House Drop: L Frank Baum, Oz & Michigan

The house began to pitch… by Cherie

“Oh rubbish, you have no power here. Be gone before someone drops a house on you.”
– Glinda the Good

On May 15, 1856, L Frank Baum was born. 44 years and 2 days later, he published the first of my personal favorite series of books and one of the most beloved children’s books of all time, The Wizard of Oz. While I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a gateway to the Land of Oz hidden somewhere in Michigan, I have no doubt that the magic & wonder of the Oz owes a lot to the time that the Goose Man of Macatawa spent in Michigan!

I’m not sure if there’s a wicked witch under this house, but you can check it out background big and see more in Cherie’s Rural Exploration album.

 

March 3, 1875: Mackinac National Park

The National Parks Traveler has a great article by Bob Janiskee titled
Pruning the Parks: Mackinac National Park (1875-1895)
that says (in part):

Though few people seem to know or care, Michigan’s long-ago abolished Mackinac National Park was America’s second national park. Yellowstone got there first, but not by much.

On March 1, 1872 President Ulysses S. Grant signed a law establishing that Yellowstone would forever be “dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Yellowstone thus became the first true national park in America and the world. What few people seem to know is that Congress created a second national park just three years later. Michigan’s Mackinac National Park, which existed from 1875 to 1895, is the “forgotten” national park.

…Despite a location well removed from the main population centers of the Midwest, Mackinac Island was well served by Great Lakes steamers and became a significant summer resort after the Civil War. The island developed a tourism-based economy and a reputation for being a “healthy” place (though not a cheap one) in which to relax and reenergize in scenic surroundings. By the late 1800s the island had acquired several large hotels and a number of large Victorian homes (called “cottages”) built by wealthy summer residents. The resident population remained small due to the harsh winter climate of the place. There were still only about three dozen residences on the island in 1895.

Island-born U.S. Senator Thomas W. Ferry (1827-1896), whose parents ran the island’s mission school, was concerned that Mackinac Island would end up in private hands and be subjected to development that would ruin its scenic-historic character and slow paced lifestyle. Not long after Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, Ferry began gathering political support for making a large part of Mackinac Island a national park as well.

It was tough going for several years, not least because Congress was loathe to spend money on parks and the island’s scenic and geologic attractions were not jaw-dropping wonders on a par with those of Yellowstone. Ferry finally prevailed, however, and Congress established Mackinac National Park with legislation that President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law on April 15, 1875. The enabling legislation was virtually identical to that used to create Yellowstone National Park in 1872.

This was a deal done on the cheap. Most of Mackinac Island was already federal property, and the park itself was small. Most importantly, Congress gave the park to the War Department to administer. That meant that soldiers from the Fort Mackinac garrison could be used for the requisite operation and policing of the park.

The arrangement actually worked quite well. The Fort Mackinac command gave serious attention to its park-related responsibilities, and although park superintendents irritated island business interests by nixing some inappropriate development proposals, islanders generally appreciated that their economic interests were best served by protecting the park’s scenery, geologic features, and historic landscape.

Mackinac National Park lasted just 20 years. In the 1890s the Army proposed to abandon Fort Mackinac, an action that would leave the park without a custodian. Alarmed at the prospect, Michigan governor John T. Rich petitioned Congress to turn the park over to the state of Michigan. This was done in 1895. Mackinac Island State Park, reportedly the first state-operated park in this country to be officially titled a “state park,” remains a Michigan state park to this day.

Read more at the National Parks Traveler and learn about this 1936 replica of Fort Holmes from Mackinac State Historic Parks.

Farewell, Jud Heathcote

Jud Heathcote, photo courtesy MSU Basketball

“Michigan State has lost one of its icons today. And yet nothing can erase his impact on the program, the players he coached and the coaches he mentored. Spartan basketball is what it is today because of Jud Heathcote.”
~MSU Basketball Coach Tom Izzo

Legendary Michigan State University basketball coach Jud Heathcote has passed away at the age of 90:

George M. (Jud) Heathcote coached the Michigan State men’s basketball team from 1976-95, guiding the Spartans to 340 victories, three Big Ten titles, nine NCAA Tournament berths and one national title during his 19 seasons in East Lansing.

Heathcote is the second-winningest coach in MSU history with a record of 340-220 (.607), including a 14-8 (.636) mark in the NCAA Tournament. His overall record was 420-273 (.606) over 24 seasons, including five years at Montana.

In his third season in East Lansing, Heathcote led Michigan State to its first NCAA men’s basketball championship in 1979 and won back-to-back Big Ten titles in 1978 and 1979. During those two seasons, Heathcote had the opportunity to coach one of the game’s greatest players, All-American Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who propelled the Spartans to a 51-10 record in his two seasons at MSU.

A two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year (1978 and 1986), Heathcote coached seven All-Americans (Johnson, Gregory Kelser, Jay Vincent, Sam Vincent, Scott Skiles, Steve Smith and Shawn Respert) and 22 NBA players. Five of his players won the Big Ten scoring title a total of six times. During Jud’s tenure, MSU had at least one player among the first-team All-Big Ten selections in 12 of his 19 years.

Prior to his retirement, Heathcote ensured that the future of Spartan basketball would be in good hands. In 1990, he promoted assistant Tom Izzo to associate head coach, and fought for Izzo to be named his successor.

Read on for more and please share articles about him that you enjoyed in the comments!

Here’s a brief video on Heathcote from CBS Sports…

Michigan Lighthouse Festival celebrating 150 Years at Big Sable Point

Summer Evening at Big Sable Point Lighthouse, photo by Craig Sterken Photography

This weekend is the 2nd Annual Michigan Lighthouse Festival featuring Big Sable Point Lighthouse’s 150th Anniversary! The festival features lighthouse tours throughout the weekend, a vendor show on Saturday and Sunday, Friday Night dinner with special guest speakers, topped off with Ric Mixter performing “The Storm” on Saturday night.

Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light has some great information about the history of Big Sable Point Lighthouse including an explanation of the light’s unique appearance:

Construction began in early 1867 with the arrival of Lighthouse Board and Army Corps of Engineers workers, who immediately began the construction of a dock at which to unload the necessary supplies for the project. Next, a temporary cofferdam was constructed to keep waster from entering the foundation, which consisted of tightly fitted cut stone blocks beginning a depth of six feet below grade and extending three feet above.

On this sturdy foundation, the skilled masons began to raise the tower. Constructed of cream city brick, the walls were laid five feet thick at the foundation, tapering to a thickness of two feet thick immediately below the gallery. Within the tower, a circular inner wall, eight feet in diameter supported the cast iron spiral staircase. On its’ vertical climb, the stairway passed through three landing areas.

…In 1898, the District Inspector reported that the cream city brick used in constructing the tower was found to be flaking as a result of exposure to the elements, and voiced concern that if left as-is, the integrity of the tower would likely be compromised. This flaking grew so severe, that in 1899 a contract was awarded to the J. G. Wagner Company of Milwaukee to construct the necessary steel plates to encase the tower. The plates were satisfactorily test assembled at the Milwaukee Lighthouse Depot, loaded onto lighthouse tenders and then shipped to Big Sable. With the arrival of the plates, the process of riveting the plates together around the tower, and filling the void between the brick and the plates with cement began. The construction was completed in June 1900 at a total labor and materials cost of $4,925. In order to increase the visibility of the tower during daylight hours, the new cladding was painted white with a contrasting black band around its’ middle third.

View the photo bigger, see more in Craig’s Big Sable Lighthouse slideshow, and view & purchase photos at craigsterken.com.

More Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures!

S.S. Aquamara: The Great Lakes’ Largest Liner

aquarama-unloading-detroit

Aquamara unloading in Detroit, courtesy Marine Historical Society of Detroit

The S.S. Aquarama was the largest passenger ship ever to operate in the Great Lakes. We’ll head to Ohio (gasp) for this article on the Aquamara from Cleveland Historical:

The Aquarama began its life in 1945 as a transoceanic troop carrier called the Marine Star: 520 feet and 12,733 tons. It made only one Atlantic Ocean trip before combat ceased. Eight years later, the ship was purchased by Detroit’s Sand Products Company and taken to Muskegon, Michigan, where it underwent an $8 million, two-year conversion, and was reborn as a nine-deck luxury-class ferry capable of carrying 2,500 passengers and 160 cars. The rechristened Aquarama also touted five bars, four restaurants, two dance floors, a movie theater, a television theater, and a playroom. Special events often were held in conjunction with day or evening cruises. For example, on June 10, 1962, passengers were treated to a style show from Lane Bryant’s Tall Girl Department. The next month, evening cruisers on the Aquarama could watch the Miss World finals. Regular shipboard entertainment included musical performances, dancing, marionette shows, games, and contests.

The cruise portion of the ship’s life actually began in 1955, with tours to various Great Lakes ports and a brief stint as a “floating amusement palace” docked along Chicago’s Navy Pier. Soon after, service began focusing solely on runs between Cleveland and Detroit: six hours “door to door” with Cleveland-based passengers embarking in the morning from (and returning in late evening to) the West 3rd Street pier. For the next six years, the Aquarama was extremely popular but never profitable. Part of the problem may have been frequent “incidents”: One summer, the Aquarama backed into a seawall. A year later, it hit a dock in Cleveland. A week after that, it banged into a Detroit dock, damaging a warehouse. Alcohol issues also were recurrent: Accusations included untaxed booze and liquor sold in Ohio waters on Sunday. Still, the ship’s most likely death knell was simply high operating costs.

The Aquarama made its last trip on September 4, 1962. It then was towed back to where it had been rebuilt–Muskegon, Michigan, ostensibly to continue as cruise vessel. Unfortunately, a prohibitively large dredging investment was needed to accommodate the harbor. The Aquarama thus sat dockside—residing (but not operating) later in Sarnia, Ontario, Windsor, Ontario, and Buffalo, New York, where entrepreneurs hoped in vain to convert it to a floating casino. In 2007 the Aquarama was towed to Aliağa, Turkey, where it was broken up for scrap.

This photo from Boatnerd shows the Aquarama unloading passengers from Cleveland at Detroit’s city park next to the J.W. Westcott Co. dock, 1963. Another view.  Hartland Smith, William Hoey collection. More pics at Boatnerd.com.

Read more about the Aquamara at Wikipedia.

Oak Savannah

Oak and the Day Lilies, photo by Diane Constable

“Too old to plant trees for my own gratification, I shall do it for my posterity.”
-Thomas Jefferson

Dianna writes:

So glad someone planted THIS Black oak some 200-250 years ago–maybe about the time Mr Jefferson made the above quote!

Do not know who or what planted the acorn–but this tree lived in grasslands just about it’s whole life judging by the spread of the branches.

Local history says Indians lived in the area and would burn the grasslands on occasion to keep the oak-grass savannah in much of southern/central Michigan–may have very well been what this tree witnessed. Slow burning grassfires would not have harmed the tree.

View the photo bigger and see more in Dianna’s Oak slideshow.

PS: Read more about oak savannahs and the flora & fauna they support from the Michigan DNR.

The Calumet Children’s March and the Keweenaw Miners Strike

Children’s Parade, Calumet Copper Miners Strike — RPPC by Calumet New Studio, Calumet, Michigan, photo by Wystan

Here’s a throw back Monday for you – a photo from July 23, 1913 of children marching in Calumet during the tumultuous miners’ strikes of 1913. It’s an interesting case study for our modern world given that the driver was the same driver that’s beginning to impact our labor market – automation. The excellent article Labor unions, strikes and violence in the Keweenaw: The Copper Miner Strike of 1913 – this is seriously great work by Frank Zawada’s descendent(s) – the says that there  had been strikes in the Keweenaw in 1872, 1874, 1890 and 1893, but they hadn’t turned deadly. And then:

Around 1910, the mining companies sought to cut back the expenses of mining, and they started to consider lighter machinery such as the J. George Leyner rock drills. Leyners drills were 154-pounds heavy, compared to the 293-pound drills then in use at the mines. Not only that, but the smaller drills could drill just as much as the larger drills but with only one person to man it, instead of two.

The mining companies tried these drills out with the miners, and it was pretty unanimous; the miners didn’t like the new drills. First of all, the men complained that the drills were still too heavy for one man to carry, set up and operate. Secondly, losing a drilling partner opened up safety concerns – who would watch out for the guy alone on the drill if something should happen to him in the loud, darkened mine? Third, but related to number two, was worker concern of being displaced to a lower-paying job or of losing one’s job altogether when the one-man drills became the standard.

Discontent brewed amongst the workers in the mines, and some miners refused to use the drills. Some got into fights with the management about the drills. And some miners walked off the job or were told to leave for disobeying the new rules. Before things could get too crazy, winter set in and so the miners calmed the labor unrest. By early 1913, tensions were running at maximum capacity between workers and the mining companies on the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Read on for more about this strike that turned into one of Michigan’s most deadly labor struggles, including the Italian Hall Massacre of Christmas 1913 in which dozens and dozens of of these children lost their lives.

View the photo background big and see more in Wystan’s slideshow.