Posted tagged ‘John M. Longyear’

Marquette’s Historic Copper House Up for Sale

January 27, 2015

The Sherwood or “Copper House” at 411 E. Arch Street has just gone up for sale so I thought I’d post the description of it as appears in my book My Marquette:

The historic Copper House is now up for sale.

The historic Copper House is now up for sale.

Built in 1905, this home has been known as the “copper house” because it is copper-plated. It was built for James Russell with profits from the Calumet-Hecla Copper mine. At the time, Mr. Russell was the warden of the Marquette Branch State Prison. The house next belonged to Myron Sherwood, attorney to John M. Longyear. The third owners were the Sloan family, and the fourth owners are Dr. and Mrs. Craig Stien.

The home is currently listed with Remax in Marquette for $749,900 and from the interior pictures I’ve seen, I suspect it’s worth every penny: http://www.remax-michigan.com/Home/411-E-Arch-St-Marquette-MI-49855/PPN/1084991/

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Dandelion Cottage: Marquette’s Famous Literary Home

May 31, 2011

Anyone  in Marquette can see that it is definitely Dandelion season again, so I thought today would be perfect for posting a section from My Marquette about what may be Marquette’s most famous home, Dandelion Cottage.

Dandelion Cottage was a real place, and its story is yet another example of how Marquette seeks to preserve its past.

Dandelion Cottage Carroll Watson Rankin Arch Street Marquette Michigan

Dandelion Cottage

No one knows when the cottage was initially built, but Peter White, who owned it as a rental property, donated it in 1888 to St. Paul’s with the understanding that it would be moved from its original home on High Street, a couple of hundred feet north to 212 E. Arch Street, behind the church. White had it moved to make room to build the Morgan Memorial Chapel.
The cottage would remain at its second location for 103 years and soon become famous.

In 1904, the house became known as “Dandelion Cottage” after Carroll Watson Rankin wrote her children’s book of the same name with the cottage at its center. The story is a fictional account of four girls, loosely based on Mrs. Rankin’s daughters and their friends. The characters, Bettie, Jeanie, Mabel, and Marjory, earn the right to use the cottage as their playhouse for the summer in exchange for picking the dandelions from the cottage’s lawn.

Although the girl’s antics and adventures are largely fictional, dandelions were a problem in early Marquette. John M. Longyear recalled a contest held to see which child could collect the most dandelions in Marquette, but the contest, despite its popularity, and three-thousand, five hundred bushels of dandelions being collected, did not rid the city of its weeds. Another possible real-life source is the character of Mr. Black, rumored to be a fictional portrait of Peter White.

While the cottage’s notoriety grew throughout the twentieth century along with the popularity of Dandelion Cottage and Mrs. Rankin’s other books, it remained a rental property for the church. Then in 1988, St. Paul’s decided it needed to
expand its parking lot and Dandelion Cottage and the other small house beside it were in the way.

Thankfully, the church acknowledged the historical significance of Dandelion Cottage, so rather than simply tear it down, it
sought someone to buy it for the sum of $1.00 and then move it. The church did not give up easily, and after three years, in early 1991, Mayor William Birch and his wife Sally came forward to purchase and move the cottage. On October 12, 1991, the cottage was moved to its present location, which was directly behind the Birchs’ Ridge Street home.

The Mining Journal ran numerous stories about the attempts to sell the cottage and its successive move. Estimates to relocate it two blocks down Arch Street were said to be $20,000. But the Birchs went beyond just moving it. Dandelion Cottage was
given a beautiful restoration. It was repainted yellow, remodeled inside with a modern kitchen, woodwork was replaced and where possible replicated to match the original hardwood; the maple floors were refinished, and dandelions stenciled on the walls. In all, the restoration cost over $60,000, but William and Sally Birch understood that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Soon after, Phyllis Rankin, the then ninety-seven year old daughter of the author, suggested a state historical marker be sought which today appears on the cottage.

June 28, 1992 was a gala day when Dandelion Cottage was opened to the public. My brother and I were among the many who stood in a long line down Arch Street to tour the newly restored historic cottage. I doubt a single visitor was anything but pleased and grateful that this Marquette landmark was preserved. Phyllis Rankin told The Mining Journal, “I am glad it was saved and I know my mother would have been delighted about it. It looks lovely….It’s a beautiful job.”

Dandelion Cottage by Carroll Watson Rankin

The cottage has since been resold and continues as a residence. Visitors to Marquette make a point to seek it out, and customer reviews at Amazon reveal that Dandelion Cottage remains a favorite among readers, and the Marquette County History Museum sells numerous copies of the book each year. What appears as a weed can turn out to be a gift to future generations.

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

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.

Howard Longyear – Marquette’s Most Famous Drowning

August 8, 2010

In the last three weeks, five people have drowned in Lake Superior, in Grand Marais, and at Marquette’s Presque Isle Park and Picnic Rocks. If you are going to swim in Lake Superior, remember always to swim with a buddy; do not swim in bad conditions, even moderate waves, and know the conditions.

In celebration of August being maritime month, I thought I would post here about Marquette’s most famous drowning, as retold in my upcoming book My Marquette:

The Longyear Mansion’s residence in Marquette would be short-lived as the result of family tragedy. In 1900, Howard Longyear and his friend Hugh Allen drowned in Lake Superior while canoeing between Marquette and the Huron Mountain Club. The Longyears were devastated and walked the entire shoreline from the Huron Mountains to Presque Isle Park, hoping to find their son still alive.

Once they accepted Howard’s death, the Longyears decided they would donate their property below the bluff to the City of Marquette to build a memorial park named for their son. When the Marquette and Southwestern Railroad announced it wanted to run a railway through the property, the Longyear family entered into a legal battle with the railroad which was settled in the railroad’s favor.

When the blasting for the rail bed began, the Longyears decided to go to Europe. Mrs. Longyear was so angry at the railroad and the City of Marquette that she vowed never again to set foot in Marquette. Mr. Longyear agreed to move back East, but he did not want to leave behind their fabulous home, so while the couple was riding down the Champs Elysees in Paris, he suggested they actually bring the house with them when they moved to Massachusetts. Mrs. Longyear readily agreed.

The undertaking was massive. In January, 1903, the dismantling began and by June, the house was starting to be reassembled in Brookline, Massachusetts, three miles inland from the ocean because Mrs. Longyear did not want to hear the ocean’s pounding surf, which would remind her of Lake Superior’s roaring waves that had claimed her son. The move would take three years, longer than it took originally to build the house. Each stone block had to be cleaned, numbered, carefully wrapped in straw and cloth and then shipped east. In all, 190 train cars would be used to transport the house. The move was considered an engineering miracle at the time and listed in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.” Before reassembly was completed, it was decided the house would not look well on its new property in its current shape, so it was laid out differently. When the newer version of the home was completed, new additions were made until it contained one hundred rooms.

My great-great grandfather, William Forrest McCombie, was among those hired to disassemble the house. My great-grandmother, Barbara McCombie White, wanted to see the house, so her father told her if she would bring him his lunch about noontime when most of the workers were on their lunch breaks, she wouldn’t be in the way and could look around. Once she started walking through the house, she became lost and her father had to go find her. This family story inspired a scene in The Queen City where Margaret gets lost in the mansion.

The Longyears lived in their Brookline home until their deaths. John M. Longyear passed away in 1922 and Mrs. Longyear in 1931. Mrs. Longyear bequeathed the home to the Mary Baker Eddy Foundation—Mary Baker Eddy was the founder of the Christian Science religion. After the Longyear children contested the will, the home became both the headquarters for the Longyear Foundation and a museum for the Christian Science church. In 1985, an episode of the popular television show Spenser for Hire was filmed there. In 1996, the expense of maintaining the home as a museum became too high and it was sold for $6.5 million to a developer who turned it into luxury condominiums.

Mrs. Longyear never did set foot again in Marquette, but because Mr. Longyear needed to continue doing business there, he built a home at Ives Lake at the Huron Mountain Club where the Longyears would stay whenever they were in Upper Michigan, and Mr. Longyear would often stay overnight in Marquette as needed. Today, many of the Longyears’ descendants continue to live in Upper Michigan.

My Marquette - Coming Christmas 2010!

For more information about the Longyear Family, including photographs, read my upcoming book My Marquette and visit my website www.MarquetteFiction.com.