You might like the little introduction: Port Huron’s lost properties: What We Have Lost. It doesn’t begin to cover what seems to be a suicidal Port Huron. It’s hard to imagine that many other cities self-destroyed their unique and beautiful historic assets as much as Port Huron did. Historic images depict a city in its prime, with so much more active living going on than today. Urban renewal measures do not seem to have led to either quality of life or economic improvement. Quite a few structures were destroyed by fire, but like elsewhere, fire followed neglect.
City of Port Huron
Due to Fires
1) The Port Huron and Northwestern Railroad Depot, “at the foot of Court Street,” was built in 1881 or 1883 but burned down in 1912. Another (smaller) depot was built at this location, the Pere Marquette, in 1913 or 1914.
2) EMF Automotive Factory, Elmwood Avenue, went up in flames in 1914.
3) The Windermere Hotel (Gratiot Avenue near Krafft), a popular resort, burned in the 1920s.
4) The City Hall burned down in 1949, taking many historic records with it. It was opened in 1873 and held county and federal offices as well as city ones. It stood at the location of McMorran Auditorium.
5) The large Elks lodge building at 1001 Military Street was destroyed by fire in 1983.
6) 1892 Knights of the Maccabees headquarters building, downtown. It later became the Algonquin Hotel. At the time it burned down in 2000, it was abandoned.
7) White Block. Even though the photo below is a truly sad testament to the loss of the historically popular building, the image is still awesome, showing the whole row of structures that used to line the south side of Black River. The loss of these buildings, coupled with the lost buildings adjoining them that lined the north end of Military, represents something like a major amputation of the city’s body.
8) The Opera House and surrounding block buildings, in 1914, due to an “explosive fire.” The Opera House was near the north end of the block of buildings (left side) shown in the banner photo for this site.
9) The Baer Block (named after the builder, Charles Baer). I can’t believe this building is gone, but it’s been gone for a long time. It stood at the northwest corner of Park St., now Superior, and Huron Avenue. It burned in 1922, having stood for only about 30 years. This is just so sad. It was an ornate Richardsonian Romanesque arcaded business block. The entire block of historic commercial structures is now gone (the original Maccabee Temple was at the opposite end).
Due to Redevelopment, “Urban Renewal,” or Anti-blight measures
1) Union Hotel, 318-322 Huron Avenue, Port Huron. Opened in 1895, demolished in the 1960s.
2) The “crown jewel” of downtown, the First Baptist Church was sold in 1969 and demolished for part of a parking lot. Dedicated in 1882.
3) 717 Grand River Avenue (formerly Butler Street). Next to razed First Baptist Church, it was also torn down for the Community College. It was “one of the most handsome” buildings in Port Huron, being a three-story Second Empire structure. Very handsome indeed. Many of Port Huron’s earlier Second Empire buildings have been demolished, making those remaining more significant.
4) 805 Pine Grove Avenue. Large, handsome Second Empire style home. ? – 1970. Site occupied by abandoned gas station.
5) Commercial Bank Building on Water Street. Another interesting, one-of-a-kind structure torn down in the 1970s.
6) 1416 Military Street, built in 1858. The Omar D. Conger and William Jenks house. According to Endlich (1981:176), “Mrs. Lasson [Jenks’ daughter] . . . could not bear to have anyone else live in [the house], so sold it for business property before 1940.” It’s odd that a building ends up demolished, instead of preserved, over sentimental reasons. Considering the historic importance of both Conger and Jenks, it would’ve been one of the most significant homes in the city. Today, the lot is empty.
7) People’s Bank Building, downtown Port Huron. Opened in the 1930s, torn down in 1979.
8) Unique Lauth Hotel, built 1902. Razed in the 1970s or 1980 (depending on source).
9) City Water Works building, 1872 (near Pine Grove Park).
10) 1221 Pine Grove Avenue, the C. E. Bricker house. This house, along with many
more fine homes that had been built on prime real estate across from Pine Grove Park, were demolished for hospital expansion. Couldn’t the hospital have been a better neighbor and community partner by moving to a less historic-asset destroying location?
11) 724 Pine Street. A very old and attractive home, apparently razed to enlarge a church parking lot (there is an empty lot next to the parking lot as well). This home belonged to the Duff family, the Fort Gratiot veteran grandfather having purchased the already standing house in 1875 (Endlich 1981:21-22).
12) The amazing and beautiful Murphy Mansion (Deer Lawn) on Military Street. 1878-1971. Given the architecture and it’s original owner, Henry McMorran, this property would’ve easily been given National Register status and gotten financial assistance towards repurposing (the property was willed to the Sisters of Mercy for Mercy Hospital). One of the most depressing examples of destruction in Port Huron.
13) The large, gorgeous Haynes House at 714 River Street, built in 1890, was demolished in 1972 as part of the community college expansion plans.
14) First National Bank, or the Fox building, downtown Port Huron (107-111 Huron Ave, at Quay). Demolished as part of the Military Bridge replacement in the 1990s. (HABS Report MI-391.)
15) Historic homes in 1300 block of Pine Grove Avenue, due to hospital expansion, 2006. One of them was particularly large, detailed, and unique.
Due to Other (or currently Unknown) Reasons (Most seem to be a case of a refusal to maintain the structure or allow for its reuse)
1) Wonderful and substantial Grand Trunk Western Railroad Depot, known locally as “the tunnel depot,” at south end of town (Railroad and 22nd streets). 1892-1975. Razed by Grand Trunk Railroad after years of neglect and after Amtrak decided on a different site for its new depot (the current Amtrak depot is very unsubstantial and as of this writing probably is no longer even manned). What an unnecessary and incredible loss, especially seeing as the under-river tunnel is a National Landmark and the depot could’ve been used for related tourism.
2) The Pavilion in Pine Grove Park.
3) 518 Wall Street. “The JOHN MILLER HOMESTEAD, 518 Wall St., one of the oldest houses in the region, was built in 1836 and presented to the city by Miller’s descendants in 1921. It is a two-story, timber-framed structure on a limestone foundation, with a delicate Colonial cornice. On the northeast corner is a rectangular brass plate inscribed to John Miller, pioneer lumberman and banker of St. Clair County, placed there by his son and grandson during the presentation ceremonies.” Federal Writers’ Project (1943). The WPA Guide to Michigan: The Great Lakes State (Kindle Locations 8666-8669). Trinity University Press. Kindle Edition (2013, 2014).
4) 1317 Seventh Street. Exact construction date unknown, but it existed when one of the resident owners died in 1876. Was the residence of prominent citizens until St. Joseph Catholic Church started using it as its rectory, probably in the mid-late 1920s. It was demolished by the same church amid much outcry from the community. Please see the end of What We Have Lost for more information.
Township of Fort Gratiot
Township of Port Huron
Burnell, M. C. Blue Water Reflections: A Pictorial History of Port Huron and the St. Clair River District (Virginia Beach: Donning Company Publishers, 1983).
Creamer, Mary Lou. Port Huron: 1857-2007, Celebrating our Past (St. Clair (MI): Site Creative, 2006).
Endlich, Helen. A Story of Port Huron (Port Huron: Self-published, 1981).
Gaffney, T,J. Postcard History Series: Port Huron, 1880-1960 (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2006).
Mitts, Dorothy M. That Noble Country (Philadelphia: Dorrance & Company, 1969).