Sad Note, Happy Note

The Sad

Below is a google image of some small brick office buildings that were just torn down in Port Huron (1900 block Pine Grove Avenue, east side).  This image does not do the buildings and property justice, but I did not get photos of my own before the razing.  In person, they (and the property generally) looked much better.  While they weren’t terribly old, they were quaint, brick, human-sized buildings that you just don’t see that often anymore.  By their presence they acknowledged small business, and they could’ve been even more inviting if the parking lot had been improved with some landscaping.  While new “strip malls” and single-building enterprises are popping up in Port Huron, they don’t have the human-environmental quality that this group of small office buildings had.  There are plenty of ugly retail buildings in Port Huron, and the fresh strip malls could very well be the eyesores of tomorrow.

Why get rid of quality locally-derived structures?  Why replace community character with strip malls or corporate cookie-cutterism?  I had just been personally checking out how many blocks McLaren Hospital and the adjacent medical office buildings and parking lots had cleared of historic buildings so far (about 18 blocks worth, and a post is forthcoming about this) . . . and seeing the backhoe and busted-up parking lot of these buildings, and thinking of the great number of historic assets Port Huron has already lost . . . well, it just isn’t a great feeling.  Without legal protections and creativity, there won’t be much of historic Port Huron left; so much is already gone that the character of the city at its height is gone as well.  Individual monied interests will always win out over community interests unless reviews and protections are put into place.¹


Google street view image from 2013 of buildings no longer standing. 1900 block of Pine Grove Avenue, Port Huron.

The Happy

While I was out with the above-discussed endeavor–with my son, who also loves historic buildings and quality living environments–I also stopped by the old Ladies of the Maccabees building. Neither of us had gone inside before, so it was a delight to find the preserved interior.  Harking back to my previous thoughts, I couldn’t help but wonder how many other buildings had been demolished in Port Huron that had decorative stone columns, walls, and moldings, mosaic floors, solid oak stairs, balusters, etc.  And what a contrast to the old high school building which is now part of St. Clair College.  Virtually none of the interior’s historic fabric is visible when walking through the main corridors.  There is no character there and it’s sad and a bit strange (the right phrase might be “a real let down”) to see a blasé modern interior after walking through the front doors of that structure’s fairly magnificent exterior.  But back to the Maccabees building.  Delightful indeed.  Below is a photo of the foyer, festive for the upcoming Christmas holiday, and another of the building’s front.

Foyer of the Ladies of the Maccabees hall, now used for offices. December 2016.

Foyer of the Ladies of the Maccabees hall, now used for offices. December 2016.

Ladies of the Maccabees building, 901 Huron Avenue, Port Huron. December 2016. Listed in the state and national registers of historic places.

Ladies of the Maccabees building, 901 Huron Avenue, Port Huron. December 2016. Listed in the state and national registers of historic places.

Note 1.  I found an article about this after I wrote the post.  According to the article, the property has been owned by Michigan Department of Transportation for POSSIBLE future Blue Water Bridge plaza expansion.  This property is not next to the bridge, so I wonder what they mean . . .  The buildings were not costing anything to maintain, and it cost over $94,000 for the state to tear them down.  Does this all sound like a waste to you?  All this time the buildings could’ve been used, but instead taxpayers paid a ton to remove them, all so Port Huron can have another empty property sitting there for who knows how long.


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