Posted tagged ‘Delft Theatre’

D. Frederick Charlton – Early Marquette Architect

May 9, 2012

D. Fred Charlton, the architect who designed so many fine buildings in Marquette, resided at 438 E. Ohio St. in Marquette. Like Hampson Gregory, Charlton was born in England, in 1856. He migrated to Canada in 1884 and Detroit in 1886 where he joined the firm of architect John Scott. In 1887, Scott sent Charlton to Marquette to oversee the erection of the Marquette Branch Prison’s buildings. Charlton decided to stay and eventually began his own firm. Among the highlights of his career was in 1893 when he was chosen to design the Mining Building for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. The list of buildings he and his firm built across Upper Michigan is exhausting and a complete list may well be impossible, but among them were:

The Charlton Home – 438 E. Ohio St. Marquette

The Peter White Phelps Home 433 E. Ridge

Dr. O.D. Jones Home 418 E. Hewitt

The Vierling Home 114 W. Hewitt

Bishop Vertin’s home on Superior Street (Baraga Avenue)

The Longyear Mansion

The Waterworks building

The Marquette Opera House

The Guild Hall for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

The Delft Theatre (three total, in Marquette, Escanaba, and Munising)

Marquette’s Delft Theatre, built by Charleton in 1915.

The Clubhouse at the Huron Mountain Club

The Butler Theatre in Ishpeming

The town hall and library in Republic, Michigan

The Masonic Block in Crystal Falls, Michigan

Four buildings and the original design for the Northern State Normal School (today’s Northern Michigan University)

Seven buildings for the Michigan College of Mines (today’s Michigan Technological University)

The Insane Asylum in Newberry, Michigan

Three buildings and two additions for the Marquette Prison

The Marquette, Alger, Ontonagon, and Gogebic County Courthouses

The Escanaba, Ishpeming, and Hancock City Halls

The Negaunee, Escanaba, and Ishpeming Fire Halls

A hotel in the village of Birch, Michigan

Three Carnegie libraries

Sixteen Upper Michigan banks

Nine Upper Michigan churches

Marquette’s Waterworks Building designed by Charlton – today it houses the Marquette Maritime Museum.

Three Upper Michigan YMCA’s

Approximately two hundred fifty different city blocks throughout Upper Michigan

Approximately twenty other public structures

Charlton closed his firm in 1918, citing the lack of building as a result of World War I as the reason. He then retired and passed away in 1941.

A photo of Charlton can be seen in my book My Marquette.

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Marquette’s Historic Delft Theatre

February 20, 2012

The following article is an excerpt from my book My Marquette, beginning with a scene that takes place at the Delft Theatre in my novel Superior Heritage: The Marquette Trilogy, Book Three

Delft Theatre Marquee

Delft Theatre Marquette, circa 1998, courtesy of Sonny Longtine

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On Saturdays, John and Chad often went to matinees at the Delft Theatre. The movies were not always spectacular, often children’s shows they had outgrown. Robinson Crusoe, The Journey of Natty Gann, The Watcher in the Woods were films soon forgotten, but that hardly mattered; the true glamor was being at a movie theatre, especially the fabulous old Delft. This theatre, perhaps more than any place in Marquette, evoked history to them. When the boys saw Annie, they were impressed by the glamorous scene when the characters from the 1930s go to the movies at Radio City Music Hall, and the ushers danced down the aisle with flashlights to show them to their seats. The boys could just imagine that in its heyday, the Delft had been a similarly magical movie showplace. For seventy years, the theatre had stood along Washington Street, the most notable building on the block. During its long life, the theatre had shown films and been the sight of public performances. Now, as the theatre fell into neglect, its former grandeur made it all the more enticing. It was the only theatre in town with a round little ticket window inside the front door. From there rose a long hallway that led to double doors where the usher collected your ticket so you could enter a splendid fantasy world. Then you went down a tall flight of stairs until you came to the concession stand where a cluster of people competed for the cashiers’ attention to buy popcorn, raisinettes, coca-colas, and sometimes, even ice cream! The concession stand was against the left wall while the right wall had a giant window that looked into the theatre itself so even the concession workers could watch the film when they were not busy serving customers.

The theatre walls were covered with winter scenes of children sledding. Protruding from the ceiling was the magnificent big round metal thing no one could define—it was not a chandelier because it had nothing to do with lighting; it had giant rings, one inside another, like a spaceship hovering over the audience, which only added to the atmosphere when watching Return of the Jedi, The Last Starfighter, or 2010.

Most impressive of all, the Delft boasted the largest screen in the Upper Peninsula—they did not make movie theaters with such big screens anymore. Drive-ins were now all but extinct and most old movie theaters had been replaced by multiplex cinemas. John had heard tales of such theaters from friends who had seen them downstate; he had heard that if you did not like a movie, you could sneak into another one, so you could see parts of three or four films on the same night. John thought this silly since you would never get to see a full film. He did not imagine Marquette would ever be big enough for a multiplex cinema. Three theaters, each showing one movie, was enough variety for Marquette. — Superior Heritage

The Delft Theatre was actually part of a chain. Iron River, Munising, and Escanaba also had their own Delft theatres, built to look like Dutch buildings—hence the name Delft. Marquette’s Delft Theatre has survived the others.
The theatre was built in 1914 and initially, besides showing silent films, had a stage for vaudeville and other performances. The Marquette Opera House across the street would have provided more “cultural” forms of entertainment.

About 1950, the stage was closed off and the movie screen—the largest ever in Upper Michigan—was permanently put into place. Then in 1985, it was divided into two separate rooms and screens, thus breaking up the U.P.’s largest screen. In the next decade, it was divided again, this time into five screens. Considerable remodeling was done at that point, including having the main entrance transferred from Washington Street—where the lighted marquee still hangs, to Main Street. As children, my brother and I always thought it a mystery how one could enter on Washington Street and exit on Main Street; we could not believe the metal shaft that crossed the alley was really all of the Delft Theatre.

The original entrance to the Delft Theatre was on Washington Street where from the ticket booth you walked up a long sloping floor to another door where your tickets were collected. This large room is now the top floor theatre. When this section was remodeled, a Chinese painting was discovered from the theatre’s early days. It has now been preserved and graces this individual room. The stairs to reach this top room were initially the stairs down to the concession stands on the left wall, and the giant theatre was on the left. In the back of the main theatre was a low wall, so if you got up from your seat to go to the bathroom, you could still watch the movie as you walked past the concession stand, or if you waited for your popcorn.

Despite the magic of going to the Delft Theatre, the bathrooms were another story. You had to go down into the basement, where a sort of lobby existed which had off it the dirty smelly bathrooms with old looking plumbing. The lobby always seemed to be filled with high school and college students who were smoking, a scary experience for little kids—especially in those days when parents thought nothing of sending their children to the bathroom on their own—but despite scary smoking college students, children were safe in the Delft Theatre. Today the main lobby and concession stands are where the restrooms once were located.

The interior of the main theatre room in the old days is accurate as described in Superior Heritage. I could not even begin to list all the movies I watched there, but I do remember the very first one. It was a few days before Christmas 1974 and I was three years old. My family had just moved into our new house in Stonegate by the Crossroads, and my dad took me to the movie so my mom could focus on unpacking. The movie was terrible—it was a Christmas film with Santa Claus being chased by the Devil who was out to stop him from delivering presents; in one scene, the Devil moved a chimney so Santa could not get inside a house and in another Santa had to climb a tree to escape an angry, barking dog. I’ve never been able to find out the name of this movie—nor am I surprised it’s never been released on video. It wasn’t fit viewing for a three year old.

Other early films I remember seeing at the Delft were the Disney cartoons—Pinocchio, Peter Pan, and Snow White. By middle school, my brother and I could go on our own—my mom would drop us off at the Saturday matinees to attend the same films Chad and John attend in Superior Heritage.

I miss the Delft’s giant screen and reasonable prices for candy at the concession stand, but I think Marquette residents will agree with me that even with five screens, we are happy the Delft is still there with its marquee brightly lit to make Washington Street distinct. Long may the movie magic live on.

Santa Claus and Merlin Take on Satan: My First Movie at Marquette’s Historic Delft Theatre

December 5, 2011

In December, 1974, when I was only three and a half years old, my dad took me for the first time to Marquette’s Delft Theatre to see my first movie. It was a terrible film—at three years old, I was already smart enough to ascertain that. I remembered very little of it over the years, but I would occasionally think about that terrible first movie I saw, which had the Devil chasing Santa Claus, moving the chimney on him so he couldn’t get inside houses to deliver toys, and sicking a dog on him. My dad also thought the movie terrible. For many years, I wondered what this film was named, and I looked in many video books for it, but only thanks to the Internet did I recently discover it was the 1959 Mexican film Santa Claus. And, I was even more surprised to discover it had an Arthurian legend connection—yes, Merlin and Santa Claus are buddies. I didn’t remember that part of the film when I was three—but I don’t think I knew who Merlin was yet, though of course, I knew Santa Claus.

Santa Claus movie poster - "weird and wonderful characters" - Weird is right!

So when I found this film on Amazon, I had to see it. Knowing it would be terrible, I opted to watch the Mystery Science Theater episode that featured it. I’m glad I did because I would have groaned through most of it, but the Mystery Science Theater’s cast made me laugh throughout.

The story is simple and lame. Santa lives in a castle on a cloud above the North Pole. Instead of elves, he has children from around the world who help him. The beginning of the film shows Santa playing the organ as we are shown scenes of children from a slew of countries: Africa, Spain, China, England, Japan, the Orient, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, the Islands of the Caribbean, South America, Central America, USA, and Mexico—I know those aren’t all technically countries, but Santa and the Narrator don’t know that—yeah, there’s a narrator; sure sign the film is bad; he sounds like he’s detailing a documentary, like one of the old Disney wildlife films. Since we have to listen to children sing from each country, this part of the film really drags.

It gets more interesting when Lucifer (the chief devil) tells the devil Pitch he must leave Hades and go to earth to make children evil and to destroy Santa Claus. Pitch isn’t a very convincing devil—he likes to dance about as if he thinks he can do ballet. He goes to Mexico where he whispers in children’s ears, trying to make them do things like steal a doll and later throw rocks at Santa. Santa, however, can see everything through his magical telescope, so he knows what Pitch is doing. Santa even has a machine so he can watch children’s dreams. He’s quite the Big Santa, and it’s only 1959!

Soon it’s time for Santa to go to earth to deliver Christmas toys. Pitch is now out to stop Santa by moving the chimney so Santa can’t get in a house, as well as other, less effective ways to hurt Santa. Santa does get back at him in one scene by shooting at him with a toy cannon.

But where does Merlin come into the story? Merlin has given Santa a magic dreaming power he can blow in children’s faces to put them to sleep. Santa also has a special invisibility flower. Of course, Pitch destroys the powder and Santa loses the flower. Then Pitch sicks a dog on Santa so he has to climb a tree and is trapped. Santa is now in big trouble since he can’t get out of the tree and morning is coming; if the sun rises before Santa gets back to the North Pole, the reindeer will turn to dust. But no worries, Santa’s voice is so loud he can yell to “Mr. Merlin” who hears him from where he lives with Santa in the castle in a cloud above the North Pole. (You have to wonder why there’s no Mrs. Claus in the film.) Merlin is decked out in the typical blue robe with the big pointy hat and moon and star pictures on his clothes. He also wobbles around when he walks. (Mystery Science Theater asks, “Why can’t Santa give him another leg?”)

Merlin, being a great wizard and capable of doing magical things, quickly solves the problem. Does he cast a fantastic spell to make Santa Claus suddenly appear back home? No. Does he turn the dog into a toad? No. Does he resurrect the Knights of the Round Table to ride to Santa’s rescue? No. No magical spells for Merlin in this film—other than the lame dreaming powder. Merlin yells back at Santa, telling him to reach into his bag of toys and pull out a toy cat on wheels, throw it down, and let the dog chase it. Once that works, Santa can climb down from the tree and escapes. Merlin tells Santa it’s time now for him to come home, but first, Santa delivers a doll to a poor little girl who has tried to be good.

The film does have a few magical moments. It is somewhat enchanting in its North Pole sets despite its overall cheesiness, and Santa is kind enough to let a child who doesn’t feel loved by his parents, see Santa Claus. He also convinces those parents to go home to their son, after giving them some sort of “drink of remembrance”—as Mystery Science Theatre says, “Booze helps parents care for their children.”

The film is overly sentimental and moralistic for our tastes today, but even in 1959, I don’t know how anyone could have considered it a good movie.

The film certainly didn’t deserve its popularity. Why ever did the Delft Theatre decide to show this strange Satanic-Christmas concoction? According to Wikipedia, Santa Claus was quite a hit: “Santa Claus was considered to be a financial success over several holiday-season theatrical releases in the 1960s and 1970s. Broadcast of the film also became a holiday tradition at several U.S. television stations. The film garnered at least one award, winning the Golden Gate Award for Best International Family Film at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1959.” And apparently, it was so popular it was worthy of being shown at the Delft Theatre in Marquette, Michigan when it was fifteen years old and I was three. I can only assume this popularity was due to a lack of children’s Christmas movies at that time, and that it was a time when we only got three channels on television, and we had no VCRs, much less Netflix to choose from. If we wanted to see a movie, we went to see whatever was playing.

Today, the film is listed on IMDB as one of the worst movies of all time. Considering that even as a three old child I thought it was terrible, I’m not surprised. If you want to groan, watch this film, but if you want a lot of laughs, watch the Mystery Science Theatre episode of it. Both are available on Amazon Instant Video for $2.99 if you search simply for “Santa Claus.”

If you’ve seen this movie—especially if you saw it as a child like I did—I’d love to know your own thoughts about it.

My First Visit to the New Marquette Regional History Museum

March 12, 2011

Yesterday I visited for the first time the exhibits at the new Marquette Regional History Museum. My first reaction was simply, WOW! And then as I walked through the exhibits, I felt more overcome with emotion than anything to think such a stunningly beautiful museum should exist in Marquette.

Just how “beautiful” was to me the biggest surprise. I knew that in the new museum the space would be larger, I knew more of the museum’s collection would be displayed, and more history told, but I was not at all prepared for the aesthetic effect. There are gorgeous murals painted by local artist Liz Yelland, there are numerous different subjects, all arranged beautifully, there are interactive parts of the museum, and so many pieces of history I had no idea the museum even had. More than anything I marvelled at the overall layout and all the work and planning that must have gone into the entire building and especially the exhibits.

Somewhere I hope Helen Longyear Paul, Olive Pendill, Ernest Rankin, Fred Rydholm, and the many, many other departed souls who were pioneers and early supporters of the museum could see what all their hard work, devotion, and vision for a Marquette County Historical Society that became a museum and now a regional history center has expanded and grown into.

And of course, most of the success is due to director Kaye Hiebel and all the staff, the museum board, all the generous donors in the community, and all the people who support the museum by visiting it. It is a job well done in every way possible, and I feel personally grateful to everyone who contributed in any way.

I would have loved to provide some photographs of the exhibits but photography is not allowed in the exhibits, so you will just have to visit the museum yourself to see everything, and for $7 per adult, you can see what is worthy of a much larger metropolitan area than Marquette. Plan ahead for spending about two hours. I spent nearly two and a half and I still didn’t get to read everything posted, although I read well more than half the signs and skimmed the others.

Everything I could imagine being relevant to the Marquette region was depicted – displays on wildlife include beaver and wolf and deer. There are extensive collections of artifacts from prehistoric people. A large display of various rocks, minerals, and Lake Superior sandstone are exhibited with enough detail to please the most active rockhound. The Native American imprint on the area is given extensive attention aside displays about the coming of the white men through the discovery of iron ore by William Austin Burt.

The founding of Marquette is told in letters and artifacts from Peter White, Amos and Olive Harlow, and Mehitable Everett. Replicas of Native American lodgehouses are beside early Marquette homes and voyageur fur trading posts. The history of shipping on the Great Lakes is displayed, along with that of farming, logging, and mining.

The area’s brave men and women who fought in the Civil War, Spanish American War, both World Wars and the Vietnam War receive recognition for their sacrifices.

Transportation changes are reflected in automobiles, streetcars, railroads, and snowmobiles. Descriptions of Marquette County’s major communities are provided. And the entertainment, the fun, of living in the U.P. also is provided in a movie projector from the Delft, the story of a pageant on Teal Lake, the creation of quill work and other crafts, the history of hockey, a basketball jersey from J.D. Pierce High School, and early restaurants like Hamburger Heaven.

That’s a small taste of all the history provided at the Marquette Regional History Center. Several fun, interactive aspects of the museum will also provide entertainment for children.

Go visit our wonderful new museum. Marquette, the Queen City of the North, now has a new jewel in her crown, and anyone who loves Marquette and its surrounding communities will be thrilled to see it shine.

For more information, visit the Marquette Regional History Center’s website at www.marquettecohistory.org

Marquette’s Opera House

October 16, 2010

            The Marquette Opera House was a stately edifice, the grandest in the Queen City’s downtown. The building had been constructed in 1892 at the instigation of the city’s greatest benefactors, Peter White and John Longyear. The foundation was built of Anna River brick and native Marquette brownstone. The front entrance had a Romanesque arch through which the city’s residents passed in their most elegant habiliments. While the building also housed a storefront and a Masonic Hall, the theatre was the building’s gem. The interior reflected the height of the Italian Renaissance, while the proscenium arch served as gateway to the grandest scenes ever played on a Marquette stage. Ornate boxes filled the walls, and in one such princely seat, Beth found herself seated between her lover and her annoying cousin.

            First Thelma commented about the comfortable seat. Then she fretted over how well she could see the stage. Next she listed the names of everyone in the theatre whom she knew, and since the theatre could hold up to one thousand people, and almost everyone in Marquette knew everyone else, this recital lasted until the lights dimmed and the orchestra began to play.

            Beth hoped Thelma would keep her mouth shut during the performance. She vowed she would never forgive her mother for sending Thelma as her chaperone. But what did it matter? Henry clearly had no intentions tonight of asking her to—

            He reached over to take her hand. Beth hoped Thelma would not notice.

— The Queen City

 

            Of all Marquette’s grand old buildings that were gone before my time, the Marquette Opera House is the one I wish I had seen and the one for which I feel most fond because of its role in my family’s history as well as its sensationally tragic end.

           My grandparents’ courtship was as intriguing a story as any to me. Their religious differences inspired two marriage problems in my novels, first when I wrote The Only Thing That Lasts where Robert’s Grandma and Mr. Carter do not marry in their youth because she is Catholic and he a Southern Baptist, and later in The Queen City when Henry and Beth, based loosely on my grandparents, have a long engagement.

            Despite the religion issue, my grandpa decided to propose to my grandmother. The event occurred at the Marquette Opera House sometime in the late 1920s. My grandmother, her parents being overprotective, had a friend with her as chaperone, although hopefully the friend was not as annoying as Beth’s talkative cousin, Thelma. Although the religious differences would keep my grandparents from getting married until 1934, the Marquette Opera House was the place where their courtship and pending nuptials were confirmed. I doubt a more romantic place existed in Marquette for my grandparents to pledge their love since by all accounts the opera house was a truly elegant structure.

            The Marquette Opera House was built in 1890 with Peter White and John M. Longyear forming a corporation to sell stock to fund its construction. When completed, the building would contain three floors, including not only the theatre but four shops on the first floor, office suites on the second, and a third floor leased to the Masonic order.

Designed by local architect Carl F. Struck, the building’s exterior was of native brownstone and brick with a Romanesque entrance of Portage Entry sandstone. The interior, however, was the most stunning. A stairway led to the ticket office. Hallways led to the dress balcony and the Masonic Hall. The style inside was Italian Renaissance with ornate boxes, frescoes depicting comedy and tragedy, and of course, an impressive proscenium arch with an Italian landscape painted on the drop curtain. The plush chairs—enough to hold 900—were the same as those in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Popular plays and operas were performed including the Victorian favorite, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

            In 1927, the building was bought by the Masons and became known as the Masonic Building. By that time, movies had come to Marquette and the Delft Theatre had been operating a dozen years, so to compete, a variety of performances transplanted some of the more traditional plays and operas. Nevertheless, many performances were played here to great success, and it was not uncommon for national celebrities to visit, including Lillian Russell, Lon Chaney, John Philip Sousa, and W.C. Fields. I only wish I knew what performance my grandparents watched the night of their engagement.

Like many an opera heroine, the Marquette Opera House would meet a tragic ending.

Stay tuned to my next post to find out the dramatic story of the opera house’s end. The full story, complete with a photo of the Opera House’s interior can be found in My Marquette.

Why I Write About Marquette

September 26, 2010

The following essay is the preface to My Marquette, to be released this week.

My Marquette - released Oct 1, 2010

WHY I WRITE ABOUT MARQUETTE

 

            Where do you come up with your ideas? What made you decide to write about Marquette? Ever since Iron Pioneers was first published, my readers continually ask me these questions.

            My answer is that having been born and raised in Marquette, and being so enculturated into the city’s history and its people, as an author I simply cannot not write about it. The best advice a writer is given is “Write what you know” and if I know any place, it is my hometown, where I and generations of my ancestors have lived. I am unable to remember the first time I saw St. Peter’s Cathedral, the Old Savings Bank, or Presque Isle Park. They have always been there, always been a part of my conscious world—always actively influenced my imagination.

            My earliest memories include my grandfather telling me about Marquette’s past, stories I never forgot that made me wonder what it was like to grow up in this town in the early twentieth century, when automobiles were still a novelty, long before television, in days when my grandpa would get a quarter to scrub the kitchen floor, and he would use that quarter to treat himself and a friend to a silent movie at the Delft Theatre and still have change left over for snacks.

            Since I was eight years old, I knew I wanted to write stories, and growing up in a town where my family had lived so long, hearing story after story about the past, I wanted to write down those stories and make the past come alive for people. While in college, I became interested in family history. I learned then that the earliest branch of my family came to Marquette in 1849, the year the village was founded, and my family has lived in Marquette ever since. As I learned more about my ancestors and Marquette’s history, I could not help but imagine what it would have been like for a person to come by schooner across Lake Superior in 1849, to see only a wilderness where a village was to be built, and what it was like after two decades of struggling to build that town, to see it destroyed by fire in 1868, only to spring up again, grander than before. And what of the winters? Feet and feet of snow, and no snowblowers or modern snowplows. What an amazing courage and determination the pioneers had to carry on each day in the nineteenth century. In my novels, I tried to recreate the early settlers’ experiences so readers would understand and appreciate their courage and draw their own strength from the examples of those mighty pioneers.

            The scene in Iron Pioneers that I feel best demonstrates The Marquette Trilogy’s themes of courage and survival is when Molly and Patrick talk about why they left Ireland to come to America. Their discussion reflects the tales of many immigrants who came to Marquette—some like Patrick to escape religious or political oppression—some like Molly, to avoid poverty and suffering. Molly’s daughter, Kathy, after overhearing her mother relate how her ancestors had starved during the Irish potato famine, and knowing that others around the world are far from as fortunate as her, asks her future husband what the past and her ancestors should mean to her.

            “How can we live in America, knowing that others are suffering?” Kathy asked.

            “By appreciating our good fortune and being happy.”

            “Happy?” she asked, feeling it impossible after years of living under her stepfather’s oppression, after the suffering her mother had known. She feared to be happy from fear it would not last.

            “Yes, happy,” said Patrick. “All those people who suffered would want us to be happy, to live and marry and have children who will not know such pain. We are the extensions of our parents and grandparents and all those brave people; we’re a continuation of their spirits, and our happiness helps to validate their struggles, to give meaning to their lives.”

            He only understood this truth as he spoke it, as he suddenly believed the world could be a wonderful place; that everything could work out for the best. He felt like an old Celtic bard who foresaw a hopeful future capable of washing away past grief. 

 

            I wrote my trilogy as a tribute to those pioneers who built Marquette, and those like them in every community who built this nation despite the difficulties they faced. Whether a person has ever visited Marquette should not determine whether they find enjoyment or inspiration from the history of this fine city. The story of Marquette is the story of the American Dream, of dreams for a better future and the struggles to achieve that dream, the hopes and fears of countless American generations of immigrants seeking a better world, and how some achieved it, some failed, and some persevered without giving up. Based on the pioneers’ examples, my novels have hopefully inspired readers with the courage to endure their own trials and overcome them. To give people that courage, and to hear how much my novels have resonated with them, has made the many lonely hours of writing all worthwhile.

            In writing about Marquette, I knew I wanted to capture the magic of one particular place and allow readers to travel there and come to know it as well as I did. I have lived in Marquette all my life except six years when I foolishly thought I would find a better life elsewhere, only to feel exiled. While I was away, Marquette celebrated its sesquicentennial in 1999, and that same year, I, homesick, decided to write about its history.

            I had written other novels, but never satisfied with them, I had left them unpublished. When I began writing Iron Pioneers and its sequels, although I knew the task would be monumental, I finally felt I had found my voice, the books I was actually born to write.

            I wrote about the outdoors—the wild, thick forests, the temperate, green-leaved splendid summers of blueberry picking and daring to enter Lake Superior’s cool waters, the roar of the winter wind, the blizzards that leave behind snowbanks that must be shoveled, and ultimately, the sense of peace one feels among so much natural beauty. I wrote about Marquette’s history, for I could not imagine a more inspiring story than the American Dream played out in a quest to build an industrial empire along Lake Superior, of an iron discovery that produced more wealth than the California Gold Rush, of a mined product that helped to win major wars and change the world. And I wrote about the change and decline of that iron industry, how it affected the people who lived in Marquette, sometimes fulfilling, often destroying their dreams.

            Mostly, however, I wrote about life in a small town, of the relationships between people in a community. Many people think small towns are quiet and dull because they lack the fast-paced lifestyle of metropolitan areas. But small towns have a greater and more personal drama. Willa Cather, author of O Pioneers and one of my greatest influences—my title Iron Pioneers is partly a tribute to her—best described the relationships in small towns in a passage I used as the front quote for Narrow Lives:

 In little towns, lives roll along so close to one another; loves and hates beat about, their wings almost touching. On the sidewalks along which everybody comes and goes, you must, if you walk abroad at all, at some time pass within a few inches of the man who cheated and betrayed you, or the woman you desire more than anything else in the world. Her skirt brushes against you. You say good-morning and go on. It is a close shave. Out in the world the escapes are not so narrow. — Lucy Gayheart

 Relationships are complex in small towns, the layers of social networks dizzying; in the intertwining family trees and the friendships of my characters, I tried to capture this reality. A love affair or a conflict between friends can be of mammoth proportions in the history of a small town—as important to its inhabitants as a world war is on a national or international scale. It was that personal connection to each person and place that one feels living in a small town that I wanted to capture in my fiction.

            I have felt lonely in large cities, walking down streets where not a face is familiar, where no one notices you. In Marquette, although it has grown to where I can go into a store without seeing a familiar face, I know if I stop to speak to any stranger for a minute and name a few friends or acquaintances, the stranger and I will know someone in common. We are only separated by a degree or two in our little city of twenty thousand people.

            Living your entire life in the same place breeds familiarity. Even if I see no one I know when I walk about Marquette, the city is rich with memories and history for me. It is an indescribable comfort to enter the downtown post office and recall that my grandfather helped to build it during the Great Depression. I can walk down Washington Street and see the stone in the sidewalk marking where the Marquette Opera House once stood, where my grandfather proposed to my grandmother before it burned down in the great fire and blizzard of 1938. The First Methodist Church has a stained glass memorial window to honor my ancestral aunt and uncle, Delivan and Pamelia Bishop, who were among its founders in the 1850s. I look out onto Iron Bay and imagine what my ancestors must have felt when they first arrived on its shore. My readers tell me, because of my novels, they now walk about Marquette, equally imagining what life was like here for the generations before them—to me, that is the ultimate compliment to my work—that it has made my readers imaginative and interested in history and especially their own family stories.

            A timelessness settles over a person who grows older while living in the same place. You talk about Cliffs Ridge, the ski hill whose name was changed to Marquette Mountain twenty years ago, yet your old friends know exactly where you mean and do not correct you—it is still Cliffs Ridge in their memories too. As you drive into South Marquette on County Road 553, you turn your head out of habit to look at the old red brick house of the Brookridge Estate, which you have always admired, only to realize it is 2010 now, not 1982, and the house was torn down nearly twenty years ago to build the new assisted living facility, Brookridge Heights.

Moments of joy from your past keep you connected to people. Thirty years ago, the Marquette Mall had a fountain with colored lights—so many people have told me they had forgotten about it, and they were glad when I reminded them of its beauty in Superior Heritage. Every place I step, I remember a dozen moments from my own past—I stop to get gas at a station where once stood the Bavarian Inn where I had breakfast dozens of time. I go to the remodeled Delft Theatre and can still remember the first movie I saw there when I was three years old—memories layer themselves on top of each other. The past never dies—we can travel back to it in our minds, and reading a book is the opportunity to enter another world or an author’s mind and experience another person’s experiences.

Tyler R. Tichelaar

            I imagine such nostalgia and family connections are why people enjoy my books, why some of my readers stay in Marquette despite the possibility of better lives elsewhere, or why many of my readers, exiled from Upper Michigan, find comfort for their homesickness by revisiting Marquette through my words. Books and memories allow you to go home again.

            This deep abiding connection, this sense of place, of belonging, of knowing I am home and knowing how much that is to be valued—that is why I write about Marquette.

Dominic’s Daughter – A South Marquette Story

July 13, 2010

Just last week, I heard about the book Dominic’s Daughter by Barbara Mullen after Jim Koski from the Marquette County History Museum led his interesting South Marquette Walking Tour. Barbara Mullen’s book helped me to re-envision South Marquette a century ago. It’s the kind of book that fascinates me because it gives another glimpse into the thousands of stories of Marquette’s people and history, stories I love to tell in my own books.

Dominic's Daughter by Barbara Mullen

Dominic’s Daughter by Barbara Mullen is a bit of a difficult book to define. It reads like a novel, but is categorized on the back cover as a memoir. Barbara Mullen wrote the book based on the diaries of her mother, Ruth Hogan Thomas, who left them to her and asked her to make a book out of them when she died.

While Mullen may have done a little novelizing to write the book, she retained her mother’s voice and throughout she used local place names and the names of the real people her mother knew. In a few places there are exceptions, such as references to St. Michael’s, which wasn’t a church that was built yet in the 1880s-1910s when the novel takes place. I wonder whether the author intended to fictionalize St. John the Baptist, or she just confused the name, since the French characters attend St. Michael’s in the novel and St. John the Baptist was Marquette’s French Catholic Church at the time. St. John the Baptist stood in Marquette from 1908-1986 (an earlier church was on the site with the same name) on the corner of Fourth and Washington Streets. The church’s bell tower remains today. Meanwhile, St. Michael’s in North Marquette on Fourth and Kaye was not a parish until 1942.

Despite these small issues, readers who know and love Marquette can easily follow the story and the characters’ movements as they walk down Genesee or Baraga Ave, visit the Delft Theatre, Donckers, Kresge’s or Walgreens, or the Marquette Library (Peter White Public Library).

But most interesting are the people in this book. They are all historical people from what I can tell. At the center is Ruth Hogan, daughter of Dominic Hogan. Dominic and his brother Edward Hogan reputedly were involved in robbing a railroad in Marquette. Edward got away with the money while Dominic served time for it and when he got out of prison, his brother never shared the money with him. Afterward, Dominic became an alcoholic and could not be a very good father to Ruth as a result. Ruth and her mother, Barbara, went to live with her grandparents, William and Bridget Wiseman, Irish immigrants. Many other historical people are mentioned in the book, all people from South Marquette.

After reading the book, I looked in city directories and drove around South Marquette to see if any of the houses remained that the author mentions. The Deasey house, which belonged to Ruth’s homeroom teacher, still stands.

The Deasy House in South Marquette

However, it looks like both the Hogan house which would have been at 233 Fisher Street, and Ruth’s grandmother’s boarding house where she grew up, which would have been at 308 Division Street are no longer standing. In addition, I discovered that Division Street must have been renumbered at some point since my own great-grandparents, John and Lily Molby, lived at 609 Division St., according to old city directories, but today it is 1509 Division St., which made me then look on the 1200 block for the Wiseman family’s boarding house but I could not locate a house that corresponded to the original address.

While Dominic’s Daughter does not really have a plot but is a story of a girl growing up in South Marquette between about 1902-1920, it is a deeply interesting story for those interested in Marquette history, and it has received Honorable Mention in the Pen Prose Awards. It has also been compared to Angela’s Ashes for its depiction of Irish immigrant life in the United States. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Ruth wins second place in an essay contest for writing about what patriotism means and interviewing many of the other immigrants in South Marquette about their travelling to America and what it means to them to live here. I only wish I could have talked to them, and all the historical people in this book, myself. How many stories Marquette has to tell!

 Dominic’s Daughter is available in local bookstores and online.