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The Making of Frankenmuth

Significant dates in history:

  • 1845… Frankenmuth settled.
  • 1854… Frankenmuth township created.
    1856… Exchange Hotel built (today Zehnder’s Restaurant)
  • 1862… Cass River/Geyer’s Brewery built.
  • 1868… Local German mutual aid insurance organization created, later developed into today’s Frankenmuth Mutual Insurance Company.
  • 1874… Star of the West Milling Company formed joining hundreds of flour mills across rural 19th century Michigan. Today, Star of the West is just one of a handful of mills operating in 20th Century Michigan.
  • 1880 – 1900… Fischer Hotel (later Bavarian Inn), Kerns Commercial House, Stahl’s Eagle Hotel, Goetz Hotel, and Hotel List built.
  • 1899… Mrs. Kern (Commercial House) served “all you can eat” chicken to a bridal party from Saginaw.
  • 1899… Frankenmuth Brewing Company founded. Later became Carling Brewing Company, Carling-National, and G. Heileman Brewing Company.
  • 1901… State decrees separation of local tax support from St. Lorenz Lutheran School.
  • 1904… Village of Frankenmuth Incorporated.
  • 1927… Zehnder’s purchased Exchange Hotel.
  • 1945… Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland founded.
  • 1950’s… I-75 constructed, providing easy access to the area. A dike was built along the bank of the Cass River, controlled annual floods allowing expansion of the downtown area.
  • 1957… Rupprecht’s Sausage was the first building built in the “Alpine-style” architecture. The building was built in 1948. It is now Willi’s Sausage.
  • 1958/59… Zehnder family redecorated the Fischer Hotel in the “Alpine-style” architecture, renaming it the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn.
  • 1959… City of Frankenmuth incorporated.
  • 1959… Bavarian Inn Grand Opening (later developed into annual Bavarian Festival.)
  • 1960 & current… More buildings adopt Alpine-style architecture.
  • 1962… Frankenmuth became third city in America to join the People-to-People program. Frankenmuth chose Gunzenhausen, Germany, as Sister City.
  • 1963… Civic Events Council formed to organize and manage Bavarian Festival.
  • 1969… Location of Bavarian Festival moved to Heritage Park.
  • 1970’s… Bavarian Mall opened on north end of Frankenmuth spurring continued development of north end of town.
  • 1976… Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland built new building on south end of Frankenmuth spurring development of south end of town.
  • 1977… Marv Herzog and Harold Mitas organized the first Summer Polka Fest.
  • 1977… A Main Street Historic District was formed to encourage preservation of existing architecture and use of “Bavarian” architecture in new construction.
  • 1980… Frankenmuth Holz Brücke (covered bridge) constructed. Largest covered bridge built in America in 75 years.
  • 1980-81… Old St. Lorenz School/Frankenmuth Middle School converted to School Haus Square shopping mall.
  • 1982… Nickless-Hubinger Flour Mill opened third Flour Mill on that site.
  • 1982… Zehnder’s Restaurant opened their newly expanded bakery area.
  • 1982… Edelweiss addition to Bavarian Inn Restaurant.
  • 1982… Horse Carriage Tours established in Frankenmuth.
  • 1984… Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth purchased Frankenmuth Golf & Country Club.
  • 1986… Bavarian Inn Lodge opened phase one (100 rooms.)
  • 1987… Twenty five years of Sister City visits and programs celebrated.
  • 1987… Roof Garten Lounge and Doll & Toy Factory addition to Bavarian Inn Restaurant.
  • 1987… Geyer Brothers Brewery purchased, remodeled and opened as Frankenmuth Brewery.
  • 1988… Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth purchased Bavarian Haus Motel.
  • 1989… Bavarian Inn Lodge opened phase two (98 additional rooms.)
  • 1989… Frankenmuth Riverboat Tours opened.
  • 1990… Frankenmuth Agricultural Park opened (Frankenmuth Cheese Manufacturing Company, Frankenmuth Pretzel Company, and Gepetto’s Restaurant.)
  • 1990… G. Heileman Brewery closed.
  • 1990… Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce hosted First Annual Oktoberfest.
  • 1991… Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland opened new expansion (total building space now 201,243 square feet.)
  • 1992… Fortress Golf Course opened.
  • 1992… Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth hosted first annual Zehnder’s Snowfest.
  • 1992… Frankenmuth/Gunzenhausen celebrate 30 years of Sister City visits and programs.
  • 1992… Zehnder’s Bavarian Haus Motel addition complete (indoor pool, courtyard, a total of 137 rooms.)
  • 1993… Bavarian Festival celebrates 35th Anniversary.
  • 1994… Maypole Structure installed at Chamber of Commerce Building.
  • 1994… Herbert L. Keinath Memorial Fountain Schulpture Enhancement Project completed and dedicated.
  • 1995… Frankenmuth celebrated its Sesquicentennial (150th Anniversary) throughout the year.
  • 1995… Bavarian Inn Lodge opened Phase three (156 additional rooms).
  • 1995… Drury Inn opened creating the fourth hotel property in Frankenmuth.
  • 1995… The Frankenmuth Women’s Club constructed the Veteran’s Memorial in Willkommen Park.
  • 1995… The Frankenmuth Historical Museum undertook a complete renovation of its exhibits creating a more firsthand experience of Frankenmuth’s beginnings.
  • 1996… June 21 at 11:10pm a tornado hits Frankenmuth. 10 homes are destroyed, many others damaged as well as many businesses. No loss of life was sustained
  • 1997… First Annual Clam & Lobster Fest.
  • 1998… Frankenmuth 2000 begins construction.
  • 1998… The Rummelplatz opens its facility.
  • 1998… Bavarian Inn Lodge adds $3 million dollar meeting & convention area.
  • 1998… Frankenmuth Mutual Insurance Company purchases St John’s Church, properties, and the Geyer house.
  • 1999… Fairfield Inn by Marriot opens bringing the fifth hotel property to Frankenmuth.
  • 1999… First Oktoberfest Parade.
  • 1999… Covenant Health Care constructs new medical facility.
  • 1999… Frankenmuth Credit Union constructs new facility.
  • 1999… Frankenmuth Clock Company constructs new facility patterned after a Bavaria, Germany building.
  • 2000… Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland expansion of their shipping department.
  • 2000… Removal of the G. Heileman Brewing Company for the Phase 1 of the Frankenmuth River Place.
  • 2001… River Place opens July 2001.
  • 2001… Ground breaking for the SpringHill Suites.
  • 2001…Michigans’ Own Military and Space Museum adds additional exhibit space.
  • 2001…Frankenmuth School District buildings begin capital improvement process.
  • 2002...Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland Expansion.
  • 2002…Completion of the Frankenmuth 2000 Hospitality Plan.
  • 2002…SpringHill Suites by Marriott opens bringing a sixth hotel property to Frankenmuth.
  • 2002…Grandpa Tiny’s Farm relocates Dehmel Road bridge to property.
  • 2003…Sullivan’s Black Forest Brau Keller opens.
  • 2003…Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce remodels public restroom facilities.
  • 2003…Frankenmuth Historical Association dedicates Norine Kern town clock.
  • 2003…Bronner Performing Arts center dedicated.
  • 2003…Frankenmuth Brewery reopens & acquires “Riverview Queen” riverboat, renaming it “Pilsener Princess.”
  • 2003…Frankenmuth Auto Fest celebrates 20th anniversary.
  • 2003…Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce holds first annual “Wein & Stein” event.
  • 2004…Frankenmuth Fire Department celebrates 100th anniversary.
  • 2004…First Lumberjack Festival held.
  • 2004…Beyer Road Bridge reopens as a pedestrian bridge across the Cass River.
  • 2004…First Blues Bash on the Cass event held.
  • 2004…Groundbreaking takes place for Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel & Waterpark.
  • 2004…Groundbreaking takes place for the Harvey Kern Community Pavilion in Heritage Park.
  • 2004…Weiss Street streetscaping project completed.
  • 2005…Dedication of the Harvey Kern Pavilion.
  • 2005…Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel & Waterpark opens.
  • 2005…First Christkindlmarkt held.
  • 2006…Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce celebrates it centennial anniversary.
  • 2007…Marv Herzog Hotel opens. This 38-room hotel, built by the Drury Inn corporation, is the 7th lodging facility in Frankenmuth, bringing the total number of overnight guestrooms to 809.
  • 2008…Frankenmuth Post Office renamed “Postamt” in German with Hummel figurine artwork added.
  • 2008…Tim Horton’s restaurant opened.
  • 2009…Frankenmuth Brewery re-opened under new ownership.