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 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 14, 2014
Point Betsie Lighthouse is located on the shore of Lake Michigan just north of Frankfort. It has the distinction of being Michigan’s most photographed lighthouse, and now you can take your photography indoors! The Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse detail the restoration of the lighthouse and grounds and say:
The first floor is now an exhibition area depicting the history of the lighthouse and the lifesaving operations of the U.S. Lifesaving Service and U.S. Coast Guard at Point Betsie. The rehabilitation process included the installation of all new utility components in the quarters, restoration of the interior walls and floors, and the complete renewal of the tower and lantern. Funding for these projects came from the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program and a distinctive “Save America’s Treasures” award from the Federal Government, along with necessary matching contributions by Point Betsie’s private donors.
One key donation was for the restoration of the Victorian staircase in the assistant keeper’s quarters, a major gift in memory of former Assistant Keeper Henry LaFreniere and his wife Hattie. The stairway provides access to a beautiful two-bedroom vacation apartment, the rent from which is an important source of revenue for the light station. Another important historic contribution consisted of radiators that had previously heated Point Betsie’s adjacent Coast Guard station.
As the interior rehabilitation was moving forward, many gifts of furnishings and other period-appropriate items were donated or loaned to the Friends group for display and use. Other items, especially for the apartment, were carefully selected for purchase. The hopes of many Point Betsie devotees were realized when the beautiful Fourth-order Fresnel lens which provided the station’s sweeping beam for about a century was returned by the Coast Guard for display on the lighthouse’s first floor.
More Point Betsie on Michigan in Pictures!
July 11, 2014
French colonists from Normandy brought pits that they planted along the Saint Lawrence River and on down into the Great Lakes area. Cherry trees were part of the gardens of French settlers as they established such cities as Detroit, Vincennes, and other midwestern settlements.
Modern day cherry production began in the mid-1800s. Peter Dougherty was a Presbyterian missionary living in northern Michigan. In 1852, he planted cherry trees on Old Mission Peninsula (near Traverse City, Michigan). Much to the surprise of the other farmers and Indians who lived in the area, Dougherty’s cherry trees flourished and soon other residents of the area planted trees. The area proved to be ideal for growing cherries because Lake Michigan tempers Arctic winds in winter and cools the orchards in summer.
The first commercial tart cherry orchards in Michigan were planted in 1893 on Ridgewood Farm near the site of Dougherty’s original plantings. By the early 1900s, the tart cherry industry was firmly established in the state with orchards not only in the Traverse City area, but all along Lake Michigan from Benton Harbor to Elk Rapids. Soon production surpassed other major crops. The first cherry processing facility, Traverse City Canning Company, was built just south of Traverse City, and the ruby-red fruit was soon shipped to Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee.
…The most famous sweet cherry variety is the Bing cherry; this cherry variety got its name from one of Lewelling’s Chinese workmen. Another sweet cherry variety is the Lambert, which also got its start on Lewelling Farms. The Rainier cherry, a light sweet variety, originated from the cross breeding of the Bing and Van varieties by Dr. Harold W. Fogle at the Washington State University Research Station in Prosser, Washington. The Bing, Lambert and Rainier varieties together account for more than 95 percent of the Northwest sweet cherry production.
Today, the U. S. cherry industry produces more than 650 million pounds of tart and sweet cherries each year. Much of the cherry production is concentrated in Michigan and the Northwest. Michigan grows about 75 percent of the tart cherry crop. Oregon and Washington harvest about 60 percent of the sweet cherry crop. Other states with commercial cherry crops are Utah, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania and California.
Read on for more, and if you want to read about how some cherry farmers think that Federal cherry policy is leaving dollars in the orchards, head over to this Bridge Magazine article on how USDA cherry policy impacts Michigan cherry farmers.
July 9, 2014
Fort Michilimackinac was built by the French on the south shore of the Straits of Mackinac in approximately 1715. Previously, French presence in the Straits area was focused in what is now St. Ignace where Father Marquette established a Jesuit mission in 1671 and Fort de Baude was established around 1683. In 1701, Cadillac moved the French garrison from St. Ignace to Detroit, which led to the closing of the mission and considerably reduced French occupation in the area. Several years later, as the French sought to expand the fur trade, they built Fort Michilimackinac to re-establish a French presence in the Straits area.
Fort Michilimackinac was a strategically located fortified trading post. The fort was not built primarily as a military facility but as a link in the French trade system, which extended from Montreal through the Great Lakes region and northwest to Lake Winnipeg and beyond. Overlooking the Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, the fort served as a supply post for French traders operating in the western Great Lakes region and as a primary stopping-off point between Montreal and the western country. Fort Michilimackinac was an island of French presence on the frontier from which the French carried out the fur trade, sought alliances with native peoples, and protected their interests against the colonial ambitions of other European nations.
In 1761 the French relinquished Fort Michilimackinac to the British who had assumed control of Canada as a result of their victory in the French and Indian War. Under the British, the fort continued to serve as a major fur trade facility. The Ottawa and Chippewa in the Straits area, however, found British policies harsh compared to those of the French and they resented the British takeover. In 1763 as part of Pontiac’s Rebellion, a group of Chippewa staged a ball game outside the stockade to create a diversion and gain entrance to the post and then attacked and killed most of the British occupants. The use of Fort Michilimackinac came to an end in 1781 when the British abandoned the post and moved to Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island.
You can get more including visitor information at Colonial Michilimackinac and also check out this History Channel program on Pontiac’s Rebellion (the Michilimackinac story is about 20 minutes in).
More from Mackinac on Michigan in Pictures!
July 7, 2014
The entrance into the St. Claire River from Lake Huron had long been deemed of strategic importance. Named after General Charles Gratiot, the engineer in charge of its construction, the Fort Gratiot military outpost was established at the entrance to the river in 1814, and ensured the security of vessels making the passage.
With the surge in vessel traffic on Lake Huron in the early 1800′s, the need for a lighthouse to guide vessels into the river and away from the shallows at the River entrance became a matter of increasing importance. In response to this need, Congress appropriated $3,500 to construct a lighthouse “near Fort Gratiot, in Michigan Territory” on March 3rd of 1823.
The contract for construction of the lighthouse and keepers dwelling was awarded to Captain Winslow Lewis of Massachusetts. Lewis was the inventor of the patented Lewis Lamp, which the Fifth Auditor had universally adopted as the primary source of illumination in the nation’s growing inventory of lighthouses. A staunch supporter and ally of the Fifth Auditor, Lewis had branched out into the business of lighthouse construction, and as the frequent low bidder, was being awarded a growing number of contracts to fulfill the nation’s need for navigational aids on the East Coast.
Lewis sub-contracted the construction of the tower and keepers dwelling that would become known as the “Fort Gratiot Light” to Mr. Daniel Warren of Rochester New York. Work commenced on the structure, but appears to have been running far beyond the scope of the original bid, since Congress appropriated an additional $5,000 for the project’s completion on April 2, 1825.
With the completion of construction on August 8th of that year, Fort Gratiot Light held the honor of becoming the first lighthouse in the State of Michigan.
Read on for much more including a couple of old photos of the light.
Many more Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures!
July 2, 2014
“Our children were born here and now we have five grandchildren to celebrate also. We have proud geological roots here. We think the shaft should be bright on our birthdays, and this would be a good way to support geoheritage and the QMHA. We hope other local families will consider doing this.”
~Bill and Nanno Rose
Apparently, you can make a donation and have the Quincy Mine Shaft lit up in honor of a loved one. Click the link for details!
The photo above shows the Quincy Mine Hoist, part of the Quincy Mine complex, an extensive set of copper mines near Hancock. The mine was owned by the Quincy Mining Company . The Quincy Mine was known as “Old Reliable,” paying a dividend to investors every year from 1868 through 1920 and operated between 1846 and 1945. The Quincy Mine page on Wikipedia says (in part):
The Quincy Mine was founded in 1846 by the merger of the Northwest Mining Company and the Portage Mining Company. Due to poor communication between government offices, these two speculative mining companies had purchased the same tracts of land during the mining rush of the early 1840s. The directors met and decided to merge, with significant investment coming from Massachusetts (the town of Quincy, Massachusetts lent the mine its name). While many other copper mines were founded at the same time, the Quincy Mine became the most successful of the 1840s-era mines, and was the country’s leading copper-producing mine from 1863 (when it exceeded the production of the Minesota Mine) through 1867 (after which it was exceeded by the Calumet and Hecla).
The mine was the first Michigan copper mine to switch from fissure mining to amygdaloid mining, when the recently discovered Pewabic amygdaloid lode was found to cross Quincy property in 1856. High-grade fissure veins contained large, pure masses of copper, but the masses could take days or even months to extract, at high cost. Amygdaloid mining consisted of extracting lower-grade strataform orebodies in the “amygdaloid zones,” the upper portions of basalt lava flows. Rock bearing small pockets of copper could be blasted out immediately and processed elsewhere at much lower cost. Amygdaloid mining proved much more productive than fissure mining, and the size and richness of the Pewabic lode in particular allowed the Quincy to produce profits for 53 consecutive years. The Quincy company expanded laterally along the lode by buying out adjacent properties. The company bought the Pewabic mine in 1891, the Mesnard and the Pontiac in 1897, and the Franklin mine in 1908. This helped the mine survive longer than almost all other Keweenaw copper mining companies, except the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company and the Copper Range Company.
To attract a better class of worker, the Quincy Mining Company built and maintained housing for the workers. Over the course of operations, the types of housing ranged from simple tents in the early days, to complete three story houses shortly before the mine’s shutdown. The executives on the east coast wanted to build more elaborate and fancy homes with amenities such as electricity and running water. However, the on-site managers didn’t think it was necessary for the miners to have such high-class dwellings. But the east coast executives realized that if they offered nicer homes to the workers, the miners were more likely to stay, raise families, and be less likely to leave the area or transfer to another mining company. This strategy proved effective and helped the Quincy Mining Company retain its status as one of the premier mining companies in the region.
“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!
June 28, 2014
John Flesher of the Associate Press has a feature on NBC News about the possible discovery of the Holy Grail of Great Lakes shipwrecks, Le Griffon, the ship of French explorer Rene-Robert Sieur de La Salle. The article says (in part):
A wooden beam embedded at the bottom of northern Lake Michigan appears to have been there for centuries, underwater archaeologists announced Tuesday, a crucial finding as crews dig toward what they hope is the carcass of a French ship that disappeared while exploring the Great Lakes in the 17th century.
Expedition leaders still weren’t ready to declare they had found a shipwreck or the long-lost Griffin. The ship, commanded by the French explorer La Salle, was never seen again after setting sail in September 1679 from an island near the entrance of Green Bay, in what is now northern Wisconsin, with a crew of a six and a cargo of furs.
…Scientists and divers began excavating last week at the base of the wooden beam, hoping to determine whether it is part of the Griffin. Steve Libert, a diver and shipwreck enthusiast who has searched three decades for the Griffin, discovered the timber in 2001 and recently obtained state and federal permits to probe beneath the muddy surface.
Read on for more. Libert is president of Great Lakes Exploration Group started the Lasalle-Griffon Project with the state of Michigan and the Republic of France in July of 2010. He’s definitely obsessed with finding the ship, and their Expedition page explains:
If the wreck Libert has found is Le Griffon, it will be a find of tremendous historical significance. Le Griffon was built by Rene-Robert Sieur de La Salle, one of the first French explorers of the Great Lakes Region. He would later claim the Mississippi River watershed for France, a vast expanse of land that extended from the Allegheny Mountains to the Rocky Mountains and North of the Great Lakes, a portion of which became what is presently known as the Louisiana Purchase.
Exploration and study of the ship will tell us much about the history of our country and how our ancestors lived. “The ship is a time capsule that will fill the missing gaps of La Salle’s early exploration of North America,” says Libert. In particular, the wreck is a record of ship construction of that period, about which relatively little is known. La Salle constructed Le Griffon on the banks of the Niagara River, about three miles above the falls. There is strong documentation to support the view that Le Griffon was built on what is now the U.S. side of the Falls. If the wreckage is Le Griffon, however, it may be possible to use samples to establish definitively which side it was built on.
The fact that Le Griffon was built in the wilderness, as opposed to a shipyard, will reveal the circumstances La Salle and his men faced and the tools and technology they possessed. The ship was built with timber cut on site. The exact dimensions of the vessel are not known. It is however known to have been a 40 tun* vessel with three masts, a foremast, main and mizzen, and several square sails.
*Tun is an old French word for a large cask used in shipping wine, equivalent to 33.7 cubic feet or 252 gallons. Read on for a whole lot more.
Regarding the stained glass above, pinehurst19475 writes:
This is a full view of part of a panel that depicts two cavaliers in discussion. They are part of a scene that depicts Robert Cavalier Sieur de la Salle’s voyage through the Detroit River in 1678-9. The small boat in the foreground is the “Griffon,” the vessel that made the voyage.
The five-part stained glass window was originally installed in the Gothic Room of the “City of Detroit III.” At the time it was built (1912), it was the world’s largest side-wheeler. The Edward F. Lee Glass Company of Detroit designed the stained glass window.