each census year since.

The focus of this guide is on the City of Charlevoix, Michigan, and appropriate resources include websites representing the city itself or any businesses, industries, schools, places of worship, organizations, attractions, or events within the city.

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