“Mr. Scott never did anything for Detroit in his lifetime and he never had a thought that was good for the city.”
~ J.L. Hudson
Sometimes when you peer into history, you see things you didn’t expect, and that’s definitely the case with today’s subject. The Cass Gilbert Society’s page on the James Scott Memorial Fountain on Belle Isle explains that the fountain was completed in 1925, designed by noted architect Cass Gilbert (designer of the US Supreme Court Building in DC), and executed by sculptor Herbert Adams
The fountain was the result of a bequest from millionaire playboy James Scott, a figure of much controversy in Detroit at the turn of the century. Detroit’s fountain of mirth from the excellent Rearview Mirror series in the Detroit News (removed, but see The Wayback Machine) tells of the opposition from prominent citizens and clergy like J.L. Hudson and Bishop Williams that a playboy, loafer, gambler and vindictive practical joker like Scott be memorialized solely because he was able to plunk down a vast sum for his own monument. While public opinion kept the project scuttled for years after Scott’s death, influential Alderman David Heineman and others took up the charge, likely seeing how a vastly expensive fountain could enhance Detroit’s island park.
Speaking to reporters gathered in the office of Mayor Philip Breitmeyer, Heineman said: “I can look around this office and see pictures of men who played poker with Jim Scott. I say the bequest should be accepted.” He also recalled that “Jim always liked Belle Isle and loved to see the children there.”
The mayor agreed with Heineman. “I don’t believe the city has a right to insult any of her citizens by refusing a gift for such a good cause,” he said.
In the end, their view prevailed. It took more than 15 years, but Breitmeyer lived to attend the fountain’s dedication in 1925. Cass Gilbert, the New York architect who planned the Detroit Public Library, won a competition for design of the glistening white memorial at the lower end of the city’s pleasure island.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post previously appeared but sadly the photo was deleted by the owner. It’s one of my favorites so I re-blogged it!
April 10, 2014
If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.
There’s much more photographic goodness from Ralph on Michigan in Pictures.
March 17, 2014
February 25, 2014
February 7, 2014
January 24, 2014
John is a Michigan in Pictures contributor and friend whose photo “Reflecting” was named the first place winner at the Crooked Tree Arts Center’s 34th Annual Juried Photography Exhibition. If you make it up top Petoskey, check out the show which runs through April 5th.
More black & white photography on Michigan in Pictures.
December 31, 2013
Probably my favorite thing about the New Year is the sense that anything and everything is possible. For myself, I’m happy to close the door on 2013 which has been a tougher than usual year and looking forward to new opportunities in 2014.
I hope that whatever you’re feeling about the year that’s gone that the year to come brings you everything you hope for and some wonderful surprises that you weren’t expecting. Happy New Year everyone!
PS: Thanks everyone for the great comments and kind words yesterday!
October 21, 2013
The Poe Reef Lighthouse page at Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light begins with the story of the vessel that preceded the lighthouse:
Poe Reef lies just eight feet beneath the water’s surface between Bois Blanc Island and the Lower Peninsula mainland, and as such has long represented a significant hazard to vessels making their way through the Straits between Lakes Michigan and Huron.
In the early 1890′s the Lighthouse Board faced a vexing problem. Increasing vessel traffic created a need to install navigational aids at a number of offshore shoals and reefs. With Congressional funds increasingly difficult to obtain, and the costs of offshore lighthouse construction prohibitively high, the Board determined that the use of lightships to mark such hazards would be both significantly more expeditious and cost effective.
Unable to convince Congress to free up the funds for these lightships, the Board took the chance of redirecting an existing $60,000 congressional appropriation for a lighthouse off Peninsula Point to the purchase of four lightships.
In 1892 two contracts totaling $55,960 were awarded to the Craig Shipbuilding Company in Toledo for the construction of four lightships. Designated as Lightships LV59, LV60, LV61 and LV62, all four vessels were built to similar specifications. Framed and planked of white oak they measured 87′ 2″ inches in length, 21′ 6″ inches in the beam, with a draft of 8 feet. In a cost-cutting effort, the vessels were un-powered, outfitted with only a small riding sail carried on a short after mast. Equipped with a cluster of three oil-burning lens lanterns hoisted on their foremasts, each was also equipped with 6″ steam whistles and hand-operated bells for fog use. Work was completed on the four vessels the following year, and after sea trials, all four were commissioned by the Board and placed into service, LV59 being assigned to Bar Point, LV60 to Eleven Foot Shoal, LV61 to Corsica Shoal and LV62 to Poe Reef.
With the words POE REEF brightly painted in white on her fire engine red hull, LV62 was towed to Poe Reef by the lighthouse tender Marigold, and anchored on station to begin her vigil on September 29, 1893. For the next seventeen years LV62 spent every shipping season faithfully guarding the shoal. With the end of each shipping season, one of the lighthouse tenders would make the rounds of all lightship stations in the Straits area, and tow them into Cheboygan harbor for winter lay-up. While in Cheboygan, necessary repairs and improvements would be made in preparation for the following season. At some time in March or April, the ice would break up sufficiently to allow the vessels to be towed back to their stations to stand guard for yet another season.
Read on for another shot of this vessel and for more about the lighthouse that replaced the lightship at Poe Reef. Also have a look at these photos of Light Vessel 96, which took over for LV 62 from 1915-1920 at Poe Reef.
October 17, 2013
September 25, 2013
Myths and Legends of our Own Land by Charles M. Skinner (1896) has some incredible stories from Michigan’s first people. Here’s The Sky Walker of Huron:
Here is the myth of Endymion and Diana, as told on the shores of Saginaw Bay, in Michigan, by Indians who never heard of Greeks. Cloud Catcher, a handsome youth of the Ojibways, offended his family by refusing to fast during the ceremony of his coming of age, and was put out of the paternal wigwam. It was so fine a night that the sky served him as well as a roof, and he had a boy’s confidence in his ability to make a living, and something of fame and fortune, maybe. He dropped upon a tuft of moss to plan for his future, and drowsily noted the rising of the moon, in which he seemed to see a face. On awaking he found that it was not day, yet the darkness was half dispelled by light that rayed from a figure near him—the form of a lovely woman.
“Cloud Catcher, I have come for you,” she said. And as she turned away he felt impelled to rise and follow. But, instead of walking, she began to move into the air with the flight of an eagle, and, endowed with a new power, he too ascended beside her. The earth was dim and vast below, stars blazed as they drew near them, yet the radiance of the woman seemed to dull their glory. Presently they passed through a gate of clouds and stood on a beautiful plain, with crystal ponds and brooks watering noble trees and leagues of flowery meadow; birds of brightest colors darted here and there, singing like flutes; the very stones were agate, jasper, and chalcedony. An immense lodge stood on the plain, and within were embroideries and ornaments, couches of rich furs, pipes and arms cut from jasper and tipped with silver. While the young man was gazing around him with delight, the brother of his guide appeared and reproved her, advising her to send the young man back to earth at once, but, as she flatly refused to do so, he gave a pipe and bow and arrows to Cloud Catcher, as a token of his consent to their marriage, and wished them happiness, which, in fact, they had.
This brother, who was commanding, tall, and so dazzling in his gold and silver ornaments that one could hardly look upon him, was abroad all day, while his sister was absent for a part of the night. He permitted Cloud Catcher to go with him on one of his daily walks, and as they crossed the lovely Sky Land they glanced down through open valley bottoms on the green earth below. The rapid pace they struck gave to Cloud Catcher an appetite and he asked if there were no game. “Patience,” counselled his companion. On arriving at a spot where a large hole had been broken through the sky they reclined on mats, and the tall man loosing one of his silver ornaments flung it into a group of children playing before a lodge. One of the little ones fell and was carried within, amid lamentations. Then the villagers left their sports and labors and looked up at the sky. The tall man cried, in a voice of thunder, “Offer a sacrifice and the child shall be well again.” A white dog was killed, roasted, and in a twinkling it shot up to the feet of Cloud Catcher, who, being empty, attacked it voraciously.
Many such walks and feasts came after, and the sights of earth and taste of meat filled the mortal with a longing to see his people again. He told his wife that he wanted to go back. She consented, after a time, saying, “Since you are better pleased with the cares, the ills, the labor, and the poverty of the world than with the comfort and abundance of Sky Land, you may return; but remember you are still my husband, and beware how you venture to take an earthly maiden for a wife.”
She arose lightly, clasped Cloud Catcher by the wrist, and began to move with him through the air. The motion lulled him and he fell asleep, waking at the door of his father’s lodge. His relatives gathered and gave him welcome, and he learned that he had been in the sky for a year. He took the privations of a hunter’s and warrior’s life less kindly than he thought to, and after a time he enlivened its monotony by taking to wife a bright-eyed girl of his tribe. In four days she was dead. The lesson was unheeded and he married again. Shortly after, he stepped from his lodge one evening and never came back. The woods were filled with a strange radiance on that night, and it is asserted that Cloud Catcher was taken back to the lodge of the Sun and Moon, and is now content to live in heaven.
More Lake Huron on Michigan in Pictures.