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.?

It also was proud of clearing the first ward area, which not only had small homes as shown in the report, but examples of older and smaller business buildings.  The municipal buildings now standing in that area seem antiquated themselves, and indeed, the library is planning on erecting a new structure (but where?).  Lastly, north Military Street would be pretty much cleared of the buildings that the people who built the city in the first place had erected, if the city had followed-through with its plans.  It would have received lots of federal dollars for doing so.

In any case, what buildings people like can be pretty subjective, and it depends on comparisons of what’s available.  But if I imagine whether I’d rather live in a rehabilitated decent home or business block from the past–or the present library–there is just no question at all.  And looking at what styles people choose for their homes, it’s clear that people like “relatable” environments to live and move around in.  That is, “human scale,” with textured designs and materials that are (or at least seem) natural; you don’t see many homes that look like the library or the sad historic commercial buildings covered by flat, boring facades.

No one goes to the ocean expecting or wanting to see a flat or monotone surface, and no one visits Michigan for its fall colors expecting or wanting to see trees all the same size and all the same color (although, to be sure, trees are almost always nice).

We hope you find the reproduced report useful.  Click on the images to open large readable views.

Advertisements

Downtown to Get Major Improvement: Rehabilitation of the Ballentine Building

Before winter set in, anyone who noticed the paint being removed from the bricks of the old 3-story building at the northeast corner of Huron Avenue and Quay Street may have gotten a twinge of excitement about it. Well, anyone who appreciates the warmth and human scale of old buildings, anyway. And excitement is justified, since the brick facade will be put back in its natural state and repointed. Plain windows that had replaced some of the original arched ones will be removed and arched ones re-integrated. Missing cornice (most of which is gone) will be replaced.  (The more recent and modern treatment at the first floor will remain, however.)

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 someday 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 doing their best to help Port Huron transition to a vibrant pedestrian hub.  As Larry said:  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.

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.