Tag Archives: preservation

A World First in Architecture: The Park Place Dome– is it doomed?

In honor of all the architects who have built Traverse City, and their buildings that have been demolished in the name of progress.

by Julie Schopieray

“Park Place Hotel, with Annex,” picture postcard, ca. 1940. Image courtesy of the author.

The city’s landmark Park Place Hotel has undergone many changes over its long history. The first major change was the construction of the building we all know today. After standing for more than fifty-five years, the 1873 hotel first known as the Campbell House was replaced in the name of progress. In 1929, R. Floyd Clinch, president of the Hannah & Lay Corporation, hired prominent Chicago architect, Benjamin H. Marshall to design a new, modern 9-story structure. Since then, the hotel has had several owners, gone through many renovations and has struggled with financial difficulties, yet it has survived. It is once again considering another dramatic change.Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.47.54 AM

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.47.14 AM
Slides from a presentation made to the Traverse City City Commission on the proposed changes to the Park Place Hotel. Notice of this development proposal was first released to the public at a City Commission regular meeting on April 13, 2015.

Among several controversial development proposals currently being discussed in the city is a new conference center attached to the Park Place Hotel. This development would involve demolishing two mid-century buildings, including the 1965 Park Place Dome. Before this happens, it is important to inform and remind the public of the significance of this building, both architecturally and historically. Some will question whether a mid-century structure could be considered historically significant– it’s only fifty years old. Many may look at the Dome building and think it isn’t worth saving because honestly, it may not be the most attractive building in town. But, do they know that when it was built, it was ground-breaking technology?

By the early 1960s, it was determined that the city needed a convention hall. A couple sites were proposed, but the overwhelming opinion was that it should be located in the downtown area. At first, a city-owned hall was proposed in cooperation with the Park Place Hotel, but the bonds were voted down. That plan changed when the financially strapped hotel was sold In December 1963, to Traverse City native Eugene Power of Ann Arbor. Under his ownership, it would be re-opened under the name, Park Place Motor Inn. He was determined that the updates he planned would once again draw tourists and conventions to the hotel and stated that “all-out efforts will be made to re-build the convention business” [Traverse City Record-Eagle, 5 December 1963].

But first, the thirty-five-year-old hotel needed to be brought up to date. The expansion proposal was not without controversy. It included the need to close to through traffic, the section of Park Sreet that ran between State and Washington streets. At first, there was strong opposition and the city commission denied the request. It would mean the few remaining structures on that section of Park Street would become “land-locked” and lose value. It also drew criticism from the representatives of the three churches on Washington Street whose congregations used the street. Eventually, compromises were made which freed up the hotel to complete their $_52plans. By January 1964, the renovations were finally under way. Power’s goal was to make the inn once again, “a credit to Traverse City.” [Traverse City Record-Eagle, 5 December 1963]. He hired local architect Paul Hazelton and the extensive updates were prepared. Hazelton first designed a 100-room motel addition replacing the old Annex building. The raised building allowed for doubling the parking for the hotel. Other improvements included a top floor dining room and cocktail lounge, a complete redesign of the lobby and a dining room, a bar, coffee shop, room renovations, indoor competition-type swimming pool and eventually a convention hall. The convention center was the last structure to be added. For that, Hazelton conceived an extraordinary design. It complemented the unique dome which covered the swimming pool. It was to be circular in shape s-l1600and covered by an 80‘ dome. When the plan was revealed, an article in the paper described the new Park Place Dome as “A world ‘first’ in architecture,” as the roof of the building was being constructed of a material never used before. Hazelton described it as “a completely new concept in world building history.” He was working with Dow Chemical Company engineer Donald Wright, who developed the lightweight plastic styrofoam that covered the building. Wright came up with the idea and worked on the project in secret for several years before he and Hazelton convinced Eugene Power to give the go-ahead on the Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 2.13.45 PMexperimental project. Hazelton explained that it was the first time a plastic was actually used as a “structural form rather than as a cover supported by some other material.” It took only about 12 hours to place the dome on top of the structure. The architect continued by explaining that “the unique use of plastic has tremendous potential for future building throughout the world. It is ‘monolithic’ in that one material is used, the process is fast, the structure is easy to maintain and repair, and the overall cost can be as little as one third that for conventional construction” [Traverse City Record-Eagle, 24 October 1964].  The dome weighed only two pounds per cubic foot, compared to concrete which would have weighed 150 pounds per cubic foot. Even though the dome was experimental at the time, it has withstood fifty years of use.

The innovative concepts used in the design are important to our town’s history. At the time, this building was seen as a much needed step forward and was built to improve not only the hotel but the community as well. If we are to lose this unique structure, we, at the very least, need to remember the significance it held for our city just one generation ago.

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 5.43.01 PM (1)
Hazelton’s 1965 Chamber of Commerce building, which was replaced with a new structure in 2001. Image courtesy of the author.

As a side note about the architect: Paul Hazelton is also well known as the architect for the 1965 Chamber of Commerce building which was replaced with a new structure in 2001. His 1957 design of the Oleson’s food store on State Street won an award for Architectural Achievement of Merit from the Western Michigan Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He also designed the 1969 airport terminal. It was the first building (and only) in town to have an escalator– another of Hazelton’s many “firsts” in Traverse City architecture. That building was demolished in 2007 to make way for a new terminal.

You will be able to read more about the architecture of Traverse City in an upcoming book by Julie Schopieray, author and regular contributor to Grand Traverse Journal.

The History Center, Traverse Area District Library Collaboration: A new home for our regional archives

In the coming months, Traverse Area District Library (TADL) will become the home of the regional archives formerly maintained by the History Center of Traverse City (HCTC). In response to that event, reference librarians at TADL have received a number of questions.  Since the Grand Traverse Journal is a forum for sharing knowledge, let me take the opportunity to describe an archives, explain its functions, and tell how having an archives available at TADL is important to library visitors and patrons.  Afterwards the HCTC will supply a brief history of its archives.

What is an archives?

Archives are similar to libraries. They exist to make their collections of information available to people, but differ from libraries in both the types of materials they hold, and the way materials are accessed. Archives concern themselves with future use, or the “second life” of information.

This book, held by the Kingsley Branch Library, is a 1913 county history, rehoused in a clam shell, archival-quality box.  This book needs some conservation  work; Once leather starts to “rust,” there is little that can be done.  The rust Photo courtesy of the author.

All information, whether it remains in your head or is recorded on a physical medium, has a first and second life. That life cycle can vary, depending on what the information is and how the information is used. The first life of information covers the time the information is immediately relevant, and the second life covers the time that information has no immediate relevancy, but may have some future use.

Memorizing a restaurant phone number has a short first life, perhaps 20 seconds, and a long second life, where it may get filed in your memory bank for recall at some later date. Your birth certificate has a longer first life, as the information it records is good to have on hand for the length of your life, but it also has a second life. Perhaps a distant descendant will need that information to record in the family tree, or researchers will use your information to explore health issues of the past.

An archives is a place to store, preserve, and make available information that is in its second life to people who need that information. Information held in an archives is usually unique.

How does an archives function?

Most people keep their own personal records, such as tax filings, court papers, wills and trusts, and the organization and management of your personal archives is a thing easily managed. You create a finite set of papers, probably organizing them using folders and a filing cabinet or two, and within five minutes of searching, the document you are looking for is found.

Shelved record boxes at an archive. Image courtesy of Depósito del Archivo de la Fundación Sierra-Pambley, through Wikimedia Commons.
Shelved record boxes at an archive. Image courtesy of Depósito del Archivo de la Fundación Sierra-Pambley, through Wikimedia Commons.

Now, imagine if you cared for all the personal records of every member of your extended family. You might need to come up with a system for making sure Aunt Joan’s documents stay with her other files, and Aunt Claire’s stays with hers. Most archives operate this way; We call it maintaining “provenance,” that is, keeping things of the same origin together. An alternative would be to separate like documents (perhaps putting everyone’s student loan information in one folder), but this method destroys the context of their creation, and limits our ability to arrange and describe the archives effectively. An even more amusing alternative is to throw it all in the middle of floor, but none of your family members would thank you for that. How could they ever find the document they were looking for?

We’ve just described basically how an archives functions, but let’s break it down into steps:

  1.  An object (usually a document, but it could be a bound volume (like a school yearbook) or a three-dimensional object, (like a rug beater from the 1910s)), is brought in to the archives by a donor (this person could be a staff member for an organization, a family member, or whoever is in possession of the object and deems it valuable enough to save).
  2. The object is appraised by the archivist (that is, the person running the archives). Archivists are looking for objects that add to our understanding of the past, and are not usually trained to appraise objects for their value. The appraisal process raises a number of questions: What does this object tell us about the past? Is it unique, or do I have a bunch of similar objects already? Is it in good condition, or is it very fragile and likely to take money and time performing conservation work?
  3. The object is accepted into the archives, or returned to the donor. If accepted, the archivist sits down with the donor and explains the Donor Form, in which the donor (typically) signs over their legal claim to the object. The Donor Form can also sign over other rights, permitting the archivist to provide access to the object, perform conservation work, and more.
  4. The object is processed into the collection. This is when the archivist catalogs and describes the object. That description is placed into a database of all the objects in the archives, so that researchers can search the database for objects that might have the information they are looking for. Finding aids are the most common tool created by archivists to help researchers find objects that meet their information needs. Finding aids are descriptive indexes, inventories or guides created during the processing of a collection to describe a collection’s contents. You can see examples of findings aids created by Traverse Area District Library to better understand how objects are processed: Finding Aids.
  5. The object is accessed by a researcher, and information is culled from it. After discovering the object in the database, the researcher informs the archivist that they would like to see it. For the security of the collection, the archivist will hold on to a piece of identification while the researcher is working. The researcher is also informed of the basic rules for handling archival materials, which includes using pencil only, not to write directly on materials, turning one page at a time, using gloves to handle photographs, and other rules as the situation calls for it. The archivist then pulls the object from its location, and the researcher is given time to look the material over and see if the information it contains answers their research question.

How will the transfer of the archives to TADL affect me?

For you, our patrons and researchers, the transfer of the archives means the largest known collections of published and unpublished works concerning our local heritage will now be housed in one building. It also means our collective history will be retained in the Grand Traverse Region, rather than being parceled out to other archival institutions. The archives, like all library materials, will be accessible to all our visitors. As stated by TADL board president Jason Gillman in a recent Record-Eagle forum piece, “preservation and display of the area’s history will be an added bonus for library patrons and visitors.”

Scanning station at the Local History and Genealogy Room, Kingsley Branch Library. Photo courtesy of the author.
Scanning station at the Local History and Genealogy Room, Kingsley Branch Library. This is where the digital image magic happens. Photo courtesy of the author.

As the steward of this public collection, the HCTC’s largely volunteer crew and lone professional archivist made the archives accessible, maintained the collections and improved them with new acquisitions. As the new steward, TADL is both professionally and technically prepared to take on the archives.  In addition to those tasks listed above, TADL is also committed to growing and improving the online image archives as well, providing unparalleled access to both local and remote researchers.

You can also expect the HCTC to stay involved and especially to promote history education for all. As stated by Stephen Sicilaino, Chair of the HCTC Board, “The Board believes that with the transfer of the archives to TADL, the History Center will be able to become a stronger organization and more effectively meet its mission to protect, preserve, and present the history of the region. We will continue to work with TADL on preserving the archives and we will have greater ability to present the history of the area through programs and publications” (Open letter to the membership, November 2015).

Your editors hope you will join us for our HCTC and TADL jointly-sponsored monthly history programs, which take place on the third Sunday of the month, at 2pm. In 2016, topics will range from lumbering to labor strikes, and all points in between!

History of the Grand Traverse Archives  (provided by the HCTC)

The archives trace their beginnings to Traverse City’s Old Settler’s Association, a social club organized in the 1920’s, by the area’s original white settlers. This group eventually became the Grand Traverse Historical Society (GTHS) and focused primarily on social gatherings and educational presentations. In the 1980’s the GTHS joined with the Pioneer Study Center, a public archives started in 1978 at Pathfinder School. The new organization, the Grand Traverse Pioneer and Historical Society, received thousands of photographs and historical documents from the Pioneer Study Center. The collection was variously located in the basement of the Grand Traverse County Courthouse, the basement of the City-County Building, and above a store front on Front Street. In 2005 it moved into state-of-the-art facilities in the newly opened Grand Traverse Heritage Center, located at the renovated Carnegie Library building on Sixth street, the original Traverse City Public Library. The Society changed its name to the Traverse Area Historical Society in 2008.

In 2010, the Society merged with another non-profit, the Friends of the Con Foster Museum, largely because the two organizations held similar missions, to foster historical education and preserve our local history, and the renovated Carnegie provided space for both the Museum collections, as well as the Archives. The combined organizations became the History Center of Traverse City. Since receiving the initial donation of the Pioneer Study Center archives in 1978, the organization (whatever name it was operating under) continued to collect donated materials to improve the archives’ holdings.

Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal, and Special Collections Librarian at Traverse Area District Library. Special thanks to Peg Siciliano, who provided the history of the archives to date.

VOTE to Digitize Our History

In this month’s issue, your Editors invite you to make history, not just read about it! Find out more in the article below:
The Traverse Area District Library (TADL) along with local grant partners, the History Center of Traverse City and Osterlin Library, Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) are asking for community support to vote Traverse City newspapers to win the Michigan Digital Newspaper Grant.
The community is encouraged to vote via twitter using #DigTraverse in posts from January 19-25. Each tweet equals one vote. Voting can also be done by sending a picture postcard to the Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Mich., 48859. Postcards will be available at all TADL locations, the Osterlin Library at NMC, and the History Center.
digtraverseflyerTADL and partners were selected as one of five finalists to receive a Michigan Digital Newspaper Grant administered through the Clarke Historical Library. The $2,500 grant award will help improve access to a winning Michigan newspaper. If Traverse City wins, the funds will be used for scanning and placing online nearly 10,000 combined pages of the Grand Traverse Herald, The Morning Record, The Evening Record, and the Traverse City Record­ Eagle.
The grant would also cover microfilming and digitizing of fragile, one of a kind newspapers of the Traverse City Record-Eagle from May 1, 1915 to December 31, 1916.
“The Record Eagle from 1915-1916 was never filmed as the originals were destroyed in a fire,” said Amy Barritt, TADL Special Collections Librarian. “However, and thankfully, the History Center has collected a number of print copies from that span of time and would like to get them filmed and digitized for preservation purposes, which is a huge resource for our community.”
The newspapers being nominated were published pre­-1923, and are therefore in the public domain and cover a large geographic area including Northwestern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, with an emphasis on Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie and Kalkaska Counties.
Barritt said she and her grant partners are beyond excited to have made it this far and hope the community gets involved to digitize and preserve the region’s local history.
“Our purpose in asking the public to determine the final outcome is so that, from five very good applications, the newspaper selected will serve the needs of the community that demonstrates the greatest interest in using the resource,” said Frank Boles Director, Clarke Historical Library.
This project is made possible by funds from the Robert and Susan Clarke endowment, housed in the Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University.