Sylvan Lake's history dates back to 1818 when an expedition led by Reverend John Montieth rode into the area to see what lay between Detroit and the newly established post of Pontiac. The expedition discovered a chain of lakes. The lake, which lay closest to Pontiac, was surrounded by a fringe of tamaracks and was considered by the group to be the most beautiful. The explorers named this body of water Timber Lake, afterwards changed to Sylvan Lake. In 1824, Isaac Voorheis purchased land on the eastern side of Timber Lake and lived in a shanty built of small logs with a roof made of shakes and bark. Game was plentiful in the area, as were wolves. The Voorheis family owned a vast piece of property, which they farmed and on which they built cabins and a few larger homes. When the Voorheis family sold their property in the early 1900's, some of the tenants moved to the south side of the lake. Those who moved to the Ferndale Street area left a highly superior sandy beach for a marsh.
A summer hotel was built in Sylvan, attracting visitors and future residents. Cottages and a few permanent homes began to appear on the shores of the lake.
By 1921, the community had grown sufficiently to be incorporated as a village. Henry J. Stickle was elected as the first President of the Village. The first police chief was Dick Dixon, followed by Clark Green, they also ran the road grader when needed.
A post office was built in the new village at the corner of Pontiac Drive and Garland Street. Villagers could buy groceries as well as pick up mail at the post office, until it was closed due to neighbor complaints about noise and traffic. Mrs. John Britzer was the first postmistress. Whitfield School was completed in 1926, replacing the two-room schoolhouse, which stood on the same site. Street lighting was completed in 1938 and the sewer system was laid in the 1940's. Joseph Leavy II served as Justice of Peace beginning in the 1940's, followed by Tony Kreps.
In February 1947, the Village became the City of Sylvan Lake. Leo Donaldson was the first Mayor. In the same year, Sylvan residents voted to become part of the Pontiac school district. This decision was made in part because Roosevelt School in Keego Harbor did not have room for Sylvan children to attend there once they completed elementary education at Whitfield School.
Sylvan Lake's community water system and water tower were completed in 1955. When Telegraph Road was widened in 1957, Mayor Howard Wideman decided to have access closed from Garland to Telegraph.
Residential development grew quickly in Sylvan. Wood Lawn Subdivision was recorded on April 14, 1920. Most homes in Wood Lawn were built in the 1930's. The fenced park at the corner of Garland and Lakeview is part of that subdivision. Sam and Clare Warwick moved to Sylvan Lake in the 1940's and began building custom homes. The first of these homes were on Beverly and Warwick Streets. The property was previously the location of Roosevelt School Athletic Field. After developing this area, Mr. Warwick developed Sherwood Forest Subdivisions 1 and 2 through the 50's and 60's. Subdivision 3 was built in the 80's. The Warwicks built over 300 houses in Sylvan Lake. Mrs. Warwick was active n the Garden Club.
Court ordered busing in the early 1970's caused many families with young children to sell their homes since Sylvan children were only allowed to attend Whitfield School for part of their elementary education. Sylvan's population dropped after 1970 but has been slowly climbing since that time as more and more people discover the joys of living in a small, beautiful lakeside community. City officials were right so many years ago when they adopted the slogan "The Prettiest Little City in the State of Michigan."
Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society
You can view several historical photos and other interesting information on Sylvan Lake and surrounding municipalities at the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society's website. GWBHS