Beloved Community Leader, Stanley McFarland

After spending some time researching people from the past, it would be hard not to notice how some people are remembered fondly at passing, and others not so much. Some well-known people in the community get their obligatory obituaries, tersely written, while others get a long and detailed one, splashed with kind words and compliments; and, memorials besides the obituary are found.*

Stanley McFarland (The Times Herald, February 24, 1940, page one).

A case in point is that of Stanley McFarland, 1879-1940. One could say he was a beautiful man who led a beautiful life; I say that he appears to have been a rare, super-fine human being. The following information is from his obituary in The Times Herald (February 24, 1940, pages 1 and 5). Following that, two memorials that anyone would be proud of are quoted in full; please read them to learn more about this example of a man.

Stanley was 60 when he died, having been laid low by a virulent infection that had started in his ear; apparently surgery made it worse. He had come to live in old Fort Gratiot as a boy when his parents, John and Catherine McFarland, moved here from Ontario (Port Hope), Canada. He grew to be 6’4” and was an “outstanding” athlete, being “an exceptionally good tennis player.” He was a director of the YMCA for some years. Stanley was known for an extraordinary mathematical ability, where “he could add large columns of figures in his head more rapidly than other clerks could do by using the adding machines. His answers to mathematical problems were always found to be accurate.” But he wasn’t just brilliant at adding numbers. He was highly regarded for his ability to analyze whole and difficult financial reports and regurgitating them in an easily understood way to others. He seemed pretty brilliant and inquisitive in general, as he traveled by car throughout the country, delighting in learning all about different areas. Continue reading

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What We Have Lost

"The Tunnel" GTW Depot, PH, built 1891

This substantial historic railroad depot (Grand Trunk Western) built in 1891, was torn down in 1975, yet the lot remains empty.

By Vicki Priest (enlarged and edited on 3/31/16)

Buildings aren’t people, yet buildings can be unique, beautiful, contain rare materials and can be a face in the community for centuries.  A building can represent a street, a community, a city; it can inspire awe and any number of other feelings or thoughts that make us realize that we can create something beautiful.  Buildings can be the opposite, too.  They can remind us of failing economies and the loss of community pride, as when a school falls into disrepair, or when newer buildings are simple, cheap, cookie-cutter, letting us consider how we now live in a throw-away culture.  For example, 805 Pine Grove Avenue used to be the home of an astonishingly handsome home (Second Empire style), but in its place now is an abandoned gas station.

Pine Grove Ave, PH, 2016

Abandoned gas station at 805 Pine Grove Avenue, Port Huron, today (2016).

Dead house, 805 Pine Grove Ave, PH

An early and astonishing Port Huron home, demolished (!) in 1970. 805 Pine Grove Avenue.

 

 

 

 

 

Looking through images of houses and churches that have been razed in Port Huron, I was negatively impressed by the loss of some of the city’s most notable architecture.  It’s very hard to imagine how it could’ve been thought that tearing such structures down was better than brainstorming ways to repurpose them.  Other structures were lost due to neglect and fire. Below is a very sad example of the urban downscaling that has happened in Port Huron.  The first image is of an undated photo, showing a block of historic buildings on the left (one of them was quite unique), with the second image showing them all to be gone.  (These images will be updated when more information and better quality photos are acquired.)

Military and Wall streets, Port Huron

With the Harrington Hotel at the right, this view is of a block of historic structures at Military and Wall streets (NW corner), Port Huron. The sidewalk and streets are of brick pavers. Undated photo from Gaffney (2006, p 24).

Military street at Wall Street, NNW view, Google

The same scene in 2013 as the historic image shows, though with a different type of lens. No historic buildings at the left remain. From a Google street view image.

Some homes made way for the primary hospital in town.  While time doesn’t stand still and communities grow, the homes torn down for the hospital expansion didn’t have their windows and other structural and architectural components removed for recycling purposes (for use in other historic structures that need replacements).  Below are some examples.  An inventory of lost resources will be listed in the Lost Properties page.

1st Baptist Church, PH, now a parking lot

First Baptist Church, dedicated in 1882 (the church had an earlier building that had burned down). Sold in 1969 to make a parking lot.

The beautiful church structure at left was considered the “crown jewel” of downtown Port Huron (Creamer 2006).  It was sold to the city in 1969 and subsequently demolished; there is now a parking lot in its place.

Maccabees headquarters, Port Huron.

The original Knights of the Maccabees headquarters, built in 1892. It later became the Algonquin Hotel. It met its unfortunate demise in 2000, when it burned down after having been abandoned. Photo from c. 1905.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are the homes mentioned earlier, demolished in 2006 for the hospital expansion.  They do not appear to have had valuable components removed first.

Razed house, Pine Grove Ave, Port Huron

The 1300 block of Pine Grove Avenue, Port Huron, 2005, prior to their 2006 demolition.

Demolishing 1327 Pine Grove Ave., PH

1327 Pine Grove Avenue being demolished. June 2006. The smashed remains of the regal 1323 home are to the left.

Razed Lauth Hotel, Port Huron

The Lauth Hotel, built in 1902. Date of photo unknown.

Very few of the original hotels in Port Huron remain today.  Sadly, the “skinny” Lauth Hotel (and bar) no longer stands.  “Built to resemble the famed Flat Iron Building in New York City in 1902, it was destroyed in the Urban Renewal Movement of the 1970’s” (Gaffney, accessed Feb 2016).  Instead of creatively integrating it into condominium architectural plans, it was simply razed.  The whole area where it stood used to be an attractive little city center with brick pavers, but not any more.

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PS.  A local authority had told me of this house, and having discovered specifically which house it was in Port Huron, I wanted to append it to this article.  St Joseph Catholic Church had owned it and then demolished it, despite it being in the city’s Olde Town Historic District.  Believers are called to be stewards of God’s creation, and quality buildings are made of choice and rare materials that God provided.  The workmanship required to make such structures may also be considered a gift from God.  Apparently, the community wanted this structure saved, the city offered them free amenities, and there was even someone who wanted to move it.  Yet the church acted ungraciously (from what I’ve been told) and tore the building down anyway.  Why such waste when it could’ve been removed instead?  There is nothing but grass there now.  There are many reasons why The Church has dwindled in the last decades, and this attitude of disregard–for others in the community and for God’s gifts–could be one of them.

317 Seventh St, Port Huron, demolished

1317 Seventh Street, Port Huron. The church that demolished it, which was on an adjacent lot, even took over the address of the disappeared.

Sources

Bromley, Suzette (former curator for the Port Huron Museum), Rootsweb page, which holds scanned images from various collections held by the Port Huron Museum, and the Library of Congress.

Creamer, Mary Lou (and the History and Research Committee of the Port Huron Sesquicentennial Steering Committee, c. 2006), Port Huron: Celebrating Our Past, 1857-2007.

(TJ) Gaffney’s Pinterist page

Gaffney, TJ, Port Huron, 1880-1960 (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2006).

Olde Town Historic District

PhoenixMasonry.org

Hello!

This brand new site is under construction.  Priority right now is the populating of the informational pages rather than posting lots of entries on the home page.  So if you check those out, you’re sure to see something.

At the moment, the City of Port Huron doesn’t have a central informational hub for its own resources or for historic preservation information generally,* and that is exactly what this site hopes to help rectify.  For example, Port Huron has two historic districts, but you’d hardly know it even if you tried finding out about them.  City governments that are proud of their rich built environment and history normally try to make those resources easily knowable, even more so when heritage tourism is involved.  There are those who are active in trying to preserve their communities, and there are those who are working on projects right now that will result in the reopening of historic buildings downtown.  These things will be the subjects of future posts.  Regarding the association, it is just forming and looking for supporters, members, friends.  If you are interested in knowing more or helping out, there is a contact form on the “membership and donations” page.  Thank you for your interest!

*  The St. Clair County library in downtown does (happily) have research materials, and there is some information at the Main Street office at 219 Huron Avenue, but neither of these are the equivalent to the city having a real history or historic preservation page (or publications).  The city has never carried out a historic resources survey and has no register of historically significant properties, and the two historic districts it has are hard do find out about (one district has a website up, but it hasn’t been updated since 2008).  The communities that surround Port Huron, Fort Gratiot, Port Huron Township, and Marysville, are smaller and haven’t undertaken surveys or implemented registers, either (Marysville does have historical and museum information at its city site).

Port Huron, pier with steamers, c 1908

An active pier scene in Port Huron, circa 1908.