Most anyone who travels north (and even the ones who live even further north) has either stopped, driven thru, camped, or stayed in the Houghton Lake vicinity of Prudenville. I have stayed in cabins along the lake, had some great buffet dinners, went swimming, went dancing at the Music Box, and grabbed the usual ‘up-north’ souvenirs. I still stop there every time I head to the bridge; there’s a great little deli there with awesome road food like sausages, cheeses, drinks, all kinds of snack meats, chips and homemade dip, and many off-the-wall treats. Anyway, I’m getting away from the main point of this article.

Thanks to 1862’s Homestead Act, travelers were granted free property including around Houghton Lake, which brought many settlers and successful lumber businesses around 1870.

The area's first settlers were Augustus Emery and his family who arrived in 1873. They built their home on 160 acres of land just south of Houghton Lake. Being in Roscommon County, the lake was originally named ‘Roscommon Lake’, but after the death of Douglass Houghton, Michigan’s first state geologist, the lake was re-named in his honor.

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The village got its first post office in 1875 and was dubbed ‘Prudenville’ after early settler Peter Pruden. Someone must have had a sweetheart or daughter named ‘Edna’, for the town’s moniker was changed to that name in the second week of the New Year, 1876. Ten years to the day later, ‘Edna’ was gone and ‘Prudenville’ was back on January 14, 1886.

Many businesses, shops, and stores sprung up, including a blacksmith, general stores, grocers, hotels, saloons, and livery stables. Twenty five years later, the post office called it quits but rose again in 1921. It’s still in operation to this day. The Roscommon Lumber Company operated from 1882 to 1887 with 700 employees. The company and Prudenville were both listed as Michigan Historic Sites in 2004. A marker was erected in 2014.

Many Michiganders who have frequented the area may know of The Playhouse, which was formerly a 1927 entertainment center called the Johnson Dance Hall. It’s now used as the area’s Historical Society.

The many times I went to Houghton Lake/Prudenville in the past, Bill Oliver owned quite a bit of the establishments including his lakefront lodge and restaurant…man, that restaurant had one of the biggest and best buffet spreads I’ve ever been to. The area still retains its original atmosphere with various changes, but still a great place to spend some time.

Take a look at some vintage photos below!

Vintage Photos of Houghton Lake/Prudenville

HERE ARE SOME MORE PHOTOS YOU MAY ENJOY!

The Original Tiger Stadium

Michigan Stagecoaches

Vintage Michigan Graveyard Photos

Plank Roads

Nightsoilers