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.
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.
When images from the original page 11 become available, they will be added to this post.
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!
Please leave comments below! Winners will be announced on April 20th.
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!
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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- One submission per person only.
- 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.
- Email your submission to email@example.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.
- Have fun 🙂 (questions? write to firstname.lastname@example.org)
- 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.
We’re not advocating ancestor worship here at PHAHPA, but the report below–scanned to images so you can click on them to see large-scale–seems to be advocating the opposite. While Port Huron has lost many buildings to fires, it has lost a great many to redevelopment and blight removal. This 54-year-old report shows the attitude of the times, that the sturdy and artful buildings of downtown were “antiquated” and therefore ready for demolition. It is proud of the demolitions and of the building owners who otherwise covered up their old buildings’ “rustic” facades. When do you see buildings like that being made today, with actual brick, hardwoods, marble, etc.? Continue reading
Before winter set in, anyone who noticed the paint being removed from the bricks of the old 3-story building at the northeast corner of Huron Avenue and Quay Street may have gotten a twinge of excitement about it. Well, anyone who appreciates the warmth and human scale of old buildings, anyway. And excitement is justified, since the brick facade will be put back in its natural state and repointed. Plain windows that had replaced some of the original arched ones will be removed and arched ones re-integrated. Missing cornice (most of which is gone) will be replaced. (The more recent and modern treatment at the first floor will remain, however.) Continue reading
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.
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.
* 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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
[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
Second Empire Buildings that are Still Standing
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.