at Bluffton
1908 - 1938

Buster Keaton
and the
Muskegon Connection

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Pigeon Hill
Lake Michigan Park
Muskegon, MI 

Images of Pigeon Hill, once the most visible natural landmark in Muskegon.

Muskegon's Pigeon Hill - looking west
The majestic sand dune known as Pigeon Hill was located across the street from Lake Michigan Park.  Legend has it that the dune soared some 300 feet into the air and covered some 40 acres at  its base.
"Although in later accounts the legendary hill’s height grew to upwards of 300 feet", noted Muskegon Chronicle Dave LeMieux in a 2010 article,  "it was precisely measured at 217 feet in 1907 by Muskegon High School’s trigonometry class."  It dwarfed the surrounding landscape and served as a backdrop for the homes in the Actors' Colony.
Pigeon Hill 
Pigeon Hill
Lookin East toward Lakeside
The property once played host to thousands of passenger pigeons during the 1800s, thus earning its name. When a flock took flight, the sky would darken due to the sheer number of reddish-breasted birds. A delicacy in restaurants in large cities, the birds were hunted and served as squab.  Combined with deforestation and the disappearance of natural habitat, the passenger pigeon was last spotted in the wild in 1902.  The last know passenger pigeon, named Martha, died in captivity in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. By 1930, the bird was considered extinct.
Created by artist Lewis Cross, this 6' by 11' painting hangs in the lobby
 of the Lakeshore Museum Center in Muskegon.
  Pigeon Hill at the entrance to Lake Michigan Park 
Owned by D.D. Erwin, the landmark dune was sold by his estate around 1920. Purchased by a newly-formed company that included investors from the Nugent Sand Company and the Pere Marquette Railroad, a Muskegon Chronicle report in May of 1925 announced that the sand from the hill would be mined for industry, and the cleared site would be developed for residential use.  A lawsuit to prevent the building of a railroad spur to the site was filed by area residents, but did not halt progress. Demand for  industrial casting sand was growing. By April of 1936, Sand Products Corporation had built a conveyor system to load sand on awaiting steamers, destined for industrial centers throughout the Midwest.
The Mining of Pigeon Hill 
Conveyor system at Pigeon Hill 

"The sand dock, with its many ships loading night and day was a part of the Bluffton scene for many years," noted the authors of Shifting Sands - A Story of the Bluffton Area.
Sand removal from the site continued until 1967.  In the mid-1950's, the barren land attracted the interest of a chemical producer who wished to build a large plant in the area.  Bluffton residents battled back  to prevent the city from allowing the purchase of the site.  
Various attempts to redevelop the land continued over the years.  In the 1980's the property was sold to real estate developers, who created a marina  and yacht club on the site.  Plans to build condominiums on the surrounding land was slow to develop.  A change in ownership in 1992 kick-started the project, and has led to the creation of Harbour Towne.  Located on 71 acres, it is now considered one of Michigan's finest condominium communities.