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Empire, Michigan
Looking north along M-72
Looking north along M-72
Location within Leelanau County
Location within Leelanau County
Empire, Michigan is located in Michigan
Empire, Michigan
Empire, Michigan
Location in Michigan
Country  United States
State  Michigan
County Leelanau
Township Empire
 • Total 1.12 sq mi (2.90 km2)
 • Land 1.03 sq mi (2.66 km2)
 • Water 0.09 sq mi (0.24 km2)
610 ft (186 m)
 • Total 375
 • Estimate 
 • Density 365.40/sq mi (141.15/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code(s)
Area code(s) 231
FIPS code 26-25980
GNIS feature ID 0625588

Empire is a village in Leelanau County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 375 at the 2010 census. The village is located within Empire Township.


Empire was founded in 1851. It was incorporated as a village in 1895 with E. R. Dailey, the head of the Empire Lumber Company which was the main employer here, as the first president of the village. The city was named after the schooner "Empire", which was icebound in the city during a storm in 1865.

The Empire Lumber Company operated from 1887 to 1917, dominating this once booming lumber town. George Aylsworth operated the first mill between 1873 and 1883. Potter and Struthers built a second mill in 1885, which T. Wilce Company purchased in 1887. Called the Empire Lumber Company, it expanded to one of the largest and best equipped hardwood mills in the area, capable of producing up to 20 million feet of lumber a year. Docks, several businesses, and a railroad sprang up in Empire. Destroyed by fire in 1906, the mill was quickly rebuilt. The mill burned again in 1917. With most of the nearby virgin timber gone, the mill was not replaced.


M-22 Looking North Empire Michigan
Looking north in Empire

Situated approximately 22 miles (35 km) due west of Traverse City, Empire is nestled in the center of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. With the Empire Bluffs to the south and the widely recognizable sand dunes of the National Lakeshore to the north, the area possesses breathtaking vistas of the dunes, North Manitou and South Manitou islands, and Lake Michigan. Most Sleeping Bear Dunes panoramas portrayed on postcards are taken from a walking trail which runs to the top of the Empire Bluffs. A wide beach separates Lake Michigan from its close neighbor, South Bar Lake. The much smaller South Bar Lake stays considerably warmer than the big lake during the summer months, and is good for young children.

The Empire beach boasts the Robert H. Manning Memorial Light, which was built in 1991 by O'Brien Brothers Construction as a memorial to Robert H. Manning, a lifelong resident of Empire and avid fisherman. Additionally, the beach offers a famous antique anchor which was discovered by Douglas Manning, son of Robert H. Manning, and Michelle Stryker in 1977. Every year, the village of Empire celebrates the raising of the anchor on the third Saturday in July.

The small village of Empire is located up a short hill, just a few minutes walk from the beach.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 1.24 square miles (3.21 km2), of which 1.15 square miles (2.98 km2) is land and 0.09 square miles (0.23 km2) is water. Empire is considered to be part of Northern Michigan.

Geographic features

Robert H. Manning Memorial Lighthouse

Major highways


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 609
1910 578 −5.1%
1920 298 −48.4%
1930 302 1.3%
1940 266 −11.9%
1950 251 −5.6%
1960 448 78.5%
1970 409 −8.7%
1980 340 −16.9%
1990 355 4.4%
2000 378 6.5%
2010 375 −0.8%
2019 (est.) 376 0.3%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 375 people, 211 households, and 103 families living in the village. The population density was 326.1 inhabitants per square mile (125.9/km2). There were 347 housing units at an average density of 301.7 per square mile (116.5/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 99.2% White and 0.8% Native American. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.8% of the population.

There were 211 households, of which 12.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.8% were married couples living together, 6.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 1.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 51.2% were non-families. 46.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 18.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.78 and the average family size was 2.50.

The median age in the village was 56.8 years. 13.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 2.2% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 16.8% were from 25 to 44; 38.1% were from 45 to 64; and 29.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the village was 45.6% male and 54.4% female.

Local attractions

View from Empire Bluff Trail
5 ft man vs 11 ft wheels
Michigan logging wheels to 6 foot man
Empire Area Museum
  • Michigan Shore to Shore Riding & Hiking Trail runs from Empire passes through Grayling and on to Oscoda, and points north and south. It is a 500-mile (800 km) interconnected system of trails.
  • Empire Bluff Trail
  • Philip A. Hart Visitor Center for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

There are a number of recurring local events. A calendar is available.

  • The Empire Winterfest, held each year in mid-February has been celebrated for the past twenty-five years. Events include ice skating, curling and the polar bear dip into South Bar Lake. There is also a pool tournament held in the Empire Village Inn (known to locals simply as "The V.I.") and a pancake breakfast put on by the Empire Lion's Club in the Empire town hall.
  • Empire is the former home of the Dunegrass Festival. A three-day music festival featuring folk and bluegrass groups, as well as a multitude of stands from local artisans and business owners. It is now held a short distance away outside of the village.
  • Empire Heritage Days (2nd weekend in October).
  • Empire Asparagus Festival (3rd weekend in May—weekend before Memorial Day weekend).
  • Empire Hops Festival (1st Saturday in October)
  • 2015 Empire Hill Climb (Saturday 30 May)
  • Bogue, Margaret. Around the Shores of Lake Michigan: A Guide to Historic Sites. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.
  • Reed, Earl H. The Dune Country. Berrien Springs, MI: Hardscrabble Books, 1979. [Reprint of 1916 Edition].
  • Ruchhoft, Robert H. Exploring North Manitou, South Manitou, High and Garden Islands of the Lake Michigan Archipelago. Cincinnati, OH: Pucelle Press, 1991.
  • Wood, Mable C. Scooterville, U.S.A. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Empire (Míchigan) para niños

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