Final installment: Highland Park's history lives on

In her book, The Historic Cottages of Highland Park, Karen Lowe explores the history of this unique enclave along the shores of Lake Michigan. Highland Park sits near the Grand Haven State Park with Lake Avenue to the north and Grand Avenue to the south. This is the final installment of the series, which offers excerpts from the book. For more information or to buy a copy of the book, visit or any local bookseller. 

Highland Park has captured the fascination of locals since the first brick was laid in 1887. Most cottages have been sold to new families over the years, but one has passed down through the generations and even retained its original name.


Lindenloft is one of the very few cottages in Highland Park that has both retained its original name as well as remained in the same family since it was first built around 1898. The first owners of Lindenloft were Hiram and Amanda Madden of Grand Rapids. Hiram Madden (1842-1913) was a Civil War veteran who served in Company F, Fifth Michigan Infantry, fighting in the Second Battle of Bull Run and Battle of Gettysburg. In 1871, he married Amanda Ringle, settling in Grand Rapids where Hiram worked as a retail grocer and later a salesman. The Maddens called their cottage Lindenloft, named for a large Linden tree that grew in front of the cottage.

Hiram and Amanda Madden had three daughters: Idalyn Madden Richards (1872-1934), Edith Madden Smith (1874-1939) and Gertrude Madden Munro (1878-1965), who together inherited the cottage shortly after their mother passed away in 1918. All three women became school teachers and ultimately married. The three sisters and their families shared use of the cottage, each taking a month during the summer. After both Idalyn and Edith passed away in the 1930s, the cottage was tied up in probate for many years and physically boarded up until their youngest sister, Gertrude Munro and her husband were able to buy out the remaining families’ shares.

Gertrude’s husband, George Wesley Munro (1872-1964), was a professor of thermodynamics at Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana. Their only son Robert F. Munro (1919-1985) graduated with honors from Purdue and served his country first as a naval commander in WWII and later as a federal judge in West Lafayette, Indiana. Robert Munro and his cousin Pauline Richards Cooper (adopted daughter of Idalyn Madden Richards) spent many summers at the family cottage in Highland Park while they were growing up. Robert and his wife, Lucy, were childless and so when they passed away, Robert left the family cottage to his cousin Pauline Cooper’s three daughters: Polly K. (Cooper) Post, Constance (Cooper) Rugh, and Sarah (Cooper) Zysk.

Today, the cottage continues to be jointly owned by Polly Post and Sarah Zysk.

Bridges and Boardwalks

One of the most charming aspects of Highland Park are the connecting boardwalks or ‘bridges’ across the highest dunes in the Park, such as those along Crescent Hill and Poplar Ridge. At one time, the boardwalk in front of the lake (parallel to Harbor Avenue) extended across both lower and upper Poplar Ridge (i.e., almost to Grand Avenue). Sadly, after WWII, the boardwalk on the south end became so deteriorated that a decision was made to end the boardwalk about halfway down, where there were stairs down to the beach as well as a path up to cottages on Indian Trail.

boardwalks or ‘bridges’ connected across the highest dunes in the Park.

Grand Haven Tribune, August 5, 1897
To the many pretty names of cottages in the Park has been added, “The Bridge of Sighs”. In Lover’s Lane, the two new stairs are named Jacob’s Ladder and High Stairs. The three new benches display signs as follows: Bench No. 1, Meeting; Bench No. 2, Courtship; Bench No. 3, Marriage Bells. The road fronting the hotel is known on the lakefront as Esplanade. One ridge is Crescent Hill and another Lake View.

Grand Haven Tribune, June 25, 1900
The Park Association have in view many splendid improvements at Highland Park yet this season. One of the contemplated improvements is a series of bridges over the highest hills in he heart of the Park. The Association has spent many dollars this spring in improving the walks through the Park and 14,000 feet of new walk has been laid.

Highland Castle

Highland Castle was built around 1897. It was designed and built by its first owner, David S. Hopkins (1834-1918). Hopkins was a prolific designer and architect who originated the mail order system of selling residential architectural plans to homeowners in North America. Hopkins enjoyed considerable success, both nationally and locally, as the architect for notable area landmarks such as the Wonderly Building, Masonic Temple and First Methodist Church in Grand Rapids; the Hackley-Hume mansions in Muskegon; and The Castle in Highland Park. Hopkins and his wife Florence (Minnick) Hopkins had only one child — Hazel Marie Hopkins. Born in 1888, Hazel married William S. Esler of Selma, Alabama. William Esler’s family was of considerable means, having made their fortunes in the early days of automobiles.
David S. Hopkins owned the Highland Park Castle. He was a prolific designer and architect who originated the mail order system of selling residential architectural plans to homeowners in North America.

When David S. Hopkins passed away in 1918, he left his estate to his wife and daughter, Hazel. In a series of tragic events, his only daughter, Hazel Esler, died in January of 1919 two days after the birth of her third child while her husband, W.S. Esler, died less than a week later of pneumonia, leaving their three little boys, John, William, and David (all under the age of 5), suddenly orphans.

Mrs. Florence Hopkins took care of her young grandchildren until she died in 1920, less than a year after taking charge of the children. The estate of the orphaned Esler children, which included the Highland Castle and Breezy Rest cottages in Highland Park, was tied up legally for years until Albert G. Woodman and wife, Effie, purchased The Castle from the Esler estate in 1929. The cottage remained in the Woodman family until 1964 when it was purchased by the North family. Current owners Cindy and Peter Crane purchased Highland Castle in 1984.
Karen Lowe
Prior to her election to Grand Haven City Council, Karen Lowe served as commissioner on the city’s Historic Conservation District Commission. She holds a Masters in Business Administration degree from Washington University and a Bachelor’s of Science degree in nursing from the University of Illinois. Recently retired, she was a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and a vice president and general manager at IBM.

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