May 16, 2015
Dan Austin of Historic Detroit has an excellent article on the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle that begins:
If Belle Isle is Detroit’s crown, then the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is its brightest emerald, full of brilliant green ferns, palms and cacti and plant life from all over the world.
The conservatory, opened in the center of the island on Aug. 18, 1904, the same day as its next door neighbor, the Belle Isle Aquarium. Both were designed by Albert Kahn, who for the conservatory turned to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for inspiration. It sits on 13 acres and features a lily pond on its north side and is fronted by formal perennial gardens on the west. These gardens are home to theLevi L. Barbour Memorial Fountain. For the first 51 years of its existence, the building was known as simply the Conservatory or the Horticulture Building. Today, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is the oldest, continually operating conservatory in the United States.
The building covers about an acre and has five areas, each housing a different climate, and features a north wing and a south wing and a 100,600 cubic feet dome 85 feet high to accommodate soaring palms and other tropical plants. The north wing houses hundreds of cacti and desert plants, and just beyond that is a room packed with ferns from floor to ceiling. The south is home to hundreds of tropical plants and the Children’s Christian Temperance Fountain. The collection also includes perennial gardens and displays of annuals. The show house, remodeled in 1980, features a continuous display of blooming plants.
Definitely read on at Historic Detroit on for how the Conservatory got its name and became home to the largest municipally owned orchid collection in the country. There’s also a great historic photo gallery.
Here’s the official site for Belle Isle Conservatory. The hours are Wednesday-Sunday, 10 AM – 5 PM and the Belle Isle Aquarium is open Saturdays and Sundays as well.
More spring wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures.
May 4, 2015
If I had a photo of the aftermath of Saturday’s 4.2 magnitude earthquake centered near Kalamazoo available to me, I’d post it here. Since I don’t, here’s the kind of damage you wouldn’t see. mLive offered some facts about Michigan earthquakes, saying (in part):
When a 4.2 earthquake struck Michigan on Saturday, May 2, the common reaction was: Earthquake? In Michigan? Seriously?
The surprise was not misplaced. Earthquakes in Michigan are rare and tend to be minor. In fact, Saturday’s quake was the state’s most powerful earthquake since 1947.
The quake occurred about 12:20 p.m., with an epicenter about five miles south of Galesburg in Kalamazoo County.
Michigan has “very small probability of experiencing damaging earthquake effects,” the Federal Emergency Management Agency says.
In fact, most tremors felt in Michigan originate elsewhere.
Michigan normally does not have earthquakes, the state’s emergency preparedness web page says. “However, we can suffer effects from earthquakes in neighboring states that have a higher likelihood of them.”
Michigan’s strongest earthquake on record occurred on Aug. 9, 1947, about 35 miles from the epicenter of Saturday’s quake.
The 1947 had a magnitude of 4.6 and was centered near Coldwater. It damaged chimneys and cracked plaster over a large area of south-central Michigan and was felt as far away as Muskegon and Saginaw and parts of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
Read on for some more facts about Michigan earthquakes.
View Cherie’s photo background big and see more in her slideshow.
April 23, 2015
What’s your commute looking like today? Mightymac.org has a great account of building the Mackinac Bridge, a process that began on May 7, 1954 and was completed November 1, 1957. It begins:
Construction of the Mackinac Bridge began with the construction of the pillars. Caissons were constructed, floated into position and sunk to provide the footings for the two immense towers which would suspend the center span of the bridge. Once the caissons were in place, creeper derricks were added, which raised materials to erect the towers and continued to climb higher.
The Mackinac Bridge roadway truss sections were assembled in sections and floated into position to be raised into place.
Constructing the Mackinac Bridge actually went on into 1958 and took 48 months, 3,500 workers, 895,000 blueprints & structural drawings, 71,300 tons of structural steel, 931,000 tons of concrete, 42,000 miles of cable wire, 4,851,700 steel rivets, 1,016,600 steel bolts and 99,800,000 dollars. There were 350 engineers and another 7,500 men & women worked at quarries, shops, mills and other locations.
When completed, the Mackinac Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world and it is currently the longest suspension bridge in North & South America and the third longest suspension bridge in the world.
April 22, 2015
Today is the 45th Earth Day, and many many not be aware of Michigan’s role in this holiday. The Ann Arbor Chronicle has an excellent feature titled Turbulent Origins of Ann Arbor’s First Earth Day that looks at the national movement in the late 60s to call attention to environmental degradation:
One of the first tasks facing the national organization was to choose a date for the proposed mass teach-ins. They settled on April 22 – “Earth Day,” as it would eventually be named – largely because that date fell optimally between spring break and final exams for most American colleges. (The fact that it is also Lenin’s birthday is apparently a complete coincidence.) But the University of Michigan operated then as now on a trimester system, with April 22 falling right in the middle of finals. As a result, the U-M environmental teach-in was scheduled for mid-March 1970.
The fact that it took place more than a month prior to national Earth Day has led to the misconception that the ENACT teach-in launched Earth Day, or that U-M was host to the first Earth Day celebration. In fact there were environmental events on other campuses as early as December 1969. But that does not in any way diminish the importance of the Ann Arbor event, which was to have a huge influence on the course of what has been called the largest mass demonstration in American history – Earth Day 1970, in which an estimated 20 million people participated.
“The University of Michigan teach-in was not the first or even the second or third – a few small liberal arts colleges had environmental teach-ins in January and February 1970,” says Adam Rome, a professor of history at Penn State who is working on a book about Earth Day. ”But the Michigan event was by far the biggest, best, and most influential of the pre-Earth Day teach-ins. The media gave it tremendous coverage. It was the first sign that Earth Day would be a big deal.”
…Events ran from the early morning until well after midnight, on topics such as overpopulation – “Sock It to Motherhood: Make Love, Not Babies” – the future of the Great Lakes, the root causes of the ecological crisis, and the effect of war on the environment. More than sixty major media outlets covered the action, including all three American television networks and a film crew from Japan. It was the biggest such event that had yet been seen in Ann Arbor – and coming as it did at the tail end of the sixties, it would be one of the last.
At the kickoff rally around 14,000 people paid fifty cents to crowd into Crisler Arena and listen to speeches by Senator Gaylord Nelson, Michigan governor William Milliken, radio personality Arthur Godfrey, and ecologist Barry Commoner, and groove to the music of Hair and Gordon Lightfoot. Another 3,000 who couldn’t get in listened on loudspeakers that were hastily set up in the parking lot.
The photographer shared a nice lyric too from Carol Johnson:
The Earth is my mother / She good to me / she gives me everything that I ever need
food on the table/ the clothes I wear/ the sun and the water and the cool, fresh air
April 20, 2015
We can call it “Shipwreck Sunday” – With Lake Michigan ice gone for the season the crystal clear, deep blue waters of northern Michigan are back (albeit still VERY VERY cold at an average of 38 degrees).
During a routine patrol this past Friday, an aircrew captured these photos of a handful of the many shipwrecks along the Lake Michigan shoreline. These photos were taken near Sleeping Bear Point northeast along the shoreline to Leland, Michigan up to Northport.
Information on the shipwrecks is scarce, please post if you recognize any of the photographed sites.
View the Coast Guard’s photo bigger and click through for photos of other wrecks including the James McBride. Definitely follow them on Facebook for more cool shots of Michigan’s coastline from above!
Regarding the Rising Sun, the Leelanau Enterprise shares Leelanau historian George Weeks account of the wreck that includes a photo of the grounded Sun:
In October 1917, the Rising Sun went to High Island to get potatoes, rutabagas and lumber to take to Benton Harbor. On 29 October, in one of the early-season snowstorms that sweep the Lakes, the Rising Sun went aground at Pyramid Point. Lifeboats were launched and all thirty-two people aboard eventually saved.
As was often the case with Great Lakes wrecks, shoreline residents, not the U.S. Coast Guard, were the first to provide assistance. In this case, Fred Baker, summoned in the night by survivors pounding at the door of his home atop the Port Oneida bluff, was the first to respond. He hastened to his barn, quickly unloaded 60 bushels of potatoes that were on his wagon, hitched his team, and went down to the beach. The survivors, including a woman found unconscious on the beach, were brought to Baker’s house. (By the 1990s, Baker’s daughter, Lucille, who was four years old at the time of the wreck, was still residing at Port Oneida, the wife of Jack Barratt, great grandson of Port Oneida settler Carsten Burfiend.)
The Coast Guard beach rescue rig arrived from Glen Haven, pulled by two teams of horses borrowed from D.H. Day. A man who was asleep when the others abandoned ship was rescued by the guardsmen.
Remains of the Rising Sun are visible from the shore on a clear day, and are popular for recreational divers. As with other wrecks, the remains are protected objects within the Manitou Passage Bottomland Preserve.
Read more about the Rising Sun, it’s caro and final voyage and the House of David that owned it from Chris Mills and see more shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures.
April 10, 2015
Stannard Rock Lighthouse, photo by Michigan Tech University College of Engineering
I came across this stunning video overflight of Stannard Rock Lighthouse last month and discovered a lighthouse I wasn’t familiar with.
Stannard Rock Lighthouse at Lighthouse Friends says (in part):
Stannard Rock, a substantial reef barely covered by the waters of Lake Superior, was named for its discoverer, Captain Charles C. Stannard of the American Fur Company, who charted the hazard in 1835. Because of its remoteness – the nearest land is twenty-five miles away, and the harbor at Marquette is distant forty-five miles – the lighthouse atop the reef has been called “the loneliest spot in the United States” and “the loneliest lighthouse in the world.”
The first plan to mark the reef came in 1849, when $1,000 was appropriated for “a floating bell at Stannard rock,” but as this amount was insufficient to moor a vessel with a bell there, it appears the effort was abandoned. In 1866, the Lighthouse Board determined the time had come to mark the nearly hidden menace to navigation:
Stannard’s rock, lying about twenty-three miles southeast of Manitou Island light, is the most serious danger to navigation in Lake Superior. This shoal is about three-fourths of a mile in extent; it rises two and a half to three feet above the water, and is fifteen or twenty feet in diameter. Its exact locality is known to but few; being so far from land it is seldom seen, and is much dreaded by all navigators. The increasing commerce of the lakes will, at no distant day, demand that it be marked by a light-house, the construction of which will, from the circumstances of its location, be a serious engineering difficulty. As a preliminary to this, and to render navigators familiar with its location, the board recommend that it be marked by a day-beacon, to be composed of a single wrought-iron shaft, not less than one foot in diameter, surmounted by a cage that would be visible not less than five or six miles.
…Stannard Rock Lighthouse stands seventy-eight feet tall and exhibits its light at a height of 102 feet above Lake Superior. The tower tapers from a diameter of twenty-nine feet at the pier to just under eighteen feet at the lantern room, while the seven floors inside the tower all have a diameter of fourteen feet.
Read on for a whole lot more about the history of this now abandoned light, including photos.
The photo comes from the Michigan Tech College of Engineering, part of the documentation of their Ecology of Lake Superior aboard the EPA Research Vessel Lake Guardian presentation. It’s pretty cool and I definitely recommend clicking through to see more photos & video and read about their mission.
View the pic big as Lake Superior and see more in their Lake Superior on board the RV Lake Guardian slideshow.
April 9, 2015
With the departure of some key players including Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Reggie Bush and addition of new faces including Ravens stalwart Haloti Ngata, the Lions have had a fairly eventful offseason. One place that not much is happening is the Lions’ former home, the massive and now domeless Pontiac Silverdome.
Stadiums of Pro Football’s page on the Pontiac Silverdome says that this modern-day ruin was designed by O’Dell/Hewlett & Luckenbach and built at a cost of $55 million:
Home of the Detroit Lions for more than 25 years, the Silverdome was one of the largest stadiums in the NFL. Prior to moving into the Silverdome, the Detroit Lions had played at Tiger Stadium since 1938, that was also the home of the Detroit Tigers (MLB). Tiger Stadium was primarily a baseball stadium, but served as the home to the Lions for more than 30 years. In the late 1960s, the team wanted a new football only stadium. After several bonds were passed allowing the team to build a stadium, the Lions bought land in nearby Pontiac, MI. Because of the area’s cold winter weather, the team decided to build a domed stadium. Construction on the stadium, named the Pontiac Silverdome, began on September 19, 1973 and was completed in 23 months.
Opening day for the Lions at the Silverdome was on October 6, 1975. The Silverdome became the largest stadium in the NFL with a capacity of 80,311. Three tiers of blue seats circled the entire Astroturf playing field. The roof at the Silverdome consisted of Teflon-coated fiberglass panels. In 1985 after a heavy snowstorm the roof was structurally damaged. However over the next several months a new canvas and steel-girder reinforced roof was added to prevent the problem from occurring again. The Silverdome had several amenities that included 93 executive suites and a club restaurant. Other than hosting football games, the Silverdome hosted many other events including tractor pulls, soccer and basketball games, and concerts. The first Super Bowl played in a northern city, Super Bowl XVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers, was played at the Silverdome. In the mid 1990s, the Lions became dissatisfied with the Silverdome. By 1997, bonds were passed allowing construction of a new domed stadium in downtown Detroit. The Lions played their final game at the Silverdome on January 6, 2002. The team moved into Ford Field in August 2002.
The Oakland Press has 89 historical photos of the Silverdome including a couple with Barry Sanders. If you want to go get all depressed instead, head over to Curbed Detroit for the saga of the godawful mess the Silverdome has become.
Matthew took this photo in December of 2014. Click to view it big as the Silverdome!
More Detroit Lions on Michigan in Pictures.