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History of Empire
Empire was founded in 1851, then established as a Village by E.R. Dailey in 1895. Dailey was the first Village President and ran the Empire Lumber Company, the area's largest employer. Its name came from a schooner, "Empire", which was icebound in the town following a severe storm in 1865.
Lumbering was the area's main industry. As forests were cleared, open fields gave way to farming. Much of the soil was good for growing potatoes and fruit such as cherries, apples, and peaches. After the last mill burned in 1917, farming became the top industry for the region. Some farms continue to operate today and have farmstands in-season with the latest harvest for sale.
Empire is a bustling community that expands with visitors during peak tourism seasons. The main headquarters for the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is also in Empire. Museum displays and exhibits, an introductory slideshow, souvenirs, maps and park passes may be obtained from the Visitors Center and is a good place to start your visit to the Sleeping Bear Dunes.
The beach on Lake Michigan at Empire has a stunningly wide area that separates Lake Michigan from South Bar Lake. The beach also is home to the Robert H. Manning Memorial Light that was built in 1991. Empire is also host to several annual events.
Empire Real Estate
Empire is a relatively modest, small community posting 375 year-round residents for a total of 211 households according to the 2010 census. Much of the land is protected by the National Park Service. Real Estate opportunities include single family homes, acreage, farms with orchards or hops, and smaller residential neighborhoods near or within the Village limits.