Earl Young & the Mushroom Houses of Charlevoix

Mushroom House in Charlevoix Michigan by Lee Rentz

Mushroom House in Charlevoix, Michigan by Lee Rentz

Visit Charlevoix shares the story of self-taught builder Earl Young & his “mushroom houses” in Charlevoix:

Starting in 1919, and continuing into the seventies, Young fashioned over two dozen creations using indigenous materials.

Over the course of his fifty-year career, Young would build twenty-six residential houses and four commercial properties. His works are made mostly of stone, using limestone, fieldstone, and boulders that he found throughout Northern Michigan. Each of these houses is individually different and was designed to blend in with its surrounding landscape. Earl Young’s houses feature his signature designs, along with wide, wavy eaves, exposed rafter tails; cedar-shake roofs; and a horizontal emphasis in design. These buildings are creatively known as Gnome Homes, Mushroom Houses, or Hobbit Houses.

Many of the homes are accessible within a reasonable walking distance from downtown; more can be seen by car. Downtown, Stafford’s Weathervane Restaurant and Weathervane Terrace Inn & Suites on Pine River Lane, and the Lodge hotel on Michigan Avenue are also his creations.

Head over to Visit Charlevoix for a self-guided tour map!

See more from Lee on his Flickr & also at his photography blog!

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America’s First Urban Freeway: Detroit’s Davison Freeway

The Davison Urban Freeway by Wayne State University

The Davison Urban Freeway by Wayne State University

The Daily Detroit is one of my favorite Michigan podcasts, and their story on The Davison, America’s First Urban Freeway in Detroit is pretty cool: 

While freeways are pretty standard in American cities now, it wasn’t always that way. Instead of the ability to potentially go up to 70 miles an hour like on today’s highways, motorists had to use regular city streets to cross town. That was especially the case for motorists who wanted to cross Highland Park and enter Detroit.

Everyone piled onto Davison Avenue, the only large street that ran through Highland Park and connected to Detroit running roughly east to west. The avenue and freeway was named after an English immigrant from the 1840s that settled in the area, Jared Davison (it was then Hamtramck Township). His farm was approximately between Woodward and Oakland avenues along the south side of the street.

It wasn’t uncommon for drivers to spend 15 minutes sitting in traffic to reach Detroit. By 1940, thanks to Detroit’s growth and the growth of auto factories, Davison Avenue was approaching gridlock during rush hour by 1940.

…By November 1942, the five and a half mile long Davison Freeway was finished. It opened without a dedication ceremony, probably due to the desperate need the defense plants had for a functioning freeway. Despite its lack of dedication, the freeway became the first one of its kind – an urban freeway meant to connect one part of a metro area with another with as little interruption as possible.

…Ironically, the invention from Highland Park eventually played a key role in emptying the city out. In 1992, Chrysler moved their headquarters down the road – off of I-75 with a special off-ramp built for the development – to Auburn Hills, to follow the trend of suburban sprawl that the American highway system helped enable.

Read more at the Daily Detroit!

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Petite Pointe Au Sable Lighthouse

Little Sable Lighthouse 4 by kmoyerus

Little Sable Lighthouse 4 by kmoyerus

Visit Ludington explains that Little Sable Point Lighthouse was originally named Petite Pointe Au Sable:

Located in the Silver Lake State Park at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes, the Little Sable Point Lighthouse is a 107′ brick structure, constructed in 1874. This lighthouse is one of the tallest in the state of Michigan at over 100 feet and 130 steps to climb the tower. About 30 miles north, you can visit the other “Point” along Lake Michigan which is home to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse located within the Ludington State Park.

…it cost $35,000 to build and contained 3 rooms. The rare third order Fresnel lens emitted a constant white light, and flashed a brighter light at set intervals, visible 19 miles into Lake Michigan.

The early 1900s saw some changes to the lighthouse. In 1900 the tower was painted white, and an access road and storage building were added in 1902. The name was changed in 1910 to Little Sable Point Lighthouse, meaning “little point of sand,” representing its location which juts into Lake Michigan. In 1977, the tower paint was removed and the original brick exposed.

Over the years, the lighthouse has had 15 keepers; and for one month, a woman took over when the original keeper took a temporary leave. The Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association took over the maintenance of the lighthouse in 2005, and it is open to the public from late May to late September.

The Light probably looked much the same in the 1870s as it did when kmoyerus took the photo in early May. See more in their Oceana County gallery on Flickr.

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South Fox Island Light Station

South Fox Island Light Station by Dusty Klifman / Blueyes Below

South Fox Island Light Station by Dusty Klifman / Blueyes Below

My company recently completed a new website for the Fox Island Lighthouse Association. Their website explains:

The South Fox Light Station is located 22 miles offshore in NW Lake Michigan, south of Beaver Island and north of the Manitous. The 115 acres of MI state-owned land has much to offer, with seven original structures still standing and acres of pristine dune and wildlife; it is one of the most unique stations on Lake Michigan. The original tower was lit in 1867; the fog signal and oil house were built in 1895. The Workshop and Boat House were built in 1897. In 1934, the 68’ steel skeletal tower was brought from Sapelo Island, GA and reassembled on the island (automated in 1958). The two-story Assistant Keepers Quarters was added in 1910. The station was decommissioned in 1969.

In 1971, the State of Michigan bought the station from the Department of the Interior with a promise to provide recreational opportunity and access to the public.

You can head over to their website for information & photos about the station, its structures, and how you can help them with their work.

Diver/photographer Dusty Klifman of Blueyes Below, provided some photos for the website & the cool drone footage. Check him out for lots more photos & videos of shipwrecks & other maritime subjects.

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Happy Birthday, Tiger Stadium

Tiger Stadium Deconstruction by Paul Hitz

Tiger Stadium Deconstruction by Paul Hitz

Tiger Stadium at the corner of Michigan & Trumbull in Detroit opened 109 years ago on April 20, 1912. As good of a field as Comerica Park is (and it’s pretty darned good), I’m never not going to miss Tiger Stadium. If you’d like to read a wonderful account of the history of the stadium and The Corner, head over to Historic Detroit. It begins:

Whether as a 103-year-old site for pro baseball or as an 87-year-old stadium, the corner of Michigan and Trumbull is the home of memories for millions of fans. The park sat vacant since hosting its final game on Sept. 27, 1999, until June 30, 2008, when demolition began.

Professional baseball was first played on the site, at a 5,000-seat ballpark known as Bennett Park, on April 28, 1896 — three years before Detroit even had an auto plant. The field, named after fan favorite Charlie Bennett, was built on the former site of a municipal hay market. The park was razed after the 1911 season and replaced with 23,000-seat Navin Field. The ballpark as we know it today opened April 20, 1912, the same day as Fenway Park in Boston — and five days after the RMS Titanic sank.

Paul took this photo back in 2008 when they were demolishing the ballpark. It’s long been one of my favorites. See more from Paul in his Detroit gallery on Flickr & at United Photo Works.

PS: The Corner Ballpark sits where Tiger Stadium. It is the home of the Detroit Police Athletic League program and features a great ballpark with the Willie Horton Field of Dreams.

PPS: Tons more Tiger Stadium photos on Michigan in Pictures!

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Remembering Better Made’s Salvatore Cipriano

Better Made Potato Chips - A Detroit Tradition by Derek Farr

Better Made Potato Chips – A Detroit Tradition by Derek Farr

The Freep reports that Better Made Snack Foods CEO Salvatore (Sam) Cipriano passed away yesterday:

Salvatore “Sam” Cipriano with sister Cathy Gusmano
Salvatore Cipriano with sister Cathy Gusmano

He was the second generation to lead Better Made, and the family-owned Detroit potato chip company said he took the business to new heights. Even amid the pandemic, Better Made has been rolling out new flavors.

“He was loved by everyone at Better Made and those that knew him,” said his sister, Cathy Gusmano, chairwoman of the snack food company’s board, adding he “will be missed tremendously.”

…”Our family has always taken pride in how we make our products with quality being paramount,” Cipriano said at the time. “From our humble beginnings when Detroit had over 20 potato chip manufacturers, we’ve tried to make the best product possible, and that hard work paid off as we’re the last one standing.”

Better Made started in 1930 as the Cross and Peters Co., named after the founders, Cross Moceri and Peter Cipriano (Salvatore’s father), but incorporated a few years later to reflect the goal that the two men had set: To make a better potato chip.

More at the Freep & be sure to check out Better Made’s Instagram where I got this nice photo of Sam & Cathy.

Derek took this photo of Better Made’s Detroit factory & store. See lots more awesome pics in his Detroit Gallery on Flickr.

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Sofa, Sand & Saipan

Private First Class Raymond L Hubbard from Detroit by Andrew B Knight

Private First Class Raymond L Hubbard from Detroit by Andrew B Knight

My buddy Cave Canem shared this absolute gem of a photo in our Michigan in Pictures group on Facebook. He writes:

A Special Treat…

“Sitting on top of the world: Of all things, Private First Class Raymond L. Hubbard from Detroit, Michigan chooses a huge exploded naval shell as a sofa as he removes a three day accumulation of Saipan sand from his field shoes.”

Photograph by: Staff Sergeant Andrew B. Knight, US Marine Corps WWII 1939 – 1945

PS: You can see some of Cave Canem’s photos from back in the day on Michigan in Pictures right here!

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Michigan’s Snurfer & the roots of Snowboarding

1969 snurfing competitors courtesy Tracy Tebeau Kirksey

1969 snurfing competitors courtesy Tracy Tebeau Kirksey

The Freshwater Reporter has an interesting story by Stewart McFerrin on the Michigan-invented Snurfer and the roots of snowboarding that says (in part):

Snowboarding has become a worldwide phenomenon. The big air tricks of mega stars, such as Shaun White in the Olympic Half Pipe, rival the traditional Nordic pursuit of Alpine skiing. You may be surprised to know it all began in the dunes of West Michigan, where my friends and I pursued the sport of snurfing, a.k.a. snow surfing.

…The Snurfer was invented by a man with ties to the Brunswick Corporation. Brunswick produced bowling equipment and flooring at its headquarters in Muskegon, Mich. Sherman “Sherm” Poppen created the Snurfer, a shorter and wider version of a ski, and talked his kids into trying his invention on the “Sugar Bowl” at the Muskegon State Park. Friends of friends joined in and rode the deep powder on Snurfer boards all the way to the bottom, in a style and stance that would later become snowboarding. After obtaining a patent, Poppen licensed Brunswick to make the Snurfers.

This all happened in the late sixties and seventies when, after a long afternoon of snurfing, I recall my “bell bottoms,” frozen and encrusted with snow, ringing out as they brushed together during a trick performed from the edge of a steep dune. Lake Michigan loomed large as the lake-effect powder snow piled up to cushion my falls off the Snurfer.

Read on at the Freshwater Reporter for much more!

The photo is courtesy Tracy Tebeau Kirksey & shows Snurfer inventor Sherman “Sherm” Poppen (R) with the 1969 snurfing competitors and their Snurfer boards. From left: Rick Tebeau, Tom Metzdorf, James T., and champion Ted Slater. There are two types of Snurfers. The wooden ones had a metal skeg (similar to a boat’s keel fin) at the rear, to facilitate turns on hard-packed snow or ice. 

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Winter Comes to Michigan: 1930s edition

1930s Michigan Snowplow

1930s Michigan Snowplow

With a major winter storm bearing down on Michigan, it seems like a good time to feature this old Department of Transportation video featuring winter fun & battling blizzards. MDOT relates:

This 1930s-era newsreel was recently discovered by sisters Nancy and Barbara Sleeper of Newberry, whose grandfather, Sanborn Sleeper, was the superintendent of the Luce County Road Commission from 1928 until sometime around World War II. The Sleepers donated the film to MDOT for public display. Enjoy this glimpse of the era when Murray Van Wagoner, a future Michigan governor, ran the department from 1933-1940.

Happy 184th, Michigan!

Michigan Sign at State Line 1958

Michigan Sign at State Line 1958 by State of Michigan

January 26th is Michigan Statehood Day, Michigan’s 184th birthday. I put together some fun facts about Michigan back in 2012. They’re still true and still fun!

  • Michigan is derived from the Indian word Michigama, meaning great or large lake. (more about Michigan’s name on Michigan in Pictures)
  • French explorers Étienne Brulé & Grenoble are the first recorded Europeans to set foot in Michigan (you never know though). In 1668 Fathers Jacques Marquette and Claude Dablon established the first mission at Sault Ste. Marie, and in 1701, French officer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded  Fort Pontchartrain in Detroit.
  • The Michigan Territory was created, with Detroit designated as the seat of government and William Hull appointed as our first governor.
  • Michigan became the 26th state on the 26th of January, 1837. Is 26 our lucky number? FYI, our first State governor was Stevens T. Mason, the 25 year-old Boy Governor (the youngest state governor in American history).
  • Michigan’s nickname is “the Wolverine State”. It is generally believed to have been coined during the 1835 Toledo War between Michigan and Ohio, when our southern rivals gave us the name due to the wolverine’s reputation for sheer orneriness!
  • The Great Seal of Michigan was designed by Lewis Cass and was patterned after the seal of the Hudson Bay Fur Company. It depicts an elk on the left and a moose on the right supporting a shield that reads Tuebor (“I will protect”).The interior of the shield shows a figure on the shore with the sun rising over a lake. His right hand is raised, symbolizing peace, but he holds a rifle in his left hand, showing readiness to defend the state and nation.Below the shield is the inscription of our state motto Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” (I just learned that Michigan has an Office of the Great Seal – how cool would it be to say you worked there??)
  • The original State Capitol of Michigan was Detroit, and it moved to Lansing in 1847 to help develop the western side of the state and due to the need to develop the western portions of the state and for easy defense from British troops. Here’s a pic of Michigan’s original Capitol Building and an 1890s view of the current Michigan capitol.
  • Michigan is the 10th largest state by area if you count the water … and who wouldn’t count the water??
  • Speaking of water, we have 3,288 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, good for second to only Alaska in coastline!

I originally got this photo from the Archives of Michigan’s Flickr account, but they’ve gotten rid of that. You can get all kinds of fun stories & facts from Michiganology.org though! 

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