A bit on the Huron House/St. Clair Hotel properties, Port Huron

The Huron House and St. Clair Hotel Properties

(311-323 Huron Avenue Historic Property Uses, to 1990) [1]

By Vicki Priest, MA History       December 5, 2019

Port Huron was once home to a decent number of four- and five-story brick and stone structures [2], one of which, the Harrington Hotel, still exists. Coupled with wonderful electric and water-based mass transportation (locally and to Detroit), one could easily argue the period having this built and cultural environment—roughly the late 1800s to the early 1900s—was the Golden Age of Port Huron.

The Huron House along Huron Avenue for many years was one of those five-story buildings (perhaps the first one). The earliest photograph identified in this study shows an early iteration of The Huron House as a wood 2 ½ story structure. It was vastly enlarged as a 4- and 5-story building in the 1870s, and for whatever reason the 5-story section was reduced to 4-stories in the very late 1800s. At this time it became the St. Clair Hotel, which met its demise in a fire of 1903. The history of this hotel, and later uses of 2/3 of the former hotel’s properties (313-317 Huron Ave.), are very briefly provided below. The current research was limited to 1990.

Before 1859 and until 1903: The Huron House hotel/St. Clair Hotel

The earliest source of information on the properties (so far) comes from the 1859 map of Macomb & St. Clair Counties by Geil & Jones (on file with the Library of Congress/LoC). Uncategorized structures are shown existing along the west side of Huron in this block. However, the Huron House that exists here in the 1870s is shown to be instead at the southeast corner of the opposite block; it is not known at this time if this is an error or if the hotel proprietor, Mr. B. Burroughs, indeed ran the hotel there and then moved (Figure 1). Perhaps it was at this other location originally. A 1903 article (Port Huron Daily Times, Feb. 18, p 5) shared that the wood hotel was built about “40 years ago,” which would’ve been 1863 or thereabouts (this same article gives 1871 as the year of the brick rebuild, but contemporary news articles prove otherwise).

Figure 1. Very small section of the Port Huron subsection of the 1859 Map of Macomb and St. Clair Counties (Library of Congress. The black area is where the map had split apart). The key to Port Huron indicates that Burroughs was the proprietor of the Huron House, shown here in a different location (southeast) of where the Huron House was otherwise known to have stood.

A photo labeled as “circa 1860” in a local history book shows the wood Huron House along Huron Avenue, and a brick structure next to it that very much appears to be the bottom half of the later five-story portion of the brick Huron House (Port Huron: Celebrating Our Past, 2006, p 117), discussed more below. If the photo is indeed from 1859-1861, it seems likely that the 1859 map is in error.

The first known city directory for Port Huron dates from 1870 (copyright) and 1871 (publication year). From this directory we know that the Huron House existed within the current 300s block of Huron Ave, west side, even though its addresses were different than today’s (they were all even numbers from 50 to 58; directory pages 4, 50, 93, 99). An 1867 bird’s eye view map of Port Huron (A. Ruger, LoC) shows a substantial 2-story building in the center of the block.

In 1873 and 1874, the operator of the Huron House, Mr. George Knill, basically built (or rather managed the construction for investors [3]) a new huge and “magnificent” hotel—one of the largest in Michigan at the time. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, the owners’ $75,000 investment is equal to $1,604,744 in today’s currency! The brick hotel was a handsome one, having a five-story center that contained a courtyard, and 4-story wings on either side. This hotel took up the addresses of what is now 311 – 321/323 Huron Ave (The Port Huron Times 09-26-1873, p 4; 12-04-1873, p 4; 09-01-1874, p 4).

A sidelong view of the hotel can be seen in a photo showing a Huron Avenue street view in The Artwork of St. Clair County, 1893 (no page number). When looking at both this photo and the one mentioned earlier from circa 1860, one can see the resemblance of the brick structure to the north of the wood hotel with that of the taller 1873 center portion of the hotel. The windows and the decorative brickwork are the same. See Figures 2 and 3. The 1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance map (Figure 4) shows a large wood structure—so the original Huron House—attached at the back of the south wing of the brick 1870’s structure. This confirms what a contemporary newspaper article stated about the wood structure being saved and utilized. Besides the Sanborn map, an 1894 birds eye view map of Port Huron shows the basic configuration of the hotel with courtyard (C. J. Pauli, LoC). It dominates the block, and indeed the area, with its scale (Figure 5).

Figure 2. Huron House (at left), circa 1860, from page 117, Port Huron: Celebrating our Past (2006). The red oval points out decorative brick and window placement that appears to be the same found in the later center portion of the brick Huron Hotel (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Sidelong view of Huron House, as published in the 1893 (unpaginated) book Artwork of St. Clair County. Red oval indicates features seemingly shared with earlier brick structure.

Figure 4.  1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance map (page 6 portion; Library of Congress). Note the wood portion, in yellow, which was the original Huron House.

Figure 5.  1894 bird’s eye view map of Port Huron, showing the area of the Huron Hotel (indicated by the number 10).  The number of windows is not accurate. (C.J. Pauli map on file, Library of Congress).

In early 1898, after undergoing $15,000 worth of repairs, the Huron House became the St. Clair Hotel. The proprietor was the same Mr. Knill at this transition, although he no longer held that position in 1903. A photo of the hotel, Figure 6, from a 1900 publication shows a significantly altered middle section. The fifth floor was not only removed, but the windows were made to line up with the window placement of the wings; the windows themselves were changed to one-over-one sash windows, instead of four-over-four sash (the old style can still be seen in a side wall of the hotel). The decorative brick work is now gone, and the window hoods of the entire front facade had been removed. It’s interesting, though sad, that it was thought better to transform the building’s appearance to a plainer, starker state.

Figure 6. The St. Clair Hotel as shown in W.W. Black’s 1900 book, Port Huron: A Souvenir in Half-tone, page 11.

In February of that year the hotel, along with other neighboring structures, were tragically destroyed by fire. The hotel was not the only business within the structure (back then, large structures were referred to as “blocks”). Small businesses had operated out of it too, like the confectionery store where the fire may have started (a witness said he saw the fire start there, but the store owner said the oven hadn’t been used that day). The International Tea Store and Asman Floral Co. were also within the hotel block. These businesses were at 319 Huron Ave, and it was in the basement of this part of the hotel that it was thought that a hotel employee, Albert Wortley, lost his life in the fire (his body, apparently, was never found). Tio Gordo’s restaurant is located here today. No guests or other employees died in the fire, but a volunteer firefighter (bystander)—Malcom Campbell—sadly did. (Port Huron Daily Times 1903: 02-18, p 5; 02-19, p 1; 02-20, p 7; 02-23, p 1; 03-29-1898, p 5; and various city directories.) See Figure 7.

Figure 7. St. Clair Hotel (Huron House), after the fire of February 18, 1903. (Port Huron: Celebrating our Past, 2006, page 116. The book caption errs in saying the fire was in 1904 and that the building was on Butler Street.)

1903 to 1911

The land of the project addresses had been cleared and remained vacant . . . probably.

1911 to 1990

311-313. The short history of these lots prior to the O’Hearne Block of 1924 is unclear at present. A news article from 1912 stated that O’Hearne was building a new vaudeville house/theatre next to the Gas building (315-317), but it did not specify north or south. There was a theater at the north side of the building for a long time, the Family Theater, but it does not seem to be O’Hearne’s since a theatre was already at that location by 1911 (“Electric Theatre” as shown on the 1911 Sanborn Fire Insurance map for Port Huron, LoC and the Michigan Room, St. Clair County public library). Also, when the 1924 O’Hearne Block was built, it was reported that a brick structure in the same location had been torn down. The 1912 article also stated that the new theatre would be a fireproof building of concrete, yet neither the existing theater nor the razed building were concrete. In any case, the present building, the O’Hearne Block, was built in 1924 for J. C. Penney, which remained in the structure until the fall of 1990, when the store moved to the Birchwood Mall. (The Port Huron Times-Herald 02-24-1912, pp 1, 7; 10-10-1924, p 14; and The Times Herald 10-04-1990, pp 1A, 10A.)

315-317.  In 1911 construction on a new brick building at 315-317 Huron Avenue began, and was finished in 1912. This two-story building belonged to Port Huron Gas, which became Port Huron Gas & Electric. Wolfstyn & Co. clothing store shared the building. Having come into disfavor, Port Huron Gas & Electric was replaced by Detroit Edison in 1919. Detroit Edison remained in the building until August of 1941. After this time, the building was used for World War II civil defense business, like rationing and recruitment (see Figure 8), after which time it became vacant. Carroll House, a department store, moved into the building in 1948 and apparently did well until 1969, when the city tax assessment had suddenly about doubled. Not being able to handle that burden, the store closed.

Figure 8. A portion of a full page ad for the Women’s Army Corps, and as can be seen, 317 Huron Avenue was the recruiting place for this corps (The Port Huron Times Herald, April 13, 1944, page 10).

In January 1970, a small corporation purchased this building (along with 311-315) and allowed J.C. Penney to use the basement as its warehouse (its warehouse building was in the way of the planned-for parking lot behind the block). Eventually J.C. Penney took over much of the building and put up an aluminum facade in 1974, unifying the two buildings in a popular architectural facade style of the day. As J.C. Penney vacated the building in 1990, the facade was removed in 1992 and the building somewhat restored. (City Directory 1946-47, p 469. The Times Herald: 01-11-1970, p 5; 06-03-1974, p 2. Port Huron Times Herald: 02-19-1912, p 5; 08-22-1912, p 5; 12-31-1919, p 10; 09-28-1941, p 2; 07-16-1943, p 7; 01-01-1944, p 19; 09-19-1945, p 1; 03-10-1949, p 3; 03-05-1968, p 5.)

1998

The buildings are within the Military Road Historic District, being listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

 

Notes

1  This post is the result of original research done in November 2019, on a voluntary basis, for the purpose of discovering the historic uses of the buildings now occupied by Everything Classic Antiques and more. The information provided in the Military Road Historic District, National Register of Historic Places, was insufficient for the desired purpose. Virtually all information provided here is from original/primary sources; photographs are from both primary and secondary sources. All right reserved by author.

2  Among them, the White Block (burned in 1943), the Baer Building (burned in 1922), the Opera House (burned in 1914), the Maccabee Temple/Algonquin Hotel (neglected, then burned in the early 1970s), Bush Building (demolished in 1978), and the C. Kern Brewing Co. building.

3  A note on the building’s ownership: When it was so expensively expanded in the 1870’s, a large group of local investors owned the Huron House: N.P., J.H., and E. White, Howard & Son, John Johnston, D.B. Harrington, John P. Sanborn, Wm. Wastell, Hull & Boyce, M. Walker, E. Fitzgerald, and L.N. and R. A. Minnie. When it burned in 1903, the owners were the estates of both James Goulden and Henry Howard. The insurance on the building was far less than the actual total loss, according to a 1903 article. From Port Huron Daily Times, 02-18-1903, page 5.

This post was slightly edited on December 6, 2019, to make a correction related to four-story buildings in Port Huron.

Postcards page updated

Just a note letting our readers know that we added new postcards to our postcard page.  We also added a better quality image of one of the previously posted cards, changed the title of the page, and added images from a Diana Sweet Shop matchbook.  Thanks for visiting our website!

Public Library, now the Port Huron Museum, no date. Source: Vicki Priest

Update of 11-26-19:  Four more postcards were added today, including one from St. Stephen’s Catholic Church shortly before it was demolished (below).

St. Stephen Catholic Church, copyright 1964. That is the same year that the 96 year old structure was demolished to make way for community college expansion. (Custom Studios, NJ). Source: Vicki Priest

 

Cartoon Sketches of Historic Port Huron Influencers

Below are the Port Huron pages from Our Michigan Friends as We See ‘Em, published circa 1905 (full citation at end post).  Feel free to click on the images in order to view them full size.

Page 497, Lincoln Avery and Wm. L. Jenks

Page 498, Henry McMorran and J.E. Miller

Page 499, Albert Bennett and George Moore

Page 500, George W. Moore and Major Nathan Boynton

Page 501, Fred Moore and Carl Wagner

Page 502, John Gleason and George Harvey

Page 503, Burt Cady and D. P. Markey

Page 504, Frederick Brown and W. G. Jenks

Page 505, Stephen Graham and Joseph Walsh

Page 506, Norman Miller and Andrew Smith

Source:  Newspaper Cartoonists’ Association Of Michigan, and C. O Youngstrand. A gallery of pen sketches in black and white of our Michigan friends “as we see ’em.”, by Newspaper Cartoonists’ Association of Michigan. [Detroit, Press of Wm. Graham Printing Co, 1905] Pdf. https://www.loc.gov/item/06005693/.

On Eber Ward of Marine City: A Sad but Unusually Forthright Account

Regarding the selfish and grasping cousin of Mr. Ward’s, from pages 3-6 of The Autobiography of David Ward (1912, self-published, held by the Library of Congress).  Eber eventually moved to Detroit, where he died.  David Ward made his home in Oakland County, Michigan.

My Uncle Samuel left Lake Ontario before the close of the war of 1812, residing at Salina, N. Y., and boiled salt there for a while. He married there “Aunt Betsey,” and afterwards moved to Northern Ohio at or near Conneaut, and finally moved to Michigan and settled at Newport (now Marine City) on the St. Clair River. He engaged there in farming, small merchandising, building and navigating small sail craft on the Lakes, and eventually in building, owning and navigating first-class passenger steamers, and buying much pine land from the United States. He died at Marine City at nearly seventy years of age, and willed nearly all of his property of about one million dollars to a son of Uncle Eber’s, named Eber B. Ward [1811-1875], who was my cousin. This gave E.B. Ward, in addition, practically the franchises of the steamboat lake passenger and freight routes, as he largely monopolized these routes. These monopolized lake steamboat routes, fairly managed, were worth another million or two of dollars, as the passenger traffic to the West by lakes continued immense for some fifteen or twenty years afterwards.

After Uncle Samuel’s death, his willed estate, in addition to a considerable property possessed before by Eber B. Ward, mostly given him by Uncle Samuel before his death, constituted Eber B. Ward comparatively a very wealthy man at about 1855, considering the poverty of then new West. Thus, at about 44 years of age, it came to pass, through he was largely so before that age, that E. B. Ward became an overbearing, egotistic, vainglorious, dishonest, tyrannical, vindictive, aggressive, energetic, selfish man, largely devoid of conscience. This tyrannical, envious, vain, selfish, grasping, energetic man soon spread out his then comparatively vast fortune in some legitimate investments, but mostly in illegitimate dishonest schemes, in view of showing his financial ability, power and consequence. His schemes were largely the grasping of others’ property, paying therefor little or no equivalent.

At the time of Uncle Samuel’s sickness and death E. B. Ward placed sentinels at the
outer doors of Uncle Samuel’s residence and would not permit any of Uncle Samuel’s
brothers, sisters, or any other of the relations, except his own sister, Emily Ward, to enter the house, but himself and his lawyer who drew up the will he desired giving about all of Uncle Samuel’s property to E. B. Ward. leaving out entirely the sisters, brothers and other relatives of Uncle Samuel, some of whom were poor invalids unable to obtain the necessaries of life. Ever after these poor distressed relatives, who had thus been virtually robbed by E. B. Ward’s management of Uncle Samuel’s will, were followed by E. B. Ward and persecuted while they lived. Other relatives whom E. B. Ward envied, or was jealous of, he persecuted in the same way by all the power and influence he possessed. For some twenty years after the death of Uncle Samuel, E. B. Ward continued in the career above mentioned, dishonoring himself, the name of Ward and human nature, defying the laws of common decency, and at times defying and riding over the laws of his country. He raised a family of six children, four sons and two daughters . . . .

About 1862, among other crimes, E. B. W. got up a false accusation against his wife,
who being a niece of “Aunt Betsey,” it largely assisted him in “scooping” Uncle Samuel’s property by his will, and who also raised his family of six children. By false swearing and bribery E. B. obtained a bill of divorce in order that he might marry a blooming young woman, a niece of Senator Wade’s, Kate Lyon, as she was called, with whom he lived some nine years, until his death in 1874.

A career filled with wrong doing and crime, energetically executed, usually results in
financial ruin. This proved especially so with E. B. W., considering his wealth, and the royal opportunities he had in a new undeveloped country, containing large natural resources. Had he used his large monopolizing means in legitimate investments and business devoid of immorality, dishonesty, tyranny and crime, with his good health, energy and great physical power, the financial result should have been immense.
However, the result was that E. B. Ward’s administrators (though his will proclaimed to the world that he had millions) found after his death that his estate was virtually insolvent and not sufficient to pay his debts by some two hundred thousand dollars. Thus was squandered Uncle Samuel’s large estate, of some two millions of dollars at his death, and in addition the product of E. B. W.’s opportunities, equivalent in comparative value of from fifteen to thirty millions of dollars at this date of 1893.

From:  The autobiography of David Ward http://www.loc.gov/resource/lhbum.10306

Eber Ward family documents are held by the Clarke Historical Library, CMU, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  There is also a short biography of Eber on that page, albeit free of the moral observations David noted about his cousin.

“Ward-Holland” house, built ca. 1830 by Samuel Ward,  as listed in the National Register of Historic Places, 1972. 433 N, Main Street, Marine City.  (Required attribution:  Notorious4life at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44703548.)

1888 St. Clair County Histories: county, cities, towns

The following histories are taken directly from L.A. Sherman & Co.s county and city directory of 1888.  PHAHPA is not attesting to the accuracy of the histories, but is providing them for reference.  While a typo or two might have gone unnoticed, the passages were typed as-is, archaic grammatical differences and all.  None of the images are from the historic directory.


COUNTY OF ST. CLAIR.  HISTORICAL SKETCH. [pages 9-12]

The Lower Peninsula of the state of Michigan, as it now exists, with the exception of some changes in its southern boundary, was detached from the territory of Indiana and given a separate territoria existence in 1805, William Hull being the first governor, with the seat of government at Detroit.  Up to the year 1818 the territory now comprised within St. Clair county formed the township of St. Clair, and was a part of the county of Wayne.  In that year the county of Macomb was organized, St. Clair constituting a portion  of it.

St. Clair county, including the territory now constituting Sanila county, was organized by proclamation of Gov. Cass, may 8, 1821, its area being about 1,500 square miles, and its population some 80 families, settled almost entirely along St. Clair river.  The county seat was located at St. Clair, where there were half a dozen houses at that time.  james Fulton and William Thorn agreed to build a court house, but failed to do so, and for several years court was held in Mr. Fulton’s house.  Mr. Fulton built a jail for the county in 1821, for which the contract price was $35, the hinges and bolts, furnished by Andrew Westbrook, costing $6.62 extra.

The location of the county seat was not satisfactory to the residents of either the northern or southern sections of the county, and a movement for its removal to Newport (now Marine City), began almost immediately.  Commissioners appointed for the purpose investigated the matter, and reported to the legislative council of the territory, january 19, 1825, in favor of the retention of the county seat at St. Clair.  Subscriptions amounting to $637.50 were made for the erection of buildings at Newport, if the county seat should be located there, but this movement also failed.  Previous to the action of the legislative council retaining the seat of justice at St. Clair, Thomas Palmer and David C. McKinstry had pledged themselves to built a jail and court house  which they did, the building being of hewn [page 10] logs, about 24×34 feet in size, with living rooms for the jailer and cells for prisoners on the ground floor, and a court room on the second floor.  It was accepted by the board of supervisors September 3, 1827, although no constructed according to contract.  This building was used until 1853, when it was destroyed by fire.  The brick building erected in its place was used for county purposes until the removal of the county seat to Port Huron, in 1871, and the fail continued to be occupied for keeping prisoners until the completion of the new jail, 1884.

Continue reading

Ultimate Fake News in 1938 Papers? On Welles’ “War of the Worlds” Broadcast

Orson Welles during (or rehearsing for) the 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. At 23 years of age, he co-wrote the brilliant adaptation from H. G. Wells’ novel.

By Vicki Priest (any opinions are her own)

Having no occasion to re-familiarize myself with the panicked results of the 1938 “War of the Worlds” broadcast that I was taught in school decades ago, I had no idea (until recently) that the reported “panic” has lately been claimed to be a fabrication.  History.com still covers the subject as I recall learning about it–that many people tuned-in to the (brilliant) program late because of a different station’s popular program, and thought the “news” announcements of a Martian invasion in the radio play were real.  There had never been an audio play like it before and people just heard what sounded like a regular news story, albeit a very disturbing one.  The broadcast was on October 30th, in time for Halloween.  So are the editors at History.com wrong (the article was last updated in June 2019)?

Not having lived through that time, it would be near impossible to completely assess the veracity of either the “traditional” or the revisionist view of “the panic.”  However, the issue points to the need to use a variety of sources when doing historical research and, further, considering them with a detective’s eye.  Even so, if many newspapers reported the phenomenon–which a great many did–why would someone question the basic validity of it (it was reported in our local paper that the Federal Communications Commission chairman was going to look into the broadcast right away, as it caused “general panic and fear”; Times Herald, October 31, 1938, page 1)?  We all know that “you can’t believe everything you read in the newspapers,” but would all those papers be that deceptive?  And certainly there are other contemporary sources to help anyone interested enough understand what people went through, and the magnitude of the event.

The first part of one of the Port Huron Times Herald articles on the reaction to the War of the Worlds broadcast. October 31, 1938, page 1.

The History.com article mentioned above stated that “perhaps as many as a million” people believed Martians had invaded earth.  A number of other sources, including a viewable Smithsonian article from 2015, goes with a safer “thousands” number.  A video on the subject from 2016 claims very few people indeed were actually panicked (the text version of the video was made earlier, in 2014).  The video claims the panic is a made-up myth, and it relies on recent sources that say the same.  Some of their sources, at least, do not cite sources themselves and simply make claims, such as, a lot of things in the newspapers were false.

Looking over various sources, both primary (from the time it happened, witness testimony, etc.) and secondary (what non-witnesses wrote or researched about it), it seems the video and all those who claim that there was no mass panic are mistaken.  That newspapers printed a lot of supposed falsehoods about the panic may be the biggest culprit in people leaning toward the panic not ever really happening.  There also seems to be a problem with the meanings of the words “mass” and “panic.”  It’s really odd that those who claim that the mass panic is a myth don’t actually deny there was . . . widespread panic, or at least a lot of panic that was perhaps not widespread.  The motivations for pushing a revisionist view on this event in history–which indeed had a long-term impact on not only people but on other aspects of our country–are unclear.  It may be a matter of perspective and word definitions.  At least some people don’t seem to agree that “mass panic” means 1000s to a million or so affected persons.  Apparently the figure should be bigger.

Here, anyway, “mass panic” simply means a lot of people in a large area were afraid and reacted to their fear in some way. It doesn’t mean the majority of people panicked, or that people jumped out of windows, or that the fear went on for a long time.  It doesn’t mean people killed themselves or others.  The “panic detractors” bring up the death factor, as if panic equates with people dying somehow.

The context of the broadcast is important to the understanding of the panic.  It includes the 9th year of the Great Depression, as well the armed conflicts that had been going on which eventually bloomed into World War II.  Because of the broadcast, there were people who thought the U.S. was attacked in some manner, if not by aliens (they might not have heard the “martian” part, or heard of the attack from neighbors).  “Beth Bob” commented online (at the 2016 video):  “. . . my mother, my grandmother both ran.  Wet handkerchiefs and towels in hand.  It was the fear of gas.  They didn’t hear the whole program.  They laughed later (relief), were pissed later.”  The gas she is referring to is most likely mustard gas (not martian gas), used during World War I and by Mussolini and the Japanese afterwards.  The reaction by Beth’s mom and grandmother was not unusual, according to other online comments that I’ve read.  Many people remained “pissed” and Orson received death threats.  (Below the main part of this article is a timeline of the broadcast, so you may get a better idea of why many listeners thought the “news reports” were real.)

So, aside from newspaper articles–which skeptics want to dismiss as inaccurate–what is the evidence for a mass panic?  Well, included among the evidences below is a small amount of news reporting anyway.

(1)  Even though it’s short, there is enough anecdotal evidence in a video produced by AT&T in the 1980s (released 2012) to convey the sense and reality of a nation-wide panic.  In the video, still-living AT&T operators from different states who answered calls during the panic were interviewed.  People were definitely panicked, not just calling for information.  No doubt more operators would provide similar tales if they were available for an interview.

(2)  For a BBC show In 1955, Orson Welles talked about some of his experiences regarding the day of the broadcast and the subsequent fallout (Orson Welles’ Sketch Book: Number 5).  He said that not just a few, but many police had arrived at the radio station by mid-show, and that many more continued to arrive.  There was a nationwide panic, he learned; and if there wasn’t, why would all those police bother showing up at all?  Orson recounted a number of panicked reactions, and one quite interesting (stoic) reaction, to the 1938 broadcast.  Was he lying?  If people weren’t “panicked,” why did some have such a mental scar that they did not believe the announcement of the bombing of Pearl Harbor (as Orson recounted)?

(3)  While sources point out that newspaper articles reported fake injuries and deaths, and printed staged photos, perhaps not all the content was made up.  I doubt if anyone has actually looked at newspaper articles country-wide and tried to quantify how many stories are true. That would be a huge undertaking.  A New York Daily News article from October 31, 1938, stated that “thousands” (not millions, so apparently not a stretch) “created almost unbelievable scenes of terror” in New York, New Jersey, the South, and west to San Francisco. So, yeah, that second part appears to be an exaggeration.  But it goes on to say that “Eleven Hundred calls flooded the switchboard at The News–more than when the dirigible Hindenburg exploded.”  Was the paper’s author lying about this?  If not, that is only one local source of people’s call-making.  “The telephone company was also deluged” seems to be a fair statement based on the AT&T research.

In our local paper, the Port Huron Times Herald, an article section from Detroit (page 1, Oct. 31, 1938) stated:  “Police today reported their switchboard was lit up like a Christmas tree as thousands of persons, terrified by a radio dramatization of a fictitious Martian invasion, called for verification.”  Was this a lie, or a bit of an exaggeration?  I doubt if it was a lie.  And did all the papers in the U.S. call each other all of a sudden, conspiring to make fake news, to drum up business by fabricating this event?  Revisionists say that many calls don’t mean people were panicked, and that is fair enough, but it does indicate the huge number of people who didn’t understand that the radio play was not news, and many people in the U.S. indeed acted on their panic instead of calling the police.  As well, in our local paper the police described callers as “panic-stricken.”  So, the people who lived through it, including the police, viewed even inquiring callers as panicked.  To put different words into their mouths or thoughts into their heads is to not only disrespect witnesses but to change history.

(4)  The studio was sued by some people after the broadcast (I haven’t researched these lawsuits, but for this information one source cites a “Scams” book sold on Amazon).  The suits were dismissed, but it shows what people were willing to do to deal with their emotions over the perceived deception.  One man only wanted an award equal to the savings he spent on a new pair of shoes, which he purchased so he could flee, and Orson Welles insisted that the man be given what he asked for.  Remember, the Great Depression was still in effect, which is something that may have contributed to the level of panic, according to Hadley Cantril. 

(5)  The author just mentioned in #4 was one of three Princeton researchers who conducted a study of the panic shortly after it happened (The Invasion from Mars, 1940, by Hadley Cantril et al.).  They wrote that at least 6 million people listened to the broadcast and that at least 1 million of those were frightened, with thousands being “panic-stricken.”  It seems History.com and other sources you can find out there which don’t espouse the revisionist “myth” were right after all.  I guess my past education wasn’t so bad.  Skeptics may criticize the Princeton researchers, but historically speaking, contemporary sources are usually the best sources.  It would be fun to have time to look into this subject more, but at present I’m going to afford the three researchers some respect and believe they did a good job analyzing the information available to them–including their own observations while living through the event.

I’ve read elsewhere (where, I can’t say right now) that there are many people who believe in statistics/the large scale to such a degree that smaller numbers–individuals–don’t really matter.  Your “small scale” opinion, knowledge, or personal experience doesn’t really matter.  What the police reported about “panic-stricken” callers doesn’t matter.  I in fact just read an online commentator (at the 2016 video site) who said as much.  It’s the large collective number that matters, as somehow after the information is gathered from individuals and enmassed, it has become scientific evidence.  I have the suspicion that those people and organizations that claim that there was no “mass panic” from the War of the Worlds radio broadcast, despite the 1940 Princeton study and lots of other information, are such people.  There would have needed to be millions of panicked people for “mass panic” to be true for them.  But even if they interpret the information in that way, these revisionists pretty much ignore the real consequences from the broadcast in history.  So, the meaning is ignored at the expense of just getting the numbers right (in their minds), it seems.  They may have some other motive, like getting attention, clicks for revenue, etc. (this is not a new thing with the internet, however–those who need grant funding have been at it for a long time), which would benefit them while decreasing historical knowledge or relevant interpretation.

Finally, there’s nothing wrong with “questioning everything,” but there is a problem when that equates to “dismissing everything.”  (Some questions comes to mind:  If the Daily News and the Detroit Police Department together received over 3,000 calls, how many were made in the entire country?  Apparently a very impressive number over a radio broadcast!  And how many more people simply panicked and didn’t call the police or anyone else?  How many who panicked would later deny it out of embarrassment?  And how many witnesses can you ask about it now?  Conveniently for some, basically none.)

Question Everything ≠ Dismiss Everything

*             *              *

Timeline of the War of the Worlds Broadcast (primarily from War of the World radio broadcast causes panic and listening to the broadcast).  The times are somewhat approximate as seconds are not given.

8:00 pm   War of the Worlds is announced by CBS, and the show starts.  Orson Welles gives an introduction to the story.

8:02 pm   After the introduction, the play is presented as a music broadcast.  First it is interrupted by a seemingly normal weather announcement, but then the music is interrupted a number of times by real-sounding special news segments about a meteorite crashing in New Jersey.  Then by the discovery that the crashed thing is not a meteorite.

8:12 pm   This is when many people normally switched from listening to the popular “Chase and Sanborn Hour,” because of the show’s musical interlude, to other stations.  Many listeners of the War of the World broadcast only started listening at this time, when “eyewitness news accounts” of the crashed thing started to get intense.

8:13 pm   Description of the object as extraterrestrial, and the terrifying opening of the thing to reveal monstrous things.

8:18 pm   Forty people are reported dead in Grovers Mill, the location of the Martian landing.

8:22 pm   The reporter who had been on for awhile, then stopped, was identified among the dead at the hospital.

At some point police started coming into CBS.  Orson Welles recalled that by half-way through the program there were many police already there, and more continued to arrive.

8:26 pm   A man sounding just like the current president gives a presidential announcement.  Before and after the announcement, the man was said to be the “Secretary of the Interior,” but some listeners didn’t hear that part and thought they were listening to Franklin Roosevelt.  Perhaps the voice got their attention while they were doing other things.

8:30 pm   After hearing military personnel for a bit, gas masks are mentioned–they are put on at about this time.  Men start choking, then dying.  A military pilot describes what is happening, and not being able to drop his bomb he dives into the enemy. There is deadly black smoke moving everywhere, and the gas masks are useless against it.

8:35 pm   Evacuations ordered.  Military force wiped out.  More Martians moving in, people running, people dying.

8:38 pm   Announcer dies.

8:39 pm   CBS finally comes on to announce that the broadcast is a play.  This is about 40 minutes after the play started, and 27 after many of the listeners actually tuned in.  An intermission of unknown length occurs.

~8:42 pm  Survivor Professor Pierson narrates what the world around him was like after the attack was over.  Some time has passed and he describes his venturing out of his place of safety, until he discovers that the aliens are all dead.  They died from disease that they were not immune to.

~8:55 pm  Orson Welles makes an announcement that the play was their way of doing Halloween, and the studio and everyone was fine.

Comment in response to video promoting the “myth” of 1938 mass panic. Found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7amqdrVO-E0 (video posted in 2016, comment accessed July 2019).

A portion of one of the articles from the Port Huron Times Herald, page 1, October 31, 1938, indicating the weirdness that can come of mass hysteria.

Ken-Way prefabricated concrete homes of Port Huron, Michigan

by Vicki Priest (c)*

Many people seem to know of the small concrete Ken-Way homes in Port Huron, but that they were a very local and very short-lived phenomenon seems less widely known.  Ken-Way, or sometimes just “Kenway,” homes were developed by Kenneth Wyillie of Port Huron.  They were made by assembling locally constructed pre-cast walls–which included insulation, wiring, and plumbing–at the house site (the foundation and roof were not pre-cast).  The homes were built from about 1950 to 1957.  These years are representative of articles or ads found regarding new Ken-Way homes in the local newspaper, but some homes may have been built shortly before or after.

An article from November 1951 (The Times Herald, page 5) reported that “several of the modernistic, flat-roofed buildings already have been erected in the Port Huron area.”  A 1950 ad states that they had built a “test home” five years prior.(1)  It can be assumed–perhaps wrongly–that the address of the home they provide in the ad is that “test home.”  Whether it is the 1945 test or another early example, it is still standing and shown below the pictured ad.

Ken-Way Homes ad, first one discovered so far (The Times Herald 09-17-50, p 23).

2573 Robbins Court, Port Huron–the house mentioned in the above ad. If this is the Ken-Way test home, it was built in 1945 (author photo, 06-04-19).  It is unknown at this time if the hip roof was added later.  The front door is around the right corner.

An ad from September 1955 states that “over 120 Ken-Way Homes” had been built in the area.  While preliminary research has not divulged why Ken-Way homes were built only for such a short time, it seems that an impetus for their development was the Housing Act of 1950 (Public Law 81-475, which amended the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program of 1944 and 1945).  Now, veterans or their widows could more easily purchase a home with the government’s backing, and one that met minimum construction standards.  Ken Wyllie, having experience in the building trades (2), saw the opportunity to sell low-cost housing via the Housing Act.(3)  This can be seen in his ads and news articles, which include statements such as:

“The current two-bedroom model is to retail for $5,375.  This means that a non-veteran buyer, owning a lot, would be able to have one of the houses erected and financed through the FHA with an initial investment of less than $1000.  For veterans, the first cost would be considerably lower. . . .  So with full realization that seeing is believing, we invite the general public, especially GI’s, to take a look at our little [model] home . . . ” (4)  and, “GI’s You’ll Look Far To Beat This Value!” (5)

As one might imagine, Kenneth Wyllie was not the only person in the country to see the possibilities of the Housing Act.  National Homes Corporation of New York advertised their “National Thrift Home” and others in 1950.  Their ad showed four homes and stated that “15 floor plans offer you 94 variations in designs!”  The prefabricated homes were available in 500 cities.(6)  Of course, there was already a long tradition in America of buying “kit,” “ready-cut,” or mail-order homes, with Sears, Montgomery Wards, Aladdin, Ready Built, and others doing such business for decades.

But why the quick demise of the Ken-Way home?  Marketing did not seem to be the problem.  Ken-Way Homes seems to have been good at it, as it even had a “Ken-Way Korner” segment on the radio.(7)  Perhaps it was the style?  The modern style with flat roofs was not favored by everyone (8); however, they were soon built with a choice of roof styles.  They are very low to the ground, yet many exist today in very nice form.  One was found so far that has a second floor addition, so they must be structurally sound.  Further research is needed, and comments are welcomed.  Considering that mail-order homes no doubt always provided stiff competition, perhaps labor costs proved to be too much in the long-run.

Indicative of this possibility is a workers’ strike in 1953.  Port Huron Building and Construction Trades Council members picketed the manufacturing location of Ken-Way Homes, 2009 Petit Street, and Wyllie had sought an injunction to prevent the picketing.  In refusing Wyllie’s request Judge Kane found, in part, “that wages paid were vastly below the union minimum scale and were equally below the minimum standard for its members in relationship to benefits over time.” (9)  In the spring of the next year, 1954, an ad announced a future 5% increase in house prices. (10)

Below are photos of a small number of Ken-Way homes as they appear today.  It is noted in the captions if there appear to be more in specific neighborhoods.

2204 Hancock, Port Huron. While this home had not yet been found listed in a historic newspaper, it is most certainly a Ken-Way house (author photo May 30, 2019).  This neighborhood, north of the east-bound entrance to the Blue Water Bridge, seems to have many Ken-Way homes and the next three are from that area.

2417 18th Avenue, Port Huron. This home is assumed to be a Ken-Way by visual identification. Though it may be hard to see in the photo, it has the distinct door wall that juts out from the other wall (author photo, May 30, 2019).

2323 18th Avenue, Port Huron. This home is identified as Ken-Way via a 1957 newspaper ad. Note the jutting front wall. The house appears to have a back addition as well as a newer second story (author photo May 30, 2019).

2806 17th Avenue, Port Huron. This home has the distinctive jutting front wall (the wall the the right of the door is set back a short distance) (author photo, June 4, 2019).

2543 Spruce Street, Port Huron (if Google street view is not mistaken). The home directly across the street looks to be the same model as this one. This home was advertised as a modified Ken-Way for re-sale in 1958 (Google street view image from 2013).  Note the left jutting wall.

Ken-Way homes identified in newspaper ads and not shown here (to 1958 only):  2741 Michigan Street, Port Huron (demonstrated in 1951–still standing?); 7830 Lakeshore Road (larger home, for sale in 1952); 1313 New Hampshire, Marysville (now 1323?, for sale in 1955); 1650 Mansfield, Port Huron (for sale in 1956, now gone); 2300 Krafft Road, Port Huron (for sale in 1957); 2532 10th Ave., Port Huron; and many on 25th Street (definitely 2515, 2603, 2627) for sale in various years.

Further research and a historical buildings survey of the neighborhoods could possibly identify most Ken-Way homes.

* Cite author and web source when using this article for research and/or quoting.  For significant use of the research information used in the article, contact the author via porthuronhistory@gmail.com for permission.

Sources and notes:

(1) The Times Herald, September 17, 1950, page 23.

Ken-Way ad from December 30, 1954 (The Times Herald, page 15).

(2) A 1946 ad for Home Roofing & Siding Co. shows Wyllie as manager (The Times Herald, Feb. 23, page 7).  An ad-type of “article” from that same year boasts that he had 12 years experience in building, roofing, siding, and insulation (The Times Herald, Jan. 7, 1946, page 7).  In what seems a reverse foreshadowing, the article says he’s a “man with a past,” with the article using a twist of the normally negative expression to introduce his good past.  However, Wyllie soon acted in ways to give him a negative reputation. In 1947 he punched a Union representative in the face 2 or 3 times, breaking his nose.  Charges were not filed at first, but 2 years later Wyllie was found guilty of assault and his victim, Wesley Kercher, was awarded damages (The Times Herald, June 9, 1947, page 1, and other articles from that year, and Dec. 17, 1949, page 2).  Another lawsuit was filed against Wyllie in 1949, the plaintiffs claiming that they purchased the timber rights to a property that Wyllie owned, but that Wyllie sold the property before they removed the timber.  The suit was settled out of court (The Times Herald, Sept. 17, 1949, page 5).  Wyllie was in trouble yet again when, having not paid the damages from the Kercher suit, he was arrested in 1950 (The Times Herald, May 4, page 2).

(3)  Legislative History of the VA Loan Guaranty Program, Department of Veterans Affairs (www.benefits.va.gov), last updated August 23, 2006.

(4) The Times Herald, November 9, 1952, page 5.

(5)  The Times Herald, January 17, 1953, page 3.

(6)  ClickAmericana.com (accessed May 31, 2019).

(7)  It is not known how long the radio segments went on, but one was advertised on November 3, 1953 in The Times Herald, being scheduled for 7:15-7:30 am, on WTTH 1380 (ABC) radio.

(8)  “”Battle of Design’ Looms Over Kenway Housing Units,” a Marysville controversy, in The Times Herald, February 15, 1953, page 11.

(9) “No Injunction in Picket Case,” The Times Herald November 14, 1953, page 5.

(10)  The Times Herald, March 29, 1954, page 15.

 

Nifty Interactive Timeline of Historic Preservation and Related

Just a quickie here, sharing an educational timeline that’s a pleasure to use and learn from.  Click on the image to be taken to the Local Preservation School’s link.

Picture history of Port Huron by Joseph Miskell, published 1937

by Vicki Priest (c) 2019

Upon perusing files at the St. Clair Library earlier this year, I was totally delighted after stumbling upon some original art boards by Joseph T. Miskell (Michigan Room, Picture Files, “P-R” drawer).  They looked like they were made for a children’s picture history of Port Huron.  I found instead that they were published in The Port Huron Times Herald in 1937 as part of the centennial; the artwork looks quite different in the paper.  The beautiful pencil sketching is much less clear, and the square originals were re-sized into rectangles.

Two originals are missing, pages 7 and 13, and in the paper, page 11 is missing (page 10 was printed twice and no correction has been found so far).  Not everything in this history is necessarily accurate, but inaccuracies like that can be amended.  If only pages 7 and 13 could be found, what a neat children’s picture book this would make!  However, since those pages are reproduced in the newspaper, a re-creation of them could be made by the right person.

Joseph Miskell, 1904-1981, was an employee of Mueller Brass for 34 years, first in Port Huron and then in San Francisco, California (The Times Herald, November 24th 1981, page 13).

The boards are very large. The images immediately below are just a couple of examples of portions of pages.  Below them are the pages from The Port Huron Times Herald, screen captured from the digitized paper.

Page 6 story board portion, 1854 fire, by Joseph Miskell (Michigan Room, St. Clair Public Library).

Page 10 story board portion, former (it was destroyed by fire in January 1912) Port Huron & Northwestern Railway depot, by Joseph Miskell (Michigan Room, St. Clair County Public Library).

Miskell history, PHTH July 15, 1937, page 1.

Miskell history, PHTH July 16, 1937, page 11.

Miskell history, PHTH July 17, 1937, page 3.

Miskell history, PHTH July 18, 1937, page 5.

Miskell history, PHTH July 19, 1937, page 12.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 20, 1937, page 13.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 21, 1937, page 2.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 22, 1937, page 2.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 23, 1937, page 11.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 24, 1937, page 6. This page was repeated the next day instead of page 11 of the history.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 26, 1937, page 3.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 27, 1937, page 10.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 28, 1937, page 2.

When images from the original page 11 become available, they will be added to this post.

“Jenks Protests Street [name] Changes”

After running across and reading the following article in The Port Huron Times Herald (October 9th, 1923, page 1), I couldn’t help but say “I love Jenks.”  This is William Jenks, of course, the author of the 1912 St. Clair County history book, important Michigan map collector, and a primary mover in the building of the Carnegie Library (now museum) here.  My sentiments on the subject are expressed by Jenks wonderfully; some brief explanatory notes and a historic map follow.   Enjoy!

_______________________

“Preserve Historical Names, Attorney’s Plea”

“Protest against the changing of the name of Gillett street to Hammond street, which was recently asked by the residents of the street in a petition to the city commission, is voiced in a letter sent the commission by W. L. Jenks, prominent attorney of Port Huron and member of the state Historical society.”

“In his letter Mr. Jenks comments on the tendency resent in cities today to give streets high-sounding and meaningless titles, and deplores inappropriate and thoughtless changes.  he points out two blunders in changing street names made recently by the commission.”

“The letter follows:”

I noticed recently that a petition had been filed with you to change the name of Gillett street to Hammond street in honor of the late Lieut. Hammond.

I sincerely hope that the name will not be changed.  Gillett street commemorates the name of one of the early prominent citizens of Port Huron[,] a man of the highest character, one of the leading business men and a man who was very generous and public-spirited, and his name ought not to be forgotten in this city.

I do not wish to belittle in any manner the propriety of naming a street in honor of Lieutenant Hammond, but there are several streets in the city which have names that do not contain any significance and the changing of a name of that kind to commemorate the name of Lieut. Hammond would be appropriate in every way.

The city has already made two serious blunders in the changing of names of streets–when it changed Butler street commemorating the name of an honored man of national reputation, and a prominent philanthropist, to Grand River avenue[,] a name which has absolutely no significance here.  The name apparently was copied from Detroit where Grand River avenue has a meaning, it being the direct route from Detroit to the Grand River country, including the cities of Lansing, Grand Rapids and Grand Haven.

The name of Suffern street which bore the name of prominent merchant of New York City who was largely interested in Port Huron property for several years was changed to Glenwood avenue, a high sounding name which has no appropriateness as there is neither a glen nor any wood in or near the street.

Such changes are to be deplored and not to be encouraged by good citizens.

The city did not change Gillett to Hammond, as there is no Hammond Street in Port Huron and Gillett is still there.  Lieut. Hammond is remembered here though, as the American Legion post is named after him.  On Gillett/Gillette and Jenks streets, a 1925 article states:  “Gillette street is named after Martin S. Gillette, lumberman and president of the village board in 1850.  Jenks street is named after W. L. Jenks, pioneer and historian of the county” (there were other prominent Jenks in Port Huron, too; “Street Names Tell the History of City,” The Port Huron Times-Herald, February 13, 1925, page 11).

Portion of an 1894 map by C. J. Pauli (Milwaukee, on file at the Library of Congress), showing Butler Street (now Grand River).  Click on it to see larger image.

1949 Port Huron Centennial Booklet

We were happy to be allowed to scan a booklet in the collection of Lisa Kraus-Purcell, Port Huron’s 1949 Centennial Souvenir booklet.  Currently, a couple of central pages, which covered part of the schedule of events, are missing; this will be corrected when possible.  Links to the viewable PDFs are here:  https://phahpa.org/research-sources/phahpa-scanned-booklets/ .  We also scanned some of the images into photo files, some of which are included below (the booklet does not have page numbers, so such numbers are not provided here).  Feel free to use any source that we share, but make sure to cite us/give credit for this source that we provide.  (If you like our work and want to see more, please consider a donation of any amount!  We would be very grateful indeed.  Mail check to PHAHPA, PO Box 611380, Port Huron, MI 48061-1380 – Thank you!)  Copyright note:  We provide this for research purposes only, as the booklet may still be under copyright protection.

Horse Drawn Car

Spanish American War VeteransDunford-Alverson DrydockBird's Eye View west along Black River, 7th St BridgeVery early view of Military Street

Mueller Brass, no date

Mueller Brass, no date.

 

Peeps in (local) History Contest Entries–and Winners

We decided to announce the winners on the same page used for the entries, making it easier to find and also giving the opportunity for everyone to see all entries (if they haven’t already).  It was difficult for us to finalize some winners, as judging for a contest like this is necessarily subjective to a certain degree.  And we’d like to give something to everyone simply for participating and trying!  Thank you all!  We wanted to mention that although a couple of the entries did not meet the rules for the contest, we really liked them anyway and do not wish to discourage anyone.  We have a similar contest planned for next year; it will be announced sooner and will hopefully appeal to more people.  Watch out for it!  The winners are announced with their photos below (images can be clicked on in order to view them in a larger size).  Prizes are listed at the contest page, but we have added more “honorable mention” prizes ($10 gift certificates from the Raven Cafe) since that was posted.

————————-

Below are the entries to the Peeps in (local) History contest, in no particular order.  Please enjoy looking at them, and feel free to leave comments–we’ll be reading these and taking them into consideration as we decide on the winners!

Honorable Mention.  Laura White.  “Phineas went all through town and he was so tired he needed to rest. He thought that this would be a great time for a selfie in front of his favorite clocks, Moshers.  (After this he he went on his way to many more places in Port Huron which he may show you in the future.)”  Mosher’s is at the corner of Huron and McMorran, in downtown Port Huron.  The Mosher’s clock was purchased by Clarence Mosher in 1912 (it was a used clock and was originally hand-cranked), and formerly at 209 Huron Avenue.

Honorable Mention.  Melissa Kohl.  “Mrs Peep and her lil’ peeps go to school.”  (Garfield Elementary at 1221 Garfield Street, Port Huron.)  PHAHPA note:  Garfield was originally a junior high school, and opened in 1925.

Kimberly Allen. Historic Bush Building that used to be at the northwest corner of Military and Water streets.  Photo has no date; from the Port Huron Museum Collection.  An astonishing building (as is the ornate bank building next door), now lost:  Harvey S. Bush building.

First Place Winner.  Andrew Kercher.  “Freshly back from the war, Peeps in Jeeps and even a DUKW parade down Huron Avenue” (Russell Sawyer collection, ca. 1946).

Randi Mathieu. (Historic postcard from the early 1900s)

Lauren Nelson. “This peep family is enjoying the traveling Michigan in the Civil War exhibit at Port Huron Museum’s Carnegie Center.” PHAHPA note: the museum is housed in the original Carnegie Library, built 1902-1904.

Carol Whiting. “Penelope Peep is checking out SC4 [St. Clair Community College], which is almost a century old.” PHAHPA note: The building shown is a former Port Huron High School, which was built in 1906 (113 years ago). Port Huron Junior College, the forerunner of SC4, moved into this building in the 1950s. PHJC was established in 1923 (96 years ago), and the named changed to St. Clair Community College in 1967.

Second Place Winner.  Abigail B. 4th grade student (M. Kohl, teacher). Pere Marquette RR bridge, 1931.

Austin K. 3rd grade student (M. Kohl, teacher).  Huron Lightship, 1920.  PHAHPA note:  This ship, formerly “The Relief” and the last of its kind, was designated a National Landmark in 1989.

Clara B. 4th grade student (M. Kohl, teacher).  Lighthouse, 1829.

Grant D. 4th grade student (M. Kohl, teacher). Blue Water Bridge, 1936 (PHAHPA note:  the first span opened in 1938, and it is the background span here).

Greyson J. 3rd grade student (M. Kohl, teacher). Thomas Edison Museum, former Grand Trunk RR depot, 1858.  PHAHPA note: listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

Jenna F. 5th grade student (M. Kohl, teacher). Blue Water Bridge, 1936 (PHAHPA note: the first span opened in 1938, and it is the foreground span in this photo).

Honorable Mention.  Nolan G. 3rd Grade (M. Kohl, teacher). St. Clair Tunnel, completed in 1891.  PHAHPA note: This is a recognized National Landmark, a higher level of designation than the National Register of Historic Places.

Tessa B. 5th grade student (M. Kohl, teacher).  St. Clair Tunnel, completed in 1891. PHAHPA note: This is a recognized National Landmark, a higher level of designation than the National Register of Historic Places.

Third Place Winner.  Siri C. 5th grade student (M. Kohl, teacher). Federal Building, 1877.  PHAHPA note: constructed from 1874-1876, and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Honorable Mention.  Taylor H. 5th grade student (M. Kohl, teacher). Lighthouse, 1829.

Please leave comments below!  Winners will be announced on April 20th.

We most wholeheartedly THANK the sponsors of this contest–please thank them too!  Enter State Right, Kate’s Downtown, The State Perceptory (in downtown Port Huron), and Raven Cafe.

Why the Style of Your Home is Not “Victorian,” and Why it Matters

by Vicki Priest (c) 2018

You may have clicked on this article thinking, “why does this matter?” or perhaps out of annoyance, but how people perceive the dwellings in their community can have some real and possibly unpleasant consequences. What do I mean by that? Well, Victorian is a period in history and not a single architectural style. The many styles from that period in the U.S. are mostly from after the Civil War to about 1910. But if to your knowledge all homes built during that time are “Victorian style,” then it may seem reasonable to not get too upset over a few more losses—since there seem to be so many of them.

However, not only are there many styles within the Victorian period, there are styles from other periods that overlap with the Victorian. So, while there are, say, many vernacular homes that had, or may still have, “Queen Anne” ornament (the style people often associate with Victorian), there aren’t so many Second Empire buildings left here. If all the Second Empire homes remaining in Port Huron were razed, it would equal only a small percent of all those remaining from the 2nd half of the 19th century. Knowing this, once a building is identified as a rarer type and not just another “Victorian,” then it is hoped that it will be favored with benevolence in its future. And Second Empire style is rarer; the style is the oldest of the Victorian Period and Port Huron has already lost much of its significant and beautiful stock (see Image 1 and its caption). A great many Italiantes, an earlier period style that overlaps with Victorian, have also been lost due to fires and demolitions. Continue reading

Peeps in (local) History Contest

Mrs. Peep and her children, strolling along Military Street in 1908. Unbeknownst to her, time lord Dr. Who is right behind her. What disaster could this portend?! (V. Priest, 2019)

PEEPS IN (local) HISTORY CONTEST!

Take photos of peeps (any type) at or in an area historic property or with a historic photo (the photo above is an example).  Photos can be a close-up of a nice detail; don’t be afraid to get creative, and certainly have fun!  Filtered, modified, and “photoshopped” images are also welcome! The included property doesn’t have to be a “landmark,” but can even be your own home–just as long as it’s at least 50 years old. Creativity is the top consideration, not quality (you don’t have to be a professional photographer!).  The image above is a regular photo that has had filters applied to it (using ipiccy.com, but there are other free photo editing applications out there too).  Photos taken with phones are of course acceptable.  Rules and submission policy are below.

Deadline is April 13, 2019.  Photos will be posted at PHAHPA.ORG at that time, and comments accepted.  We will consider comments when judging the entries.  Winners will be announced on April 20th.

Where the photos can be from:  Port Huron, Port Huron Township, Fort Gratiot Township, or Marysville

Prizes (4):  1st Place, Enter Stage Right gift certificate for 2 tickets to a production + refreshments, plus a PHAHPA 16 GB flash drive; 2nd Place, Enter Stage Right gift certificate for 2 tickets to a production + refreshments; 3rd Place, $20 gift certificate to Kate’s Downtown coffee restaurant, and;  Honorable Mention, $10 gift certificate to Port Huron’s downtown vinyl record store, State Perceptory.

Please support our kind sponsors, representing the local arts and downtown businesses!

Check out Enter Stage Right and their upcoming plays!  609 Huron Avenue, Port Huron.

Caffeine comes in great packages at Kate’s Downtown.  Give them a try next time you’re in the heart of Port Huron. 

Visit State Perceptory for vinyl records and more in downtown Port Huron (219 Huron Ave., open 10 am to 7 pm Mon-Sat).

Submitting photos:

  1.  Photos can be any size–large file sizes may be reduced when we post them to our website.  They can be “as is” or filtered, or even photoshopped (modified peeps photo inserted in, or layered onto, another photo, for example).
  2. Photos must be the submittor’s original work.  By submitting a photo to this contest you are attesting to its originality. Photos must not have been used in any previous contest. Your name will be posted with the photo.
  3. You MUST provide information about the location and age of the property in the photo.  If you do not know the exact age, say so, but provide other information as to why you think it meets the rule of “50+” years. Remember that the properties must be in either Port Huron, Port Huron Township, Marysville, or Fort Gratiot Township; these are currently the areas PHAHPA specifically serves.  (Maybe next year we will have expanded our service area before the next contest.)
  4. If you want to submit a caption along with the photo, please do. You can have fun with the caption like we did in our sample.  We reserve the right to edit the caption.
  5. One submission per person only.
  6. By submitting an entry you are agreeing that PHAHPA can post it at its website and use it at other social media places it utilizes, and that PHAHPA may also print it with marketing and informational materials if it ever deems that would be useful. You would retain full copyright otherwise.
  7. Email your submission to porthuronhistory@gmail.com, subject: Peeps Contest.  Provide your name and another way to contact you (besides email) if you desire.  If you are a winner we will contact you to ask the best way to get the prize to you.
  8. Have fun 🙂  (questions?  write to porthuronhistory@gmail.com)
  9. We know, but just so you know, PHAHPA board members (the only volunteers associated with PHAHPA at this time; there are no employees) are not allowed to submit entries to the contest.

Peepzilla at Palm’s Krystal Bar & Grill (Chicken in the Rough), Port Huron. Vicki Priest and Zakery Stiegemeyer photo.

Peepzilla attacking Chicken in the Rough poster. Zakery Stiegemeyer and Vicki Priest image.

Pere Marquette Railroad Bridge, Guest Editorial

Railroad Bridge over Black River, just west of the St. Clair River, Port Huron. V. Priest, 2017.

Below is an editorial by William Collins, Executive Director of the Thumb Land Conservancy.  It was submitted to The Times Herald, but not published.  A very short version can be found at the online paper, however.

The City of Port Huron seems content to sit on its hands while the Port Huron Yacht Club seeks to demolish the historic Pere Marquette Railroad bascule lift bridge over the Black River. Meanwhile, the City of Ashtabula, Ohio, on the south shore of Lake Erie has just approved construction of a new hotel designed specifically for views of Ashtabula Harbor and their historic bascule lift bridge over the Ashtabula River. Ashtabula is actually capitalizing on their “ugly” old steel, which is 6 years older than Port Huron’s and still in use. The developer of the new River Bend Hotel says, “We think that it’s going to be quite a unique concept, unrivaled in the region. It’s going to be an incredibly beautiful scene.” (River Bend Hotel planned for Ashtabula’s harbor district is town’s first new hotel in 100 years) Continue reading