Category Archives: Mystery Photo

Time for a treasure hunt! Can you guess where this photograph, related to a historical story in the Grand Traverse Region, was taken? Come back for next month’s issue and check your answer!

Ready to submit a mystery photo from your community? Send it to the editors of the Journal at Remember to include the answer to your photograph in your email!

Why was this tree skewered?

Two iron loops are buried in the wood of this White Oak, located on the shores of Boardman Lake, on the Highland Assisted Living Center grounds. We speculate that the tree, given its current size, was already very large a hundred years ago, especially since White Oaks grow so slowly . What were they used for? We will give you our hypothesis next month!


Reader Clears the Bar with Correct Answer

This bar is the only remaining building of the largest employer in Traverse City in 1917.  What is the name of that company?

Congratulations to reader Larry, for his correct answer!: “That is currently ‘Side Traxx’, located at south end of Franklin street. I believe the company was ‘Oval Wood Dish Factory’ which left Traverse City in 1917.”

A causal exploration of the grounds by Your Editors yielded little evidence of the building’s former use. Should you visit, take a look for yourself! A number of interesting features, including frames of windows visible on the outside but not on the inside, and layers of wood paneling, gives us much to speculate on.

Steamers Stump Readers for January Mystery

Here are two images of the Queen City No. 2 Steamer, separated by more than 200 years. Traverse City’s second Steamer is still preserved at a location near Lansing, Michigan. Where would you go to view the two steamers? Extra credit if you get both!

Sorry, readers! No one gets the accolades this month. So where can you find both of these standing relics, true testaments to the ingenuity of our historic fire fighters! The Traverse City Steamer is located at Fire Station No. 1, on West Front Street.

The Steamer in Lansing  is on display near the Michigan Millers Insurance entrance drive, on Grand River Avenue. Restoration for this steamer was completed by Paul J. Baker, Vice President, an expert in the restoration of antique automobiles. The restored pumper was first placed on display for the public to see in early 1958, according to the Michigan Millers Facebook page.

Reader Lights Up the Night with a Correct Answer!

The Gamewell system of fire alarm boxes was installed in Traverse City in 1881, one of only 250 cities that had them that early.  Each box could send a message to a central dispatch board which gave the location where the the box was activated.  Currently one box remains–on exhibition–at a place readers might readily guess: Where is it?

Congratulations to Cornelia for correctly answering the Mystery Photo question for December 2016. The last fire alarm box in Traverse City resides at Fire Station No. 1 on West Front Street, beside the main pedestrian entrance. Well done, Cornelia!

We offer kudos to the Traverse City Fire Department which honors its history. Thank you all for your service!

Traverse City’s “Queen City No. 2 Steamer”: Then and Now

Here are two images of the Queen City No. 2 Steamer, separated by more than 200 years. Traverse City’s second Steamer is still preserved at a location near Lansing, Michigan. Where would you go to view the two steamers? Extra credit if you get both!

Image from the “Grand Traverse Herald,” 1895.
Image courtesy of the author… this is somewhere in Traverse City.

Reader Solves “Mystery of the Missing Trees”

In honor of Veterans Day ( November 11), your editors ask: When did the Memorial Trees on Memorial Drive disappear? They were planted May 4, 1923, and no longer grace what is now Veterans Drive.

This is a hard question, so the winner will win a standing ovation, in addition to more free readings of Grand Traverse Journal!

A much easier question is, where is this plaque located?

Thanks to reader K for her answer. Congratulations and a round of applause to her! She was able to identify where the trees once were, and why they were planted. Unfortunately, she cannot help us answer the question of when the trees disappeared. There are sugar maples of the proper age at the entrance to the Memorial Gardens Cemetery, but we cannot know if these were trees planted in the ceremony to honor the vets.

The plaque is located on the grounds of the American Legion Hall on Veterans Drive, in the shadow of the tank that guards the property.

“Veteran’s Drive was once M-11, a trunk line into Traverse City.

According to the April 25, 1923 newspaper, the ceremony to dedicate the 30 trees was near Garfield Township hall with the trees starting there and going north (downhill) until the south city limit. The article also notes “Complete records of the trees and those whose death they commemorate will be filed at the county clerk’s office and a temporary marker will be placed on each tree at the planting.

Forty-two maples were planted on Arbor Day (May 4) 1923. It was hoped this would be the “first of several in the county.” The report of the ceremony notes “permanent markers of marble or bronze will be placed at foot of each tree giving name and service record of each [honoree].” and the “Record of each tree is now at the court house to be preserved for generation after generation.” The list of names to be included on the Monument and tablet” erected Arbor Day 1924 appears in the March 14, 1924 TCRE.”

Thanks again, K, for your sleuthing!



Reader Solves Mystery of Central Grade School

The architectural style of this school has sometimes been called “Collegiate Gothic” for its pointed arches and interesting ornaments.  One school in the Traverse area illustrates this style better than all others: what is it?

Thanks to Cornelia for successfully answering October’s “Mystery Photo!” Indeed, the school depicted is Central Grade School, located on Seventh Street in the Central Neighborhood.

The Latin inscription above the door on photograph below reads “Magnum Est Veritas et Prevalebit.” It may be translated “Great is the truth, and it shall prevail.”

The school reflects the times and the values of the community in the year of its construction, 1936. Its exterior ornamentations carry meanings about what schools are for and what kinds of knowledge are important. Certainly, a classical education was valued at the time of the construction of the building.