Amy Barritt, MSI, CA, is the Special Collections Librarian at Traverse Area District Library and President of the Women's History Project of Northwest Michigan. Amy has a passion for helping people find information. "Grand Traverse Journal" is her first foray in to library-sponsored self-publishing.
Thanks to Richard Jarvis and Tom Lhamon, online readers of the Journal, we have our answer! This sculpture sits outside the Grand Traverse County Courthouse.
The editors would like to call your attention to a fundraiser to restore the Courthouse clock, a historic landmark for Traverse City residents. The funds raised will go toward restoring the chimes, then the mechanisms and facing: http://www.co.grand-traverse.mi.us/departments/Treasurer/Donation_fund.htm
Despite the warm afternoon sun, the smattering of color on the trees at the State Hospital grounds in Traverse City is a subtle reminder: cold days are ahead. But now is the perfect time for exploring. The cultivated arboretum on the grounds can be a soothing respite for visitors today, just as it was for patients one-hundred years ago.
In 1882, while planning the construction of the Northern Asylum for the Insane (there would be three name changes before the final moniker, Traverse City State Hospital), the Board of Trustees put their faith in the plans set by Dr. Thomas S. Kirkbride, a prominent authority on mental health care in the United States during the last half of the nineteenth century. By establishing the asylum as a “Kirkbride Building,” the Trustees were making a statement about the type of care that would be available to patients therein. To sum up Kirkbride’s treatise on the construction of asylums, he believed that one’s surroundings could aid in mental health recovery; or, as local medical giant Dr. James Decker Munson would later put it, “beauty is therapy.”
Twenty-five years into its operation, Munson would describe the site the State Hospital now occupies as the perfect candidate for a Kirkbride building, in that “this tract possesses an almost ideal combination of those features pertaining to an ideal site: a dry, porous soil, consequently healthy, eastern front-age for the buildings, an elevation sightly yet sheltered, an ample supply of pure, artesian water, and excellent facilities for drainage.” Although the site naturally had many of the qualities that promoted its use as an asylum, the wild forested areas and ragged hills that dominated the immediate landscape were not calming tonics for the nervous mind.
Kirkbride advocated that the grounds of an asylum were an extension of the asylum itself, and should “be highly improved and tastefully ornamented; a variety of objects of interest should be collected around it, and trees and shrubs, flowering plants, summer-houses, and other pleasing objects, should add to its attractiveness. No one can tell how important all these may prove in the treatment of patients, nor what good effects may result from first impressions thus made upon an invalid on reaching a hospital”.
Many Kirkbride buildings have been demolished over the years, for as we are all aware, the care and maintenance of such structures is a costly endeavor. Fortunately, the State Hospital still stands, and the grounds are littered with many of the same varieties of trees that Munson and the Board of Trustees had planted as early as 1886.
Care to walk the grounds with me? Print (or save to your mobile device) a copy of the map that appears at the end of this article, and we’re off!
The grounds immediately in front of the institution are really fine, and have many interesting and attractive features. They have been carefully planted with trees and shrubs, and with charming effect. Much attention was primarily given to the selection of the trees, and an effort was made to plant all trees that would grow in this latitude. Among them may be found the salis burea, Kentucky coffee, mulberry, box alder, pecan, walnut, butternut, chestnut, hickory, the native beeches, elms and maples, the purple leaf beech, elm, maple, and the Norway maples in many varieties. These trees have attained some size and lend much beauty and interest to the grounds.
James Decker Munson, Board of Trustees Report, 1910
This map is an interesting exercise; some of the roads and features are no longer present, as well as some of the trees, but it is still a decent reference for those wishing to traverse the arboretum. A librarian with a long memory at the Traverse Area District Library states that the map was created by the Michigan State Extension, probably in the mid-1980s, so it is clearly time for an update. That won’t deter us, though!
The map legend claims that starred trees are labeled; after attempting to remain faithful to the map, I would have to say there were at least two separate attempts to label the trees. Some of the stars are accurate, but ultimately I found more labels than the map indicates. Being no arborist, I brought along a handy-dandy tree identification field guide with me, which I checked out from Traverse Area District Library, Woodmere Branch. I am not exaggerating when I say this is essential for your visit. Also, give yourself two hours; I was able to cover the highlights in one hour, but missed some of the more remote sections.
With map and field guide in hand, I began on the south end of Building 50, looking for 49: Box Elder. Instead, I found a bizarre Austrian Pine, whose branches wrapped around and away from the building. Perhaps this native of southern Europe was reaching for more sunlight?
Near the Chapel, I located the Basswood referenced on the map (22), which lead to a happy discovery. Although all that remained of the original tree was a rotting stump, volunteer basswood trees were thriving all around the stump, making a neat refuge for little adventurers. That is the beauty of investing in nature; She has a tendency to give back more than we put in.
By Munson and Kirkbride’s reckoning, my visit was a success. I especially found the natural light-filtering qualities of the leaves of Catalpa speciosa to be particularly soothing to my frazzled, post-summer mind. You’ll find this native of southern Illinois close to the intersection at Silver Drive and 11th Street.
Ready to take the trek on your own? Remember, this arboretum is over 125 years old, so surprises abound. Enjoy the fall color, and don’t forget your map!
Board of Trustees. “Report of the Board of Trustees of the Northern Michigan Asylum at Traverse City June 30, 1910,” available online through Traverse Area District Library’s local history collection: http://localhistory.tadl.org/items/show/2009.
We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us. -Winston Churchill
Renovation and repurposing are popular. Proud do-it-yourself folk will be glad to show you the end tables they salvaged to make a bench, or gloat over their latest acquisition from Odom’s (a wonderful reusable building materials supply store in Grawn). We have all sorts of fun jargon to describe these activities: recycling, upcycling, flea market treasure-hunting. Demolition is violent and ugly, whereas reusing materials makes us proud, like the craftsmen of old who hewed their mortise-and-tenon joints one at a time.
The most ambitious of these projects must be the restoration of an entire building. The end of some buildings, like those recently demolished in Traverse City’s warehouse district, (where concrete block won out over fine architecture) tends not to pull at the heart strings. But in many cases the intrinsic value of a building merits the effort of removal and renovation.
Even if you can reuse a building on a different site, how do you move it safely? In the modern era with equipment and wide-load trucks (a ubiquitous sight when you are needing to get somewhere quickly and are headed down a narrow road with no shoulders), the task is more than possible. But let’s take a look at “then,” when horsepower wasn’t just an abstract unit of measure.
The original structure for Grace Episcopal Church was built on property donated by Hannah, Lay & Company, located in Traverse City on State Street between Cass and Union; dedication took place November 12th, 1876.
After construction, the church enjoyed a thriving congregation due to the draw of well-esteemed clergymen, from 1876 to 1886. In that last year, Rev. Joseph S. Large vacated his office due to ill-health and the church found its congregation numbers in a slump, forcing the doors closed until 1891. A new call was put out that year, and the church building was again put to use.
For reasons not clear now, the location of the building was a problem, but the members deemed the building’s sacred purpose warranted the effort of preservation. In stepped James Morgan, a Chicago businessman and partner in Hannah, Lay & Company, who encouraged the removal of the building to it’s current location at 341 Washington, across the street from the County Courthouse.
By employing jacks, the church was first lifted off its foundation; heavy beams, greased and with pointed ends, were secured to the underside, which would act like runners on a sled. A temporary wooden track made of flat planks and cross ties (similar to railroad tracks) were laid on the roadway, and the structure was pulled across the track on the greased beams. Once part of the track was cleared, workers would move and install the track at the front of the structure, and the job continued.
A capstan was necessary to apply enough force to move the church, as a lone horse wouldn’t be strong enough on its own. This capstan operated much like the ones seen on ships to raise anchor. In the photograph, you can see the capstan was moored in the roadway with large posts driven into the ground and attached with chains. The horse would rotate the axle by walking in a circle and would pull the structure along the temporary track. As the picture was taken while the horse was resting, the chains mooring the capstan to the ground are slack.
Wondering how much the Church was set back for this endeavor? We are led to believe that Mr. Morgan footed the bill, at a cost of “nearly one-thousand dollars,” or about $30,000 by today’s dollar value.
Ann Hackett, Parish Administrator of the modern Grace Episcopal Church, gave me a tour of the interior of the remodeled church. As she explained, when it became clear that the previous structure was no longer viable, the congregation made every effort to retain the overall feel of the church by focusing on the details.
The stained glass windows were salvaged and used in the new structure, as was the original altar and painted archway. The cornices in the modern building were modeled after the original fixtures, and the interior was surfaced in wood bead board, mimicking the interior of the original.
The new baptismal font, which is situated immediately within the Church’s nave, best illustrates the congregation’s drive for authenticity. The original font was too small to meet the purpose of the growing Church; craftsmen created the new font to have a similar overall shape and use the same font-letter style, as shown here. Grace Episcopal Church is a perfect example of the beauty and pride we share when we salvage the past.
Leach, M.L. “A History of the Grand Traverse Region,” 1883.
Sprague, Elwin. “Sprague’s History of Grand Traverse and Leelanaw Counties, Michigan,” 1903.
“The Value of a Dollar, 1860-2014,” fifth edition.
Thanks to www.shiawaseehistory.com for their description of house moving in the turn of the last century.
Thanks to the Binkley’s for allowing use of their house moving photograph through a Creative Commons license: https://www.flickr.com/photos/binkley27/.
Thanks to Ann Hackett, Parish Administrator, and her staff for their time.
Amy Barritt is a librarian at Traverse Area District Library and co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal. She enjoys going out and discovering history, especially when she makes new friends at the same time!
Recognize this imposing figure? I am sure you have seen him looking down at you from his perch on a building! Hint: Know of any surviving Art Deco buildings in Traverse City?
Thanks to the Kiwanis Club of Traverse City, we have our answer! This imposing fellow is perched above the entrances to the US Post Office on Union Street in downtown Traverse City. Next time you’re walking past, remember to give him a friendly wave; it’s always lonely at the top!
Can you guess what this is and where it is located? You can see it from the street in downtown Traverse City, but you need to be looking down!
Did you figure it out? It’s the after-hours deposit box of the old Northwestern Savings Bank on Cass and Front Street, facing Cass. Although the building is no longer a bank, we appreciate that this relic was left intact! Thanks to reader Julie of Traverse City for providing the answer!
A wonderful library is the crowning jewel of any town. Just ask the residents of Kingsley, the bustling village located in Paradise Township in southern Grand Traverse County. The Kingsley Branch Library (KBL) is celebrating 100 years of service to the community in 2014, and they will be doing it in style!
Join the Kingsley librarians for period costumes and candy at the Kingsley Heritage Days Parade on Saturday, July 19th. Then, visit the KBL on July 31st at 3:00pm for the Local History and Genealogy Room Grand Opening! In addition to viewing an exhibit on the history of the KBL, a talk on the development of the local history room will be given and refreshments served. If you have items, photographs or papers that you think add to the history of Kingsley and need to be preserved, please come to this event and hear more about donating to the local history room!
How do you start a library with no room, budget or experience? It helps to have a group of civic-minded women around, if you look at the history of the KBL.
In the summer of 1913, a lyceum was invited to speak to the residents of Kingsley by a group of prominent men from the community. Lyceums were very popular in this region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; these were organizations that sponsored public programs and entertainments. If you had been in Kalkaska in 1920, the Chautauqua Lyceum would have treated you to a rendition of the famous comic opera, “Chimes of the Normandie,” as well as a lecture by Roland A. Nichols on “A Man Worth While”.
As lyceums were scheduled well in advance, the men who invited the lyceum plum forgot it, and nothing was prepared when the cast arrived. Fortunately for those men, their wives took up the challenge, and before the train pulled in with the cast in residence, those women had whipped the meeting space into shape, and the residents into a frenzy of anticipation.
The women so enjoyed the camaraderie and opportunity to perform a civic duty that they began meeting regularly, and in 1914 the Kingsley Woman’s Civic Club (KWCC) was founded. Their first order of duty: to develop and make a library available to the public.
Headed by Mrs. Eunice Stinson , “this group of women, 15 strong,” as they were later described in an article celebrating the KWCC’s fortieth anniversary, took to the project immediately. The “unnamed” men who failed to organize for the lyceum likely found their home libraries ransacked, as funds in the club were limited to yearly dues.
Using an all-volunteer staff, the library of fifty books was open for four hours on both Friday and Saturday, and although the collection and open hours would fluctuate over the years, the librarian stayed the same. Eunice Stinson remained librarian from 1914 to 1939; her daughter-in-law Nell Stinson took up the post and remained librarian until the mid-1960s. The switch from Stinson to Stinson came at the same time the KWCC purchased the former First State Bank of Kingsley building, which they used as both club rooms and library.
Want to know more? See you at the Grand Opening July 31st at 3:00pm!
All sources for this article are available at many branches in the Traverse Area District Library for your reading pleasure: Kalkaska Genealogical Society. “Big Trout Black Gold”. ed. Dawn Triplett, 2002. Kingsley Woman’s Civic Club Records, 1910s-1987 (only at KBL).
Images courtesy of Traverse Area District Library: http://localhistory.tadl.org/
When the Brownson’s gifted the parkland near downtown Kingsley to the village in the 1960s, now Brownson Memorial Park, Jay J. and Effie Brownson had been holders of one of the oldest land deeds in the township. The property was originally purchased by Myron S. Brownson in the late 1800s. He wisely leased the property to various lumber-production companies; since the property lay on both sides of the railroad tracks, it was certainly an attractive option for those trying to maximize their use of capital. Lumber dealer Wesley Dunn and his son Howard were leasing the property in 1914, around the same time the Kingsley Library was created by the Kingsley Woman’s Civic Club.
Despite the detritus industry left on the property, the Brownsons were able to reform it at the end of the lumber era. A brick firehouse was erected at some point in the 1910s; devastating fires in 1894 and 1900 ensured that all future building in the downtown area was done in brick, not lumber. The firehouse remained standing until the mid-2000s; after many years of vacancy, the structure was removed to make way for new village offices and the Kingsley Branch Library.
After a vigorous and highly successful fundraising campaign by the Friends of the Kingsley Branch Library, the new library building, pictured above left, opened its doors to the public in February 2009.
Locally-produced digital magazine featuring nature and local history from the Grand Traverse Region.