Ken-Way prefabricated concrete homes of Port Huron, Michigan

by Vicki Priest (c)*

Many people seem to know of the small concrete Ken-Way homes in Port Huron, but that they were a very local and very short-lived phenomenon seems less widely known.  Ken-Way, or sometimes just “Kenway,” homes were developed by Kenneth Wyillie of Port Huron.  They were made by assembling locally constructed pre-cast walls–which included insulation, wiring, and plumbing–at the house site (the foundation and roof were not pre-cast).  The homes were built from about 1950 to 1957.  These years are representative of articles or ads found regarding new Ken-Way homes in the local newspaper, but some homes may have been built shortly before or after.

An article from November 1951 (The Times Herald, page 5) reported that “several of the modernistic, flat-roofed buildings already have been erected in the Port Huron area.”  A 1950 ad states that they had built a “test home” five years prior.(1)  It can be assumed–perhaps wrongly–that the address of the home they provide in the ad is that “test home.”  Whether it is the 1945 test or another early example, it is still standing and shown below the pictured ad.

Ken-Way Homes ad, first one discovered so far (The Times Herald 09-17-50, p 23).

2573 Robbins Court, Port Huron–the house mentioned in the above ad. If this is the Ken-Way test home, it was built in 1945 (author photo, 06-04-19).  It is unknown at this time if the hip roof was added later.  The front door is around the right corner.

An ad from September 1955 states that “over 120 Ken-Way Homes” had been built in the area.  While preliminary research has not divulged why Ken-Way homes were built only for such a short time, it seems that an impetus for their development was the Housing Act of 1950 (Public Law 81-475, which amended the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program of 1944 and 1945).  Now, veterans or their widows could more easily purchase a home with the government’s backing, and one that met minimum construction standards.  Ken Wyllie, having experience in the building trades (2), saw the opportunity to sell low-cost housing via the Housing Act.(3)  This can be seen in his ads and news articles, which include statements such as:

“The current two-bedroom model is to retail for $5,375.  This means that a non-veteran buyer, owning a lot, would be able to have one of the houses erected and financed through the FHA with an initial investment of less than $1000.  For veterans, the first cost would be considerably lower. . . .  So with full realization that seeing is believing, we invite the general public, especially GI’s, to take a look at our little [model] home . . . ” (4)  and, “GI’s You’ll Look Far To Beat This Value!” (5)

As one might imagine, Kenneth Wyllie was not the only person in the country to see the possibilities of the Housing Act.  National Homes Corporation of New York advertised their “National Thrift Home” and others in 1950.  Their ad showed four homes and stated that “15 floor plans offer you 94 variations in designs!”  The prefabricated homes were available in 500 cities.(6)  Of course, there was already a long tradition in America of buying “kit,” “ready-cut,” or mail-order homes, with Sears, Montgomery Wards, Aladdin, Ready Built, and others doing such business for decades.

But why the quick demise of the Ken-Way home?  Marketing did not seem to be the problem.  Ken-Way Homes seems to have been good at it, as it even had a “Ken-Way Korner” segment on the radio.(7)  Perhaps it was the style?  The modern style with flat roofs was not favored by everyone (8); however, they were soon built with a choice of roof styles.  They are very low to the ground, yet many exist today in very nice form.  One was found so far that has a second floor addition, so they must be structurally sound.  Further research is needed, and comments are welcomed.  Considering that mail-order homes no doubt always provided stiff competition, perhaps labor costs proved to be too much in the long-run.

Indicative of this possibility is a workers’ strike in 1953.  Port Huron Building and Construction Trades Council members picketed the manufacturing location of Ken-Way Homes, 2009 Petit Street, and Wyllie had sought an injunction to prevent the picketing.  In refusing Wyllie’s request Judge Kane found, in part, “that wages paid were vastly below the union minimum scale and were equally below the minimum standard for its members in relationship to benefits over time.” (9)  In the spring of the next year, 1954, an ad announced a future 5% increase in house prices. (10)

Below are photos of a small number of Ken-Way homes as they appear today.  It is noted in the captions if there appear to be more in specific neighborhoods.

2204 Hancock, Port Huron. While this home had not yet been found listed in a historic newspaper, it is most certainly a Ken-Way house (author photo May 30, 2019).  This neighborhood, north of the east-bound entrance to the Blue Water Bridge, seems to have many Ken-Way homes and the next three are from that area.

2417 18th Avenue, Port Huron. This home is assumed to be a Ken-Way by visual identification. Though it may be hard to see in the photo, it has the distinct door wall that juts out from the other wall (author photo, May 30, 2019).

2323 18th Avenue, Port Huron. This home is identified as Ken-Way via a 1957 newspaper ad. Note the jutting front wall. The house appears to have a back addition as well as a newer second story (author photo May 30, 2019).

2806 17th Avenue, Port Huron. This home has the distinctive jutting front wall (the wall the the right of the door is set back a short distance) (author photo, June 4, 2019).

2543 Spruce Street, Port Huron (if Google street view is not mistaken). The home directly across the street looks to be the same model as this one. This home was advertised as a modified Ken-Way for re-sale in 1958 (Google street view image from 2013).  Note the left jutting wall.

Ken-Way homes identified in newspaper ads and not shown here (to 1958 only):  2741 Michigan Street, Port Huron (demonstrated in 1951–still standing?); 7830 Lakeshore Road (larger home, for sale in 1952); 1313 New Hampshire, Marysville (now 1323?, for sale in 1955); 1650 Mansfield, Port Huron (for sale in 1956, now gone); 2300 Krafft Road, Port Huron (for sale in 1957); 2532 10th Ave., Port Huron; and many on 25th Street (definitely 2515, 2603, 2627) for sale in various years.

Further research and a historical buildings survey of the neighborhoods could possibly identify most Ken-Way homes.

* Cite author and web source when using this article for research and/or quoting.  For significant use of the research information used in the article, contact the author via porthuronhistory@gmail.com for permission.

Sources and notes:

(1) The Times Herald, September 17, 1950, page 23.

Ken-Way ad from December 30, 1954 (The Times Herald, page 15).

(2) A 1946 ad for Home Roofing & Siding Co. shows Wyllie as manager (The Times Herald, Feb. 23, page 7).  An ad-type of “article” from that same year boasts that he had 12 years experience in building, roofing, siding, and insulation (The Times Herald, Jan. 7, 1946, page 7).  In what seems a reverse foreshadowing, the article says he’s a “man with a past,” with the article using a twist of the normally negative expression to introduce his good past.  However, Wyllie soon acted in ways to give him a negative reputation. In 1947 he punched a Union representative in the face 2 or 3 times, breaking his nose.  Charges were not filed at first, but 2 years later Wyllie was found guilty of assault and his victim, Wesley Kercher, was awarded damages (The Times Herald, June 9, 1947, page 1, and other articles from that year, and Dec. 17, 1949, page 2).  Another lawsuit was filed against Wyllie in 1949, the plaintiffs claiming that they purchased the timber rights to a property that Wyllie owned, but that Wyllie sold the property before they removed the timber.  The suit was settled out of court (The Times Herald, Sept. 17, 1949, page 5).  Wyllie was in trouble yet again when, having not paid the damages from the Kercher suit, he was arrested in 1950 (The Times Herald, May 4, page 2).

(3)  Legislative History of the VA Loan Guaranty Program, Department of Veterans Affairs (www.benefits.va.gov), last updated August 23, 2006.

(4) The Times Herald, November 9, 1952, page 5.

(5)  The Times Herald, January 17, 1953, page 3.

(6)  ClickAmericana.com (accessed May 31, 2019).

(7)  It is not known how long the radio segments went on, but one was advertised on November 3, 1953 in The Times Herald, being scheduled for 7:15-7:30 am, on WTTH 1380 (ABC) radio.

(8)  “”Battle of Design’ Looms Over Kenway Housing Units,” a Marysville controversy, in The Times Herald, February 15, 1953, page 11.

(9) “No Injunction in Picket Case,” The Times Herald November 14, 1953, page 5.

(10)  The Times Herald, March 29, 1954, page 15.

 

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Picture history of Port Huron by Joseph Miskell, published 1937

by Vicki Priest (c) 2019

Upon perusing files at the St. Clair Library earlier this year, I was totally delighted after stumbling upon some original art boards by Joseph T. Miskell (Michigan Room, Picture Files, “P-R” drawer).  They looked like they were made for a children’s picture history of Port Huron.  I found instead that they were published in The Port Huron Times Herald in 1937 as part of the centennial; the artwork looks quite different in the paper.  The beautiful pencil sketching is much less clear, and the square originals were re-sized into rectangles.

Two originals are missing, pages 7 and 13, and in the paper, page 11 is missing (page 10 was printed twice and no correction has been found so far).  Not everything in this history is necessarily accurate, but inaccuracies like that can be amended.  If only pages 7 and 13 could be found, what a neat children’s picture book this would make!  However, since those pages are reproduced in the newspaper, a re-creation of them could be made by the right person.

Joseph Miskell, 1904-1981, was an employee of Mueller Brass for 34 years, first in Port Huron and then in San Francisco, California (The Times Herald, November 24th 1981, page 13).

The boards are very large. The images immediately below are just a couple of examples of portions of pages.  Below them are the pages from The Port Huron Times Herald, screen captured from the digitized paper.

Page 6 story board portion, 1854 fire, by Joseph Miskell (Michigan Room, St. Clair Public Library).

Page 10 story board portion, former (it was destroyed by fire in January 1912) Port Huron & Northwestern Railway depot, by Joseph Miskell (Michigan Room, St. Clair County Public Library).

Miskell history, PHTH July 15, 1937, page 1.

Miskell history, PHTH July 16, 1937, page 11.

Miskell history, PHTH July 17, 1937, page 3.

Miskell history, PHTH July 18, 1937, page 5.

Miskell history, PHTH July 19, 1937, page 12.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 20, 1937, page 13.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 21, 1937, page 2.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 22, 1937, page 2.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 23, 1937, page 11.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 24, 1937, page 6. This page was repeated the next day instead of page 11 of the history.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 26, 1937, page 3.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 27, 1937, page 10.

Miskell history, PHTH, July 28, 1937, page 2.

When images from the original page 11 become available, they will be added to this post.

“Jenks Protests Street [name] Changes”

After running across and reading the following article in The Port Huron Times Herald (October 9th, 1923, page 1), I couldn’t help but say “I love Jenks.”  This is William Jenks, of course, the author of the 1912 St. Clair County history book, important Michigan map collector, and a primary mover in the building of the Carnegie Library (now museum) here.  My sentiments on the subject are expressed by Jenks wonderfully; some brief explanatory notes and a historic map follow.   Enjoy!

_______________________

“Preserve Historical Names, Attorney’s Plea”

“Protest against the changing of the name of Gillett street to Hammond street, which was recently asked by the residents of the street in a petition to the city commission, is voiced in a letter sent the commission by W. L. Jenks, prominent attorney of Port Huron and member of the state Historical society.”

“In his letter Mr. Jenks comments on the tendency resent in cities today to give streets high-sounding and meaningless titles, and deplores inappropriate and thoughtless changes.  he points out two blunders in changing street names made recently by the commission.”

“The letter follows:”

I noticed recently that a petition had been filed with you to change the name of Gillett street to Hammond street in honor of the late Lieut. Hammond.

I sincerely hope that the name will not be changed.  Gillett street commemorates the name of one of the early prominent citizens of Port Huron[,] a man of the highest character, one of the leading business men and a man who was very generous and public-spirited, and his name ought not to be forgotten in this city.

I do not wish to belittle in any manner the propriety of naming a street in honor of Lieutenant Hammond, but there are several streets in the city which have names that do not contain any significance and the changing of a name of that kind to commemorate the name of Lieut. Hammond would be appropriate in every way.

The city has already made two serious blunders in the changing of names of streets–when it changed Butler street commemorating the name of an honored man of national reputation, and a prominent philanthropist, to Grand River avenue[,] a name which has absolutely no significance here.  The name apparently was copied from Detroit where Grand River avenue has a meaning, it being the direct route from Detroit to the Grand River country, including the cities of Lansing, Grand Rapids and Grand Haven.

The name of Suffern street which bore the name of prominent merchant of New York City who was largely interested in Port Huron property for several years was changed to Glenwood avenue, a high sounding name which has no appropriateness as there is neither a glen nor any wood in or near the street.

Such changes are to be deplored and not to be encouraged by good citizens.

The city did not change Gillett to Hammond, as there is no Hammond Street in Port Huron and Gillett is still there.  Lieut. Hammond is remembered here though, as the American Legion post is named after him.  On Gillett/Gillette and Jenks streets, a 1925 article states:  “Gillette street is named after Martin S. Gillette, lumberman and president of the village board in 1850.  Jenks street is named after W. L. Jenks, pioneer and historian of the county” (there were other prominent Jenks in Port Huron, too; “Street Names Tell the History of City,” The Port Huron Times-Herald, February 13, 1925, page 11).

Portion of an 1894 map by C. J. Pauli (Milwaukee, on file at the Library of Congress), showing Butler Street (now Grand River).  Click on it to see larger image.

1949 Port Huron Centennial Booklet

We were happy to be allowed to scan a booklet in the collection of Lisa Kraus-Purcell, Port Huron’s 1949 Centennial Souvenir booklet.  Currently, a couple of central pages, which covered part of the schedule of events, are missing; this will be corrected when possible.  Links to the viewable PDFs are here:  https://phahpa.org/research-sources/phahpa-scanned-booklets/ .  We also scanned some of the images into photo files, some of which are included below (the booklet does not have page numbers, so such numbers are not provided here).  Feel free to use any source that we share, but make sure to cite us/give credit for this source that we provide.  (If you like our work and want to see more, please consider a donation of any amount!  We would be very grateful indeed.  Mail check to PHAHPA, PO Box 611380, Port Huron, MI 48061-1380 – Thank you!)  Copyright note:  We provide this for research purposes only, as the booklet may still be under copyright protection.

Horse Drawn Car

Spanish American War VeteransDunford-Alverson DrydockBird's Eye View west along Black River, 7th St BridgeVery early view of Military Street

Mueller Brass, no date

Mueller Brass, no date.

 

Peeps in (local) History Contest Entries–and Winners

We decided to announce the winners on the same page used for the entries, making it easier to find and also giving the opportunity for everyone to see all entries (if they haven’t already).  It was difficult for us to finalize some winners, as judging for a contest like this is necessarily subjective to a certain degree.  And we’d like to give something to everyone simply for participating and trying!  Thank you all!  We wanted to mention that although a couple of the entries did not meet the rules for the contest, we really liked them anyway and do not wish to discourage anyone.  We have a similar contest planned for next year; it will be announced sooner and will hopefully appeal to more people.  Watch out for it!  The winners are announced with their photos below (images can be clicked on in order to view them in a larger size).  Prizes are listed at the contest page, but we have added more “honorable mention” prizes ($10 gift certificates from the Raven Cafe) since that was posted.

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Below are the entries to the Peeps in (local) History contest, in no particular order.  Please enjoy looking at them, and feel free to leave comments–we’ll be reading these and taking them into consideration as we decide on the winners!

Honorable Mention.  Laura White.  “Phineas went all through town and he was so tired he needed to rest. He thought that this would be a great time for a selfie in front of his favorite clocks, Moshers.  (After this he he went on his way to many more places in Port Huron which he may show you in the future.)”  Mosher’s is at the corner of Huron and McMorran, in downtown Port Huron.  The Mosher’s clock was purchased by Clarence Mosher in 1912 (it was a used clock and was originally hand-cranked), and formerly at 209 Huron Avenue.

Honorable Mention.  Melissa Kohl.  “Mrs Peep and her lil’ peeps go to school.”  (Garfield Elementary at 1221 Garfield Street, Port Huron.)  PHAHPA note:  Garfield was originally a junior high school, and opened in 1925.

Kimberly Allen. Historic Bush Building that used to be at the northwest corner of Military and Water streets.  Photo has no date; from the Port Huron Museum Collection.  An astonishing building (as is the ornate bank building next door), now lost:  Harvey S. Bush building.

First Place Winner.  Andrew Kercher.  “Freshly back from the war, Peeps in Jeeps and even a DUKW parade down Huron Avenue” (Russell Sawyer collection, ca. 1946).

Randi Mathieu. (Historic postcard from the early 1900s)

Lauren Nelson. “This peep family is enjoying the traveling Michigan in the Civil War exhibit at Port Huron Museum’s Carnegie Center.” PHAHPA note: the museum is housed in the original Carnegie Library, built 1902-1904.

Carol Whiting. “Penelope Peep is checking out SC4 [St. Clair Community College], which is almost a century old.” PHAHPA note: The building shown is a former Port Huron High School, which was built in 1906 (113 years ago). Port Huron Junior College, the forerunner of SC4, moved into this building in the 1950s. PHJC was established in 1923 (96 years ago), and the named changed to St. Clair Community College in 1967.

Second Place Winner.  Abigail B. 4th grade student (M. Kohl, teacher). Pere Marquette RR bridge, 1931.

Austin K. 3rd grade student (M. Kohl, teacher).  Huron Lightship, 1920.  PHAHPA note:  This ship, formerly “The Relief” and the last of its kind, was designated a National Landmark in 1989.

Clara B. 4th grade student (M. Kohl, teacher).  Lighthouse, 1829.

Grant D. 4th grade student (M. Kohl, teacher). Blue Water Bridge, 1936 (PHAHPA note:  the first span opened in 1938, and it is the background span here).

Greyson J. 3rd grade student (M. Kohl, teacher). Thomas Edison Museum, former Grand Trunk RR depot, 1858.  PHAHPA note: listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

Jenna F. 5th grade student (M. Kohl, teacher). Blue Water Bridge, 1936 (PHAHPA note: the first span opened in 1938, and it is the foreground span in this photo).

Honorable Mention.  Nolan G. 3rd Grade (M. Kohl, teacher). St. Clair Tunnel, completed in 1891.  PHAHPA note: This is a recognized National Landmark, a higher level of designation than the National Register of Historic Places.

Tessa B. 5th grade student (M. Kohl, teacher).  St. Clair Tunnel, completed in 1891. PHAHPA note: This is a recognized National Landmark, a higher level of designation than the National Register of Historic Places.

Third Place Winner.  Siri C. 5th grade student (M. Kohl, teacher). Federal Building, 1877.  PHAHPA note: constructed from 1874-1876, and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Honorable Mention.  Taylor H. 5th grade student (M. Kohl, teacher). Lighthouse, 1829.

Please leave comments below!  Winners will be announced on April 20th.

We most wholeheartedly THANK the sponsors of this contest–please thank them too!  Enter State Right, Kate’s Downtown, The State Perceptory (in downtown Port Huron), and Raven Cafe.

Why the Style of Your Home is Not “Victorian,” and Why it Matters

by Vicki Priest (c) 2018

You may have clicked on this article thinking, “why does this matter?” or perhaps out of annoyance, but how people perceive the dwellings in their community can have some real and possibly unpleasant consequences. What do I mean by that? Well, Victorian is a period in history and not a single architectural style. The many styles from that period in the U.S. are mostly from after the Civil War to about 1910. But if to your knowledge all homes built during that time are “Victorian style,” then it may seem reasonable to not get too upset over a few more losses—since there seem to be so many of them.

However, not only are there many styles within the Victorian period, there are styles from other periods that overlap with the Victorian. So, while there are, say, many vernacular homes that had, or may still have, “Queen Anne” ornament (the style people often associate with Victorian), there aren’t so many Second Empire buildings left here. If all the Second Empire homes remaining in Port Huron were razed, it would equal only a small percent of all those remaining from the 2nd half of the 19th century. Knowing this, once a building is identified as a rarer type and not just another “Victorian,” then it is hoped that it will be favored with benevolence in its future. And Second Empire style is rarer; the style is the oldest of the Victorian Period and Port Huron has already lost much of its significant and beautiful stock (see Image 1 and its caption). A great many Italiantes, an earlier period style that overlaps with Victorian, have also been lost due to fires and demolitions. Continue reading

Peeps in (local) History Contest

Mrs. Peep and her children, strolling along Military Street in 1908. Unbeknownst to her, time lord Dr. Who is right behind her. What disaster could this portend?! (V. Priest, 2019)

PEEPS IN (local) HISTORY CONTEST!

Take photos of peeps (any type) at or in an area historic property or with a historic photo (the photo above is an example).  Photos can be a close-up of a nice detail; don’t be afraid to get creative, and certainly have fun!  Filtered, modified, and “photoshopped” images are also welcome! The included property doesn’t have to be a “landmark,” but can even be your own home–just as long as it’s at least 50 years old. Creativity is the top consideration, not quality (you don’t have to be a professional photographer!).  The image above is a regular photo that has had filters applied to it (using ipiccy.com, but there are other free photo editing applications out there too).  Photos taken with phones are of course acceptable.  Rules and submission policy are below.

Deadline is April 13, 2019.  Photos will be posted at PHAHPA.ORG at that time, and comments accepted.  We will consider comments when judging the entries.  Winners will be announced on April 20th.

Where the photos can be from:  Port Huron, Port Huron Township, Fort Gratiot Township, or Marysville

Prizes (4):  1st Place, Enter Stage Right gift certificate for 2 tickets to a production + refreshments, plus a PHAHPA 16 GB flash drive; 2nd Place, Enter Stage Right gift certificate for 2 tickets to a production + refreshments; 3rd Place, $20 gift certificate to Kate’s Downtown coffee restaurant, and;  Honorable Mention, $10 gift certificate to Port Huron’s downtown vinyl record store, State Perceptory.

Please support our kind sponsors, representing the local arts and downtown businesses!

Check out Enter Stage Right and their upcoming plays!  609 Huron Avenue, Port Huron.

Caffeine comes in great packages at Kate’s Downtown.  Give them a try next time you’re in the heart of Port Huron. 

Visit State Perceptory for vinyl records and more in downtown Port Huron (219 Huron Ave., open 10 am to 7 pm Mon-Sat).

Submitting photos:

  1.  Photos can be any size–large file sizes may be reduced when we post them to our website.  They can be “as is” or filtered, or even photoshopped (modified peeps photo inserted in, or layered onto, another photo, for example).
  2. Photos must be the submittor’s original work.  By submitting a photo to this contest you are attesting to its originality. Photos must not have been used in any previous contest. Your name will be posted with the photo.
  3. You MUST provide information about the location and age of the property in the photo.  If you do not know the exact age, say so, but provide other information as to why you think it meets the rule of “50+” years. Remember that the properties must be in either Port Huron, Port Huron Township, Marysville, or Fort Gratiot Township; these are currently the areas PHAHPA specifically serves.  (Maybe next year we will have expanded our service area before the next contest.)
  4. If you want to submit a caption along with the photo, please do. You can have fun with the caption like we did in our sample.  We reserve the right to edit the caption.
  5. One submission per person only.
  6. By submitting an entry you are agreeing that PHAHPA can post it at its website and use it at other social media places it utilizes, and that PHAHPA may also print it with marketing and informational materials if it ever deems that would be useful. You would retain full copyright otherwise.
  7. Email your submission to porthuronhistory@gmail.com, subject: Peeps Contest.  Provide your name and another way to contact you (besides email) if you desire.  If you are a winner we will contact you to ask the best way to get the prize to you.
  8. Have fun 🙂  (questions?  write to porthuronhistory@gmail.com)
  9. We know, but just so you know, PHAHPA board members (the only volunteers associated with PHAHPA at this time; there are no employees) are not allowed to submit entries to the contest.

Peepzilla at Palm’s Krystal Bar & Grill (Chicken in the Rough), Port Huron. Vicki Priest and Zakery Stiegemeyer photo.

Peepzilla attacking Chicken in the Rough poster. Zakery Stiegemeyer and Vicki Priest image.

Pere Marquette Railroad Bridge, Guest Editorial

Railroad Bridge over Black River, just west of the St. Clair River, Port Huron. V. Priest, 2017.

Below is an editorial by William Collins, Executive Director of the Thumb Land Conservancy.  It was submitted to The Times Herald, but not published.  A very short version can be found at the online paper, however.

The City of Port Huron seems content to sit on its hands while the Port Huron Yacht Club seeks to demolish the historic Pere Marquette Railroad bascule lift bridge over the Black River. Meanwhile, the City of Ashtabula, Ohio, on the south shore of Lake Erie has just approved construction of a new hotel designed specifically for views of Ashtabula Harbor and their historic bascule lift bridge over the Ashtabula River. Ashtabula is actually capitalizing on their “ugly” old steel, which is 6 years older than Port Huron’s and still in use. The developer of the new River Bend Hotel says, “We think that it’s going to be quite a unique concept, unrivaled in the region. It’s going to be an incredibly beautiful scene.” (River Bend Hotel planned for Ashtabula’s harbor district is town’s first new hotel in 100 years) Continue reading

“A Brief Historical Review of the City of Port Huron,” 1915, by Wm. Jenks

William Lee Jenks (1856-1936). The National Cyclopedia of American Biography (Vol. XVII. 1920), page 189 (filtered).

The following article is from The Port Huron Times-Herald, February 20, 1915, pages 18 and 22.  Two words had typos and it was decided to correct the spelling, but the temptation to add commas was successfully avoided.  If you are unaware of Jenks, he was the author of the 1912 St. Clair County, Michigan, Its History and Its People (two volumes), and was a member of the Michigan Historical Commission, among other things.  In one place below  a corrected date is shown.  This had to have been an editorial typo since Jenks and everyone else who knew the history of Port Huron knew the year; it was at least somewhat common knowledge.

——————

The great success of the recent campaign to bring back the Grand Trunk shops to Port Huron, and the result it has had in unifying and bringing together in concerted action all sections of the city, seems to make this an appropriate time to look backward for a moment, and trace the general course of our city from its beginning. Continue reading

Wm. Soutar Collection, Letters from Wife 1880, 1881, & 1915 Note

The William Soutar (1842-1918) Collection is discussed briefly in two previous posts, one presenting letters from his employer Wm. Jenkinson, and the other, letters from his friends.  Below are scans of letters–written in pencil–from his wife Agnes (an obituary refers to her as Ann Bell; The Times Herald March 25, 1918, page 5).  They are from Rattle Run, Michigan, where Agnes lived on a farm during a period when her husband made income while being employed elsewhere.  Agnes’ writings give a little glimpse into rural life as well as what was, apparently, customary social exchange between husband and wife.  A baby was born during this time, and in her excitement (probably coupled with exhaustion) Agnes forgets to date the letter. Continue reading

1897 Portraits of Port Huron and Marysville Residents

The portraits here are unaltered “snippets” (so the quality is on the low end) from a PDF version of the 1897 atlas of St. Clair County, and so are for your information and reference rather than republishing.  If you need a better quality image, the Michigan Room of the St. Clair County library system, at the main branch in Port Huron, has a hard copy of the atlas which can be photographed or scanned.  These are from pages 103, 105, 107, 109, and 111 of the Standard Atlas of St. Clair County Michigan, Geo. Ogle & Co, Chicago, 1897.  Portraits in publications like these are limited to those who chose to pay for their inclusion.

Port Huron 

Baldwin, Mr. & Mrs. George

Continue reading

Port Huron’s “Report to the People, 1964-65”

We’re not advocating ancestor worship here at PHAHPA, but the report below–scanned to images so you can click on them to see large-scale–seems to be advocating the opposite.  While Port Huron has lost many buildings to fires, it has lost a great many to redevelopment and blight removal.  This 54-year-old report shows the attitude of the times, that the sturdy and artful buildings of downtown were “antiquated” and therefore ready for demolition.  It is proud of the demolitions and of the building owners who otherwise covered up their old buildings’ “rustic” facades.  When do you see buildings like that being made today, with actual brick, hardwoods, marble, etc.? Continue reading

Halloween, a bit on its origins and a bit on local shenanigans of old

This article was published first at Blue Water Healthy Living, earlier in October 2018.

Homemade—and effective—Halloween masks (unsourced photo found at https://bit.ly/2OCj3m5).

Vicki Priest (c) 2018

Celebrating, or having community night-time activities, on October 31st goes way back in time. It was the New Year’s Eve (Samhain) of the ancient Druidic Celts, living in what are today France and the British Isles. After the Romans conquered these areas, aspects of the feast honoring the goddess of fruits, Pomona, were incorporated into Samhain. Dunking for apples stems from the Roman tradition.

But what were the “celebrations” of the Druids? Despite what many seem to think, the Druids on this day were attempting to ward off—not worship—ghosts, evil spirits, and witches (a number of cultures believed that there were women who sold themselves to the devil, and these are referred to as witches). For whatever reason the Druids thought that on this one night of the year, October 31st, the Lord of Death allowed the departed to roam the land of the living.  And the dead could be dangerous. Continue reading

Port Huron and other St. Clair County High School Yearbooks

Great for genealogical and other types of research, the St. Clair County (Michigan) Library system digitized a number of the county’s high school yearbooks.  Some other student publications are included as well.  Here is the link to these resources:  http://www.sccl.lib.mi.us/Yearbooks.aspx.

While looking through one the other day I read about the “The Bluffers Club Ltd.,” and went through the “funnies” that followed.  Many of these are found within the sponsor’s ads that follow the main body of this Student Christmas 1916 (Port Huron High School; no page numbers).  The following excerpts were also posted at our Facebook page, and the image was created by PHAHPA for these posts. Continue reading

Why Oscar Mueller, an invested “man among men,” left Port Huron

The following article was first published at Blue Water Healthy Living on June 27, 2018, under a slightly different title.  All rights belong to the author, Vicki Priest, however, and republished here by permission.

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Oscar Mueller. Undated photo from muellerfamilytree.com.

It was a happy day in Port Huron when Oscar Mueller announced that his family agreed to open a metal working plant here, and a sad one when he decided to sell his interests in what became Mueller Brass, and leave. He did so much to make a wonderful home for he and his wife, too—establishing a large recreational park for his employees along the Black River, and on his estate next door, planting a large orchard that he thoroughly enjoyed—that one would wonder why he left that all behind. But for those living here at the time, in 1935-1936, no doubt it was not a surprise at all.

Oscar was one of Hieronymus Mueller’s seven children to carry on with the family’s various factories (which primarily produced plumbing-related parts and fixtures), centered in Decatur, Illinois. His father was mechanically gifted and filed several patents, some of which, like the Mueller Water Tapper and various auto-engine features, are still being used today; he and his sons filed 501 patents. His sons, like their father, were gifted in business as well as mechanics and engineering. And as Mueller craftsmanship and products became recognized as the best, the family business grew, with their metal working factories springing up here and there. For his part, Oscar graduated from the University of Illinois, got married to Beatrice Wetzel in 1895, and together they had their first child, Bernhardt Frederic, in 1901. Continue reading