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Photo Credit: Mason County Historical SocietyPhoto Credit: Mason County Historical Society
Photo Credit: Mason County Historical SocietyPhoto Credit: Mason County Historical Society
Photo Credit: Mason County Historical SocietyPhoto Credit: Mason County Historical Society
Photo Credit: Brad Reed
Photo Credit: Todd and Brad Reed Photography
Photo Credit: Todd and Brad Reed PhotographyPhoto Credit: Todd and Brad Reed Photography
Photo Credit: Todd and Brad Reed PhotographyPhoto Credit: Mason County Historical Society

Mason County Arts and History

The arts scene in Mason County is vibrant and connects the community to a range of cultural attractions.  Drawing, pottery, fiber sculptures, painting, jewelry and other objects of original fine arts abound in the area’s galleries and shops.

Ludington’s Waterfront Sculpture Park

Bringing art, nature and history together, Ludington’s Waterfront Sculpture Park creates an environment that promotes education, reflection and personal enjoyment in an exceptionally beautiful setting. The Waterfront Sculpture Park is home to a collection of original bronze sculptures, designed to celebrate the community’s rich heritage. The park also features a harbor walk, a band shell for free concerts and events and a children’s playground.

Scottville Clown Band

For more than 100 years, the Scottville Clown Band has been entertaining crowds with its amusing combination of musical talent and hysterical antics. By day, these clowns make up the working men and women of the area, from policemen and judges to farmers and truck drivers and even doctors and lawyers. But once the make-up and costumes are on, it’s all fun and games. If you are lucky enough to be in the area when the Clown Band is performing, don’t miss the chance to see this one of a kind group. The Clown Band also plays over 60 parades and concerts around Michigan throughout the year. Take a look at their schedule to see where they will be clowning around next.

Historic White Pine Village

Historic White Pine Village is a community of over twenty-nine historic buildings located on a peninsula close to the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline. The buildings contain thousands of artifacts that help interpret their setting in the history of the area. The history interpreted includes lumbering, music, farming, small rural villages, maritime, sports, and the development of business and industry. Rediscover small-town Michigan life in the late 1800's to mid-1900's. There are things to see, things to learn, things to do--things that make Historic White Pine Village an exciting and educational experience for the entire family.

Ludington Area Center for the Arts

The bustling center is located downtown in the historic former home of the United Methodist Church. It features musical performances, exhibits, literary events, film screenings, lectures and classes.

West Michigan Old Engine Club

Located on 22 acres at Scottville’s Riverside Park, the Western Michigan Old Engine Club features a collection of exhibits that includes a large display of working engines and machinery as well as various farm buildings for demonstration to educate the public and school kids about farming.

S.S. Badger Carferry

Displays in the Lake Michigan Carferry ticket office depict more than 100 years of carferry service across Lake Michigan, and if you want to see the ferry in action, ask about the S. S. Badger’s arrival and departure times.

Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association

The Ludington area is home to two lighthouses. Ludington’s North Breakwater Light is located at the end of the pier at Stearns Park public beach where U.S. 10 West comes to an end. Big Sable Point Lighthouse is located in the Ludington State Park. It can be reached by walking or biking the 1.8 miles north from the park entrance on M-116. Both lighthouses are open for tours during the summer season.

West Shore Community College Performing Arts Series & Manierre Dawson Gallery

Special events and cultural activities are offered throughout the year, including lectures, theater productions, art exhibits, dance and musical performances. Performances generally take place at the Center Stage Theater in the Arts & Sciences building at the college which is also home to the Manierre Dawson Gallery.

Ludington Mural Tour

The collection is displayed throughout Ludington and depicts the area’s history with nine huge murals gracing the exterior of local businesses downtown and in other locations.

Father Marquette Shrine

On South Lakeshore Drive north of Historic White Pine Village on Pere Marquette Lake.
A huge illuminated cross on the Buttersville Peninsula overlooks Ludington Harbor and is thought to mark the spot where the great French missionary, Jesuit priest and explorer Father Jacques Marquette died in 1675.

Sandcastles Childrens Museum

Sandcastles is a hands-on museum located in downtown Ludington with 20 interactive exhibits designed to create an environment that encourages and inspires children and families to explore their world.

The History of the Ludington area and Mason County

The Ludington area and Mason County remain rich with heritage because the residents longtime and newly relocated believe in honoring the community’s roots. 

It was a combination of natural resources that provided the impetus for the founding of Ludington & Mason County in the mid-19th century. Ludington & Mason County were situated in the midst of one of the many vast forests of tall pine trees that covered Michigan, and on the shore of one of the major waterways in North America Lake Michigan.

Father Jacques Marquette
The area’s earliest days are marked by the arrival of French missionary and explorer Father Jacques Marquette, who landed on the narrow peninsula dividing Pere Marquette Lake from Lake Michigan in the mid-1600s. Marquette journeyed to this region to further his knowledge and understanding of the area’s first settlers the Native Americans who knew the land as an abundant supplier of their needs. He died and was buried on the peninsula in 1675. A monument, the Father Marquette Shrine, now marks the site of his death on the south side of the channel. Years later, in 1847, Burr Caswell settled at the mouth of the Pere Marquette River, beginning a small community known as Pere Marquette Village. Soon the first of many lumbering camps dotted the Ludington area. Lumber barons such as James Ludington built and settled into what are now impressive historic homes. By 1892, Ludington’s lumber industry produced 162 million board feet and 52 million wood shingles. Cutting down, processing and transporting lumber throughout and beyond the area’s borders created the county’s first industrial boom, lasting 50 years.

As the waterfront grew after 1900, so did downtown businesses.
With a variety of commerce occurring, transportation became critical, and Ludington became a major Great Lakes shipping port. Ludington’s “million dollar harbor” was dedicated in 1914. The harbor has long served commercial and pleasure traffic. A major development occurred in 1874 when Ludington became the western terminus of the Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad. In 1897, Pere Marquette Railroad built a fleet of railroad carferries to transport lumber and other commodities to markets on both sides of Lake Michigan. The ships linked Ludington to Wisconsin and Michigan ports, providing faster transportation to the lumber markets of Chicago and Milwaukee. By the mid-1950s, Ludington was the largest carferry port in the world. The service continues today with the S.S. Badger, the last and largest coal-fired carferry ever built, now catering to leisure passengers and their vehicles rather than railroad freight. As long ago as the 1890s Mason County has been a magnet for summer tourists. Today, thousands of vacationers visit the communities within the county each year, taking advantage of its natural resources including the miles of pristine beaches along our Lake Michigan coastline, Hamlin Lake and the Pere Marquette River along with dozens more inland lakes and streams, miles of national forest land, and the 5000 acre Ludington State Park. Beautiful beaches, abundant natural resources, two historic lighthouses, world-class fishing, small-town charm, and living examples of a proud maritime heritage have made Ludington and the Mason County area a place where all who visit and live may enjoy the past, present and future.