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Situated in the center of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the village of Empire, Michigan is bordered by Lake Michigan to the east and includes most of South Bar Lake.

South Bar Lake is a 69-acre body of water used for recreational purposes, including a public swimming beach on the west side of the lake in Lake Michigan Beach Park, which is on an isthmus between South Bar Lake and Lake Michigan, and accessed by South Lake Michigan Drive. The fish species in the lake include bluntnose minnow, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, Johnny darter, and Iowa darter.

The Empire Bluffs is south of the village, while the sand dunes of the National Seashore are to the north. There are views of the dunes, North Manitou and South Manitou Islands, and Lake Michigan. A wide beach separated Lake Michigan from South Bar Lake, which is much warmer than Lake Michigan during the summer months. The population center of the village is a few minutes' walk from the beach, up a short hill.

The Robert H. Manning Memorial Lighthouse, also known as the Manning Memorial Light or the Manning Light, is a lighthouse near Empire. The lighthouse was built to honor Mr. Manning, a longtime Empire resident, who had often expressed a desire for a lighthouse in the area.

The Michigan Shore to Shore Riding & Hiking Trail is a 220-mile trail that crosses the Lower Peninsula, from Empire on Lake Michigan to Oscoda on Lake Huron. Public campgrounds are scattered throughout the route. The Empire Bluff Trail is a much shorter hiking trail that leads to a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.

Operated by the National Park Service, the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center on M-72, just east of its intersection with M-22, in Empire, offers information, brochures, maps, and park passes for the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

The Empire Area Museum Complex is fashioned after the historic Roen Saloon and includes the original bar, a Victorian parlor, a turn-of-the-century kitchen, artifacts from Norway Town, a blacksmith shop, barn display, railroad exhibits, a covered wagon, and other artifacts. Behind the museum is an original one-room schoolhouse, and also serves as the museum's audio-visual center.

Empire is in Empire Township, southwest Leelanau County, in the northwestern Lower Peninsula. The chief routes to and from the village are M-22 (South Leelanau Highway) and M-72 (West Empire Highway), which intersect in downtown Empire. Cities and villages within twenty-five miles from Empire include Honor (12.6 miles), Beulah (16.0 miles), Lake Ann (16.4 miles), Benzonia (17.1 miles), Frankfort (21.6 miles), Elberta (23.8 miles), and Traverse City (25.0 miles).

The first European-American settler in the area that was to become Empire was John LaRue, who came with his family in 1851. On November 10, 1864, LaRue became the town's first postmaster. The village was named for the schooner Empire, which became icebound in its harbor in 1863, and was then used as a schoolhouse.

Owned by George Aylsworth, the village's first mill was in business from 1873 to 1883. A second mill was built by Potter and Struthers in 1885. This mill was purchased by the T. Wilce Company in 1887 and became the Empire Lumber Company. In operation from 1887 to 1917, the Empire Lumber Company was the dominant industry in the town during its time. When it burned in 1917, it was not rebuilt because most of the nearby virgin timber was exhausted.

The focus of this guide is on the village of Empire, Michigan. Online resources representing the village or any individuals, industries, businesses, schools, places of worship, organizations, attractions, and events within the village are appropriate for this category.

 

 

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