South Park Historic District Moving Forward

3803 Electric Avenue, known as the Conner House. It is one of the earliest South Park homes and was depicted in a Factory Land Company booklet (ca 1902). George Conner was an industrial inventor and promoter of important South Park companies. A street in South Park is also named after him.

3803 Electric Avenue, known as the Conner House. It is one of the earliest South Park homes and was depicted in a Factory Land Company booklet (ca 1902). George Conner was an industrial inventor and promoter of important South Park companies. A street in South Park is also named after him.

With the preliminary questionnaire accepted by a Michigan State Historic Preservation Officer, further study and considerations of boundaries for the South Park Historic District are moving forward.  To show our progress, an excerpt from the preliminary questionnaire is given below (the formatting was changed because of website conditions, however).  It is a concise consideration of the early period of the district.


A Concise History of South Park: Beginnings and Early Development

By Vicki Priest (2016) (c) (Not to be used without permission of the author)

What is known as South Park, at the south end of the City of Port Huron, began in 1901[1] as a planned community that had minor similarities to a company town.  Unlike any other turn-of-the-century neighborhood or town known in the region, South Park was designed with a long (east-west) central park which was to be surrounded by homes, while the community’s north end was reserved for commercial enterprises and industrial plants.  Employees could buy lots (sometimes with houses already built on them) directly from The Factory Land Company, the owner and promoter, with easy terms.  And aside from some minor stipulations,[2] research so far suggests that neither the Factory Land Company or any associated company controlled residents or owned commercial businesses in the manner that traditional company town developers did.

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Fun Stuff from Department of Labor Reports

PHE&TCo buildings. partial, Port Huron 2016

Not a pretty sight today, but the Port Huron Engine & Thresher Company was Port Huron’s top employer in 1916 (and very likely, many other years as well).

By Vicki Priest (c)

Perhaps the majority of people don’t get excited about some of the things I do . . . but Department of Labor Reports!?  I love hardware stores and let out little exclamations over finely designed metal objects.  So there’s that tomboy side of me (or engineer nerd?).  But the historian side of me, the Sherlockian part of me, was very excited indeed to find a Michigan Department of Labor Report from 1916 that listed businesses inspected in Port Huron.  Although the data is from “factory inspections,” those entities inspected were not only factories, but included businesses that simply provided a service (no doubt not ALL Port Huron businesses were inspected).  A really useful bit of information provided is the founding years of these companies (most of them, anyway).  Here are some culled facts from this 1916 report (hopefully, more years to come later).

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As Seen in Port Huron, April 24th 2016

Backways, Port Huron

The alleyscape of the southeast block of Military and Water Streets, Port Huron (taken April 24, 2016; filtered).

The lull in posts should not be confused with an absence of work on PHAH&PA’s part.  Research is being done, pages are being added to and edited, buildings and districts are being identified as possible National Register candidates, one-on-one meetings are being held, and there’s some training going on in there too.

Part of the page additions and research has involved taking and adding photographs, so I thought I’d share some here.  Today, not realizing that the Exquisite Corpse coffee house wasn’t open on Sundays, my son and I took a little stroll around the block it’s in, looking for the little things that make up the personality of a building and a block.  Here are a few.

Historic alleyway door and wall, Port Huron.

Old stonework and double door, Military street alley (at Water Street), Port Huron. I only wish you could really see what this photo can’t seem to convey about this historic doorway.

Pilaster detail, Water St, Port Huron

Pilaster detail, east end of Water St, Port Huron.

Historic bldg details, Port Huron

Stone foundation and pilaster detail, east end of Water Street, Port Huron.

Pilaster base, north end Military St, Port Huron

We’d need to do a rubbing of this one. Pilaster base, at the north end Military St (east side), Port Huron.

Historic interior detail, Military St, Port Huron

Historic interior detail (or ghost of one), east side of Military Street (south of Water), Port Huron. East Lake Builders seem to be in the process of preserving and renovating this building.

Detail of the Old Masonic Lodge Bldg, Port Huron

 

 

 

At left is an upper door detail from what’s left of the 1912 Eagles Lodge No. 343 at 1001 Military Street. It used to be a stately three story structure with brick upper floors, but now only the bottom first floor remains (it is utilized as a social services building). See below. An image of the original building will be added when one becomes available.

1001 Military St, Port Huron

Below is a side view of what is probably the only red sandstone building in Port Huron, and it’s in pretty sorry shape.  This structure was one of the oldest banks in the city, St. Clair County Savings Bank.  Amazingly, it’s present location at Military and Pine streets is not it’s first–it was moved stone by stone from a location that was closer to the water (Endlich 1981:71).

Old St Clair County Bank bldg, Port Huron

St Clair Cty Savings Bank Endlich p72

At left is a scan of the building during better days (Endlich 1981:72); the photo is undated.

Source

Endlich, Helen.  A Story of Port Huron (Port Huron: Self-published, 1981).

Getting the Word Out about PHAHPA

I’ve been busy populating this site’s pages with useful information, researching and helping some folks with historical building questions, and trying to make more connections.  So, I hadn’t been focusing on developing the organization as a nonprofit quite as much.  But to make things clearer in everyone’s mind (including my own), I came up with a one page hand-out about the Port Huron Area History and Preservation Association.  Eventually, when the organization has a new host, pdf’s of forms, informational sheets and brochures, articles, etc., will be made available.

In the meantime, feel free to comment on the contents of this hand-out.  We would appreciate thoughtful feedback and any insights into the local situation that could prove helpful to furthering the preservation of our historic community.  First is an image of the sheet which could be copied and printed out, if desired, followed by standard text.

Port Huron Area History

The background color is quite off in this scan, but it’ll do for now.


Port Huron Area History & Preservation Association  

Community.  Uniqueness.  Home.

cropped-ph-1st-baptist-1867-2.jpg

Bringing the Port Huron area’s history to life.

We’re here to inform and inspire Port Huron area residents about the possibilities of preserving and rehabilitating their historic properties.  We’re here to help those same residents investigate their properties for the purposes of recognition, preservation, and the application for any possible monetary benefit or assistance.

We will do this by developing and presenting (1) data related to regional history, architecture, and planning, (2) historical narratives and contexts, (3) “how-to” articles and ready-to-use forms; by providing (4) assistance with research, technical forms, and report writing, and by (5) recognizing historical resources at the organizations’ web page and via public avenues, and when funds allow, (6) provide permanent informational plaques (to be mounted on the historic building). 

We are still in the development phase of establishing this organization for the greater Port Huron area, with the goal of incorporating and being awarded nonprofit (501[c]3) status.  To find out more and to contribute in any way (including volunteering, or even being on the Board of Directors or an advisory committee), please visit PHAHPA.ORG and/or contact Vicki Priest at 949-449-4731 (or phahpa@zoho.com).  Thank you!


 

Yes, Virginia, Historic Preservation for the Masses Exists

Playful architecture, Port Huron

A historic house of concern, located at 1440 Chestnut, Port Huron. It has an unusual and playful very wide and deep-set tower, which dwarfs the small bay window behind it. There is another home with these same surprising features in South Park, Port Huron.

Against the will of a huge amount of people and their community representatives, monied interests in Michigan are trying their darnedest to–for all intents and purposes–eliminate historic districts (Ellison 2016; Finegood 2016 (1); Finegood 2016 (2)).  So with this dark cloud looming, Stephanie Meeks’ “President’s Note” in the Spring 2016 issue of Preservation (Fighting Displacement) seemed like a sudden burst of sunshine.  To read the entire piece, click the previous link–it’s not a long read.  But here, let me give you some highlights.

For many Americans in cities, the biggest crisis now and in the foreseeable future is a dearth of affordable housing . . . Simply put, the rent is just too high. . . .  Fourteen cities around the country saw double-digit growth in rents last year.

There is sometimes a perception that preservation is driving excessive rents by making older neighborhoods more attractive to well-heeled outsiders, and by ostensibly limiting the housing supply. We have been heartened by recent research . . . that suggests instead that preservation supports existing residents across the economic spectrum . . .

One terrific example of this is in Macon, Georgia, where the Historic Macon Foundation has been renovating homes in the Beall’s Hill neighborhood. Historic Macon never displaces current landowners by acquiring occupied houses [displacement is happening in Michigan, where very nice old homes are being torn down to build “McMansions], and it counters displacement in other ways, such as building houses designed to be affordable for families and operating a robust historic tax credit consulting service.  [emphasis mine – this is a terrific idea]

Rather than exacerbating the crisis, creative adaptive reuse projects all over the country are expanding housing options and helping cities become more affordable.

I wonder what we can accomplish at the local level here in Port Huron, if we try?  Please contact me if you’d like to discuss the possibilities!  vicki@phahpa.org

Substitute HB 5232 Bills to Weaken Historic Districts Not Necessary

A Main Street boardwalk view of Portland, Michigan.

Historic main street, boardwalk view, Portland, Michigan.

Earlier, PHAHPA posted an alert from the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, asking those of us who favor historic preservation in Michigan to write our representatives, voicing our opposition to House Bill 5232 and its senate twin SB 720.  The house bill had gone to the Local Governments Committee, where a substitute bill was adopted (on February 24th).  In the meantime, the representative who introduced the original bill, Afendoulis, wrote a substitute bill as well; it was not introduced to the Local Governments Committee before they went on spring break (which lasts until April 11th), however.  While some of the changes in the substitute bills make the proposed changes to the original historic district law (PA 169 of 1970) less severe, they would nevertheless weaken that law and are simply unnecessary.  Why this is even an issue is quite disturbing, and can be read about in Affluent Suburb Behind Push to Dismantle Michigan Historic Districts.

This is what our tax dollars are spent on in Lansing . . .to make our local communities less self-governing.

“The beauty of this system is that its a democracy,” Ligibel says. “Because it’s so local, each community decides for itself, and things change over time.”  Burg 3/9/16

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Pending Bills Would Greatly Hurt Local Preservation Efforts

Port Huron, Huron Ave post card

House and Senate bills were introduced to the Michigan legislature last month that would deflate community efforts to control their own local historic resources.  The proposed amendments to the state’s historic districts law go against existing and long-standing federal laws and the accomplishments made at the state and local levels.  The bills also totally oppose what citizens desire regarding historic preservation efforts as outlined in Michigan’s State Historic Master Plan, 2014-2019.  Instead of reinventing the wheel, reproduced below is Michigan Historic Preservation Network’s  Advocacy Alert concerning HB 5232 and SB 720.  Links to sample letters for your ease of advocacy are included. ___________________________________

Michigan Historic Preservation Network

Advocacy Alert: Historic Resources in Jeopardy with HB 5232 / SB 720

We need your urgent attention and immediate action. On January 26th, Rep. Chris Afendoulis, R-Grand Rapids, and Sen. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, introduced identical legislation into the Local Government Committees of the House and Senate. House Bill 5232 and Senate Bill 720 have serious detrimental impacts to historic resources and local historic districts through proposed amendments to Michigan’s Local Historic Districts Act, PA 169 of 1970.

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