Posted tagged ‘Front Street’

Marquette Hotels: The Clifton House and the Hotel Marquette

January 26, 2011

Last week when I had the pleasure of visiting the residents of Brookridge Heights to talk about My Marquette, we spent a lot of time reminscing about old Marquette hotels, some I knew very little about. Marquette has had numerous old hotels from the Brunswick to the European and the Janzen. Two well-known hotels that I featured in my novels were the Clifton and the Hotel Marquette. Here is the section from My Marquette about them. Photos of the hotels, including the fire one experienced, can be found in My Marquette.

            Unlike most of Upper Michigan’s clannish Finnish immigrants, Aino realized that to get ahead in this foreign land, she must assimilate into American culture. She thought working in one of Marquette’s finest hotels was a fine start compared to the jobs in the mining towns of Ishpeming and Negaunee; Marquette seemed practically a cosmopolitan city compared to the nearby little mining towns, and the Clifton Hotel was frequently visited by shipping and railroad magnates. — The Queen City

            In The Queen City, Aino Nordmaki’s employment at the Clifton Hotel results in her meeting her future husband, Karl Bergmann. Aino enters his room to clean it, not realizing he is still in it—they are immediately smitten with each other, and although she knows she should not court one of the hotel’s guests, she gives in when he asks her to supper:

Finally, he found Aino Nordmaki in a stairwell and asked her to have supper with him. She tried to explain she could not be involved with the hotel’s male clients. He persisted when her eyes betrayed her pleasure at being asked. He took her to the Hotel Marquette—known for its splendid cuisine—where no one from the Clifton would see them. Aino had never eaten in a restaurant before—she had certainly never dined alone with a man. That he was a giant of a man made her feel both nervous and safe, as if even losing her position at the hotel could not happen if he were with her. They did not talk much; neither knew what to say, but in the end, she thanked him for the meal.

            The Mesnard House was built in 1883 and renamed the Hotel Marquette in 1891. It had one hundred rooms and was renowned for its fine dining. But like so many other downtown buildings, it would be destroyed by fire in 1930.

            The Clifton Hotel would be even more ill-fated. The original hotel was first named the Clifton Hostelry, then Cole’s Lake View Hotel, then Cozzen’s Hotel, and finally the Clifton House. It stood four stories high on the corner of Washington and Front Streets, and its top floor and an observation tower provided an excellent view of Lake Superior. A barbershop, billiard parlor, and parlors for entertainment were among its many amenities. A Christmas Day fire in 1886 would destroy it.

            The Volks, owners of the Clifton, decided to rebuild a block farther up the hill on the corners of Front and Bluff Streets. This second Clifton Hotel would be where Karl and Aino met; they would walk from there down a block to the corner of Washington and Front Streets to the Hotel Marquette for dinner. Meanwhile, Amos Harlow purchased the property where the old Clifton Hotel had stood and built the Harlow Block building in 1887, constructed by Marquette architect Hampson Gregory. It remains home to numerous downtown businesses and offices today.

            The second Clifton Hotel would ultimately meet the fate of its predecessor. In October 1965, fire again broke out as the result of an electric problem. Despite efforts to put it out, the fire quickly spread through the building. The hotel was never rebuilt. By that time, the US 41 bypass had been built to detour traffic from passing through downtown Marquette. Hotels were being replaced by motels springing up along US 41 as the city grew westward. Today, only the Landmark Inn survives of Marquette’s downtown hotels.

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Marquette Homes Great-Grandpa Jay Earle White Built

January 2, 2011

Today, January 2nd, is the birthday of my great-grandpa Jay Earle White (1880-1963). So in his honor I’m posting the section from My Marquette that lists the houses that he built.

            While none of my ancestors were fortunate enough to live in the grand old mansions of Ridge and Arch Streets, my great-grandfather, Jay Earle White, was busily building homes for people throughout Marquette in the early 1900s. Amazingly, he learned carpentry through a correspondence course.

1820 Wilkinson - My great-grandparents' home

            I don’t know how many homes my great-grandfather built, but in the late 1990s, my Great-Uncle Jolly drove around Marquette with me, letting me know which houses he remembered his father building, some of which my great-uncle helped to build as a teenager in the 1920s. Most of the houses Jay Earle White built are in the residential East side of Marquette. Some of the homes he built are long gone, but those that remain, according to my great-uncle’s recollections eighty years later, are listed below with approximate dates for when they were built. I have not verified the accuracy of all these dates but simply submit them as my great-uncle best remembered them.

  • South Side Pioneer Road — a home on this street was built in 1927 for Fred Odett.
  • 307, 323, and 325 College Avenue — these houses are just a couple of blocks from Marquette General Hospital, St. Luke’s at the time, and were built as homes for nurses.
  • 400 Crescent Street — built about or slightly after 1927.
  • 537 Center Street — built for the Duquettes. It is next door to my grandparents’ house at 1622 Wilkinson Avenue.
  • 710 Front Street — built for Dr. Youngquist in 1924.

    Dr. Youngquist's house

  • 714 Spruce Street — the Huetter Flats, built in 1924, at the time a “modern” apartment building. Known today as “Spruce Manor,” it is still an apartment building. A building was located here as early as 1900 which was also apartments.
  • 810 Front Street — built for John Robinson.
  • 1041 Pine Street — built about 1925 or 1926.
  • 1111 and 1116 High Street — built in 1927 for Charles Gustafson.
  • 1119 Pine Street
  • 1222 N. Front Street — built for Leo Tonn
  • 1820 Wilkinson Avenue — built in 1938 by Jay Earle White for his own family.

            My great-grandfather did a lot of other carpentry work including working as a cabinet maker at what was then Northern Michigan College. Great-Uncle Jolly told me his father never wanted to belong to the Carpenters Union because his work was so good people would pay him $1.00 an hour, and the union carpenters only made $0.75 an hour, so the union carpenters took up a collection to pay his carpenter dues so they wouldn’t have to compete with him and he’d get what they were paid.

Huetter Flats

            I wonder whether my great-grandfather ever considered that the houses he built would still be standing well into the twenty-first century. Over time, hundreds of people must have lived in these homes. His work lives on in his homes as well as in his family long after he is gone.

Marquette’s Historic Peter White Public Library

November 29, 2010

Peter White Public Library - A National Treasure

On November 15th, Peter White Public Library announced what everyone in Marquette and the surrounding townships already knew – the library is the jewel in the Queen City’s crown – and as good or better than any library in the United States. The library was picked out of 123,000 libraries in the country as one of only five to receive the National Medal for Library and Media Services. You can read more about this wonderful honor that has made all very proud at the library’s website http://www.uproc.lib.mi.us/pwpl/NationalMedal.html

Following is the section from My Marquette about the history of the Peter White Public Library. Additional historic photographs of the library are included in the print version of the book:

            Helen and I started up the library’s high front steps.

            “Isn’t it beautiful?” asked Helen, stopping after a couple seconds to admire the building. “It looks just like a Greek Temple.”

            “Yeah,” I said, “or a Southern plantation house made of stone.”

            “We have bigger libraries than this downstate,” said Helen, “but I haven’t seen one so graceful.”

— The Only Thing That Lasts

 

Although the current impressive and beloved library building was built in 1903 and opened its doors the following year, Marquette’s first library began not long after the town’s founding.

In Iron Pioneers, several of the female characters early on form the Ladies’ Literary Society, an early book club as well as a sign of social distinction in some of its members’ eyes. Although this group was fictional, reading clubs, especially among women, were common in the nineteenth century, and such groups often were the proponents of building libraries. Marquette did have a literary society as early as 1856, and a lending library existed soon after on Baraga Avenue. This lending library was destroyed by the 1868 fire. In the 1870s the library, which belonged to the Marquette school system, was downtown in the Coles Block. At the time, Peter White also had his own personal library collection that he loaned out, so when he built the new First National Bank on Front and Spring Streets, he allowed the library to relocate there in 1878 and merge its collection with his own. Later, in need of more space, the library moved to a room in the City Hall. By 1891, the library’s collection had grown to the point of needing a new home, which it found on the Thurber Block, where Book World is currently located. Because Peter White donated this building, the library was named in his honor.

This new building was also soon found to be too small. Peter White then tried to convince Andrew Carnegie to fund a new library in Marquette—Carnegie would do so for nearby Ishpeming—but Carnegie replied that Marquette was Peter White’s city, so Peter White once again took up the challenge to play benefactor to Marquette and fundraising efforts began. John M. Longyear donated the land for the new building and Peter White and Samuel Kaufman donated most of the money.

In 1904, the new library was officially dedicated and opened on the same day as the new courthouse. The impressive limestone structure, with its large pillars and situated on top of Front Street’s hill, resembled a Greek Temple of Knowledge. Complete with a downstairs smoking room for men, the new library had three floors and seemed plenty spacious for the book collection.

But within fifty years, the collection again outgrew its space. Increased use by patrons and 70,000 volumes led to building an annex on the back of the library in 1957, which included the Children’s Room and storage for most of the adult fiction and the phonograph record collection as well as a large downstairs room for films, puppet shows, and book sales. This version of the library is the one I would know throughout my childhood.

But the people of Marquette soon wanted still more from the library. Far beyond just being a place to check out books, Peter White Public Library was becoming the cultural center of Marquette and a new library was needed to reflect this change. Residents’ affection for the original building was too great to destroy it, so instead, in the late 1990s, the annex was removed and a new addition created which would gracefully blend in with the architecture of the original building. The remodeling would result in the library building being closed for two years and its collection being housed in dormitories at Northern Michigan University where patrons could still access it.

Then in 2001, the new library was opened. The public could not have been happier. The original building was completely retained, and it includes two large reading rooms upstairs, two more reading rooms downstairs, and an art gallery. The new addition, besides containing a collection well surpassing 100,000 volumes, also houses an enormous children’s room, a café, a community room, a gift shop, and the Marquette Arts and Culture Center’s exhibits and space for its art and other cultural classes. In addition, the library’s film and music collection had ample room, and the Rachel Spear bell collection was given prominent display.

The Peter White Public Library is hands down my favorite place in Marquette. I began visiting it first with my preschool class—we would go on “field trips” there just across the street from the First Presbyterian Church to see movies and puppet shows.

After preschool, my library visits were rare because until about 1980, the library’s bookmobile would bring books to the outlying townships. The bookmobile arrived in my neighborhood of Stonegate at the Crossroads about 3:30pm every other week just as the school bus brought us home. We would quickly leave the bus and rush to the bookmobile where Ruth Lee, the driver-librarian, would patiently let us kids dig through the books while she chatted with our parents. I brought home many, many books from the bookmobile including Where the Wild Things Are and numerous of the Bible story rhyming Arch books. But my absolute favorite, which I checked out countless times, was George and Martha, about two hippopotamuses whose friendship usually results in Martha teaching George a lesson, such as just to tell her he doesn’t like split pea soup rather than hiding it in his loafers, or not to be a Peeping Tom by whacking him over the head with the bathtub. As an adult, I still find George and Martha hilarious as well as a wonderful way to teach children basic manners.

About the time I was in fourth grade, funding for the bookmobile was cut so my mom started taking my brother and me to the library. We were only allowed in the children’s room where we would get to visit with our cousin, Merrie Johnson, who worked there. Always a favorite with the kids, Merrie retired in 2005 after more than thirty years at the library; a huge retirement party was held for her in the community room.

As a child, my favorite books to check out included Andrew Lang’s colored fairy tale books and copies of the Wizard of Oz series. As I got older, I discovered the Rainbow Classics, published mostly in the 1940s and edited by May Lamberton Becker—I think I loved them mainly because they were old and they had wonderful colored illustrations, but they also infused a love of literature in me as I graduated from Andersen’s Fairy Tales to Little Men to Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. After reading one Rainbow Classic, I would scan the list on its back cover to pick out another until I had read them all, and then I sought out more classics. By the time I was fourteen and allowed into the library’s adult section, I was ready to gobble up Agatha Christie mysteries, and more classics—Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, Mark Twain, and Jane Austen.

Of course, it would have been impossible not to mention the library in my novels. In Iron Pioneers, Edna Whitman is an early librarian and mourns the library’s loss in the 1868 fire. In The Only Thing That Lasts, Robert O’Neill is enthusiastic about his first visit to the library and impressed by its classic architecture. In The Queen City, Kathy McCarey is at the library when she hears Peter White has died.

As for me, today at least once a week I can be found at the library, checking out a book, CD, or video, attending a film—the annual Bollywood film night is a highlight of the winter season—or just admiring the latest art exhibit. As an author, I’m pleased that my books are in the library’s collection, and I’ve gotten to know many of the librarians over the years as I’ve participated in different library events and helped to plan the Upper Peninsula Publisher and Authors Association’s conferences that have been held there. The library staff is wonderful, enthusiastic, and ever ready to support the arts and the community.

The building and people have made Peter White Public Library the true cultural center of Marquette. Every library patron knows how lucky Marquette is to have such a wonderful library that far outshines those in most metropolitan communities, and visitors to our city never cease to rave about it.

A large bust of Peter White sits across from the circulation desk. At Christmas, he dons a festive holiday hat or Santa’s cap. Knowing Peter White’s sense of humor, I’m sure he enjoys all the festivities and the people who pass him each day. His generosity in funding the library has truly been the gift that keeps on giving to the community.

– from My Marquette, available at www.MarquetteFiction.com