Becoming a Pentwater Historical Society Member is your ticket to Pentwater’s past, present and future. Experience access to top exhibitions, curator-led discussions, exclusive member events, and other exciting opportunities. Also gain insider knowledge of behind-the-scenes activities and the latest PHS news in our membership newsletter.

Want to dive in deeper? Join one of our volunteer committees, which allows members with common interests to learn and share together while supporting PHS in ways beyond general membership. If you have an interest in Fundraising, Grant Writing, Special Events, Museum Exhibits, Community Outreach, Museum Maintenance, Research, or the Newsletter, please let us know! We welcome your involvement!

Membership to the Pentwater Historical Society and Museum is an Annual Individual Membership which must be renewed each year. Click here to become a member today!

What was the “White Elephant”?

In 1891, G.A. Williams arrived from Chicago and started promoting the idea of Pentwater as a summer resort second to none on the Great Lakes. The centerpiece was to be a huge hotel, complete with its own steamer service, direct from the hotel doorstep to Chicago. Williams was to build the hotel, named after his wife, Valeria. At Williams’ request the township chipped in with money and land.

In 1892 a huge white block structure, complete with castellated tower, was started. In 1893 building stopped. Accusations flew. Williams left town and the town was left with a hollow shell. Someone called it the “White Elephant” and the name stuck. The White Elephant was destroyed in 1927, Williams was forgotten. However, his vision of Pentwater as a world class resort was not. Most beach homes and resort development date from this time and from the vision of the promoter of the White Elephant.

Indeed, you can come under the spell of Williams’ vision by visiting the former site of the “White Elephant,” now our village green, and watching summer children dance to the sprightly rhythms of our village band — just like G.A. Williams always knew they would.