July 24, 2014
A calm night on the Straits of Mackinac, and Michigan’s signature bridge was looking fine!
I’ve posted a ton about the Mighty Mackinac Bridge here on Michigan in Pictures, but had never seen this excellent summary of how it came to be courtesy the Michigan Dept. of Transportation’s page on I-75 and the Straits of Mackinac:
The five-mile stretch of water separating Michigan’s two peninsulas, the result of glacial action some twelve thousand years ago, has long served as a major barrier to the movement of people and goods. The three railroads that reached the Straits of Mackinac in the early 1880s, the Michigan Central and the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railway from the south, and the Detroit, Mackinac and Marquette from the north, jointly established the Mackinac Transportation Company in 1881 to operate a railroad car ferry service across the straits. The railroads and their shipping lines developed Mackinac Island into a major vacation destination in the 1880s.
Improved highways along the eastern shores of Michigan’s lower peninsula brought increased automobile traffic to the straits region starting in the 1910s. The state of Michigan initiated an automobile ferry service between St. Ignace and Mackinaw City in 1923 and eventually operated eight ferry boats. In peak travel periods, particularly during deer season, five mile backups and delays of four hours or longer became common at the state docks at Mackinaw City and St. Ignace.
With increased public pressure to break this bottleneck, the Michigan legislature established a Mackinac Straits Bridge Authority in 1934, with the power to issue bonds for bridge construction. The bridge authority supported a proposal first developed in 1921 by Charles Evan Fowler, the bridge engineer who had previously promoted a Detroit-Windsor bridge. Fowler’s plans called for an island-hopping route from the city of Cheboygan to Bois Blanc, Round, and Mackinac islands, thence to St. Ignace, along a twenty-four-mile route. The Public Works Administration flatly rejected a request for loans and grants to implement this project.
A plan was then drawn up for a direct crossing from Mackinaw City to St. Ignace, but they were again denied funds. In 1940, a plan was submitted for a suspension bridge with a main span of 4600 feet. This design was a larger version of the ill-fated Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State, a structure destroyed by high winds on November 7, 1940. Although the disaster delayed any further action, the activities of 1938-1940 nevertheless produced some important results. The bridge authority conducted a series of soundings and borings across the straits and built a causeway extending out 4200 feet from the St. Ignace shore. The Second World War ended any additional work, and the Legislature abolished the bridge authority in 1947.
William Stewart Woodfill, president of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, almost singlehandedly resuscitated the dream of a bridge across the Straits of Mackinac. Woodfill formed the statewide Mackinac Bridge Citizens Committee in 1949 to lobby for a new bridge authority, which the legislature created in 1950. A panel of three prominent engineers conducted a feasibility study and made recommendations to the bridge authority on the location, structure, and design of the bridge.
The State Highway Department, which had just placed a $4.5 million ferryboat, Vacationland, into service at the straits in January 1952, remained hostile to the bridge plan. In April 1952, the Michigan legislature authorized the bridge authority to issue bonds for the project, choose an engineer, and proceed with construction. The authority selected David B. Steinman as the chief engineer in January 1953 and tried unsuccessfully to sell the bridge bonds in April 1953, but by the end of the year, the authority had sold the $99.8 million in revenue bonds needed to begin construction.
July 23, 2014
“You have fantastic Michigan wines, but Riesling is hitting the target every year.”
~ wine writer Stuart Pigott
With the TC Film Fest yesterday and today’s post, it appears that it’s “me time” on Michigan in Pictures. City of Riesling is a brand new wine event I am working on. It takes place July 26-28 in Traverse City and is focusing the attention of the international wine community on Michigan Rieslings.
The guest of honor for a weekend of celebration of “Planet Riesling” is none other than Stuart Pigott, likely the world’s leading authority on Riesling wine and one of the most entertaining people in the wine biz. He’s a British born wine writer who has lived in the heart of Riesling culture in Germany and dedicated years to changing people’s opinion about Riesling. When I interviewed Stuart he told me, “Riesling’s range goes from bone dry to honey sweet, from feather light to tongue heavy and every single gradation and combination of those things. No other grape variety can do that.”
One of the great things about Riesling is that it does very well in Michigan, which is considered one of the rising new Riesling regions. We have more Riesling in the ground than any other varietal, and plantings are on the rise. In today’s TC Record-Eagle, my friend Bryan Ulbrich of Left Foot Charley called out one factor that I believe is making Michigan Rieslings stand out, what wine aficionados call terroir, the climate & character of the place a wine is grown. “It’s really a transparent grape. It reflects where it was grown more than any other grape variety. You can’t hide the vineyard in this one.”
It’s really the same thing that makes our fruit some of the best in the world – Michigan is a beautiful place to grow things.
Anyway, if you’re interested in attending, there’s a giveaway you can enter until 5 PM today that gives you 2 tickets to the Riesling Oyster Riot on Sunday afternoon, 2 tix for the Night of 100 Rieslings on Sunday and 2 tickets to any one of three sessions at the Salon Riesling symposium on Monday. Details right here!
Trent writes: “We spent the day driving the Old Mission Peninsula … sandy beaches, historical lighthouse and fresh fruit stands … the ‘spine’ of the peninsula is dotted with vineyards that thrive in the temperate climate created by the surrounding lakes … reminded us of the Rhine Valley … beautiful”
There were hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars of materials that were donated by the community. It was a miraculous, Herculean feat. So cool to be a part of that. We had three meals a day for 35 to 40 people, donated from area restaurants for six weeks, every single day. And they’d drop it off. That’s how supported this thing was. The air was bristling with excitement for this thing and it was really, really cool. It was really cool to be a part of it.
~first-year volunteer Timothy “The Phantom of the State” Grey
I’ve been helping the Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF) with their online media since my offer of assistance to festival co-founder Michael Moore after a film at the State Theatre that first year. The State was where I saw Star Wars, and the theater we all grew up with in Traverse City. It had lain empty for years, but Michael and company led a community effort that got the State open for that first festival and ultimately opened it for real. The transformation that this has wrought on downtown Traverse City can’t be overstated. As one of the most successful theaters of its kind in the nation, the State draws thousands of people downtown for movies every week. They stay to shop & dine and these film patrons are arguably the single greatest factor in Traverse City’s renaissance.
The State is also the home of TCFF which will draw tens of thousands of people to Traverse City for the 10th annual Traverse City Film Festival July 29 – August 3rd and sell over 100,000 tickets to 200+ films. As any TC business owner can attest, it’s a beautiful thing. The Northern Express has a feature this week titled A Traverse City Film Festival Oral History that tells the story of the founding through the memories of the people who were there. Despite the fact that Michael Moore was involved, it’s not a story of politics, but rather of a community working together to realize a dream. Here’s a few highlights:
Co-founder Michael Moore: The lunch began with deciding, ‘Let’s do this.’ And, ‘How are we going to do it?’ And I said, ‘You know, we could start out very small, like really just do it in somebody’s backyard. Or we could do it in a barn. I’m doing it for whatever you guys think we can do.’ By the end of the lunch we all got kind of excited about the possibilities of it all… By the end of it I think we decided that we would try to get like two or three venues — we talked about the Old Town Playhouse; we talked about the Opera House. We brought up the State Theatre but we were told that was not possible … I walked out of there and I was crossing the street, crossing Front Street there by Amical, and I turned and I looked at the State Theatre and I said, ‘Why can’t we use the State Theatre?’ and then I think John said, ‘Well, Rotary owns it now. It’s all closed up and it hasn’t been functioning in years and there’s no real projector there or anything. It’s just an empty building.’
Co-founder Doug Stanton: The defining image for me of the founding of the Traverse City Film Festival is a mason who showed up on his own, without being asked by anyone, to help restore the theater. I wish I could remember his name. His first name was Delbert. He was down on his hands and knees with a toothpick restoring the destroyed tile floor of the State Theatre lobby. He loved the the idea of this new festival so much. That embodied for me the community-driven heart of the whole enterprise. Its founding values to me are not driven by one person at all, but by a community.
Co-founder John Robert Williams: The night that we got the big screw-in fuses and the big push-in fuses from the ‘40s, the night we got through the breakers and made the marquee light up, and only half the neon came on — it’s actually an electrical motor that spins to make those chasers all blink around — we got that thing spinning, and we’re standing out there on a hot, early July night, it was just after the Cherry Festival, we got the lights going on the State Theatre and the cars were honking and people were jumping out of their cars taking pictures. It was like, ‘Oh my God, the lights are on at the State Theatre!’ Because they hadn’t been on in years. That was the pivotal moment for downtown Traverse City.
Williams: Our opening night was a movie called Mad Hot Ballroom. We had this movie about these fifth graders ballroom dancing and learning this in New York City. Mike came up with this little plan… When the credit crawl started rolling at the end of the movie, we were going to switch over to this hot salsa music. We got the approval from the director to switch into some dance music, and so when Michael comes popping up out of the corner at the State Theatre, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, from P.S. 136,’ and he starts naming the kids’ names, and we switch over to the salsa music and here are the cast calls in black background and white type, and these kids come out and dance the winning dance, right in front of the audience. They convulsed. This entire audience came out of their seats as one. I mean the air pressure changed in the room. Whoomp. After Mad Hot Ballroom on that Wednesday night, ticket sales went nuts the next morning because everybody in town was talking to everybody else saying, ‘You can’t believe what these guys did.’
Lots more at the Express with Part 2 coming next week.
PS: Here’s my favorite piece of media we’ve ever created at TCFF, Song to Cinema. It’s well worth your time…
July 21, 2014
Don Harrison operates UpNorth Memories and shares many of the historical post card photos I feature on Michigan in Pictures. Yesterday in honor of photographer Phil Balyeat’s 99th birthday he posted an incredible collection of photos Phil had taken over the years from the Traverse City area including this one.
More about the Dunesmobiles at Leelanau.com!
July 19, 2014
I don’t think that enough is made of the fact that as long as you’re in Michigan, you are never more than 85 miles from one of the Great Lakes. To make matters better, Michigan law permits you to freely walk the entire Great Lakes shoreline so get out and have some adventures this weekend!
About this photo, Jess writes: These images were taken on a hike on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Glen Haven MI roughly two years ago. Can’t recommend this hike enough! (I’m curious if any shipwreck remnants are still explorable with this year’s higher waterline.)
I’m curious too and will try to find out!
July 17, 2014
I am officially giving in to the TBT (ThrowBack Thursday) meme. I love history too much to let everyone else have all the fun…
Don writes that Burt Lake Scenic Tower had an early Carl Zeiss 42 Power Telescope for patrons to use, which was a very big deal at the time. See it big as a tower and see more in Don’s massive Photo Tribute to Michigan Historian Dave Tinder slideshow.
If you know anything more about it, please share in the comments!
More history on Michigan in Pictures.
July 16, 2014
Last month Michigan in Pictures regular John McCormick aka Michigan Nut had a feature on the Pure Michigan Blog titled Eight Reasons to Get Out and Explore Michigan’s Waterfalls this Summer.
I think that I may have featured all 8 shots here on Michigan in Pictures, so here’s a pic I hadn’t seen of Manabezho Falls. View it bigger on Flickr, follow Michigan Nut on Facebook and if you need 98 more reasons, here’s John’s Michigan Waterfalls slideshow.