Category Archives: Forgotten Stories

Articles in this feature are reprints from works in the public domain, typically anything published prior to 1924. Reprinting public domain articles both promotes the survival of these works for future generations and brings to light histories that have been forgotten. Articles are chosen that recall the history of the Grand Traverse Region.

Researchers “Fired Up” about Sanborn Maps

Collection available at the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division, online.

Sanborn Maps, if you are a researcher in the fields of architecture, genealogy, or local history, are invaluable tools. Until recently, Traverse Area District Library only held a copy of the 1929 Traverse City Sanborn, a very small slice of the pie. As of May 25th, the Library of Congress has announced the digitization of their collection of maps, some 25,000, all originally published prior to 1900. Maps will be added monthly until 2020, making for a total of 500,000 Sanborns available in their digital collection. As of this publication, the Traverse City maps for 1884, 1890, 1893, and 1899 are all available.

A Sanborn Map was originally used to provide insurance assessment information to insurance underwriters. Lets say that you owned a wooden warehouse near the pier in Traverse City in 1890. In it is your whole life’s savings, amounting to $100,000 worth of product to ship out… and that product is quite flammable. You would want to insure it, right? But, there are no local insurance companies, and no insurance agent is traveling to so far a place as Traverse City for several months.

So, how can a company assess your property correctly and insure it for the amount you need? The company would rely on information found in the Sanborn Maps. The Sanborn would reveal where your property was within the city, what type of building it was, its composition, and size. They could also look at your neighbors as well. While the Sanborn might not say what is in each building, knowing who your neighbors were (a gas works, other warehouses, residences), would help the insurance agent make a quality guess on what to appraise your property at… and how risky you’re living!

How is this information useful for researchers today? Once you know how to read a Sanborn, the world of the past comes alive. Color coding and other indicators found on these maps tells the story of a town. When you boil down all the information, the Sanborn tells you one thing, which can be used for a myriad of uses: How did a city grow, both physically and financially?

How does a map answer that type of question? Look to our previous example of 1890s Traverse City. From the Sanborn, we can tell that the city had a significant collection of warehouse buildings near the waterfront, indicating that it was a port city that relied on trade. The large swaths of the city colored in red indicates the predominance of brick-built structures, indicating a lot of sustained growth in the area.  How fun would it be to compare the same area, year after year, through the Sanborns? Get the whole family together for that kind of fun!

In addition to these sweeping generalizations, you can also use them to find the businesses owned by your ancestors. As you can guess, there are a number of businesses owned by persons with Bohemian (or Czechoslovakian) names near Randolph and Second Streets. So, even if your family did not own a business, this could be a clue that you should be looking in the general vicinity for your family, if they are of Bohemian descent.

Another hidden gem in a Sanborn are the names and widths of streets. For any researcher who has had to rely on census records or city directories to try and figure out where a relative lived, especially if street have been renamed or moved since then, this information is no small treat!

Before now, these maps were only available by traveling great distances to larger libraries, or by paying for very pricy access online through private companies. Every day, your library (whether here in Traverse City or the Library of Congress), is hard at work getting the information you need, in a way that you prefer. We live in amazing times!

Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.

The Demise of the Campbell House, 1929

Recently uncovered in our local history files here at Traverse Area District Library were three photographs and a handful of typed memos, that tell the story of the end of the Campbell House. You may know it better as the Park Place Hotel, the name Perry Hannah and A. Tracy Lay graced the building with after they purchased the property in 1878.

The Campbell House was announced as open for business in the Grand Traverse Herald on November 20, 1873, by proprietor Henry D. Campbell. The imposing  three-story wooden structure dwarfed most of the surrounding buildings. You might be surprised to hear that the House sat at the southeast corner of State and Park Streets, “fronting State Street on the north and Park Place on the west,” 80 feet by 82 feet respectively. How is that possible? Before the Park Place was built at its current location, Park Street (or Park Place, the names were used interchangeably) extended through to Washington Street.

The all-wooden structure “succeeded to progress of the age,” according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle, who reported on the the demise of the original building on September 6, 1929. By the memos found, we know that the Hotel staff, including a moving gang of 20 men, were able to remove all the furniture before noon on September 5th, beating the scheduled evacuation date of September 9th by three days. The wrecking crew wasted no time, and began demolition the same day (right about 7 p.m.) that the building was evacuated.

The Park Place Hotel as we know it, with its 1930s Art Deco construction, was finished and open for business in June 1930. In the meantime, business continued as usual for the staff. How was that possible? There was no building, right?

Few probably remember The Annex, which was located basically where the Park Place’s covered parking structure is today, and served as the “offsite location” of the Park Place Hotel. The Hannah & Lay Company originally constructed the Annex when business outgrew the original structure. When the portion of the building that was the Campbell House still stood, the two buildings were linked by an overhead, covered walkway that extended across Park Street. It operated as a complete hotel for guests, and was lightly remodeled to create additional space for an office, lounge, and a coffee shop and grill.

The Annex Coffee Shop was such a success that the Park Place continued to operate at that location for another year, even after the new Park Place Hotel building was finished. As the Park Place itself described the Annex, it was “very convenient for Luncheon when downtown or an afternoon game is on… Or perhaps Sunday dinner when you are dressed up and look so nice.” Classy!

Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal, and special collections librarian at Traverse Area District Library. Thanks go to Marlas Hanson for re-discovering these gems on the Campbell House!

The Fire at Wilson Furniture Company, 1955

An unassuming black binder was unearthed in the Local History Collection at Traverse Area District Library (TADL) this past month, which tells the forgotten story of the disastrous fire the Wilson Furniture Company survived in 1955. The fire started on the ground floor shortly after closing time, and first blew out the great display windows facing Union Street before quickly spreading through the four-story building. It was considered a serious disaster, resulting in over $200,000 worth of damage, and forcing the Company to close that location for a full two years.

When the store reopened in July 1957, it was to many accolades published in the Traverse City Record-Eagle by fellow Union Street businesses, like the Hubbell’s Service Station ad pictured here:

Advertisement from Hubbell’s Service Station on the reopening of Wilson Furniture Company on Union Street, Traverse City “Record-Eagle,” 15 July 1957.

The binder of material actually came not from the archives of Wilson Furniture Company, as one might expect, but from the papers of their insurance agent, Jack Coddington Fitzmaurice. Jack was the owner of Fitzmaurice Insurance Agency, which later became Fitzmaurice Garwin Insurance when Jack took on partner Gary Garwin.

Image copyright The Camera Shop, Traverse City (Mich.)

It’s an interesting look into how insurance claims were handled in 1955. Although brief, the correspondence included is explicit about F.D. Leonard’s, then President of the Wilson Furniture Company, satisfaction with Jack and his work. Jack coordinated the efforts of the Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance Company (which he was an agent of) and the Employers Mutual Companies to ensure that Wilson’s not only received the funds needed to rebuild, but to ensure that the staff was retained and compensated.

Three aged and cancelled checks are included with the collection, all from the Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance Company, totaling $76,201.27 paid out in workers’ lost wages. Does that name sound familiar? It should! You will recall in February 2017, the Grand Traverse Journal revealed that Millers Mutual is the long-time home of Queen City No. 2, the second steam-powered fire engine operated in Traverse City.

When we published that story, local historians were at a loss as to how Millers Mutual came to own the engine. Discovered amongst Jack’s papers was an article clipped from a 1965 Record-Eagle, revealing the provenance as the steamer was sold from one private owner to the next, ultimately ending up in the Millers Mutual collection. It is more than satisfying to find these disparate pieces of history and find a cohesive narrative within them.

Image is copyright The Camera Shop, Traverse City (Mich.)

Look at these rediscovered photographs, and imagine the front of Wilson Antiques as it looks today. I suppose we need to thank Jack for that astounding transformation!

TADL’s Local History Collection is made up of stories like Wilson Furniture’s, Jack’s, and thousands of others. What will you find?

Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.

A Glimpse of Union Street in the Late Nineteenth Century

By Bob Wilhelm, author and historian of Traverse City

The Grand Traverse Journal already published the first three chapters of the late Bob Wilhelm’s history of the Wilhelm family in the November, 2016 issue.  Now we wish to continue the project with this excerpt describing the Bohemian community along Union Street in the 1880’s and the construction of Wilhelm’s clothing store at the corner of Union and Eighth Street (now the AT&T store).  We plan to offer Bob’s book online in its entirety at an early date.

CHAPTER 9: Entrepreneur on South Union Street

Around 1880 when Anthony Wilhelm took up residence in Traverse city, Union Street was “paved” with sawdust its full length from downtown to Sixteenth street. The wooden South Union Street bridge was low and the slope from Seventh Street to the river provided fine sledding for the young.

In the spring when the pork barrels were low, people could be found on the banks of the river with dip nets and spears catching suckers, bass, pickerel and trout.

Two local Indians, Louis and Jake, who lived in a slab wigwam on Sixth Street near the river sold fish to the neighborhood. The price was always 25 cents regardless of the size or amount of the fish.

When the pigeons returned along the river, rifle fire was common.

There were only a few buildings from Seventh to Tenth streets. On the west side of the street at the corner of Seventh and Union was the Franz [?] Wilhelm’s meat market. Other buildings were the homes of Mrs. Furtsch, the Bartaks, E.P. Wilhelm, Charles Dupres, and Harry Holdsworth.

Union Street ca. 1870, showing Boardman River House, now Brady’s Bar. Image courtesy of Traverse Area District Library, Local History Collection.

On the east side of the street were the Boardman River House, Chaloupka’s Saloon and Prokop Kyselka’s home at Eighth and Union. Further up the 500 block was the Dezorme home, the convent, Mattison Drug Store and the residences of Morris Sabin and the Weidenhamers. South of Tenth Street was a forest of second growth and poplars.

Unlike so many of the lumberjacks,  Anthony Wilhelm managed to save a few hundred dollars from his many years in the lumber camps. He joined his cousin John  Wilhelm buying and selling real estate. On the north side of Eighth Street near Union they purchased several lots. John kept two and built his home.

In 1883 Anthony exchanged the remaining parcels for lots 19 and 20 at Union and Eighth.

The March 26, 1885 issue of the Grand Traverse Herald reported:

Ant. J. Wilhelm is getting the material on the land for a brick building on the corner of 8th and Union Street. The building will be 25 x 60 feet, two stories and basement. It will be built entirely of white brick.

“Wilhelm, Anthony J., Wilhelm Brothers, Dry Goods, Clothing and Carpets.” Image taken from a collection of photographs of Traverse City Businessmen, held at the Traverse Area District Library.

The April 23 issue of the Herald reported:

Work will begin soon on the fine brick store for Ant. Wilhelm corner Union and Eighth. The present building has been bought by Jas. Dunn and is being moved to his lot  corner Eighth and Cass St. He is putting in a cellar and brick foundation. This building was the first dwelling on the  south side of the river. The new building will be 25 x 60 feet. The foundation will be quarry stone. The west and south fronts of the best pressed brick, the first floor front of iron and glass and the front iron. E. Adaley has the contract and J.G. Holliday will have the carpenter work. The building will cost about $3,500.

The existing building formerly occupied by Caloupaka’s Saloon was raised and placed on the crib and moved on rollers. A large log would be dug into the street with a windlass. Ropes would run to the building and teams of horses or oxen would turn the windlass and slowly move the building.

Since all the brick production of the J.W. Markham’s brick yard on West Bay road was being used to build the Northern Michigan Asylum, it was necessary to go out of the area for supplies. White bricks were purchased in Zeeland and moved to the Lake MIchigan coastline to be transported by boat to Traverse City. The limestone foundation was purchased from the owner of a lumber schooner who had used it for ballast. The beams were two by twelve inches. In the front of the store were cast iron girders. The reason for the twenty five foot width was that this was the maximum width that could be constructed without extra support.

The building was constructed as a millinery shop for his sister Christine, but never opened.  While visiting her brother Charles in Milwaukee, she met William Theopolis Bunce at a church party in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. The couple was married April 13, 1889 at the Congregational church in Milwaukee. Bunce  worked for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway from the early 1880s until his retirement in 1942. In May 1946, Bunce was featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not because he “has worn a fresh carnation in his lapel every day for the  past 65 years.”

With a vacant building, the Bohemian community urged Anthony Wilhelm to open a clothing store to serve the needs of the neighborhood. Anthony and his brother Emanuel formed the Wilhelm Brothers partnership in 1885. The business opened in 1886.

Emanuel (“Em”) Wilhelm in fishing gear. Image from the Bob Wilhelm Collection, Traverse Area District Library.

Emanuel Wilhelm had returned to Traverse City after spending three years in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. He was employed in cattle ranching, railroad work and mining. With his wanderlust satisfied, he moved to Milwaukee where he took several business courses and worked seven years before returning to Traverse City to join his brother.

With the establishment of the partnership a second 25 s 100 foot addition was constructed on the north side of the original building.

The Northern Michigan Asylum was nearing completion so bricks could be purchased locally from the J.W. Markham brick yards. The cost was $3.00 per 1,000 bricks.

Advertisement for the Wilhelm Bros. store, from the “Grand Traverse Herald,” March 4, 1886. Full issue of newspaper is available for download from the Traverse Area District Library Local History Collection: http://localhistory.tadl.org/items/show/3752

The first advertisement announcing the opening was carried in the March 4, 1886  Grand Traverse Herald:

            NEW GOODS

A large invoice of Spring Clothing just received. Men’s and Boy’s Suits in all styles and qualities at prices that will surprise you. No shoddy or second hand goods in stock. It will be to your interest to inspect our goods and learn our prices before purchasing. We will have a well selected and complete stock of dry goods about April 1st, 1886. It will be our aim to give our customers honest goods and perfect satisfaction in every respect.  South Side Brick Building Wilhelm Bros.

“The Tribune”: A New Newspaper to Illuminate Our Past

By Richard Fidler, Co-Editor of Grand Traverse Journal

An archives can reveal hidden treasures to investigators with the patience to wade through boxes of records often as uninspiring as ledgers of collapsed businesses and minutes of fraternal organizations.  Marlas Hanson uncovered one of them recently: a stack of newspapers never before recognized by historians as a resource for local news.  There were about twenty copies of them, all dated in the year 1881.  What could they tell us about the area that our other paper of the time, the Grand Traverse Herald, did not?  This is a question that sets a historian’s heart racing—a new source of information.

Image by Amy Barritt, January 2017.

Alas, upon examining issue after issue, it became apparent to us that the Tribune had precious little in the way of stories about the Grand Traverse region.  It was a political paper favoring the Democrats, perhaps a counterbalance to the Herald, a  thoroughly Republican outlet.  Most newspapers of the time were explicitly Republican or Democrat: neutrality was not common.  The later merging of the Evening Record, a paper with links to Republicans, with the Morning Eagle, a Democratic organ, formed the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a newspaper less partisan than most others. 

Unlike the Herald, the Tribune dwelled mostly upon party conventions held elsewhere and descriptions of the nasty things Republicans were doing to the country at the time.  It carried no long, detailed accounts of fires, weather events, and happenings about town, and little in the way of editorial reflections on local issues of the day.  In short, it was a disappointment.

Still, one can find gold among the dross.  Editors at the time had a gift for story-telling, a gift seldom displayed by present-day editors who use the dry, formal language of today’s news rooms.  They frequently wrote about their feelings and things that happened to them, spinning complex sentences that astound us today with their style and expressiveness.  By contrast, when editors raise their voices these days, it is only about their views on issues, local, state, or national.  They do not let us know about their lives, unlike newspapermen of the 1880’s.  One personal story captured from the Tribune’s editorials moves us to tears even now, more than a hundred and twenty years later.  Though unsigned, it was probably written by Albert H. Johnson, editor and founder of the Tribune.

For background, Johnson previously had started the Leelanau Enterprise, but moved on to tackle the Traverse City market after that venture.  We do not know how long the Tribune, lasted in the city—perhaps not long, given the preponderance of Republicans in the area at this time.  Since the area has voted quite consistently for Republicans, a Democratic newspaper would not do well in such an environment.  However long it lasted, the paper did leave us this story about Johnson’s grief at the death of his young son.  It speaks to us across time about the universality of human suffering.

“In the Bottom Drawer

H. Johnson, editor

I saw my wife pull out the bottom drawer of the old family bureau this evening, and went softly out, and wandered up and down, until I knew that she had shut it up and gone to her sewing.  We have some things laid away in that drawer which the gold of kings could not buy, and yet they are relics which grieve us until both our hearts are sore.  I haven’t dared look at them for a year, but I remember every article.

There are two worn shoes, a little chip hat, with part of it gone, some stockings, pants, a coat, two or three spools, bits of broken crockery, a whip, and several toys.  Wife, poor thing, goes to this drawer every day of her life and prays over it, and lets her tears fall upon the precious articles, but I dare not go.

This is not an image of Jack, but of an unknown boy holding a fish, at the northeast corner of Wellington & State Streets. Did little Jack like to fish? We suspect so, as it was a popular pastime. Image from the Historical Society Collection at Traverse Area District Library.

Sometimes we speak of little Jack, but not often.  It has been a long time, but somehow we can’t get over grieving .  He was such a burst of sunshine into our lives that his going away has been like covering our every day existence with a pall.  Sometimes, when we sit alone of an evening, I writing and she sewing, a child on the street will call out as our boy used to, and we will both start up with beating hearts and a wild hope, only to find this darkness more of a burden than ever.

It is so still and quiet now.  I look up at the window, where his blue eyes used to sparkle at my coming, but he is not there.  I listen for his prattling feet, his merry shout and his ringing laugh, but there is no sound.  There is no one to climb over my knees, no one to search my pockets and tease for presents, and I never find the chairs turned over, the broom down, or ropes tied to door knobs.

I want someone to tease me for my knife; to ride on my shoulder; to lose my ax; to follow me to the gate when I go, and be there to meet me when I come; to call “good night” from the little bed now empty.  And wife she misses him still more; there are no little feet to wash, no prayers to say, no voice teasing for lumps of sugar or sobbing with the pain of a hurt; and she would give her own life almost, to wake at midnight and look across to the crib at midnight and see the our boy there as he used to be.

So, we preserve our relics, and when we are dead we hope that strangers will handle them tenderly, even if they shed no tears over them.”

Miss Edna Wilhelm, Carnival Queen of 1900

A mystery photograph was discovered in the depths of the local history collection at Traverse Area District Library. The image was of a young woman, finely arrayed in a crown and cape, the picture of regal. Our only clues: the photographer’s studio (E.N. Moblo of Traverse City,) and a name written in white (Edna Regina).

Who is she, and why the get-up? Researcher Julie Schopieray had to know. Fortunately, the digitized newspapers collection revealed further clues. In the November 4, 1900 edition of The Morning Record (a predecessor newspaper to the Traverse City Record-Eagle), a brief article announced to the public that “Photographer Moblo has completed an elegant photograph, 11×14, of Miss Edna Wilhelm, arrayed in the beautiful costume she wore as queen of the Carnival on the night of the third of July.”

This revelation blew the case open. Traverse City did indeed host a three-day carnival on July 3-5, 1900. It must have been a well-anticipated event, as both the steam ships and the trains ran special routes for the occasion. The Silver Brothers’ New Tent Novelty Show and Great Trained Animal Exhibition traveled north to provide entertainment to the masses. All manner of street and Caledonian games were played throughout the city, and at least two parades and “the most brilliant display of Fireworks ever seen in Northern Michigan” were sure signs that the City was out to have a good time.


Edna was crowned Queen of the Carnival at a grand reception in the City Opera House, featuring a 14-piece orchestra. From there, she and her suite rode in the “illuminated parade” through town. The parade organizers promised “some surprises… never before seen in this part of the state.” The evening culminated in a reception and ball at the City Opera House. On the 5th, Queen Edna reigned over the Traverse City Driving Park’s horse racing events from her “position of state in the grand stand.” The newspaper announced that her reign “was short but brilliant and triumphant.”

Perhaps even more thrilling than the Carnival itself was the race for the Queenship, an elected position. Such was the furor of the election, that votes were announced every half an hour, starting in the early evening and not finishing until 10 o’clock that night. Edna won by a large margin, receiving 3,423 votes. After her came Miss Minnie Rattenbury, with only 1,216 votes to her cause. Each dollar donated to offset the cost of the Carnival equaled one vote. One “anonymous” gentleman (although the newspaper identified him, based on the thickness of his voting envelope) placed $253 in Edna’s tally box, no small sum in 1900!

How was the news received? According to The Morning Record, “As soon as the result was announced there was a cheer and immediately there was a rush for the door. The band began a march and a line was formed in the street. In a few moments the crowd started for the residence of Miss Wilhelm where that lady was cordially congratulated upon the result of the contest and a serenade was given.” We can only imagine the glow on Edna’s cheeks upon seeing the throngs serenading her on her own doorstep!

The Carnival Committee was bound to prepare a fine celebration, paying attention to all the details, not the least of which was Queen Edna’s apparel. The “regal robes and crown” were acquired at once, and the Committee was quoted on the matter, stating “it is a foregone conclusion that the magnificence of her apparel will excel anything ever seen in this city.” By the photograph that remains, we agree with the Committee: fine attire for a fine lady.

Edna was a woman with moxie, it seems. In addition to performing her duties as queen admirably, she was the chief operator for Citizens Telephone, and she once saved the books of that business from going up in flames in a 1901 fire. She was the daughter of Frank and Anna Wilhelm, and sister to Gilbert and Blanche Violet.

 

“Two Pretty Salad Garnishes”: Making your Holiday Table Beautiful, 1900

Your Editors can hear your plaintive cries, “Enough with the dessert recipes! What I really need is an early 19th-century way to spruce up my holiday table!”

To the rescue is the Herald Century Cook Book, published by the editors of the Grand Traverse Herald, predecessor to the Traverse City Record-Eagle, in 1900. No need for expensive flower arrangements! Be carbon-friendly with these two salad garnishes: Radish Roses and Celery Daisies. We imagine these would be a lot of fun  for a small party to make together, children too, with proper supervision. Send us a photo of your “edible decorations,” and we’ll publish it in the next issue of Grand Traverse Journal.

“Radish roses are made by taking small, round, red radishes and cutting through the surface with a sharp pen knife in sections, leaving enough uncut at the bottom to hold them together. Put them in cold water, and the cut portions will curl backward like the petals of a flower, the bright red contrasting with the white center.

"Thanksgiving Table, 1895," from the Bensley Collection, Traverse Area District Library, Local History Collection.
“Thanksgiving Table, 1895,” from the Bensley Collection, Traverse Area District Library, Local History Collection.

Celery daisies are made by cutting the celery stalks into inch lengths, then with a sharp knife, cutting the stalk halfway down into slits, then again across these slits. Throw the pieces into cold water, when, in the course of a few hours, they will curl back to resemble the petals of a daisy, and the likeness may be further carried out by placing a tiny round piece of the hard-boiled yolk of an egg in the center of the celery.”

A Sweet Treat from Old Mission, 1884

wilhelmfamily074Care to make a classic Edwardian dessert for your holiday festivities this year? Mrs. H.G. Reynolds of Old Mission has just the recipe for you! Reynolds’ version of a Charlotte Russe was found in a local cook book compiled by “Grand Traverse Housekeepers” and from the Household Department of the Grand Traverse Herald, one of few newspapers published in the Grand Traverse Region around the turn of the previous century.

All subscribers to the Herald were presented with a copy of The Herald Cook Book, copyright 1884. The endeavor must have been popular, as two more cook books were published by the Herald before 1900. All three are available for your perusal at the Traverse Area District Library.

You can imagine a Russe was a popular dessert because of its versatility. You could flavor the dessert with whatever fruit was in season that moment. You could use up any cookies, sponge cake, or biscuit that had gone stale. And, you didn’t have to monitor the dessert in the oven! What a perfect dish for Thanksgiving, when that space is already occupied by whatever main dish you’re serving. Enjoy!

“Charlotte Russe

Line a pan with lady fingers, or light cake. Take a quart of cream, sweetened to taste and flavored with vanilla, then whip it. Pour half a cup of hot water on half an ounce of gelatine which has been soaking in a little cold water. After it is dissolved stir very hard into the whipped cream and then pour it into the mold being careful not to upset the cake. Set in a cold place to harden.  -Mrs H.G. Reynolds, Old Mission.”

wilhelmfamily073

 

 

Featured Inventor found anew in Recently Discovered Photograph

Longtime readers of Grand Traverse Journal are in for treat. Take a close look at this photograph:

tc

Notice the look in the man’s eyes, the jaunty tilt of the cap, the devil-may-care, speed-demon attitude. Some of you may recognize him, I hope. It’s our good friend, that alligator-owning, intrepid inventor, Charles A. Augustine.

Perhaps you need a refresher? Take a look back at Julie Schopieray’s article on Charles, his one-time partner Andrew Smith, and the aircraft industry that almost took off (pun intended) in Traverse City, ca. 1910. As you will recall, Charles was keen on building anything that moved, including his own motorcycle!

On December 16, 1911 Charles tried out another new invention which was a watercraft he called a hydroplane.  The description given in the newspaper is similar to that of a modern airboat or fanboat:

The hydroplane consists of two hollow steel tubes which not only serve as floats but  are also necessary to retain craft’s equilibrium. It might be termed as a hydro-plane with the planes [wings] taken off, for the means used to propel it is in the shape of an aeroplane propeller about three feet in length, and driven by a four cylinder motor cycle engine. This odd yet practical and pleasure giving affair is the work of a local young man, Chas. Augustine, who is not only the owner of the first hydro-plane in this vicinity; but it will be remembered that he is the first one to have an aeroplane and a motor sled… The boat is capable of making eight of ten knots an hour, he having rode from Greilickville across the bay to the mouth of the river and up the river to Park street bridge in about twenty minutes…

This photograph was found in a (quite random) pile of materials donated to the Traverse Area District Library recently… a warning to all who might just throw things away! As far as we know, this is the last surviving copy of this photograph in existence, and we are pleased to publish it for your viewing pleasure.

Thanks to Julie Schopieray for her keen eye in spotting this image from the aforementioned “pile.” Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.

The Five Wharfs of the Bay: a 1938 Study of Traverse City’s Land Use

A quality scholarly study is a valuable tool for any researcher, which is why so many reports, dissertations, and the like, have been preserved by Traverse Area District Library, Traverse Area Historical Society, and Northwestern Michigan College.

This piece of scholarship comes to us from Allen Belden, a student at the University of Oklahoma in 1938. His work, title “Land Utilization in Traverse City, Michigan,” provides a fairly detailed snapshot of land use at the time. This excerpt focuses specifically on transportation opportunities, especially the various points along the bay shore used by various companies. Maybe one of our readers is interested in updating this study?:

“The Transportation Patterns

Probably the most basic land use features of present-day Traverse City are its transportational forms. These lend themselves to a ready classification into three sub-types, namely, wharves, railways, and Streets. The patterns of these will be described and discussed separately.

Wharves: In Traverse City the facilities for waterway transportation consist of five wharves at which boats larger than very small craft, such as rowboats, may dock. Four of these are on the bay side of the peninsula formed by West Bay and Boardman River where they are centrally located along the city’s waterfront. The fifth wharf also is on West Bay, but it stands alone about one block east of the mouth of the Boardman River. From west to east these wharves are the Hannah, Lay and Company wharf, the J.C. Morgan Company wharf, two municipal wharves, and the Cherry Growers Canning Company wharf.

West Bay harbor. Perhaps a reader with a better eye for boats can help us date this photograph? Send responses to gtjeditor@tadl.org
West Bay harbor. Perhaps a reader with a better eye for boats can help us date this photograph? Send responses to gtjeditor@tadl.org

Only a meager use is made of any of these wharves at present. Hannah, Lay and Company, distributors of coal and building supplies, use their wharf to receive and store coal. The J.C. Morgan Company, cherry and apple canners, receives shipments of coal by water. The westermost municipal wharf has on it a little-used public warehouse. The municipal wharves together enclose a small harbor which is used during the summer by small pleasure craft. Signs there advertise “Boats For Rent” and “Deep Sea Fishing”. The Cherry Growers Canning Company wharf is used not only to receive coal but occasionally also to ship canned cherries.

The present utilization of Traverse City’s shoreline for waterway transportation facilities is meager for several reasons. Grand Traverse Bay is about 30 miles long, and the city, which is at the inland ends of the bay, is not close to frequently used Great Lakes shipping lanes. The city’s commercial and manufacturing establishments are small, and in most cases they ship and receive goods in the less than boat-load quantities. Railways and trucks can transport small quantities of goods more efficiently than can lake boats. The number of places that can be reached by lake boat without extra bulk-breaking is small in comparison with the number of places that can be so reached by highway or railway. The southern end of West Bay, although better than the southern end of East Bay, is not a good harbor. It is more than two miles wide and exposed to the full force of northerly winds. The depth of water at the end of Hannah, Lay and Company wharf, which is three hundred feet long and extends into West Bay at right angles to the shoreline, is only thirteen and one-half feet. It is so shallow that none but the smallest of Great Lakes cargo vessels (2800 tons) may safely dock. Even these must partially unload before completely docking. In addition, Grate Lakes transportation is interrupted during about six months of each year because of cold inters. These conditions limit the use made of the present wharves and discourage construction of additional ones.

Other water bodies are even less used than West Bay. Boardman River and Boardman Lake are not navigable by boats larger than rowboats. An abandoned dam with a fall of six feet, between Cass and Union Streets, is an effective barrier even to these. The shoreline of East Bay is considerably shallower than that of West Bay and otherwise has the same disadvantages to shipping.

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“Traverse City’s first important industry,” according to Belden. Here is a fantastic image of the Hannah and Lay sawmill on the bay with the Boardman River in the foreground. Logs are banked and in the river. This was a steam powered mill with wood scraps providing the fuel for the boiler. The tall rocket shaped item is the sawdust burner. However, the date is incorrect. The mill was built in 1852. But, one can get a sense of the advantages this location provided for industry, as described by Belden. Image courtesy of Traverse Area District Library, 718.000000.493.

In spite of the scant use of Traverse City’s waterfronts for waterway transportation facilities, the shoreline where the present wharves are located has advantages over others. The most significant factor affecting the location of all but the Cherry Growers Canning Company wharf is that the shoreline so used has from the start been centrally located with respect to trade and industry within the city. Traverse City’s first important industry was the Hannah, Lay and Company sawmill which was built on the peninsula between West Bay and Boardman River near the northern end of what is now Union Street in 1852. This company cut logs in the Boardman River basin in winter and floated them downstream to the mill in spring. The logs were fed into the mill from the river bank, and then manufactured lumber was loaded into the stern hatches of timber boats which docked a few yards away on West Bay. This was an admirable arrangement, since it reduced the handling of logs and lumber on land to a minimum. No other site in or near Traverse City had comparable advantages for such an industry. later, when railways entered the city, in 1872, 1890, and 1891, their chief objective was this mill, and the site of the early lumber wharves became a contact point for railway and waterway transportation as well as a focal point for railways. Because of this and the fact that Boardman River has been bridged by two north-south streets to improve the accessibility of the peninsula from the south and east, commercial and manufacturing establishments were attracted to the vicinity of the old mill. Even today this area is centrally located with respect to land transportation routes, and , for that reason, such companies as use Great Lakes shipping find the location favorable for wharves.

Cherry Growers Canning Company, aerial view from 1947, shows wharf and railroad spur. TADL Historical Society Collection, 3303.
Cherry Growers Canning Company, aerial view from 1947, shows wharf and railroad spur. Image courtesy of Traverse Area District Library, 3303.

The Cherry Growers Canning Company wharf is now and, except for the fact that it is not located near the heart of the city’s transportation pattern, enjoys all of the advantages of the older wharves. A special spur was needed to give it railway accessibility, however.”