August 7, 2014
Here’s a Throwback Thursday featuring one of Northern Michigan’s most colorful characters:
Harrison’s most colorful character was John “Spikehorn” Meyers, known to thousands of Michigan residents simply as Spikehorn. He was a showman, naturalist, politician, coal miner, tile manufacturer, furniture builder, inventor, realtor, bear hunter, lumberjack, and above all, individualist. The old gentleman had a fertile imagination under his white thatch of hair and full white beard.
According to neighbors, Spikehorn’s interest in the woods and buckskins developed around 1930, when he opened his Bear and Deer Park established on his property at the corner of US-27 and M-61. Rumor has it the park even contained an occasional buffalo.
Spikehorn and his friend, Red Eagle, dressed in buckskins for tourists and treated them to tales of their adventures in the woods. He enjoyed feeding his pets sweets, popcorn, and pop and loved posing with his deer and bears for cameras.
His enemies were the Conservation Officers, as indicated by the sign in front of his business: “Feed Conservation Officers to the Bear.”
Spikehorn also appears in one of the best Michigan history videos, Roaming Through Michigan, a classic newsreel.
October 15, 2012
This morning I saw a photo of Castle Rock in the Absolute Michigan group on Flickr that made me wonder about the history of this iconic UP tourist stop. Bob Garrett of the Archives of Michigan has the story in A Natural Lookout at Seeking Michigan:
The Upper Peninsula contains a wealth of great scenery. One might wish to climb to a high point and “take it all in.” Fortunately, nature sometimes provides a natural lookout. One such lookout is Castle Rock.
Castle Rock is located near St. Ignace, on the Upper Peninsula side of the Straits of Mackinac. The Rock is a natural limestone tower, standing nearly two hundred feet above lake level. Wind and water erosion have shaped it into a sort of “castle.” Visitors who climb the 170 steps to the top will receive a stunning view. Looking left to right, one can see St. Martin Island, Marquette Island in Les Cherneaux (on a clear day), the town of St. Ignace, ferries coming to and from Mackinac Island and the top of the Mackinac Bridge.
Castle Rock had been an ancient lookout of the Ojibway tribe, who often called it “Pontiac’s Lookout.” A company named Norton and Lund purchased the site around 1927. Norton and Lund built a stairway to the top of the Rock, opened a souvenir stand and made cabins available for tourists.
Shortly thereafter (Sources differ on the date.), a St. Ignace photographer and businessman named Charles Clarence Eby (1890-1961) bought the property. Eby hoped to increase tourism, and he used his photography skills toward that end. He launched a high volume postcard business, and his postcards and other promotional material drew people to the Upper Peninsula and the St. Ignace area.
Around 1958, statues of the mythical lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe, were built at the foot of the stairs. These were handcrafted by Calvin Tamlyn, who was Eby’s son in law. They still greet visitors today.
Castle Rock can be found north of St. Ignace, along I-75. Take exit 348, and you’ll be there. For more information, see the Castle Rock Web site.
You can head over to Seeking Michigan for more including some books in Michigan libraries, a photo of Paul & Babe and also a stereoscopic pic from the 20s. There’s a little more info on Wikipedia, including a panorama of the view from the top of the rock.
More roadside attractions on Michigan in Pictures.
This “castle” in Owosso was actually a place used for entertainment and a writing studio for James Oliver Curwood. Now owned by the city of Owosso, it overlooks the Shiawassee River. Curwood made a living as a writer of wilderness adventure stories, some of which became screenplays for early movies. The castle was constructed to resemble a French chateau. August, 2009.
The above picture is one of many in the latest photo essay at the Michigan Radio Picture Project: Roadside Ramblings, the photography of Mark F. O’Brien. Mark is a regular on Michigan in Pictures (as is his daughter Marjorie) and shoots with all kinds of cameras. He writes:
Michigan is a state criss-crossed with highways. As the home state for the auto industry, the roads have played an important part in connecting communities, bringing in tourism, as well as being the main thoroughfare for commerce. Exploring Michigan’s roads, whether the major highways or the gravel backroads, has become one of my photographic pursuits. I often shoot with a “toy camera” — simply a plastic camera with a cheap plastic lens, limited exposure control, and infinite possibilities for photography. While I use all kinds of really nice cameras, it’s the Holgas, Dianas, and thrift-shop wonders that produce many of my most memorable and endearing photographs.
A full tank of gas, some maps, and a few cameras inevitably leads to a long day traversing some part of the state. If one is curious enough, just traveling all of the roads in a single county can take a long time to complete. Driving around and letting serendipity take its course is one way of learning about my state, as well as coming back with some photographs that sometimes offer a surreal aspect of what’s off the side of the road.
Click through to see the photos and I hope you get to do some roadside rambling of your own this weekend or soon!
March 26, 2010
In their entry about Castle Rock, Hunt’s Guide to the UP says that Castle Rock is a limestone stack, eroded by water and wind to form a “castle” nearly 200 feet above Lake Huron:
Clarence Eby, a St. Ignace photographer and pioneer of area tourism, acquired Castle Rock and, in 1928, opened it as a destination, just as somewhat better area roads enabled motorists to go sightseeing in outlying areas. He made postcards of sights in Mackinac County, the island, and the Straits, created a guidebook with ads from resorts and cabins, and worked to create a Chamber of Commerce information center in town. Today Eby’s grandson Mark runs Castle Rock
Click the link above to see one of Eby’s colorized postcards and get more info including a panoramic photo from Wikipedia.
February 2, 2010
February is National Cherry Month and there’s nothing more cherry than the cherry pie. The folks at Roadside America (who keep track of stuff like this) have this to say about the titanic battle for the World’s Largest Cherry Pie:
Charlevoix was the first into the mix. In 1976 a man named Dave Phillips, in a burst of bicentennial fervor, convinced local businesses in Charlevoix to bake the World’s Largest Cherry Pie as part of the town’s annual cherry festival. A giant pan was built, along with an equally titanic oven. Local farmers supplied the ingredients. The result: a cherry pie weighing 17,420 pounds. It was a world record.
Further south, the town of Traverse City had its own cherry festival. It had perhaps heard one too many boasts from Charlevoix, and in 1987 it decided to do something about it…
The Chef Pierre Bakeries went to work, and on July 25 it baked a cherry pie that put Charlevoix to shame: 28,350 pounds; 17 feet, 6 inches in diameter. As an added snub, the town had Guinness Book of World’s Records certify its pie as the largest ever. Charlevoix’s days in the spotlight were ended after only 11 years.
But time has a way of humbling the proud. The Chef Pierre Bakeries were bought out by Sara Lee. The cherry farms around Traverse City were turned into golf courses. Yuppies from downstate began invading the town, as they were invading Charlevoix. And in 1992, after only five years, Traverse City’s cherry pie crown was knocked clear into Canada when the tiny town of Oliver, British Columbia, baked a cherry pie for the ages — 39,683 pounds.
Check Allen’s photo out bigger.
April 20, 2009
The Wikipedia entry for the Irish Hills Towers says that these wooden observation towers were constructed along US-12 in the Irish Hills region in northern Lenawee County as the result of a curious competition along the lines of the skyscraper frenzy in New York:
In the early 1920s, the Michigan Observation Company sought places of high elevation to erect fifty foot high enclosed platforms to boost tourism. In southern Michigan, a tower was placed atop Bundy Hill in Hillsdale County, Michigan and officials sought a knoll in the heart of the Irish Hills in Lenawee County. A farmer who owned half of the knoll, Edward Kelly, turned down the company’s offer to purchase his portion of the land. The adjoining land owner, Thomas Brighton, consented the sale of his plat, and construction of the Irish Hills Observatory commenced.
The opening of the Irish Hills Observatory was announced by The Brooklyn Exponent in September 1924. In a gala celebration on October 4 and October 5, hundreds of people ascended the hill and tower to gaze upon the rolling landscape and crystal blue lakes in all directions. Kelly seemed spited by the exploitation of the MOCs venture, and protested by erecting his own tower. By the end of November, 1924, his own observation platform was in place, just feet away from the MOCs structure, and several feet higher.
The Michigan Observation Company responded by adding a second observation enclosure to the top of its own facilities, now designated as the “Original Irish Hills Tower”. Kelly proceeded to add a raised platform to his “Gray” tower (named as such because of its gray-painted exterior), an act which brought the two edifices to an even height. The MOC informed Kelly that if he attempted to compete with more height given to his tower, they would tear down their own and construct a metal observatory so large that Kelly’s efforts would be nullified. He conceded, and turned his efforts instead to drawing more revenue to his creation.
In the 1950s Frank Lamping purchased both and added a gift shop. The towers closed in 2000.
Here’s a cool postcard from the 1930s of the view from Irish Hills Towers, a sweet photo from Matt Callow and a few photos showing different views of the towers. You can see the location on Waymarks.
More Michigan roadside attractions from Michigan in Pictures!
December 30, 2008
Michigan’s Roadside Tourist Attractions will be showcased in a special exhibit opening at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing on January 10, 2009.
Michigan’s Roadside Attractions, set to run through Sept. 14, 2009, features more than 50 roadside attractions that grew up as Michigan expanded its highway system from the 1930s through the 1970s. Many of these attractions still provide fun and excitement for millions of tourists each year.
“Deer parks and dinosaur gardens are just a couple travel experiences that take center stage again in this exhibit. Places like Castle Rock in St. Ignace, the Soo Locks Boat Tours and the multiple locations where Paul Bunyan has been spotted are also featured through photos, artifacts and souvenirs,” said Phillip C. Kwiatkowski, director of the Michigan Historical Museum System. ” Michigan’s Roadside Attractions is about treasured mementoes, from miniature Paul Bunyan statues and plastic purses to dinosaurs, seashells and even ceramic doll dish sets.”
I know you’re all wondering about Castle Rock – here’s what Roadside America has to say:
Castle Rock is an abrupt, geologic protuberance just north of the Mackinac Bridge on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The nearly 200-ft. column of rock was long ago augmented with a man-made ramp and walkway to provide tourists a climb for an unparalleled view of Lake Huron and distant Mackinac Island.
At the base of the Castle Rock lookout is an amusing Paul Bunyan statue accompanied by his mythical sidekick, Babe the Blue Ox. This Bunyan is rare. Instead of standing, ready to deforest Michigan, Paul sits, staring googly-eyed towards the lake. With a newspaper in his hands, we’d complete the visual that Paul is halfway through one of his mighty bowel movements.
OK, probably should have cut that one sentence earlier. Read more about Castle Rock from Hunt’s UP Guide (I learned that it only costs 50¢ to climb – definitely stopping next time!)