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Our Neighborhood
A History of Walled Lake

The JET Theatre is located on what originally was the gaming field for the Potawatomi tribe that inhabited this region. The people who once lived here were forcibly removed as part of a relocation effort under the administration of Andrew Jackson.

Potawatomi is a Central Algonquin language spoken around the Great Lakes in Michigan and Wisconsin. Fewer than 1,300 people speak Potawatomi as a first language, most of them elderly. The English "Potawatomi" is derived from the Ojibwe Boodewaadamii. Their name means "those who tend the hearth-fire."

Centuries ago, the Potowatami people numbered more than 10,000 and occupied and controlled almost 30 million acres in the Great Lakes region. In the 16th Century, they migrated south settled along the shores of Lake Michigan where they lived close to the Ottawa and Chippewa tribes. This proximity, along with having similar languages and culture, helped the three tribes to form an alliance known as the "Council of the Three Fires." The Potawatomi peoples were given the task of keeping alive the "Sacred Fire."

In the early 19th Century, major portions of Potawatomi lands were seized by the U.S. government. Most of the Potawatomi people were removed and perished en route for the "Trail of Death."
Walter Hewitt, the first white settler, arrived in 1825, and built a log cabin. He was followed by several other families. Bela Armstrong, and Cornelius Austin, veterans of the War of 1812, came in 1826. Pentice and King established a trading post in 1830, and named it "white rock." Eliphat Hungerford planted the community's first apple orchard in 1831. During the mid-1830s, a highway that was built caused the community to expand and in 1836, the village of Walled Lake was platted by Jesse Tuttle. According to tradition, the name "Walled Lake" was given by Walter Hewitt, probably due to the presence of a stone wall along the western bank of the area's lake.

Shortly after the turn of the century, the rural character of Walled Lake began to change. With the Michigan Airline Railroad coming through the village in 1883, and the solid gravel roads to Pontiac and Detroit by World War I, Walled Lake was now a crossroads with the rest of Michigan. 


Being the largest and closest lake to Detroit, and with the advent of the automobile, Walled Lake soon became a favorite destination for people escaping the industrialized cities for recreation. In the early 1900s, cottages and permanent residences began to dot the shoreline as Walled Lake grew in popularity.

Enterprising residents, Jake and Ernie Taylor, saw the attraction of the lake and built a small dance hall on the south end of the lake in 1919. They advertised the hall with signs on the back of automobiles and attracted 1,000 people nightly.

The popularity of the dance halls prompted Louis Tolettene to build what he called "the best ballroom in the state of Michigan". The new Casino Shores Pavilion opened its doors on April 13,1925.  The lavishly decorated ballroom boasted a 120' x 140' polished maple dance floor and a hand painted lattice ceiling.
The new Casino Pavilion attracted the most popular bands of the time as thousands crowded into the dance hall every weekend. In 1929 the country was thrown into the Great Depresssion. However, the Casino Pavilion kept its doors open and began radio broadcasts on location. This is what put Walled Lake on the map and listeners from around the country would tune in and listen to the ballroom music emanating from the shores of Walled Lake. Some of the famous names that performed in Walled Lake at the time were Tommy Dorsey, Red Nichols, Glen Miller, Louis Armstrong, Sammy Kay, Guy Lombardo, and Lawrence Welk.
When the Walled Lake Casino was built in 1929, Herman Czankusch had an idea to build a roller coaster at Walled Lake. He leased his land to Fred W. Pierce, who began construction on the roller coaster in February, 1929. The new roller coaster was named the "Flying Dragon".  Fred Pierce had built over 27 roller coasters around the country, but the "Flying Dragon" was said to have been the best roller coaster he ever built. The coaster was the focal point of the new Walled Lake Park.

The Grand opening of Walled Lake Park was on Memorial Day, 1929 and was a huge success from the start.  People came from miles around to enjoy the park's many attractions.
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With the emergence of the Detroit area Metro Parks, the popularity of television entertainment, and the advent of neighborhood pools, attendance at the park declined in the early sixties. The Pierce family sold the park in 1962 to the Wagner brothers who also owned Edgewater Park. The Walled Lake Park was now beginning to show its age and the Wagner's began moving some of the rides to their newer Edgewater Park, which was closer to the city of Detroit. After the 1968 season, the Walled Lake Park was finally closed and dismantled.  And yet another landmark representing the "golden years" of Walled Lake was gone.

In 1979, the cities of Walled Lake and Novi realized how polluted the lake had become after years of vacationing visitors and decided that it needed to be cleaned up. City sewers were installed completing the sewage removal method around the entire lake.  Within five years the waters were noticeably cleaner as wildlife once again returned and flourished.  Because of its natural spring source, the lake itself did all the clean up work; it only needed to be given the chance. By 1985, it had become one of the cleanest lakes in Oakland County and was again attracting attention. From the 1980's to present day, a continuous and dynamic change can be noticed along the lakeshore.  The old cottages of the past are being renovated or torn down making way for new homes. 


Today, Walled Lake is a thriving lakeside community. It's residents still enjoy the small town feeling with the convenience of being close to fine dining, shopping, entertainment, and major expressways.


Surprisingly, what attracted the earliest inhabitants to Walled Lake centuries ago, are the same reasons people are attracted today: clean, warm waters and an area that meets all their needs all while being close to major travel routes.

Source: Walled Lake History by Lori Marshick

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