Sylvan Lake owed much to one man, Merrill B. Mills, the entrepreneur who gave it an identity, an early resort complex, and laid the groundwork for its future growth as a residential community. Born in Detroit on October 12, 1854, he was the only son of Merrill I. Mills, a wealthy and influential resident of that city. In 1872 the younger Mills launched his business career at the Michigan Stove Company, a firm his father helped organize a year before. He rose through the ranks to become its treasurer, a post previously held by the senior Mills before his death. Merrill B. also served as president of several Detroit businesses, including the Banner Tobacco Company, one of the giants of its day. His business acumen was eagerly sought, and he accepted directorships on many company boards. In the early 1890s Mills acquired hundreds of acres just outside Pontiac's municipal limits at the juncture of West Bloomfield, Waterford, and Bloomfield townships. He then sold this land in late 1891 to the Sylvan Lake
Improvement Association, a Detroit corporation that he helped form, and proceeded to lay out two large subdivisions with winding roads and parks. The Association next selected the Detroit architectural firm of W. B. Stratton to submit plans for a resort hotel to be built adjacent to the residential development. Mills and his colleagues set an ambitious timetable for the project and kept the public apprised of each step. In April 1893 the foundation of the hotel was laid with completion targeted for August of the same year at a cost of some twelve thousand dollar.
Excerpt from "Song of the Heron" by Charles Martinez.