Distance: Less than 1 mile

Walking time: 15 minutes

For somebody who appreciates real quiet and solitude – the town population is fewer than 300 – but still likes being near basic amenities and within easy driving distance of other natural and manmade attractions in the Thumb Region, Port Hope is an ideal spot to visit.

The second smallest incorporated town in Michigan, Port Hope is located 10 miles north of Harbor Beach and 70 miles from the largest city in the Thumb, Port Huron (the location of one of our annual RV shows). Lumber gave the town its start, and it was once one of the most important centers of lumbering in the state. A fire in 1881 destroyed most of the remaining timber as well as buildings and personal possessions, but the town rose from the ashes and successfully transitioned to farming. Most of this was with the financial backing, and gusto, of William R. Stafford, who came to the area in 1887 from Lexington and was instrumental in Port Hope’s growth and resurgence.

This walking tour takes you to several historic sites around town. There are 11 buildings on the National Registrar of Historic Places, which is incredible considering the size of the town over the years, and this little jaunt will take you past most if not all of them.

1. Port Hope United Methodist Church

Also known locally as the “Red Church,” this Methodist church is located on Second Street and is listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places. The first congregation began back in 1858 by a circuit-riding preacher, with the first church being erected between 1880 and 1882. Described as an “L-shaped, gable roof, frame structure,” Red Church has an impressive tower that also serves as the church’s entrance. The style is predominantly Gothic, as evident by the steeply pitched roof and various arches incorporated into the design. You can only view this building from the outside; it hasn’t been in continuous use since the 1930s and is now abandoned.


2. William R. Stafford House

Built in 1868 and a fortunate survivor of the fires that swept through and destroyed most of the town in the early 1880s, William R. Stafford’s family home is undoubtedly the most luxurious in town, if not the entire region. This beautiful structure was designed in the Victorian style, the craftsmanship of which is fascinating to view. As was typical of this architectural style, the house features ornate cornices, a bay window, a turret, a steeply pitched roof, ornate woodwork, decorative trim across the rooflines and around the windows, and most of all, a presence of respectability that its owner most certainly possessed. Imagine the parties that took place here in the old days.


3. Port Hope Antiques

You’ll find Port Hope Antiques on Main Street, a handsome corner building made of red brick. The building was erected in 1885, as Port Hope was shifting direction from lumbering to farming. It was known back then as the Ogilvie Building, which was built and utilized by the town’s doctor. The interior of this quaint shop offers antique hunters and history buffs timeless and vintage pieces from across the state. You’ll enjoy meandering past the items and speaking with the kind and passionate staff. A trip to this side of the state isn’t complete without looking around an antique store.


4. Port Hope Depot

When the Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad came to Port Hope in 1903, it was a big deal. Up until that point, the community’s exports had been sent by either vessel or horse-drawn cart. The depot was built a year later and served for several decades. When the railroad was discontinued, it was moved to a storage area, where it remained for several more decades. Just 12 years ago, a group comprised of local residents known as the Friends of The Port Hope Depot, raised funds and put together a plan to repair and restore the depot, including moving it to Stafford Park. A few years following this impressive feat, a 1904 New York Central Standard caboose was brought to the site, restored, and made available for public viewing. In the future, the group hopes to create a museum within the depot.


5. Stafford County Park

Stafford County Park was established in 1919 on the land of William Stafford. The structure that captures your attention is the Saw Mill Chimney, which is a remnant of the mill that used to operate on these shores. Much of the shoreline at the park is rocky, ideal for rock hounds, so you’ll need to set up for a beach day on the grass slightly farther from the water (there is a small sandy portion, however). Lake Huron is the main draw here, especially as the sun rises each day. It’s worth waking early and watching the sun come up.


6. Port Hope Mercantile

Reminiscent of days gone by, this full hardware and general store is complete with candies and toys for the kids. The current building was constructed in 1919 after the former building that sat on the site burned down due to arson. It’s currently run by the great-great-granddaughter of William Stafford, and her family. You can learn more at https://porthopemercantile.com.


Other sights you’ll encounter along the way: Masonic Temple, Port Hope Hotel (Herman House), St. John Lutheran Church, and the Muhlenthaler Elevator (plans to demolish began in 2024).

It’s interesting to note that historically, Port Hope was called as such when a co-investor and compatriot of Stafford’s, Williams’ business associate, Southard, boarded a schooner and traveled toward the area in which he was investing. A storm was brewing, so the schooner let him off some distance from shore. The story goes that he vowed to give the spot the name of Port Hope if he made it to shore. The town began with a glimmer of hope – and a bit of faith. It is a hope that has burned and smoldered over the decades, but it’s a hope that has remained engrained in the culture and history of this little Michigan town.


Within easy driving distance: Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse is one of the oldest lighthouses in the state. This active light is managed by the Coast Guard. In addition, there is the keeper’s house that has been fully restored and contains, like many lighthouses, artifacts from yesteryear. It’s well worth a visit, and it’s only nine miles up the coastline, a drive of about 11 minutes.  Visit the website for more information: https://pointeauxbarqueslighthouse.org/the-lighthouse.