Fenton, Michigan

Chamber of Commerce

My discovery of Fenton began when I ordered a sandwich at a small coffee shop in Goodrich, Michigan. I was blown away by how delicious the bread was. I asked if they made their own and they said "No, they ordered bread from a baking company known as Crust, in Fenton, Michigan". There are hidden gems all around downtown Fenton. It is a good idea to stop at the Chamber of Commerce office and get a copy of their Walking Tour map. As I made my way to “Crust” I became aware that I had arrived in a pretty special town. I was seeing all kinds of sculpture and other artwork scattered around. There was great architecture and really cool looking shopping districts.

game sculptureUnique architecture describes downtown Fenton, including the Community Center building, which was nominated as one of the most significant structures in Michigan. The design is the work of Eliel Saarinen. He was a Finnish architect, known for his art nouveau buildings, in the early years of the 20th century. The building was considered way ahead of its time and architectural students still journey to Fenton just to explore this building.

The poker table sculpture in front of the Community Center tells the story of how Fenton got its name. The story goes that citizens couldn't agree on a name for the city so the possible honorees decided to settle the matter like gentlemen. They had a game of poker on August 24, 1837. The sculpture depicts three men, William M. Fenton, Robert LeRoy, and Benjamin Rockwell. Some people say Mr. Dibble was in the game. In any event, Mr. Fenton won and the community adopted his name. As a consolation prize, Robert LeRoy had his name given to LeRoy Street. Mr. LeRoy later built the Fenton Hotel, it is said to be haunted. There is an empty seat at the poker table just for photo ops.

Trails are one of the reasons that Fenton is there to enjoy today. Seems that in the early 1800s Clark Dibble was making the trek from Shiawassee to Grumlaw. Not surprisingly he became confused in the wilderness and ended up on the White Lake Trail. In this area he turned north and found a spot on the Shiawassee River where several Indian trails intersected. The spot was so beautiful that he decided to stay and Dibbleville, Fenton today, was established. Hidden away, north of downtown, is a beautiful nature preserve that offers easy trails through the dense forest. Inside the Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary there are no sand dunes, rushing rivers, or sun-drenched beaches. There are more than 150 acres of woods and wetlands with 4.5 miles of walking paths. There's a large pine grove and stands of hardwoods. There are four main loops in the trail system. When winter ends, the wildflowers bloom and in the autumn the fall colors are second to none.

To discover more about Fenton, visit their full service book store, Fenton's Open Book. The selection is going to surprise shoppers, and this is the place to get real information about the history of Fenton. They have books on that poker game and the history of the settlement when it was known as Dibbleville and all that was here were a few houses and a couple of sawmills.

This getaway is sponsored by the Fenton Chamber of Commerce. Another great Michigan back roads day trip.