Michigan is home to a handful of eerie ghost towns: ruins and remnants of cities that once bustled with activity, but now sit silently without a soul to be seen. Some of these towns, however, have truly disappeared without a trace. One such ghostly location is the town of Singapore, which now lies under the surface of sand dunes near the shores of Lake Michigan.
In 1836, Singapore was created as a lumber port town by a developer who hoped to create a competitive spot that mirrored larger cities like Milwaukee and Chicago. It was established near the spot where the Kalamazoo River and Lake Michigan meet, which is encircled by modern-day Saugatuck and Douglas.
Singapore, at its peak, boasted a great deal of activity for its time. The town housed two hotels, three mills, and a collection of general stores. It was even home to the first schoolhouse in Michigan.
It also contained the well-known Singapore Bank, which was ultimately involved in a widespread scandal over circulation of bank notes. At the time, banks were required to maintain a monetary stock accounting for at least one-third of all circulating bills. Singapore Bank failed to meet this standard.
Unfortunately, Singapore’s bad luck started early. In 1842, the town very nearly met its demise after enduring the treacherous “40-Day Blizzard” that swept the region. Thankfully for the people of Singapore, the stocked goods of a shipwreck just off the shore of Lake Michigan provided food for villagers during the devastating storm.
In 1871, disaster struck. A massive fire wiped out the nearby town of Holland, and Singapore’s fate was quite the same: the majority of the town was evacuated and the fire resulted in near-complete deforestation of the area.
As a result of the fire and its ultimate destruction of the protective tree layer that surrounded the town, Singapore’s remains were easily worn away by blowing sand and wind from the nearby lakeshore. Eventually, the entire town was covered by sand and effectively became part of the dunes.
Few remnants can be found of Singapore during a visit to modern-day Saugatuck and Douglas. The Singapore Yacht Club, which sits in downtown Saugatuck, pays homage to the long-buried ghost town with its name — but the name is one of the few reminders that a growing community of lumberers once resided here.
So the next time you’re climbing dunes near Saugatuck or strolling along the banks of the Kalamazoo River, take a moment to remember the story of Singapore. The doomed town sits just below your feet.
There are several legends floating around about Singapore and its fateful demise. Have you heard any of these legends? Did any of your ancestors inhabit the town during its heyday? Tell us your stories in the comments below!