By Ruth A. Ringelstetter
In May of 2007, Joann and I made our first trip to Michigan. Our goals for the trip were as many lighthouses as we could fit in (to be covered in another post), the cherry blossoms, and the Old Mission Peninsula.
Along with the above goals, we both wanted to see the D. H. Day barn. Each of us had seen pictures, and that was all it took for us to know that we had to visit for ourselves.
David Henry Day was born in Ogdensburg in upstate New York in 1854. His father died at a young age and they lost the farm they had there. He came to Glen Haven, Michigan as a clerk for the Northern Transportation Company in 1878 with $240. He began buying land and soon established a booming lumber company and bought land for his farm.
He established a 400-acre farm that he called “Oswegatchi” after the New York community where his father was born and the Oswegatchi River where he had played as a boy. The farm buildings were built in the 1880’s and 1890’s and included the Queen Anne style house, the barn, a hog barn, a creamery, and a bull barn.
The barn is 116 feet long with French curves. The original barn was a two-story dairy barn and did not include the ornate silos standing today.
In 1889, Day married Eva Ezilda Farrant, and they took up residence above the General Store that he had built in Glen Haven. She preferred to live in town, so he walked the 3 miles to his farm each day to oversee operations and check on his prized animals.
By the 1920’s, the farm had an immense fruit orchard containing 5,000 apple and cherry trees. There was also acreage for growing corn and hay to feed his 400 hogs and his 200 pure-bred Holstein cattle.
He dreamed of living in the house on the farm one day, but was always overridden by his wife, who wanted to continue to live in town.
When Day died in 1928, he was 76 years old. Newspapers said Michigan had lost “King David of the North.”
The barn is listed as one of the “50 Most Significant Structures in Michigan” by the Society of Architectural Historians. It lies within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, but is privately owned.
At least once a day an artist or photographer pulls up along the road to study the farm and photograph or sketch the ornate buildings in their rural setting.
If you ever get to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, be sure to drive M-109 to view the farm for yourself. It’s gorgeous!