What We Have Lost

"The Tunnel" GTW Depot, PH, built 1891

This substantial historic railroad depot (Grand Trunk Western) built in 1891, was torn down in 1975, yet the lot remains empty.

By Vicki Priest (enlarged and edited on 3/31/16)

Buildings aren’t people, yet buildings can be unique, beautiful, contain rare materials and can be a face in the community for centuries.  A building can represent a street, a community, a city; it can inspire awe and any number of other feelings or thoughts that make us realize that we can create something beautiful.  Buildings can be the opposite, too.  They can remind us of failing economies and the loss of community pride, as when a school falls into disrepair, or when newer buildings are simple, cheap, cookie-cutter, letting us consider how we now live in a throw-away culture.  For example, 805 Pine Grove Avenue used to be the home of an astonishingly handsome home (Second Empire style), but in its place now is an abandoned gas station.

Pine Grove Ave, PH, 2016

Abandoned gas station at 805 Pine Grove Avenue, Port Huron, today (2016).

Dead house, 805 Pine Grove Ave, PH

An early and astonishing Port Huron home, demolished (!) in 1970. 805 Pine Grove Avenue.

 

 

 

 

 

Looking through images of houses and churches that have been razed in Port Huron, I was negatively impressed by the loss of some of the city’s most notable architecture.  It’s very hard to imagine how it could’ve been thought that tearing such structures down was better than brainstorming ways to repurpose them.  Other structures were lost due to neglect and fire. Below is a very sad example of the urban downscaling that has happened in Port Huron.  The first image is of an undated photo, showing a block of historic buildings on the left (one of them was quite unique), with the second image showing them all to be gone.  (These images will be updated when more information and better quality photos are acquired.)

Military and Wall streets, Port Huron

With the Harrington Hotel at the right, this view is of a block of historic structures at Military and Wall streets (NW corner), Port Huron. The sidewalk and streets are of brick pavers. Undated photo from Gaffney (2006, p 24).

Military street at Wall Street, NNW view, Google

The same scene in 2013 as the historic image shows, though with a different type of lens. No historic buildings at the left remain. From a Google street view image.

Some homes made way for the primary hospital in town.  While time doesn’t stand still and communities grow, the homes torn down for the hospital expansion didn’t have their windows and other structural and architectural components removed for recycling purposes (for use in other historic structures that need replacements).  Below are some examples.  An inventory of lost resources will be listed in the Lost Properties page.

1st Baptist Church, PH, now a parking lot

First Baptist Church, dedicated in 1882 (the church had an earlier building that had burned down). Sold in 1969 to make a parking lot.

The beautiful church structure at left was considered the “crown jewel” of downtown Port Huron (Creamer 2006).  It was sold to the city in 1969 and subsequently demolished; there is now a parking lot in its place.

Maccabees headquarters, Port Huron.

The original Knights of the Maccabees headquarters, built in 1892. It later became the Algonquin Hotel. It met its unfortunate demise in 2000, when it burned down after having been abandoned. Photo from c. 1905.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are the homes mentioned earlier, demolished in 2006 for the hospital expansion.  They do not appear to have had valuable components removed first.

Razed house, Pine Grove Ave, Port Huron

The 1300 block of Pine Grove Avenue, Port Huron, 2005, prior to their 2006 demolition.

Demolishing 1327 Pine Grove Ave., PH

1327 Pine Grove Avenue being demolished. June 2006. The smashed remains of the regal 1323 home are to the left.

Razed Lauth Hotel, Port Huron

The Lauth Hotel, built in 1902. Date of photo unknown.

Very few of the original hotels in Port Huron remain today.  Sadly, the “skinny” Lauth Hotel (and bar) no longer stands.  “Built to resemble the famed Flat Iron Building in New York City in 1902, it was destroyed in the Urban Renewal Movement of the 1970’s” (Gaffney, accessed Feb 2016).  Instead of creatively integrating it into condominium architectural plans, it was simply razed.  The whole area where it stood used to be an attractive little city center with brick pavers, but not any more.

__________________

PS.  A local authority had told me of this house, and having discovered specifically which house it was in Port Huron, I wanted to append it to this article.  St Joseph Catholic Church had owned it and then demolished it, despite it being in the city’s Olde Town Historic District.  Believers are called to be stewards of God’s creation, and quality buildings are made of choice and rare materials that God provided.  The workmanship required to make such structures may also be considered a gift from God.  Apparently, the community wanted this structure saved, the city offered them free amenities, and there was even someone who wanted to move it.  Yet the church acted ungraciously (from what I’ve been told) and tore the building down anyway.  Why such waste when it could’ve been removed instead?  There is nothing but grass there now.  There are many reasons why The Church has dwindled in the last decades, and this attitude of disregard–for others in the community and for God’s gifts–could be one of them.

317 Seventh St, Port Huron, demolished

1317 Seventh Street, Port Huron. The church that demolished it, which was on an adjacent lot, even took over the address of the disappeared.

Sources

Bromley, Suzette (former curator for the Port Huron Museum), Rootsweb page, which holds scanned images from various collections held by the Port Huron Museum, and the Library of Congress.

Creamer, Mary Lou (and the History and Research Committee of the Port Huron Sesquicentennial Steering Committee, c. 2006), Port Huron: Celebrating Our Past, 1857-2007.

(TJ) Gaffney’s Pinterist page

Gaffney, TJ, Port Huron, 1880-1960 (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2006).

Olde Town Historic District

PhoenixMasonry.org

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2 thoughts on “What We Have Lost

  1. Yes, the home that got away. Built for Lucy Sanborn in the late 1870 by her father John whose home still stands today next to the once beautiful Second Empire. We tried so hard to save this home and spend a great deal of money in our attempts. A relocation plan was devised yet would require a 4 month period to secure the property across from 2333 Gratiot Avenue. The home was to be turned into a B&B which would have thrived being next to the convention center. Unfortunately efforts by both us and the city feel on deaf ears and the home was razed for a parking lot that was never constructed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so very much for your comment here! I’ve heard about it from a couple of people, and your further input helps too. I of course wasn’t involved, but it perturbs me to no end that–as far as can be gathered–that the church lied about it. It’s quite bad enough to tear down such a quality home for a parking lot, and then not even make one . . . I think it may give an indication as to why they didn’t accept any offers for help otherwise . . . they simply wanted more space around them and not have the responsibility of the house. They could’ve used it for something else, period. This drives me absolutely nuts.

      Like

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