Petit Family Child Abducted by Indians Finds Family as Adult

By Vicki Priest (c) (All Rights Reserved)

This is an amazing tale of Edward Petit’s firstborn son,* which so far as I have seen from genealogies is unknown, and of crazy “coincidence.” It’s also an example for remembering that when, historically, folks report how many children they have or had, they usually only give the number that have survived past infancy or early childhood. In Edward’s case, Victoria Louise is said to be his oldest child and the child that is the subject of the article below was not in his will, for whatever reason. To me, anyway, there’s no reason to doubt the story. The only oddity I’ve noticed so far is that it took so long for the son to meet the father (the mother, Henriette Victoria Stevens, died in 1873, and the Civil War ended in 1865; Edward died in 1875, so the meeting must have occurred very shortly before Edward died). The article is reproduced as it was posted in The Times Herald, May 16, 1891 (page 6), and includes historically important information beyond the story of Henry.

None of these men is Henry, but his brother Marshal is shown standing on the right. From George Smith’s book “A History of Port Huron in Pictures” (1971, page 30). An 1890 date is given to the photo. The other fellows are (L to R) Lewis Atkins, William Bottomby, and Jacob Jacobi.

Romance of an Abduction (Indianapolis Journal)” [no date is provided for the reprinted piece]

There is a barber named Henry Petit who has a rare tale of adventure to tell concerning himself, of how he was stolen when four years old by the Indians, and how he finally found his father. Petit was born in 1838 at the Indian trading post near Port Huron, Michigan, where his father had an exchange store and was patronized by the Indians.

In 1842 Turkey Foot, chief of the Black Creek Indians, got into a difficulty with the father of Petit, claiming that he had given him a “wildcat” dollar in making change. This was denied by Petit, who would not take back the money. The Indian went away mad, and vowing that he would get even. The Indians about this time sold their lands about port Huron, and were being removed to a reservation near the present city of Sandusky. This Indian at once executed a plan to get revenge on Petit.

The night before Turkey Foot left he stole the boy in this manner: He found out that Petit was not at home one night, and he entered the house about midnight. Walking lightly across the floor he jerked the sleeping babe from the arms of the mother, who awoke in alarm only to find that her baby was gone. A diligent search failed to find a trace of the missing boy, and he was given up as dead. The Indian took the lad, now four years old, to Ohio, where an old squaw took charge of him.

There was a white man with the tribe named Timothy Crocker, whom the Indians sent back to Port Huron to tell Petit that his boy died in Canada. Thus the parents were made to believe that their boy was dead. The lad lived with the Indians until 11 years old, when a man named Howser, of Williamsport, Pa., who was among these Indians, bought the boy for a small consideration and took him back to his home. The boy there learned the barbers’ trade, but as to where the Indians got him he could not remember. He was sent to school at Republic, O., where he received a license to teach. He was there going by the name of Timothy Crocker, and in 1855 he was married to Miss Catherine Eckert, who lived at Delphi, Indiana where he purchased a barber shop.

When the war commenced he enlisted in the Ninth Indiana infantry. While this regiment was with Sherman in the “march to the sea” and in Alabama, “Crocker” was approached by a man who asked him his name. “Crocker” told him, and the man denited it, saying that he was the very counterpart of a Mr. Petit, at Port Huron, Mich.; that he must be the missing son, long since supposed to be dead. The stranger took the name of the town where “Crocker” lived, and told him that when the war closed proof would be presented showing that “Timothy Crocker” was Henry Petit, the son of Edward Petit.

After the war “Crocker” settled at Westville, near La Porte, where he soon heard from the mysterious person who had told him such a strange story while in the army. This was soon followed by a telegram from Edward Petit, of Port Huron, saying, “Come at once and lose no time.” “Crocker” went hardly knowing what to think would be the outcome of the trip. He arrived at Port Huron, and upon stepping from the train he met his father face to face—two men almost the exact image of each other. There could be no mistaking the fact that one was the father and the other the son. The mother had died many years before. [The End]

* Edit of January 15, 2018:  Actually, Edward F., born and died in 1837 (Lakeside Cemetery, Port Huron), is very probably Edward and Victoria’s first-born child.  He has Edward’s name, just as the first girl born to them has her mother’s and grandmother’s name–Louise/Louisa Victoria (b. 1841).  A news entry from when Victoria died in 1873 says that she and Edward had 10 children, but only 4 were still living at the time.  These would’ve been Louise, Marshal (1849-1939), Franklin (1855-1910), and John/Jean B. (1857-1917).  There was a Basil born to them in 1855, and now we know about Henry (b. 1838) (and Edward F., b. 1837), leaving three more that are unknown; the gaps in births are between 1842 and 1848, and 1850-1854.

 

 

 

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On deciphering fact from family folklore, or “Who was Anselm Petit, really?”

By Vicki Priest (c) 2018 (all rights reserved)

Often, researchers delving into the past of a particular person, family, or property, might find the record sadly sparse, and so when some tidbit of published information is found, pounce on it as if it was a tempura shrimp dinner. The problem comes about when it’s swallowed whole. Who doesn’t want to believe what someone has said about themselves or others, especially when it comes to the census or personal diaries or letters? It seems that in the case of the pioneering Petit family, story-telling was important to some of them and people like newspaper editors didn’t seem to want to question things; we don’t have access to any early family documents and can only investigate various published sources. The Petits were the first permanent settlers in what was to become Port Huron and Anselm’s son’s house is still standing—the same son who created the first plat of Port Huron and the same house where both of them died. Because of their importance, I’m going to present here an exercise in the consideration of various “facts” about Anselm (and a bit on his son Edward) Petit as they have been published in various sources.

Some background is necessary first, however, for the separation of lore and evidence to have context. Anselm Petit (1776-~1862), a French-speaking Canadian, is known as the first non-native (so, “white,” as the record so often points out) to settle in what was to become Port Huron. This happened in the late-1700s. He married Angelique (or Angelica) Campau, of Detroit, in 1804. They had at least 8 children, though not all survived to adulthood. Their son Edward is written about so much that one would think there were no other children, and he is sometimes said to be the oldest son, yet he was not.i Edward’s claim to be the first “white child” born in the area never seems to be questioned in newspaper articles relating to him, even though two others were born here before him (Miss Causely/Mrs. James Brandimore in 1802, and a son of Jean Baptiste Deschamps, in 1805, who is recorded as living in Port Huron in 1824. Of course, “half-breeds” are never counted.).ii

1818 survey map of the (future) Port Huron area. Anselm’s land is the almost 20 acre area indicated by the arrow.

Winston Churchill is quoted as saying that “history is written by the victors,” and “to the victor go the spoils” is a common saying. While more scholarly histories of the area have more accurate accounts (as referenced here), the stories given in the newspapers, reflecting what is passed on by those remaining (the “victors”) in Port Huron (as opposed to others who moved or died), are what has been reprinted in more popular publications and what is often retold by residents. Other sources have Denis Causely living here prior to 1790, and Brandamour/Brandimore coming second. This is the stuff for a future article. In any case, what year Edward was born—1812 vs 1813—is important not in relation to birth disputes among the light-skinned population, but in how it relates to the family’s activities during the War of 1812.

While Anselm came to own the land he settled on in Port Huron,iii it was Edward who platted it in 1835, calling it the village of Peru. Despite the family’s apparent delight in stories, no one ever learned why in the world Edward called the village “Peru.” Edward’s own children and grandchildren somehow never learned why that name was chosen (or else they kept it secret), yet had all kinds of tales about Anselm. As well to consider concerning the veracity of Petit family lore: William Jenks, who published a history of St. Clair County in 1912 and who even lived in the same city (Port Huron) at the same time as some of Anselm’s grandchildren, was unable to squeeze the Peru name meaning out of any of them. That Jenks both published Edward’s birth year as different than what the family saidiv and left out other seemingly fanciful claims made by the family, and that none of the Petits included a biographical entry in Jenks’ history, may be indicative of “factual issues.”

It is definitely unfortunate that the Petits did not include a biographical sketch of Anselm and Angelique in either of the published histories here (1883 or 1912).v The family even had a “Petit Block” (business building) early on, just like other business men, yet sources reviewed so far do not mention it and it’s not called out in the city directories. In the earliest directory (1870/1871) we find that Edward’s office is “over 17 Military” and Marshall, his son, is a produce dealer in the basement (Edward’s land, where his house still stands at 1426 Griswold, was known as the Petit Farm). From ads we know the building was brick, on Military near the bridge, was “opposite [the] new city opera house,” and had offices leased to attorneys and surgeons (The Times Herald, April 20, 1875, p 3). An ad from 1888vi has this building’s new address as 914 Military, which—amazingly—is still standing!

Anselm: Fact vs Fiction

Let’s start with an old newspaper article published by a granddaughter (Louise Petit Smith, oldest daughter of Edward, and with the help of Amelia Petit Probett) (The Times Herald, March 19, 1921, p 6). It is an example (or comedy) of errors, or at least conflicts in the record, of Anselm’s early life. I don’t mean to be overly critical of Anselm’s descendants. This is probably typical of at least some families’ historical recollections and I would hope that Anselm himself would get a good laugh out of it all. If we use our imaginations a bit more we could use family lore regarding Anselm as a base for a “Paul Bunyan” of our very own, and by doing so not only have some creative fun, but possibly draw out proof about this family that someone may have stashed in a drawer somewhere.

The article includes these claims:

  1. Anselm (spelled Ansolem in this article, but nowhere else) was born in 1764 in France and came to Canada with his parents shortly thereafter. However, based on the parish records of Cap Sante in Quebec, Anselm was born there in 1776. His father Nicolas/Nicholas was also born there, and not in France. It was his great great grandfather Charles who immigrated to Canada from Roen, France. He had only one son, Nicolas, born in 1674. According to one online genealogical source, Anselm’s father immigrated to Detroit in 1774 and apparently went back and forth between the Detroit area and Quebec until his death in 1794.vii If this is true, the people in those days were hardy travelers!
  2. Anselm had been a medical student for awhile before joining the Hudson Bay Fur Co. There is no evidence of Anselm ever being a medical student, and one wonders how he could have fit this in when he had traveled to Detroit prior to 1794, perhaps even prior to 1790, when he would have been only 14. (To Louise and Amelia’s credit, if they thought Anselm was born in 1764 this would have seemed more plausible.) His connection, if any, with the Hudson Bay Fur Co. is not otherwise known, but working away from home as a teen would not have been unusual for that time.
  3. During the War of 1812 Anselm left his family in the wilderness and through government employ—because he was a master ship builder—helped build Captain Perry’s ships that won the Battle of Lake Erie. He is also said to have been “aboard of [sic] the Detroit at the time of Perry’s victory.” This is all too much, as one wonders how he managed to fit in the time to become a master ship builder, and why (or how, being in an enemy-held city) he would have gone to Erie Pennsylvania to help build Perry’s ships (most or all of the ship-building crews were from New York and Philadelphia), and why being on board the British HMS Detroit would’ve been a good thing! (Perry was victorious while commanding the Niagara.)viii
  4. After the events above, Anselm traveled back to Quebec to retrieve an inheritance but lost most of it on the way back due to a “clever scheme of a stranger.” After all that, THEN they returned to Port Huron following the war. The sad inheritance event may be true, and certainly the family came back to Port Huron after the war. There is just the discrepancy of leaving the family in the wilderness (3) but then coming back from Detroit.
  5. His mother had a dangerous encounter with Indians after her twins had died and while Anselm was away, with the result of Angelique’s hair turning white all at once. None of that story seems to be true, as Anselm and Angelique never had twins. This story has been reprinted in the paper many times, and columnist Dorothy Mitts repeated it in her book of articles.ix
  6. His mother was the daughter of Barnabas Campau and relates some information about that family, but Angelique was a daughter of Simon Campau and Veronica Bourdeau (see note v).

Whew! What we don’t have in the newspaper account is what Anselm actually did for a living after he got married. That is, for most of his life. I suppose that might’ve been too boring! Without writing a whole history of early St. Clair County and Port Huron, which could take up a lot of space, we’ll consider what Anselm may have done with his time, which also may help explain why he chose to settle where he did.

Anselm and Early Settlement

A group of French-speakers came here in about 1790 or so, and Anselm is said to be among them, or he may have arrived a little later (by 1794). Mrs. Farrand in her 1872 talkx said that the group came to the area with their families for the purpose of making a settlement. Andreas (1883, p 262) referred to it as a “courier settlement” (coureurs traded goods for furs with the Indians, although there were also coureurs of wood), writing that “Denis Causlet and Peter Brandemour, settled at the mouth of Black River previous to 1790. Anselm Petit, Francois Lariviere, Baptiste Levias, J. B. Duchesne, Michel Jervais, J. B. Courncais, and Peter Monreaux, located in this vicinity previous to 1794.” Pierre Brandimore (Brandemour) testified in 1821 that he took possession of what became known as the Campau tract along the south side of Black River in 1791, having cleared and fenced two acres of it.xi Whichever the year (and for whatever reason), Anselm came to the area when he was only 14 to 18 years of age (his birth year of 1776 is confirmed), and is claimed to be the first “permanent settler” since he is remembered for having built a home more permanent than “shanty.”

Why did Anselm settle here? It was a complete wilderness, and with much Native American activity. Anselm’s indian name was Ciscesit, meaning “cut feet,” which tells us that the dangers from general pioneer living could perhaps be higher than from the natives themselves (Anselm was given that name by his native neighbors because he had some toes amputated due to frostbite).xii Besides the claim from his granddaughter, some have said that Anselm was a fur trader. However, Edward, as a teenager, was actually working as an indian trader for others and not his own father.xiii So, if Anselm ever did participate in fur trading as a business endeavor, it would seem odd for him to be still involved in it while his own son worked for others doing the same thing. He farmed, as early and prominent settler Judge Bunce recalled seeing Anselm “plowing wheat with a bull and a horse side by side.”xiv The first tax assessment occurred in 1821, when the county was formed, and Anselm was assessed only for one horse, two cows, and some house furniture (he was not assessed for either wild or improved land), perhaps because he hadn’t received the patent yet for the land.xv

Reverend O. C. Thompson wrote that several french-speaking families settled at the mouth of the Black River (then La Riviere Delude), where they were permitted by the Indians to build shanties and cultivate the land. This appears to be a description of the land Anselm came to own. It was this group of early french-speakers that named the area Desmond, but also called it by the river’s name, La Riviere Delude.xvi So, according to this author, the settlers did the typical settler thing: farmed. Port Huron (and other parts of St. Clair County) was an early lumber milling area and it wouldn’t be surprising if Anselm at one point or another, in one way or another, was involved in the timber industry, especially since one of his co-settlers (Michel Jervais/Gervais) built a mill upstream at Indian Creek (according to Jenks, page 365, this mill was built in 1800 or a little earlier).xvii

Looking at land claims awarded by the US government before and after the county land was surveyed (most in 1818), and the summaries of testimonies given for such awards, one can see that it is likely that Anselm had relatives that were active in the region early on. The following are (only the) Petit-related claims and testimony.xviii (It is unknown as to why Anselm himself did not go before a land board in order to receive his land for free from the U.S. government, having instead paid for it later.)

Portion of the 1818 survey of township 3 north, range 16 east, indicating claim 206 awarded to A. N. Petit. Online at the Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office documents.

A. N. Petit lived on claim No. 167 “before and after 1796” (until he sold it to the awarded claimant, Joseph Rowe); Antoine N. Petit rented the land of claim No. 192 from Meldrum & Park “previous to 1796”; Antoine Nicholas Petit was awarded claim No. 206, which he had purchased from the previous settler in 1807 (this is in Cottrellville Township, somewhat north of Robert’s Landing); Louis Petit was awarded claim No. 175, which he had purchased from the previous settler in 1797; Jean Baptiste Petit was awarded claim No. 505, which he had purchased at some point from a previous settler (someone referred to, perhaps mistakenly, as “Louis Petit Clair” owned it for a short time previous to this); prior to 1797 an M. Petit tenanted the land (claim No. 539) owned by Meldrum & Park. M. Petit seems to have worked for Meldrum & Park since Farrand said he built the second saw mill in the Port Huron area for that Detroit-based partnership (many of their other “employees” were slaves).xix

As noted, Antoine Nicholas’ claim of 206 was downriver from Port Huron, and it was sandwiched in amongst many other such claims in that area. Perhaps when Farrand stated that the settlers “came up the river in canoes,” it was more specifically from this area that they came rather than Detroit (and as mentioned in endnote i, Anselm Jr is buried in Cottrellville). Of the Petit claims listed above, only A. Nicholas’, Anselm’s, and Edward’s (for the area where he built his house along Griswold Street in Port Huron), are within the online database (of St. Clair County) of the General Land Office Records.xx

Anselm and the War of 1812

For most people, the events of the War of 1812 are probably pretty murky, but the war figures prominently in Anselm’s life and the in the history of the Port Huron area. We already read of some of what Anselm’s descendants wrote of his War of 1812 exploits, most of which seem closer to fiction than fact. If only we knew what it was really like for the settlers here at that time regarding their relations with the natives. Tensions were building in the territory as natives saw more and more settlers coming in, taking their lands. Natives did sell their lands to settlers, as they did in this county with the earliest of those that came in, but later agreements in the wide territory often were made in corrupt fashion and/or most Indians were upset over not being represented. Many in the U. S. believed the British were fomenting the natives against the Americans, and so this growing problem was one of the reasons for the war.

The war began on June 18, 1812 and Detroit was taken by the British on August 16, 1812. The Battle of Lake Erie was won by the U.S. on September 10, 1813 and Detroit re-occupied by Americans after the British burned the public buildings and left on September 26th. Our capital was burned by the British in August 1814, but we came out victorious in the end (not because we were so great, but because Britain had to focus on Napoleon) and the Treaty of Ghent was signed at the end of December. Fort Mackinac was not relinquished until later in 1815, however.xxi

So what happened with Anselm and the others during this conflict? The story goes that a friendly native woman warned them of upcoming hostilities, so Anselm and the others left. All accounts say, too, that they left a few months after Edward was born. So while Edward and his family always passed on that 1813 as his birth year, it doesn’t make much sense in the light of historic events. It is more likely that he was born in 1812 (February 7), and that the family fled to Detroit around the time the war started. We know that the family had been living in a log home at this time since Edward was born in their log house. The family had also reported that that same home had been burned down by the Indians,xxii so it seems reasonable to guess that it was during the war and their absence that it was thus destroyed. In any case, Angelique, at least, still had family in Detroit so it probably wouldn’t have been too strange or difficult for them to live there for awhile. As stated earlier, it seems doubtful that Anselm was a master shipbuilder and that he was part of Perry’s shipbuilding team. Americans or American sympathizers were most likely not free to move about while the British controlled the city.

But did the Petits run back home as soon as they could, after Detroit came under control of the Americans again in September or October, 1813? Maybe, but the natives were still a danger along the St. Clair River at this time. It’s been passed down that Anselm helped build Fort Gratiot, and since it was built with a large crew of French speakers from Detroit,xxiii it would seem likely that he was among them. He was from the area, after all, and doing this task would’ve put him in a position to decide whether or not it was safe to bring his wife and small children back to the area. Having the fort built and garrisoned would’ve made the place safer, too (seemingly, anyway). The fort’s location had been decided in May 1814 and so it was built after that.xxiv So if Anselm didn’t linger in Detroit after it was built, he may have moved back to Port Huron in the fall of 1814. But then again, with winter coming on and having no produce from farming or anything else while he was gone, and perhaps not even having a house, they may have stayed in Detroit until the spring of the next year. According to the history printed in the 1873 city directory, “During the war of 1812, the settlers were obliged to leave their homes, but they returned in 1815 with reinforcements, and again took possession of their homes” (p 11).

Maybe this is entirely true, maybe it is not. What is less likely to have transpired, however, is the shortened history of events relating to the Petit family during the War of 1812 that one senses after reading much that is in print about this subject. They probably did not leave for Detroit in 1813, but earlier, and they probably did not return to their land at the mouth of Black River soon after Detroit was regained; Anselm probably did not help build Fort Gratiot after he was back living there, but probably when he came with the other French hired from Detroit to do it. The shortened scenario would have Anselm gone for maybe a year-and-a-half. This is a long time to be away from home, yes. But it is more likely that he was gone from at least June 1812 to perhaps sometime in 1815, which is about three years.  One item that could prove that they were back in Port Huron earlier than 1815 is the time and place of the birth of their son David.  If he was really born in Port Huron, in the year 1814, then that would settle one end of the matter.  This article will be updated if more such evidence is found.

If you enjoy reading about Port Huron’s past, I hope you found this a fun and informative read. Many sources were used and stacked against one another to try and discern an accurate picture of Anselm Petit and his times. Not all of my research is presented here, however, and there are more sources of information out there. Reading about all the things that Anselm supposedly learned and did put a smile on my face, but it’s saddening that the harsh life of settlers and all the hard but “ordinary” work they did seems to have been dismissed and forgotten.

Endnotes

i Even Farrand (see note vii) wrote this; did her family informants really forget Anselm Jr?? The children were: Veronica (b 1805), Anselm (b 1807), and Francis (b 1809), who were all born in Detroit (Anselm and Angelique traveled there specifically for the births of their children), while Edward (b 1812), David (b 1814), Madeline (b 1819), Simon (b 1820), and John (b 1825), were born in Port Huron—except for John, who was born in Disco, Macomb County. Very sadly, Anselm (Jr) died in 1834 of Cholera (buried in Cottrellville), shortly after his marriage to Emily Gervais.

ii Jenks, William Lee, St. Clair County, Michigan; Its History and Its People (2 vol.s) (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1912), pp 140-141. Andreas has a Mrs. Peter Brandamour as being born March 10, 1803 (p 494).

iii While no one doubts he was living on the land earlier, the government patent was not granted to Anselm until April 1st, 1825.

iv Reverend C. Denissen and H. F. Powell, in Genealogy of the French Families of the Detroit River Regions 1701-1911 (2 vol.s) (Detroit: Detroit Society for Genealogical Research, 1976), also give the year 1812 and not 1813 (as reported by William Doyle in his 1986 booklet (Port Huron: Acorn Press) An American Pioneer: The Story of Early Port Huron and its First Settler.

v Jenks (1912), and History of St. Clair County, Michigan (Chicago: A. T. Andreas & Co., 1883). While there is a time gap between these two histories, they still would both have solicited funds for the costs of making the publications through paid biographical entries.

vi Jacob Jacobi clothing is listed in the prior year at 17 Military, and being across from the Opera House. Not long afterwards, Jacobi is found in a different location on Huron Ave. The Times Herald, June 6, 1888, p 1.

vii http://www.geni.com, Nicolas Petit page, managed by Nancy Ann Frantz and others (accessed January 1, 2018). Jenks (1912) had stated as such in his history, but Doyle (1986) provided a detailed assessment of the Campau family issue, based on Denissen (above).

viii Denys Knoll, Battle of Lake Erie: Building the Fleet in the Wilderness (Naval Historical Foundation Publications, Spring 1979) http://www.navyhistory.org/battle-of-lake-erie-building-the-fleet-in-the-wilderness/

ix Dorothy Mitts, That Noble Country (Philadelphia: Dorrance & Company, 1968), pp 75-77. Doyle (1986) discusses in detail how this story cannot be true.

x Farrand, Mrs. B. C., “A Historical Paper Prepared by Mr.s B. C. Farrand, of this City, for the Pioneer Society of Detroit” (Port Huron Daily Times, June 17, 1872).

xi Jenks (1912) p 76; this 612 acre claim, at the north end of the Chippewa Indian Reservation, included about 1/3 of the reservation. Another pre-1794 settler on record was Pierre Lovielle, who had a house and farm close to Fort Gratiot beginning 1792. This land area was smaller than Brandimore’s and was directly across from it along the Black River, but also had water front along the St. Clair River at its northeast end. Part of Fort Gratiot was actually within this claim, and in any case, the US Government simply had taken it over as part of its military reservation (Plat MI 190060N0170E0 online, Bureau of Land Management).

xii Andreas (1883). p 265.

xiii Farrand (1872) reported that he had worked for Gurdon (Gordon?) and Ephraim Williams.

xiv Andreas (1883), p 271.

xv Jenks (1912), pp 132, 135.

xvi Andreas (1883) p 496. According to Farrand, it was more commonly known by the river name.

xvii Sadly, this creek, also called Jervais or Gervais Creek, has long since been plowed over. The same is true for Baby, or Bunce Creek (Marysville), where the earliest saw mills in the county had been built and operated (see Jenks, 1912, pp 362-374 for a history of early St. Clair County saw mills).

xviii The Denissen book is online at the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research—if you’re a member. Queries for volunteer help are made through their Ancestry board, which one also has to be a member of. Donations to PHAHPA would allow us to have memberships in order to access more research materials.

xix Andreas (1883), pp 222, 227, 228, 230-231. Jenks (1912), p 74.

xx Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records (https://glorecords.blm.gov/search/ . . .).

xxi Willis Frederick Dunbar, Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1965), and Rober L. Rosentreter, Michigan: A History of Explorers, Entrepreneurs, and Everyday People (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014).

xxii “Death Ends Community Service of M. N. Petit,” The Times Herald, May 15, 1939, pp 1-2.

xxiii Bruce Hawkins and Richard Stamps, Odyssey Research Monographs (Vol. II, No. 1): Report of the Preliminary Excavations at Fort Gratiot (1814-1879) in Port Huron, Michigan (Oakland University, 1989), p 14.

xxiv William Jenks, “Fort Gratiot and Its Builder Gen. Charles Gratiot,” Michigan History Magazine (Vol. IV, No. 1), January 1920, pp 141-155).

When Old Buildings Have Curves

While doing some research on the Tunnel Depot in Port Huron recently, I found that it had been described more than once as Spanish Revival style. I found that to be very odd, and had doubts about another building description someone had shown me, so I decided to look into these things more (neither building is still standing, so one has to rely on whatever photos are available). Below is a photo of the Tunnel Depot, which is not a Spanish-based style.

Figure 1. Grand Trunk RR Depot, commonly called The Tunnel Depot. Opened in 1892 and demolished in 1975. It displays many Tudor style (1890-1940) elements, including the curves! This was a fine and detailed depot.

Did “they” think it “Spanish” because it had curved windows and some stucco? Besides Mission (1890-1920) and Spanish Revival (1915-1940) styles having stucco walls, Tudor, Italian Renaissance, French Colonial, Modernistic, and International style buildings may also have walls of stucco. Curves, as in round arched windows, are common to many architectural styles of the last 100+ years, though arcades less so. Of course, Mission buildings usually have curvilinear gables (or roof parapets and dormers), making them distinct (although interestingly, Flemish gables can be very similar), whether they have any other curved elements or not (Figure 2; please find most of the figures after the body of text).

Spanish Colonial Revival style tends to have “fancier” (baroque) elements and is usually not so cube-like as the Mission style (Figure 3). Both styles have stucco walls and are annoyingly similar, but Spanish Colonial Revival roofs are much more straight-edged than the curvilinear Mission. To up the confusion, some architectural style references claim they are the same style . . . this type of joining and parting is not at all unusual amongst the many architectural styles sources. And yet there is more to add to the confusion: in the 1910s architect Irving Gill introduced his own brand of Mission that was “radically simplified” (Figure 4), and in this author’s view, tended to resemble the upcoming Spanish Revival more. In any case, Gill’s modernization of the Mission Style was highly respected and no doubt copied widely. The simplified rear arcades of the former Gratiot Inn (1917-1969) are reminiscent of Gill’s work, while the front of the structure was in the traditional Mission Style (photos of this building are hard to come by, but a number can be viewed in this video:  https://youtu.be/OBCUL3wqulQ .*

Other styles of buildings that have curves (like towers or wall “corners”), which are not normally confused with “Spanish” are Queen Anne, Tudor, and Art Moderne, so I will not be addressing those styles further. Well, except that the Tunnel Depot, already pictured, appears to be Tudor or a Tudor with additional elements, and it was confused with Spanish Revival (an article from 1975 says “renaissance,” but that may have been in error since that style is centuries old). So besides Mission Revival (which is very rare in this area) and Spanish Colonial Revival (again, very rare), what building styles with round arches might be found in Port Huron and environs?

The arch, of course, is Roman in origin (well, they invented the weight-bearing arch). And Rome is in Italy, so styles with arches tend to be Roman or Italian of some sort. The oldest style in the area that starts to get its curve on is Italian Villa (1837-1880), and there appear to be some homes of this style still standing in Port Huron.  The example in Figure 5 has many round-top windows. Italianate, 1840-1885, soon followed (Second Empire, 1855-1885, buildings have perhaps even more curved elements), and examples are easily seen in Port Huron. Most curves are found in one or more floors of arched windows. Many Italianate buildings actually did not have that much in the way of curvature, but the two upper stories in the Port Huron example have two different types of curved windows (Figure 6).

Romanesque Revival was early, from the 1840s to the 1870s, and evolved into other forms.  However, being a favorite for churches and schools, the style was apparently carried on in these types of buildings much longer.  Arguably the most beautiful building still standing in Port Huron–Saint Joseph Catholic Church–has been described as Romanesque Revival (Buildings of Michigan 1993:353-354), although it was built 1922-23.  Please see figure 7 for all the wonderful curves and other details.  There are a very small number of Richardsonian Romanesque (~1877-1900) buildings in Port Huron, and arches are an identifying feature of this style (note the Roman reference right in the name). These relatively distinctive and heavy structures of stone are normally not confused with other styles (Figures 8 and 9). (Victorian Romanesque, 1870-1900, was even more curvy.) Buildings in the Italian Renaissance style, 1890-1935, may have lots of arched windows and an arcade (or they may not) (Figure 10).

So if you see a building with a row of arched windows, or an arched opening or two (doorways and porticoes), or a row of arches that make up an arcade, what style might it be? Something to consider is that it may just be a vernacular building—one designed and made by a local builder, not an architect—which contains certain style elements but is not an example of a certain architectural style in its entirety (the Harrington Hotel is one such example of mixed styles). It might be one of the styles included here, but then again many styles of architecture use arched windows. If you see a building with such windows and it doesn’t really look like any of the styles here, then it’s probably not a Spanish- or Italian-based style.

Figure 2.  Mission Style 1890-1920.  Mission style house in Port Huron, Michigan. The only one? Not sure yet. Note the curvilinear parapet and prominent porch—both typical of the Mission style. Mission style homes also tend to be more cubelike compared to the Spanish Revival’s longer forms.  Note that Mission Style is generally older than Spanish Revival Style, and like other older styles may not have curved windows.

Figure 3. Spanish Revival 1915-1940. Spanish (Colonial) Revival style house.  I chose this example specifically to show the roof line, the square and rounded windows, and the distinctive spiraled columns around the door and between the windows.  Mission and Spanish style buildings are rarely anything other than stuccoed.

Figure 4. Streamlined Mission style building by Irving Gill, built 1913-14. The La Jolla Women’s Club, California.

Figure 5. Italian Villa Style 1837-1880. Calvert Station, Baltimore, in the Italian Villa style, was built in 1855. It is no longer standing. Unlike this example, homes in this style are usually asymmetrical. Note the classical roof line and all those round-top windows!

Figure 6. Italianate 1840-1885. 201 Huron Avenue, Port Huron. Photo from http://www.porthuronhighschool.info/class_custom3.cfm

Figure 7. St. Joseph Catholic Church, 1331 7th Street, Port Huron. Word is that the unique (for this area) ceramic roof will be replaced.

Figure 8. Richardsonian Romanesque ~1877-1900. An example from Newark, Ohio, the old Sheriff’s quarters and jail built in 1889.

Figure 9. Richardsonian Romanesque, a local example. It was not unusual for commercial buildings in this style to be primarily brick. A Port Huron Commercial Block in the Richardson Romanesque style. This building had delightful organic detailing in the stone elements. It was called the Baer Block (after builder Charles Baer) and had a bear relief at the entrance. Built in 1891-92, it very very sadly and completely burned in 1922.

Figure 10. Italian Renaissance Revival 1890-1935. Example in Chicago, from architecturestyles.wordpress.com.

* The Gratiot Inn’s last summer season was in 1969, and new owners converted parts of the Inn into condominiums in 1970-1971. Source: various contemporary Times Herald articles.  Also, many news articles quote people who say that the Gratiot Inn was built over the ashes of the Windermere Hotel, but that simply isn’t true.  It doesn’t help at all that the condominiums were named Windermere for some strange reason.  The Windermere was on a different property and burned in 1920, and the Gratiot Inn was opened in 1917.

This post was expanded to include Romanesque Revival, and slightly edited, on October 20, 2017.

Beloved Community Leader, Stanley McFarland

After spending some time researching people from the past, it would be hard not to notice how some people are remembered fondly at passing, and others not so much. Some well-known people in the community get their obligatory obituaries, tersely written, while others get a long and detailed one, splashed with kind words and compliments; and, memorials besides the obituary are found.*

Stanley McFarland (The Times Herald, February 24, 1940, page one).

A case in point is that of Stanley McFarland, 1879-1940. One could say he was a beautiful man who led a beautiful life; I say that he appears to have been a rare, super-fine human being. The following information is from his obituary in The Times Herald (February 24, 1940, pages 1 and 5). Following that, two memorials that anyone would be proud of are quoted in full; please read them to learn more about this example of a man.

Stanley was 60 when he died, having been laid low by a virulent infection that had started in his ear; apparently surgery made it worse. He had come to live in old Fort Gratiot as a boy when his parents, John and Catherine McFarland, moved here from Ontario (Port Hope), Canada. He grew to be 6’4” and was an “outstanding” athlete, being “an exceptionally good tennis player.” He was a director of the YMCA for some years. Stanley was known for an extraordinary mathematical ability, where “he could add large columns of figures in his head more rapidly than other clerks could do by using the adding machines. His answers to mathematical problems were always found to be accurate.” But he wasn’t just brilliant at adding numbers. He was highly regarded for his ability to analyze whole and difficult financial reports and regurgitating them in an easily understood way to others. He seemed pretty brilliant and inquisitive in general, as he traveled by car throughout the country, delighting in learning all about different areas. Continue reading

Hometown Architect, Walter H. Wyeth

By Vicki Priest, July 2017 (c)

[Author’s note: All published material here is copyrighted. If referencing this article in your own work, give credit where credit is due. Original research that is shared at this site is about 99.9% uncompensated. Cite the author, cite PHAHPA, and consider making a donation. This note is made due to the use of the group’s work (including modified images) by others, who make it seem like their own work; this has led to a reduced amount of publicly shared work. Thank you.]

Walter Wyeth, 1964 (The Times Herald, page 3).

Walter Wyeth was one of the most prolific architects (if not the most) in Port Huron and St. Clair County during the first half of the twentieth century. He designed Sperry’s, the county courthouse (which has been added on to) and the St. Clair Inn/Hotel, a National Register-listed property, amongst many other buildings that are are still standing–or not.

Now, depending on how you think of “hometown,” some may think it amiss that I describe Walter as a “hometown” architect. He was not originally from Port Huron or even St. Clair County, but Illinois. Of Port Huron, Walter said it was “this beautifully-situated town on a river surpassed by few, if any.”i His love of Port Huron and decision to move here, marry a local young lady (who also had not been born here), and stay here for the rest of his life, is “hometown” enough for me. Historically, of course, everyone who wasn’t a local Native American was an immigrant and made Port Huron their hometown when they stayed; and Port Huron is definitely a city of immigrants (especially Canadians). Continue reading

New Pages: I Love Your Rear and Wish List

Hello wonderful supporters and readers.  As you hopefully know already, we’ve been incorporated as a nonprofit in Michigan and are working toward 501(c)3 status (currently, we’d like at least one more board member to file our forms, and more on that if you want to message us).  So, we’re a fledgling organization with very little funds and need all the free promotions we can get.  That includes sharing our posts from here or from our Facebook page. If you love Port Huron history and the historic built environment, please share our information with others!  It’s discouraging (and odd) how very few people do in fact share about us (as a newer person that has come to this area and experiencing this disconnect, it is not surprising at all that so much has been demolished already).  We will be conducting studies, of course, nominating buildings and districts to registers, publishing a journal (hopefully!) for authors covering the history and built environment of the Thumb area, and more.  To do that takes support.

In any case, one of our new pages is called “I Love Your Rear,” where we’ll post the backs of buildings and then compare them to the fronts.

What does the front of this building look like?

Rear view of the St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Store on 24th St (1335), Port Huron.

The second page, Our Wish List (a subpage of About Us), will have–what else?–things the organization needs.  All donations will be tax-deductible retroactively (for example, donations made this year will still be tax-deductible even if we don’t obtain 501(c)3 status until 2018, although we have no intention to wait that long).

Thanks so much for reading this far, and for any support you can give or do!

Myths and Benefits of Saving Places

It may not look like it initially, but the images below are high quality and can be read if selected.  The original print-outs they’re from weren’t the best, however, thus the washed-out color.  Better quality will be had in the future, and hopefully with a real website we will have links to these in pdf format.  In the meantime, please read them and use them if you’d like. Any revised editions will be posted when they’re available.  Just click on the pages to see them full-size (you’ll have to click on the image again, or use your browser’s zoom, in order to read them).  Thanks!

 

Myths About Saving Places by PHAHPA. If you use this, please give us credit (if printed out, simply leave footer in place). Thank you.

Benefits of Saving Places by PHAHPA. If you use this, please give us credit (if printed out, simply leave footer in place). Thank you.

Older Michigan SHPO Brochure is Still Fantastic

I’ve been preparing a double-sided informational handout regarding historic preservation, and ran across an older (undated) Michigan SHPO brochure that is very much worth remembering and reading.  It doesn’t look that old to me, but it includes information about the state tax incentive program, which hasn’t been active for years.  The point being, however, that I think the brochure was well-conceived and well-written, so I’m reproducing most of it here (I added the two color photos).  I hope you find it informative and inspirational!  A copy of it online, in its original form, can be found here.

Building a Future with Historic Places

Historic places define communities and define Michigan.

What Historic Preservation Does for You

Transforms Communities Throughout Michigan, buildings once abandoned or underappreciated and underutilized can be transformed into vibrant structures that attract people to downtowns. Once rehabilitated, these structures can make enormous contributions to Michigan’s economic revitalization. A prime example is the Grand Rapids Water Filtration Plant, a utilitarian building converted to office and residential space. The 45,000 square-foot structure sat vacant for 15 years. The DeVries Companies, using historic preservation tax credits, rehabilitated the building.

Clear Water Place, a recycled water filtration plant (1430 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, http://devriescompanies.com/property/1430-monroe-ave-nw-grand-rapids-mi/).

Inspires Your Neighbors  One historic rehabilitation in a neighborhood can be a catalyst. State Historic Preservation Tax Credits can breathe new life into neighborhoods where neglected rental properties as well as owner-occupied homes have deteriorated. A large gray house in Kalamazoo’s South Street Historic District known as ‘the gray battleship,’ with a reputation as a crack house and an eyesore, set a new tone in the neighborhood when new owners rehabilitated the house using state historic preservation tax credits. In the process they inspired other owners in the neighborhood to do the same.

Invites You Downtown  Michigan’s Main Streets provide small business entrepreneurs with the space to do business. The State Historic Preservation Office along with the Michigan Main Street Center, a sister agency in the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), works with communities to target the revitalization and preservation of their traditional commercial districts. The Michigan Main Street program encourages the rehabilitation of downtown buildings, investment in downtown businesses, and a desire to live, work and play downtown.

Connects You to the Four Tops, Father Marquette and Henry Ford  These Michigan history icons are just a few of the people associated with some 1,800 historic above-ground and archaeological sites in Michigan listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Four Tops performed in the African American resort community of Idlewild, a historic district of more than 1000 properties. Father Jacques Marquette had a mission at what is now St. Ignace. Idlewild and the mission site are both listed in the National Register of Historic Places, as are multiple sites associated with Henry Ford. Historic preservation doesn’t just connect us to icons, however. The National Register of Historic Places recognizes places significant in our past that are associated with people who made Michigan, some of them just like you.

Informs You About the Past Underground and Underwater  Archaeology is a source of information about the past, similar to archival documents, but different as well. Artifacts and other evidence provide information about 12,000 years of Native American history before written records were created. Archaeology also offers insights not available in written documents for the past 400 years of Michigan history since the arrival of Europeans. There are more than 20,000 archaeological sites recorded in Michigan, including Native American camp and village sites, Jesuit mission sites, fur trading posts, logging camps, farm complexes, and shipwrecks on Michigan’s Great Lakes bottomlands. The identification and protection of archaeological sites is crucial to preserving a source of information vital to our understanding of Michigan’s past.

Values Your Modernism  Michigan’s impressive twentieth century design history creates an image for our state, based on the vibrant, creative auto and furniture design that spilled over into architecture and urban design. That history is the foundation for Michigan’s design industry today. The Michigan Modern project focuses on modern architecture from 1940 to 1970. Michigan Modern, funded through a federal Preserve America grant, is a research-intensive step to claiming Michigan’s rightful position as an international leader in modern design.

One of Port Huron’s own Moderns by Dow, the Henry McMorran Memorial Sport Arena and Auditorium. http://www.michiganmodern.org/buildings/henry-mcmorran-memorial-sports-arena-and-auditorium

The historical and cultural foundations of the Nation should be preserved as a living part of our community life and development in order to give a sense of orientation to the American people.

National Historic Preservation Act of 1966

Helps Your Environment  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, roughly one-third of landfill waste comprises construction and demolition debris. Historic rehabilitation and the adaptation of an existing building for a new use minimizes the amount of debris in landfills and takes advantage of the embodied energy of the materials, which typically consumes less energy than new materials. The State Historic Preservation Office promotes using existing materials as much as possible and replacing them with like materials when necessary. The SHPO awarded a federal Certified Local Government grant to the city of Kalamazoo, which partnered with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and trained unemployed and underemployed contractors to rehabilitate wood windows as an alternative to replacement. In addition, SHPO staff educates communities receiving federal weatherization funds about the possibilities for rehabilitation and weatherization.

Keeps Your Lights On  Lighthouses are synonymous with Michigan, which has more than any other state. Driving throughout the Great Lakes State, you cannot help but notice lighthouses along the shorelines and the Save Our Lights license plates on the cars of Michigan drivers. Revenue from the sale of the lighthouse license plates funds the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program, which supports the rehabilitation of these important structures. Since 2000 more than $1 million dollars in grants have been awarded.

Builds Your Future  Michigan communities are constantly changing and evolving. Through planning and protection, the SHPO works with individuals and communities to ensure that Michigan’s important historic resources, which define us, are part of future growth. Historic preservation can be an important part of community and economic planning and development efforts. The SHPO builds partnerships and encourages reinvestment in historic neighborhoods and downtowns so the best of Michigan’s heritage is preserved while fostering long-term economic growth and stability. Through its role in the implementation of federal and state preservation law, the SHPO is a key factor in the timely and efficient release of public funds while protecting cultural resources.

 

The Second Empire Style of Architecture in Port Huron

[This post was last updated on March 13th, 2017]

I love the Second Empire style of architecture.  I can’t say for sure why I like it so much, but I imagine it might be due to these attributes of the style:  solid homes often of brick; funky mansard roofs with many ornate dormers (the roof and dormers very often combine square and curvilinear elements, which is something I’m attracted to when it comes to design), and; basically, an overall look that is especially distinctive when it comes to architecture.  A lot of houses have shared and varied style features, but Second Empire is usually just that–Second Empire (or, as referred to historically, “French Roofed” or “Mansard Roof”). Many houses, through time, lose their stylistic features because those features were really just ornament and are eventually removed, but with Second Empire, much of its distinctiveness comes from the structure itself.

Port Huron, having either attracted or grown a population of wealthy-enough persons to afford building in the new and popular style from Paris, seems to have had a goodly number of handsome Second Empire buildings (we’ll not likely to ever know how many were actually built, however).  The Second Empire style began in the 1850s, but it really took off in the United States after the Civil War.  It was the rage to construct government buildings in this style, and fashion-conscious home builders caught the bug.  It may be that it was the most widely built house style during the decade of the 1870s, and it was most popular in the East and Midwest (it is rare in the South).  It was a strong representative of the “Age of Enterprise” (or “Age of Energy”), 1865-1885, although most architects felt it old-fashioned by 1876.  This period was significant to Port Huron’s growth, as it was in so many other places in the US; it was the time when fortunes were made.

But that era is long gone, and, unfortunately, so are most of the Second Empire buildings that the era represented.  Even worse, the best examples of the style are the ones that have been destroyed.  It’s important, then, for us to search for ways to ensure that the remaining examples are preserved.  Below are images of known Second Empire buildings in Port Huron; as a complete survey of Port Huron and the adjacent municipalities has not been done, any Second Empire homes that you, the reader, can point out to PHAHPA will be added here and to our inventory (and we’d highly value any suggestions or information you provide!).

Second Empire Buildings that are now Gone

The original City-County building, built 1873 (the county seat moved from St. Clair to Port Huron in 1871). Wings were added and Second Empire style elements removed (unfortunately) in 1896, and it was razed after a fire in 1949. (From 1876 Standard Atlas of St. Clair County, p 3.)

The older center of the original city county building, 1946. The photo brings out details that the drawing above, and even old black & white photos, don’t really bring out.  From the Sawyer Collection, Port Huron Museum.

Water Works building, constructed in 1872 (from Art Work of St. Clair County, 1893, no page).

A xerox copy (of what generation?) of a photo of the Johnstone-Reed house, now gone (except for some portions that were integrated into the American Legion hall that now sits at the Sixth and Wall streets property) (on file in the Michigan Room, St. Clair County Public Library).

The Johnstone house as depicted in the county’s 1876 atlas (p 26).

James Goulden house that used to stand on the west side of Pine Grove Avenue at Glenwood. I just adore (love!) this house, yet it’s gone, and for nothing; an abandoned and ugly gas station had replaced it. What does this say about our culture?

The Goulden House as depicted in the 1876 county atlas (p 6).

317 Seventh St, Port Huron, demolished

1317 Seventh Street, Port Huron. The Catholic church that demolished it, which is on an adjacent lot, even took over the address of this razed house.  This stood within the local Olde Town Historic District.

This home was located just north of Chestnut Street, on the east side of Military Street (1326), and was apparently built by Henry Howard of the Howard Lumber Company (Bob Davis, personal communication March 10, 2017, and 1898 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, page 13).   (Image from the 1897 booklet, “A Greeting from Port Huron, Michigan,” p 22).   The Women’s Life Insurance Society building is there now, itself a historic structure.  At the present it isn’t known if they razed the Howard house to build their structure, or if it had burned.  If it was demolished, then I opine that that would represent a sad situation.  Either reuse irreplaceable structures, or build elsewhere.

The McMorran Murphy house/mansion, which used to stand on south Military Street. Astoundingly, demolished by nuns after it was charitably donated to them. Arguably the finest historic house in Port Huron, simply razed because of a single party’s self-interested decision. Unbelievable.

An unusual Second Empire formerly located at “Erie Square.” That whole block of buildings was removed to make a parking lot, but has recently made way for the Blue Water Area Transit Center (which added insult to injury by eliminating virtually all free parking for downtown businesses in that vacinity). In Blue Water Reflections, page 170, it is said that this Second Empire structure was “considered one of the most handsome old structures in the city.”  (From the Sawyer Collection, Port Huron Museum.)

Second Empire Buildings that are Still Standing

Boynton house on Huron Avenue, from 1893 (Art Work of St. Clair County, no page). This house is very elaborate, with possible added Queen Anne design elements. This house still stands, although a bit altered (especially the front 1st floor windows)–see photo below.

1005 Huron, the Boynton house as it looks today. What a difference the color and decorative elements make!

1013 Huron, Port Huron, still stands today.  The roof of this house is very elaborate and the dormer design is very elaborate and rare.  A tiny portion of the exterior walls can be seen in the original photo of the Boynton house (its neighbor), indicating that the entire house was very elaborate.  I wonder how much remains beneath that newer siding?

1305 Seventh Street, a huge example that is still standing but much altered.  To see a photo of this house as it looked originally would be an eye-opener, I do believe.

A one and a half story Second Empire that still stands, at 7th and Union streets.

It would be interesting to find out if this tiny Second Empire was really this dull-looking originally. A Google Street View image (from 2013, but the house was viewed on 03-09-17), Ontario Street at Stanton Street.

General Sources

Burnell, Mary C., Marcaccio, Amy.  Blue Water Reflections: A Pictorial History of Port Huron and the St. Clair River District. Virginia Beach: Donning Company Publishers, 1983.

McAlester, Virginia Savage.  A Field Guide to American Houses.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.

Roth, Leland M.  A Concise History of American Architecture.  New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1979.

Smeins, Linda E.  Building an American Identity: Pattern Book Homes & Communities 1870-1900.  Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press, 1999.

The Gutting of Gratiot Avenue at the Blue Water Bridge

One day I came across a photo from 1893 showing a group of retail/office buildings on Gratiot Avenue (north Port Huron), which was still dirt.  I was very curious about where exactly this block used to be.  Looking at early directories wasn’t very helpful at first, but thankfully, Pauli’s 1894 bird’s eye view map gave a clue.

The group of buildings on a portion of Gratiot Avenue on this map fairly matched the proportions of those shown in the photo.   And then after betting that the photo matched the map in that area, a light switched on in my head.  One of those buildings is still standing today, and it was posted at this site previously.  Why only the one building was saved when all the buildings around (including to the east and west) were razed, is something I’d love to find out.  Some day.  One thing is all too clear, though; much of this area of Port Huron seems to have been demolished for nothing.

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Tax Credits that Help Restore Historic Buildings Threatened

Astounding photo of the top of the Metropolitan Building, Detroit, which is being rehabilitated. Photo by Elizabeth Beale, as HistoricDetroit.org.

Astounding photo of the top of the Metropolitan Building, Detroit, which is being rehabilitated. Photo by Elizabeth Beale, at HistoricDetroit.org.

Historic Tax Credits, granted to property owners with approved rehabilitation of historic (and in some cases, simply older) buildings, are under threat by the new administration in Washington DC. There are two very well compiled fact sheets about the Historic Tax Credit program, and I invite you to check them out (links display first authors): Historic Tax Credit Coalition and Preservation Action.

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Old house, new look. And, PHAH&PA is now on Facebook

Hello all!  As we move toward officialdom, we’ll be adding to our online presence (of course) and, eventually this site will be moved.  We would love to have you visit our new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/porthuronpreservation/ ; hopefully it will prove beneficial to you.  Below, our most recent post is copied.  New isn’t always better, new is too often regressive.

“Here is a powerful example of what has happened in Port Huron, and what has happened in our country generally. This house, estimated to have been built in the mid-1890s, is a regular-sized home on a regular street in Port Huron (Willow St). It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? The owners had the builders pay attention to detail because–why else?– those things mattered. Look at the second recent photo. Detail no longer matters, and it seems clear that uglifying it (and the neighborhood) is perfectly acceptable. Today it is a rental, divided up inside.

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Preservation Laws: How is Michigan doing? Part 1

When reviewing the historic resources in Port Huron that still stand, and those that don’t (along with the how, when, and why of their demise), a person can easily assume that no historic preservation laws actually exist in Michigan.  The non-federally owned properties that are protected to a certain extent here are those that people have simply wished to be protected, and, those persons had some ability to get that protection in place.  What about all the other properties that are worthy of protection, but aren’t?  What about all those that were worthy of protection in the past, but are now gone?  If protection laws exist, why have they been implemented so capriciously or subjectively, at least in the Port Huron area?

Preservation laws and ordinances are based on lots of things, like federal law and enabling laws passed by the states.  A good way to learn about them is to start at the “top” and work “down.”  Often, federal laws begat state Laws, and enabling laws stem from those  (enabling laws are those that allow the legal passage of local, instead of statewide, protective ordinances).

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McLaren Hospital impacts to historic Port Huron, preliminary notes

Big chunks of Port Huron’s historic environment have been taken through the rise of (1) the central city and county governmental offices and (2) St. Clair County Community College.  But McLaren Hospital and its sphere of influence make up a third big chunk.  (Of course, much has been lost outside of these chunks as well.)

Recently, a nice Canadian museum volunteer inquired about a house that formerly stood across from Pine Grove Park, and it accelerated my interest in discovering what buildings used to stand in place of today’s McLaren Hospital.  If you know Port Huron, you know that the hospital is not the only reason that historic buildings have been razed in that area, but that the medical offices which sprung up behind it have cleared out some of the city’s historic assets, too.  So what are the damages?  A quick (preliminary) look at the issue shows that the damages are fairly extensive, if such a measure can be named or rated.  An in-depth study should be done to help us understand what this part of Port Huron was like in the city’s past.

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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.

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