Downtown to Get Major Improvement: Rehabilitation of the Ballentine Building

Before winter set in, anyone who 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.)

And that’s not all, of course, that will be repaired or retained. The smaller building connected at the north, where a Jimmy John’s now is, is part of this project also. There are four addresses here: 202, 204, 206, and 208. And Larry Jones, partner in Landmark Port Huron with Brent Marcell, proudly shared that his belief that 204-208 would be accessible via one hall some day has now come true. The (unfinished) hall in question is behind Jimmy John’s, but it will also be the rear passage for whatever store will lease the large space next door.

With renovations like this project, where the old is appreciated and married to modern conveniences and complimentary aesthetics, energy happens; the Vintage Tavern is one local example. Regarding city-wide successes, Seattle is an early and prime example, but there are many other downtown success stories in the U.S., like Fullerton, California.  As Larry shared, many have remarked to him that Port Huron could be like Holland (Michigan), or Traverse City, so why isn’t it? He and his partner are helping to affect Port Huron’s transition to a vibrant pedestrian hub, though, with Larry adding that if you just take your foot off, things’ll spring up.

As has been typical with rehabilitations in downtown Port Huron, the bottom floor will hold a mix of nonresidential establishments, while the 2nd and 3rd floors will be apartments. They’ll range from roomy 2-bedroom to small efficiency units (there will be 19 total). When asked about the possibility of condominiums instead, Larry said that it would be good to have ownership be a part of the residential mix downtown. The bottom floor will also hold some practical-use residential accoutrements like a laundry, and they’re hoping to include a children’s area in the basement. While most of the spaces were still maze-like with two-by-fours all over (that is, unfinished walls) when I visited, Landmark is opening up the building on April 10th for an open house. You can learn more about the project through the photos and their captions below (taken March 13th, 2018), but you can go and see it for yourself soon as well.

Google street view image, 2015, Ballentine building, 202-206 Huron Ave (at Quay Street), Port Huron.

(Also, more details about the project can be found in this article from November 2017, Jones Lines Up Financing for 19 New Lofts.)

Let’s start with what much of the building looks like now–the “before” project shot. This is so that it can be compared to the later “after” shot.  (Unless otherwise noted, all photos taken by Vicki Priest.)

Closer view of the Quay Street facade.  This building dates from 1875.

An old Arden’s store (former tenant) sign in the hall of 208 Huron Ave.  Historically, the building is known as the Ballentine Block, as the Ballentine family built it and had a store in the bottom floor for a great many years.

This is a very large sliding metal door that will be retained in a bedroom of one of the larger units. The loading open space was closed, of course, and this will be hung to the wall.

The large back unit which will be one of the only units with a outdoor patio. Nooks were added where a infill block wall used to be. The resting door is 4 foot wide and historic, and will be used at a closet.

Historic metal ceiling tile that will be put back in place. Such metal ceilings, of all different styles throughout the building, will be saved and reapplied.

This large cable hoist is in the short stairwell that can be seen in the photo of the room above, and it is being retained.

Amazingly, this old elevator, installed in 1908, will be updated and retained.

Detail of old wallpaper that still exists above the elevator at the 2nd floor.

Decorative metal that covers large beams at the third floor ceiling is being retained.

Decorative limestone features found during work on the building will now be integrated into the exterior plans.

One efficiency unit gets this view, via three windows, of the stairwell and open area of the adjoining Vintage Tavern.

And just for fun, a sample view from the third floor–this is looking south from the Quay Street side.

View south from third floor along Quay Street, on a snowy day.


History of Port Huron from an 1876 Atlas

For reference purposes, the following word-for-word history of Port Huron (city) is provided here.  From the Combination Atlas Map of St. Clair County Michigan . . .  by Everts & Stewart, Philadelphia, 1876, page XVIII.


In the year 1819, when the Hon. D. B. Harrington came to this place to make it his abiding place, nothing but a vast wilderness met the eye on every side.  The Chippewa tribe of Indians were the occupants of this region; and during the fishing and hunting season they congregated at the mouth of the Black River in large numbers; and their huts and wigwams dotted the shores for a long distance north and south.  There were at this time a few French families scattered around, whose names are mentioned in the early history of the County, and who at times were seriously annoyed by the Indians.  The propensity to steal was largely developed among them.

The first house ever built in Port Huron, or, as it was then called, Desmond, was located near the Hogan House, in Court Street, and was occupied by Anselm Petit.  The second building was occupied by a half-breed named John Riley, and was located on the site of William Stewart’s hardware store.  These two buildings comprised the village in 1819.  There were no inhabitants north of Fort Gratiot at that date, on the eastern slope of the lower peninsula, with the exception of three or four families scattered along the Black River and Mill Creek.  On the Canada side a wilderness prevailed, with nothing to indicate the presence of humanity except the wigwams of the Indians.

The village of Port Huron was originally in Desmond Township, embracing all that part of St. Clair county north of Township 5.

The first meeting held to effect its organization was at Fort Gratiot, on the first Monday in May, 1826, when the following officers were elected:  Martin Pickens, Supervisor; Jeremiah Harrington and Isaac Davis, Assessors; Morris McGarvey, Isaac Davis, and Richard Sansbury, Highway Commissioners; Reuben Dodge, Lewis Facer, and Francis Duchein, Constables.  The first village plat was made in 1835, by Mr. E. Petit, and was called Peru.  The next made was in the fall of 1835, by D. B. Harrington, and the lots sold by White & Harrington.

In 1837 the third piece of land was platted and sold by Major John Thorn, and called Paris.

The name of Port Huron is accredited to Mr. D. B. Harrington in 1835; and the projectors of the other village plats followed his example, and the whole assumed the name which it has since borne.

The first school-house erected was by Francis P. Browning, and was located on the west side of the park and north of Black River.  The first hotel built was of logs, in 1827, on Quay Street.

Early map of Port Huron showing the park west of which was built the first school. This early era area of Port Huron is now taken up by McMorran plaza and the community college.
Detail from the 1859 Geil map of Macomb and St. Clair counties.

In 1833 the road now known as Military Street was built, and a bridge erected across Black River.  In 1832, during the Black Hawk war, the citizens of Port Huron rendered effective service in palisading the fort.  John B. Phillips built the first steamboat at this place.

The village of Port Huron became a city under a charter obtained April 8, 1857, at which time the City Council met for the first time, W. L. Bancroft presiding as Mayor.  The city of Port Huron of to-day looms up grandly beside the little straggling hamlet that nestled on the shores of the St. Clair River forty years ago.  The natural advantages possessed by this place surpass by far those of any other section of the County, and it is only a question of time when this city shall take a prominent position among the first cities of the State in population and business interests.

It has a very large lake and river traffic, and the great railroad lines centering here bring a heavy trade to this point.

The Grand Trunk, and Chicago and Lake Huron Railroads on the Port Huron side, and the Great Western Railroad on the Sarnia side, give to it an air of busy importance.  For Gratiot is located on the northern limit of the city, and was occupied in 1814 by a detachment of United States regulars and militia, under Major Forsyth of the regular army.  Captain Gratiot was the engineer officer who built the first fort, and after whom it is named.  Its original cost was three hundred dollars.  In 1822 it was abandoned, and the buildings turned over to two Presbyterian missionaries named Hart and Hudson, who occupied them until 1828, when they were reoccupied by the Government, and the buildings and grounds were enlarged and strengthened.  The fort has since been occupied as a military post, with the exception of a period during the Mexican war and the war of the Rebellion [the Civil War].  The date of the first village organization is not clearly established, but from the most reliable information obtained, it was incorporated about the year 1842, and the first paper published was in 1835 or 1836, by D. B. Harrington, and was called the “Lake Huron Observer.”  The most important business interests here are the cutting of lumber and ship-building, furnishing employment to large numbers of men.

The marine interests of the city are large; many officers and sailors residing here with their families, and many vessels being owned here.  A large wholesale trade is also being rapidly developed with the country north and west, especially in the grocery and hardware lines.  This is the market for the produce of St. Clair, and large portions of Sanilac, Lapeer, and Macomb Counties.

The city has a population of eight thousand three hundred, and is rapidly increasing.  It is the County seat of St. Clair, and contains among its public buildings and enterprises three public or graded schools, two on the south side of Black River, and one on the north side; a very handsome structure occupying the site of the one burned in 1873, with two more contracted for, and to be speedily erected, one in the Fifth and the other in the Sixth Wards.  A new city hall and court-house, and engine-house on Water Street, a new custom-house of elegant design, Pine Grove Park, city cemetery, now water-works building, all owned by the city, except the custom-house, which is a Government building.  The fire department consists of one stream and one hand engine.  The water-works are of the Holly pattern, with four engines, having a pumping capacity of three million gallons per day.  The city is divided into six wards, with regularly laid out streets and fine side-walks, principally of wood.  There are street railways, and the city is well supplied with gas.

There are eight churches, two large iron bridges spanning the Black River, two lines of ferry-boats plying between Port Huron and Sarnia, Masonic, Odd-Fellow, Good Templar, and other lodges, besides stores, hotels, and shops in large numbers.  The United States Signal Service Bureau have also established a station here, and render excellent service to the shipping interests.



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,

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.

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

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

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 ; 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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Early Michigan Maps: 1825, 1831, 1839, 1842

Fort Gratiot and future Port Huron area of the 1825 map by O. Risdon.

Fort Gratiot and future Port Huron area of the 1825 map by O. Risdon.  The native name of the short-lived Chippewa reservation is provided here, Aumichuanaw.

I wanted to share some historic maps with you that are held by the Michigan State Libraries.  These are viewable online, so you can go to the links and see them in detail to your heart’s content.  The first two are from the extraordinary map of the surveyed areas of Michigan Territory, as published by Orange Risdon in 1825 (engraved by Rawdon, Clark & Co of Albany, New York).  Reproduced here are portions of the blue water area.  To view the entire map, held by Michigan State University, please go to its source url:

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St. Clair County Histories (Part Two): History of St. Clair County, Michigan, 1883 (Andreas)

Port of St. Clair County map that is included in Andreas, page 16.

A portion of the St. Clair County map that is included in Andreas, page 16.

by Vicki Priest (c)

This is a continuation of St. Clair County Histories, A Consideration of Subscription Financing and Accuracy, looking at some factors that should provide an idea of the reliability of what locals know as Andreas’ history of St. Clair County (Michigan).  Author credibility and biographies are emphasized.  This second part in the series may be the longest one–indeed, it is quite long–but I hope you find it informative, if not amusing.

First, a note on the authorship of History of St. Clair County.  Without some background information, the authorship and even publisher of this book are unclear.  “Chicago, A. T. Andreas & Co, 1883” is found on the title page, with no other authorship or publisher obviously provided (an available reprint provides the author as “anonymous”).  The Preface is written by Western Historical Company (WHC), which was a publisher of such works and is known as such; specific authors are not mentioned, including Andreas.  Normally, WHC books have that firm’s name and date where Andreas & Co. have theirs (a note about the book being entered into the Library of Congress is usually inside, too).  Searched collections of this company’s works didn’t yield the History of St. Clair County, Michigan, and writings on A. T. Andreas don’t normally yield this title either, making this history more obscure than those known by either author or publisher (in addition, Ristow 1966 doesn’t provide it in his list of Andreas’ county histories).  However, it turns out that Andreas and WHC are one and the same (at least at this time)!  It seems odd that he would use two different company names together, but in any case, Andreas is attributed as the author even though he may have written very little of the book.[1]  He appears to have been the compiler and final editor, but more on that below.

Part of title page of the 1881 History of Northern Wisconsin.

Part of title page of the 1881 History of Northern Wisconsin.

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