Wm. Soutar Collection, from Friends, 1871 – 1878

As briefly written of in a previous post, William Soutar was lumberman Wm. Jenkinson’s private secretary in Port Huron for many years (City Directories, 1893-94, page 226, and 1899-1900, page 297). Although Soutar was connected to Jenkinson in some way by 1879, when he first appears in Port Huron a couple of years later he is a bookkeeper for Brooks & Joslyn (1883 City Directory, page 134; he is not listed in the previous 1881 directory, but that doesn’t tell us or not if he had actually moved here by then).  Previous to living in Port Huron, Soutar worked and lived in Saginaw, although his actual home was in Rattle Run, St. Clair County, where his wife and other family members lived.

From the other letters in the collection, we know that Soutar was from Newport on Tay, Fife (or thereabouts), Scotland. The three letters here appear to be the only ones from friends, although the collection has not yet been fully studied.  The collection, too, is what seems to be only one group of papers that was saved by someone and does not at all include all of Soutar’s correspondence.  The documents relating directly to William Jenkinson were already posted.  Future posts will include letters from his wife, Agnes, and letters from his family members back in Scotland.  What remains, business documents, will also be scanned and posted.

The Sim letter was in excellent shape and needed no enhancing, but the writing of the other two letters was very dim (especially Gowling’s) and the images here are enhanced ones.  While the images alone (with captions) are posted first, the texts will be typed up and added to this post at a later date.  The images are provided as .jpg and are clickable for large-scale viewing.  Please give credit to PHAHPA if you use them.

From H. Batchelor, 1877, page 1 of 4; mentions farm life and thoughts on lumbering investment.

From H. Batchelor, 1877, page 2 of 4; mentions thoughts on land and lumbering investment.

From H. Batchelor, page 3 of 4, 1877; more thoughts on lumbering investment and lumberers cutting quickly, no matter the market, over fire fears.

From H. Batchelor, page 4 of 4, 1877.

From Gowling (?), pages 1 and 4, 1878; regarding Soutar’s illness (1), and, (4) “Henry Howard has bought the Hibbard Mill,” mentions McMorran’s mill and the mills doing well, the National Bank moving to building across the street.

From Gowling (?), pages 2 and 3, 1878; thoughts on future position, work that doesn’t just put money in other men’s pockets, and moving permanently to Port Huron (2), and, (3) business doing better than it has for some time, railroads came or expanded quickly, Mr. Batchelor has moved, the Phoenix (?) burned down on Butler Street and the owners building a new brick block in its place (3).

From Charles Sims, relating to Boston, page 1 of 4, 1871.  The entire letter includes information about the conditions of employment in various parts of the country, and gives some details on amount of pay and costs of living.

From Charles Sim, page 2 of 4, relating to Boston, 1871.

From Charles Sim, page 3 of 4, relating to Boston, 1871.

From Charles Sim, page 4 of 4, relating to Boston, 1871.

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Wm. Jenkinson Letters to Wm. R. Soutar, 1879-1892

Portrait of William Jenkinson (in Andreas 1883, page 576.5).

Below are some letters and other items from the William Robert Soutar collection (used by permission from Lynne Secory).  All are either written by William Jenkinson (1834-1896), or pertain to him and his family.  A brief but very telling biography of Jenkinson is included below.

William Soutar was Jenkinson’s private secretary for many years, and even served as the estate’s secretary after his employer and friend’s death (City Directories, 1893-94, page 226, and 1899-1900, page 297). Although Soutar was connected to Jenkinson in some way by 1879, as evidenced by one of the letters here, when he first appears a couple of years later in Port Huron he is a bookkeeper for Brooks & Joslyn (1883 City Directory, page 134; he is not listed in the previous 1881 directory, but that doesn’t tell us or not if he had actually moved here by then).  From the other letters in the collection, we know that Soutar was from Newport on Tay, Fife (or thereabouts), Scotland.  In a letter from his parents, dated January 31, 1880 (#2.0207), the writer answers his inquiry about the Tay Bridge Disaster (1879) and tells him that none of his friends were on the train.

The documents are provided as .png images and clickable for full, large-scale viewing.  Please give credit to PHAHPA if you use them.

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“WILLIAM JENKINSON, manufacturer and dealer to pine lumber, is a native of the North of Ireland, and was born in 1834.  Upon reaching manhood, emigrated to the United States in 1853, and four years later came to Port Huron and engaged in buying white oak staves, and continued in that business for twenty years.  In 1874, he engaged in manufacturing pine lumber. He owns seven thousand acres pf pine land, and cuts from five to ten million feet annually; ships his lumber to Chicago, Buffalo, Rochester and other Eastern points.  He controls steamers and barges for freighting his lumber from the mills; he is a director and the largest stockholder in the First National Bank, and is largely interested in real estate and city property.  In 1856, Mr. Jenkinson was united in marriage to Miss Eliza M. Stettler, a native of Canada.  They have one daughter–Jennie” (History of St. Clair County, Michigan, A.T. Andreas 1883, page 577).  (Jennie later married Dr. Mortimer Willson.  It might be expected that Wm. Jenkinson’s house was built well, and no doubt it was, but it is no longer standing.)

February 18th, 1879, letter to Wm. Soutar. Envelopes in the collection from this time place him in either Sandusky, Ohio, or Saginaw, Michigan, while his home–where his wife lived–was in Rattle Run, St. Clair County, Michigan.  (#1.0074)

April 4th, 1881 letter to Soutar while in Saginaw, Michigan, with one subject seeming to address Soutar’s interest in moving to Port Huron. Since Port Huron is closer to Rattle Run, his interest in doing this would make sense. Wm Jenkinson’s simple calling card is included in this image also.  (#2.0294 and #2.0295)

July 8th, 1883 letter from Glasgow, Scotland. Please excuse that the pages are transposed.  (#2.0249)

Short letter from London, on their way to Rome via Liverpool. October 8th, 1883.  (#2.0199)

From San Francisco, after having visited Los Angeles. If you can decipher what Jenkinson is referring to regarding Mr. Upton, please leave a comment. Dated April 7, 1886.  (#2.0289)

A short letter letting Soutar know they were leaving and stopping at some other places before their expected arrival home on April 27th. Dates April 16th, 1886. Note the change in stationery during the 9 day interval.  (#1.0060)

You probably noticed that this letter from Jenkinson isn’t to Soutar, but to the president of Grand Trunk Elevator Company. As can be seen from the company stationery, Jenkinson was the treasurer. It is included because of its probably significance related to the company and to Botsford, and perhaps the rarity of the stationery. Why Soutar kept a few of these types of correspondence is not known. Dated January 3rd, 1887. I like Jenkinson’s endnote (and not because of the misspellings), “hope you will come home as Earley in the Spring as posable–remember I know nothing about an Elevator . . .”  (#1.0181)

This also is not a letter to Soutar, but included for any persons interested in the companies that are parties in the court case. Please see the district court (Detroit) summons for the names. Dated January 10th, 1888.  (#2.0209)

Dated March 6, 1891, this letter to Soutar was from Mexico City. They went sightseeing with the legate of Mexico and his wife (Mr. & Mrs. Butter?). I wonder if Mr. Soutar ever felt envious.  (#1.0100)

A bit longer letter with personal and business references. Note the testimonial on the hotel stationery–it’s no wonder health seekers rushed to California. This hotel is still in business, is a National Landmark, and the area is indeed nice; it must’ve been astounding when Jenkinson was there, however, without all the urban growth that now exists. Dated April 16th, 1891.  (#2.0201 and #2.0201A)

Eliza wrote this personal letter to the Soutars from Scotland, but what’s wonderful about this is that she sent heather from the Soutar’s homeland in the letter and its “shadow” is visible in the paper. A fitting ending to the Jenkinson correspondence within the Soutar collection. Dated September 15th, 1892.  (#1.0109)

Postcard Page Added

Hello everyone.  We added a new page for historic postcards, accessible from the top bar menu.  This post is an announcement only, and through time any new postcard images will be posted there, not here.  Please consider sharing post card images that you own with us, for public educational and research purposes; we will attribute all image “donations.”  Below are a few examples.

port huron postcard

County-City Building, postcard neither dated or mailed. Source: Vicki Priest

Huron Ave, Port Huron (east side of street, north of Black River, unless I am mistaken), 1913. Source: Wikipedia, Port Huron page; public domain.

The Jenkinson House as shown on a post card that was mailed in 1919. Source: Lynne Secory.

The Edward Petit House, Port Huron

The following article first appeared in Blue Water Healthy Living, and continues the research into the Petit family.  More research needs to be done in order to place the Edward Petit house in the best possible context, but what we know of the home so far clearly indicates its significance.


1426 Griswold Street, Port Huron. Photo (2016) by author.

By Vicki Priest (c) 2018

Some might say it’s fortuitous that an early home built by the first settled family of Port Huron is still standing. Some might also say that it’s quite amazing! While a few very old homes still grace our streets, many of course are gone. Some homes of very significant figures in the city’s history are no longer with us, notably Captain Moffat’s interesting home that stood near the library, Senator Conger’s house (and later, William Jenks’ second home) which used to grace the east side of Military Street where a vacant lot now languishes, the McMorran-Murphy mansion near the south end of town (also an empty lot), and Henry Howard’s house that stood where the Women’s Life building is. Akin to a soldier still standing amongst his fallen comrades, then, the Petit home at 1426 Griswold Street is made even more important by its rarity of survival.

The home is a two story brick Italianate built in 1859 or so by Edward Petit. Edward, born 1812 or 1813, was a son of Anselm Petit, who in historical accounts is afforded the distinction of being Port Huron’s “first white settler.” Edward made the first plat of the city, the “Peru” plat of 1835, and generally helped build up Port Huron until his death in 1875. Anselm, Edward, and Edward’s wife H. Victoria died in the home, and Marshal, one of Edward’s children who was also a city assessor for 23 years, lived in it as an adult for a time. So besides the house being one of the older residences in the city, it is made much more significant by those who built it and lived in it. Let’s get to know something of this early settlement family.

Anselm. Anselm (1776 to about 1862), a native of the Quebec area, came here as a very young man via Detroit in the early 1790s. Various historical accounts relate that he was the first nonnative to build a permanent type of house, of log, within the future city limits. The land the natives allowed him to farm and build on was south of the Black River’s mouth and down along the St. Clair River. He was eventually awarded the patent for the 19+ acre tract in 1825, when Michigan was still only a territory. We don’t know exactly what motivated Anselm to move to this particular wilderness area, but in a Times Herald article from June 17, 1872, he is said to have come with others for purposeful settlement, and it is often repeated that he was a fur trader. We don’t know much about him with certainty, but he did indeed farm.

In 1804 he married a young parish school teacher of Detroit, Angelique (or Angelica) Campau, and brought her to his humble home near the confluence of the Black and St. Clair rivers. For the first three births of their eight (known) children, they traveled to Detroit, but Edward, their fourth child, was born at their house here in 1812 or 1813. Not long after Edward’s birth the family was off to Detroit again, but for the less-optimistic purpose of fleeing native unrest before and during the War of 1812. After the war, Anselm is said to have built Port Huron’s first frame house, in 1819.

Edward. The builder of the Griswold Street home, Edward, made a name for himself in not only St. Clair County, but the upper thumb region. He had very little formal education, but became fluent in all three of the area’s languages: English, French, and the dialect of the local Native Americans. At some point the natives gave him the name Chief Maguatagenau (meaning unknown). He was an energetic and precocious youth, becoming a trader with Indians on both sides of the St. Clair at the age of 15. He had a trading post on the Cass River and in a feat of daring-do, he took a one-armed Indian guide with him to find a group of missing Indian families that other traders had unsuccessfully searched for.

He and his Indian guide went up to Sebewaing and then followed the lake all the way to White Rock, at which time their remaining food was a loaf of bread. Nevertheless, they kept the trek up and after five miles came upon the searched-for native families. The story goes that the Indians too had run out of food, and by both parties sharing what little they had left, the natives were happy to make trades that were quite advantageous to Edward. His employers, Gurdon and Ephraim Williams, were so delighted that they gave young Mr. Petit a huge raise. Edward’s adventures in the counties north of St. Clair included having a trading post on the Shebeon Creek, which he later moved to White Rock. How long he maintained that post is not known, but we do know that he operated a trading post in Port Huron in the 1830s (The Times Herald, May 16, 1891, page 6), and very probably longer.

In 1835, Edward platted his father’s homestead, which he called “Peru;” it was the first plat within the future City of Port Huron. No one knows why Edward called it “Peru.” There’s no known reason why he would name it after the South American country. Maybe it was a portmanteau of “Petit” and the word “Rue,” which in French means “thoroughfare.” Similarly, petit russeau means “small river.” So “Peru” could be both a play on words and “shorthand” for something like “Petit’s thoroughfare at the small river.” This is speculation, but it’s hard not to speculate about such an unusual first name for our city!

Even though Edward made the first plat, he was not averse to change and working with others for the common good. In 1838 he was one of the signers of the petition to the circuit court requesting that the then existing plats be recognized as the Village of Port Huron (the name Port Huron was apparently already the name of the established post office). This came after two big events of 1837: Michigan had been granted statehood and a severe financial panic gripped the nation, causing economic hardship until 1843.

In 1836, Edward purchased the land that was to become known as The Petit Farm, bounded by Griswold, 13th, 16th, and Petit streets. It may have been in the same year that Henriette Victoria Stephens (or Stevens) married Edward, as another Edward, who was born in 1837 but died in 1838, is buried in the family’s Lakeside Cemetery lot (39 of block G). Their second child Henry, named after his mother, was born in 1838 but kidnapped by Indians in 1842 and taken to Ohio. Henry later learned of his family in Port Huron, with the amazing story told in The Times Herald May 16th, 1891. Their third child, historically referred to as the oldest, was Victoria Louise (Smith); her dad called her Louisa. After Louisa’s birth Henriette Victoria had at least 4 more children (if the five additional burials in the family lot are her children, then she had 9 more!), including Marshal.

We don’t know all of Edward’s activities, or all his business ventures, but that’s not to say we don’t know anything. As mentioned, he grew crops on his property off of Griswold. Historically the property must have been quite nice, considering that Indian Creek still existed and ran through it. Edward appears to have sold the crops wholesale, and since he made trips to the Upper Peninsula to trade with the Indians there, he probably sold those items as well. For a short time—before he built the house at 1426 Griswold—the family lived in Disco, Macomb County (Mrs. Petit’s relatives lived in that county). The couples’ last child, John B. (or Jean Baptiste), was born there in 1857. Not long after John’s birth, or at least within a few years, the Petits moved back to Port Huron and built their 2-story brick house (this is according to Edward’s son Marshal). The home is not shown on an 1859 map of Port Huron, but since Anselm died in the home around 1862, we can surmise that the house was built some time between 1859 and 1862 (or, circa 1860).

Edward also built a brick business building (or a “block,” as referred to in those days) which is still standing at 914 Military Street. He had maintained his office in the upper floor. In 1874 he was involved with the “citizens’ movement,” a bipartisan effort that called for a nonpartisan ticket in the local elections. He died the next year, leaving a will that called for using some of his estate funds for the purpose of building an orphanage, but this was never done. The estate was divided among his living children (except Henry, who seems to have re-met his father shortly before his death): Louisa, Marshal, John, and Frank.

Marshal. Marshal (born 1849) was a spirited youth just like his father and grandfather. Anselm had struck out on his own early, coming to Port Huron as a teen. In turn, Anselm’s son Edward traded and trekked around the Thumb region and Canada when a teen. Continuing the tradition, Marshal at about the age of 15 ran off with his older cousin Edwin in an attempt to enlist for Civil War service.However, Edward caught Marshal in Detroit and promptly sent his son off to school in Toronto. Upon finishing at St. Michael’s there,Marshal continued his education at Eastman School of Business in Poughkeepsie, New York. But sitting around doing bookkeeping just wasn’t yet Marshal’s thing. While he helped his father sell produce for a time, he was soon traipsing about the wilds as a timber cruiser for various lumber companies.

In 1873 Marshal was wed to Kate M. Young and their first child was born in 1874 or 1875. They lived in another house in Port Huron for a while, but by 1881 Marshal is farming and living at the Griswold Street property. Later, he was bookkeeping for F. J. Haynes & Co. He seems to have found his stride in public-minded work, however, becoming Port Huron’s Chief of Police in 1896. He held this position until January 1903, leaving for apparently political reasons after having been recently reelected. Before becoming a County Undersheriff in 1909, Marshal kept himself busy in the lumbering business as well as having fun ventures into Box Alley Bowling. He not only sold the alleys but set them up in different locales, and even had a team: Petit’s Angels. Marshal was appointed to the position of city assessor in 1913 (which made him a member of the Board of Supervisors), a position he held for 23 years. Even after his long service he desired to stay active, so took on the role of Chief Probation Officer for both the county and city. He was doing this until shortly before his death in 1939.

By all accounts, Marshal was a very social and even entertaining person, and this may help to account for his list of well-known friends. To name a few, he was friends with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, State Attorney General and later Governor, Alex Groesbeck, and Governor Frank Fitzgerald.

The Edward Petit House in Perspective. Marshal and his family moved out of the family’s Griswold Street house in the fall of 1902, ending the Petit connection there. Since Louisa and her husband continued to live at the house for some time after Edward’s death, and then Marshal moved back in, the house was continuously occupied by 4 generations of the founding Petit family for about 43 years. As far as Petit houses go, it appears to be the oldest one remaining within the city limits which is connected to both Anselm and Edward. In itself, the house is one of the older homes around. It would be a shame to forget this old soldier or to let him fall. It would seem better to recognize him, to honor the local history that he represents, in some way.

 

SOURCES USED

Books: Andreas, A. T. A History of St. Clair County, Michigan (Chicago: A. T. Andreas & Co., 1883); Black, William W. A Souvenir in Half-tone: Port Huron in 1900 (Port Huron: self, 1900); Doyle, William. An American Pioneer: The Story of Early Port Huron and its First Settler (Port Huron: self, 1986); and Jenks, William Lee. St. Clair County, Michigan; Its History and Its People (2 vol.s) (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1912).

Directories: All available between 1871 and 1910.

Newspaper articles: Port Huron Daily Times, 1872, June 17, 1872, “A historical paper prepared by Mrs. B. C. Farrand, of this city, for the Pioneer Society of Detroit;” June 19, “The Times and Mr. Petit;” 1873, April 24, untitled entry regarding Mrs. Petit’s health; 1873, May 5, untitled entry on the death of Mrs. Petit; 1874. March 28, “The City Elections;” 1874, March 30, “A Card from Mr. Boynton;” 1875, March 20, “Edward Petit;” 1875, April 20, ad RE Petit Block; 1888, June 6, page 1, ad RE Petit Block; 1889, September 16, untitled public probate notice; 1891, May 16, page 6, “Romance of an Abduction;” 1892, December 21, page 6, untitled entry regarding Petit estate division; 1896, June 1, “Chief of Police;” 1902, June 3, “The Police Force;” 1902, October 3, untitled entry on the Petit family moving to Pine St. home; 1903, January 2, page 3, untitled entry on Petit and the Haynes company; 1904, December 19, 1904, “Expert Bowler;” 1905, January 10, “Petit’s Angels;” 1905, March 3, “Consolation Meeting;” 1905, October 6, 1905, “Box Ball Alley.” The Times Herald, Port Huron, 1920, July 20, house sale ad; 1939, May 15, “Death Ends Community Service of M. N. Petit;” 1939, May 16, “Marshall N. Petit” and “Marsh Petit;” 1946, August 11, “St. Clair County From Pioneer Days;” 1957, April 22, “To Raze Symbol of Bygone Era” [Moffat House]; 1966, June 19, “Early Thumb Settlers Recalled.”

Other: Estate of Edward Petit, Deceased. St. Clair County Probate Court, Calendar 3, No. 308, 1875; General Land Office Records via the Bureau of Land Management: Certificate No. 801, land grant (patent) to Anselm Petit, April 1st, 1825, and Certificate No. 14,614, land grant (patent) to Edward Petit, April 19th, 1837; Lakeside Cemetery Records, online search and personal communication with Lakeside Cemetery office (besides Doyle 1986, other genealogical sources were also checked, such as ancestry.com, familysearch.org, geni.com, and usgwarchives.net); Petit, Edward. Will. St. Clair County Property Records, Libre 102, page 94, October 4, 1889; and Maps: 1859 Map of Macomb & St. Clair Counties (Philadelphia: Geil, Harley & Siverd) and 1894 Port Huron, Michigan (map) (Chicago: C. J. Pauli). The 1897 and 1916 Standard Atlases of St. Clair County were also checked, as well as Sanborn Fire Insurance maps in reference to the first paragraph.

 

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.

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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, 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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