A Walk Around the Colorado State Capitol

Carved on the riser of one of the front steps of the Colorado State Capitol is a well- known phrase: One Mile Above Sea Level. I’ve read that the measurement has been resurveyed a couple of times, and that step isn’t actually at a mile, a lower one is. Never mind. This is the tourist mile-high line.

Mile High Line Colorado State CapitolAs part of the city’s identity, that metric is well known. I saw a group of Korean tourists (I’m pretty sure that’s what they were speaking) snapping away at the mile-high step just like I did.
Colorado State Capitol Mile High LineCurious. No doubt they only had a vague notion of a mile as a measurement, since presumably they’d be more familiar with the metric system and the traditional Korean units like the ri, which is about a quarter of a mile, a unit descended from the Chinese li.

Then again, that’s the spirit of tourism for you. If I found a carving in East Asia asserting that the spot was One Li Above Sea Level, I might want to pose with it too.

Whatever the elevation, the capitol dome is impressive.
Colorado State CapitolCopper panels gilded with gold leaf from a Colorado mine. Fittingly, since the state owes its origin to a gold rush. The capitol itself dates, as many capitols do, from the late 19th century, designed by Elijah E. Myers, who also did design work on the Texas and Michigan state capitols. He was the only person to work on three, it seems. Now that’s a Jeopardy question to stump the best of ’em.

A further-away exterior shot.

Colorado State CapitolNot visible is the fact that the building is “the first state capitol in the country to be cooled by geothermal power, completed in 2013,” notes the State of Colorado’s web site. “An energy performance contract issued in June 2012 by the Colorado Department of Personnel & Administration and Chevron Energy Solutions allowed the upgrade of the Capitol’s HVAC system and installation of a geothermal well that heats and cools the House and Senate Chambers.”

As mentioned, the capitol was closed on Saturday. I got a good look around the grounds instead. The area isn’t heavy on memorials, not like some states, but there are a few. Such as this Colorado Union soldier.
The memorial mentions the Colorado Volunteers’ 22 battles and the names of the 279 who died. You’d think that would be OK, but it turns out that only most of those battles were for the Union. A few were against Indians, including the notorious Sand Creek Massacre, so there’s been some grumbling about the memorial.

An effort is under way to built a permanent memorial on the capital grounds to the victims of Sand Creek. If there’s a temporary memorial there now, I missed it. Adding that, I think, would be better than tearing down Billy Yank.

I did notice, on the other side of the capitol, a much less dramatic memorial.
There are two plaques on the structure, and two other spots seemingly made for plaques, but which are empty. One plaque honors Colorado Gov. Ralph Carr, who objected publicly to the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, unlike all the other Western governors.

The plaque quotes him: “When it is suggested that American citizens be thrown into concentration camps, where they lose all privileges of citizenship under the Constitution, then the principles of that great document are violated and lost… we are disregarding the very principles for which this war is being waged against the Axis nations…”

His stance probably cost him a seat in the U.S. Senate in the 1942 election. He has a number of other memorials in the state in our time, however. The other plaque on the memorial is about the Amache detention camp (Granada War Relocation Center) in eastern Colorado.

A Bit of the Chicago Fringe Festival

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival was pretty much out of the question this year — and it’s probably a logistics hassle of the first order, even of you’re already in the UK — so I went to the Chicago Fringe Festival for a few hours on Sunday afternoon. Though not a trans-Atlantic proposition, it did involve driving into the city, which has its own small hassles.

Fringe1Naturally I left home later than I wanted to, so I caught only two performances, more-or-less picked at random: With the Weight of Her Fate on Her Shoulders and Jeff Fort and Fred Hampton: A Revolutionary Love Story. Per Fringe rules, each ran for an hour or less, with the latter taking nearly the whole 60 minutes, the former not quite so much.

The festival, now in its eighth year, is in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of the Northwest Side. One of the selling points of the festival is that all of the venues were within easy walking distance of each other, and they were. Despite all the years I’ve lived in northern Illinois, it was yet another unfamiliar neighborhood, so I spent some time walking around between the shows as well.

Jefferson Park is a pleasant strolling neighborhood, even in the fairly high heat of late summer, with its residential and commercial thoroughfares (Milwaukee and Lawrence) very much in the Chicago pattern: leafy small streets lined with small apartments, plus blocks of shops along the larger streets. In our time, Jefferson Park is heavily Polish. So Polish, in fact, that the Copernicus Center is there, at 5216 W. Lawrence Ave.

The center includes the Mitchell P. Kobelinski Theater — formerly Gateway Theatre, the first movie palace in Chicago for talkies. That by itself would be worth seeing, but over Labor Day weekend, the center holds its Taste of Polonia festival, which was in full swing Sunday afternoon. So the place was jumping, having attracted more people than the Fringe could ever dream of, and making a lot more noise. As I passed, a band was playing “Come on Eileen,” sounding like the Save Ferris version.

I wasn’t in the mood for a festival, but I did walk by the entrance and took a look at the outside of the building, including the sweeping tower atop the building. That was added in the 1980s and is said to resemble the tower of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, or at least its post-WWII reconstruction.

The Fringe venues were more modest, but I was surprised to learn that three of them were actual theater spaces: the Gift Theatre, Jefferson Park Playhouse and Windy City Music Theatre Blackbox Studio. Jefferson Park, in other words, has a theater scene. Other performances were held in spaces provided by the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park.

With the Weight of Her Fate on Her Shoulders was at Gift Theatre, a 50-seat slice of space with three rows of seats, black walls and a small performance area under a modicum of lights. You can’t get any more basic than that for a theater space, so everything depends on the strength of the writing and the skill of the actors.

Weight wasn’t bad, but not that good. The three young actors certainly had some acting chops. The tight space of the theater fit the setting of a cramped refuge from unseen but definitely heard urban combat going on outside. It also fit what the play seemed to be about: war is hell, it will drive you mad, and then probably kill you. Also, words are weapons. What? One of the characters seemed to talk — verbally harass — another into a violent death. Or was that supposed to be a stray bullet coming into the room?

As earnest as it all was, the short play was something of a muddle. I couldn’t quite bring myself to care whether the characters survived, because I wasn’t quite sure what kind of danger they faced. At times I felt like dozing off, but forced myself to stay awake, like you do during a hard patch of long-distance driving. There’s no risk of causing a traffic accident sitting in a theater, but snoring during a live show would be embarrassing.

I had no such problems with Jeff Fort and Fred Hampton: A Revolutionary Love Story, a fine work of historic fiction, done in the Congregational church’s meeting hall. The thing was engaging. I wanted it to last longer than its hour. The acting was strong, especially the two leads, and while it would have been easy for the playwright — Steven Long — to stray into the tendentious, he avoided that trap, portraying the leads as human beings rather than talking points.

The story was straightforward, depicting meetings between Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, during the year before the authorities murdered him, and Jeff Fort, a major gang leader in Chicago at the time. Hampton spent considerable energy trying to persuade Fort to give up his criminal enterprise and join him in revolution, which he believed would be along Marxist, not racial, lines. Fort was less impressed by the idea of revolution.

As depicted, the two were in a kind of courtship: Hampton doing his best to persuade Fort, who resisted his pleas, along with spells of mutual admiration, quarrels that almost turned violent, and a sense of foreboding. Aptly so, since both men were doomed in their own ways. A short life for Hampton and a long one for Fort. Even now, the real Jeff Fort, aged 70, is at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colo., where he will surely be until he dies.

After the play, Steven Long came out and asked the audience, about 25 of us in all, to mention it on social media. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that, but probably not the last. For my part, I’m mentioning it and the festival here.

My attendance at the Fringe this year was as much an exploratory run as anything else, to see whether it might be worth committing more time and energy to in future years. I’d say yes.

More Vincennes

At Grouseland in Vincennes, during the tour, our guide pointed out a sizable crack in the wall of one of the upstairs bedrooms. She said that was the only damage to the interior walls that the long-time modern owners of the property, the Daughters of the American Revolution, decided not to repair. That’s because the 1811-12 New Madrid earthquakes make the crack. That crack might be the only visible relic anywhere of that long-ago event. Historic damage preservation, you might call it.

Outside of the Harrison mansion are a few memorials, one of which is homely indeed.
Two blocks south of this marker on March 6, 1814, was born Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of Capt. and Mrs. Zachary Taylor.

Miss Taylor married Lieut. Jefferson Davis at Louisville, Kentucky on July 17, 1835 and died in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, on September 15 of that same year.

Zachary Taylor subsequently became the twelfth President of the United States, and Jefferson Davis the first and only President of the Confederate States of America.

Erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy 1964

A Confederate memorial, sort of, but somehow I doubt that memorial revisionists are going to be flustered by it.

Grouseland has a small gift shop. You can buy William Henry Harrison Pez dispensers there. I did.

William Henry Harrison PezWHH Pez is now going to keep company with my Franklin Pierce bobblehead.

At the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park gift shop, you can buy a flag I’ve never seen anywhere else: the George Rogers Clark Flag. I got one of those, too.
George Rogers Clark FlagThe Clark flag is now going to keep company with my Come And Take It flag that flies on our deck during the warm months.

Apparently Clark’s men didn’t carry the flag at the Battle of Vincennes, but it was around — a previous American commander at Sackville, before the British took the fort, might have used it. Clark got his name attached to it anyway. Also, it isn’t clear why red and green were its colors. Never mind, all that mystery adds interest. It’s distinctive, and you can find it displayed with more conventional flags at the National Historical Park.
George Rogers Clark Memorial flagsVisible from the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park is the Lincoln Memorial Bridge across the Wabash (US 50), the border at that place between Indiana and Illinois. An elegant bridge.
Lincoln Memorial Bridge, Vincennes, IndianaThis was where a young Abraham Lincoln (age 21) and his family is thought to have crossed into Illinois for the first time in 1830. On the Illinois side of the river, that event is marked with a memorial.
Lincoln at 21 memorial, entering IllinoisProbably the Lincolns crossed the river on a ferry. Crossed the river, checked out the memorial, and then when on their way. I admit, that sounds like a scene from a Mel Brooks movie, but it’s something I thought of while looking at the memorial.

Lincoln crossing into Illinois memorial

Officially, it’s the Lincoln Trail State Memorial, designed by Nellie Verne Walker and erected in 1938.

One more thing in Vincennes: a small museum to a native son. Anyone younger than me (roughly) might have a hard time identifying him.
Red Skelton mural, VincennesThe museum was closed on Sunday, and we didn’t have time for it anyway, but I did tell the girls that Red Skelton was an old vaudevillian, long before my time. I remember him on television, which was essentially televised vaudeville in his case. Who in our time would do comedy that included “The Silent Spot”?

George Rogers Clark National Historical Park

There’s probably no way to measure this, but I believe that the George Rogers Clark Memorial, which looks very much like it belongs on the National Mall or somewhere equally prominent, is the most obscure large memorial in the country. Who’s ever heard of it, especially outside Indiana? But at more than 80 feet high and 90 feet across at the base, with walls two feet thick, it cries out to be acknowledged as Founding Father-class memorial.George Rogers Clark MemorialThe structure is the centerpiece of the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, which is near the Wabash River in Vincennes, Indiana, just across from Illinois. In early 1779, when Indiana and Illinois were unrealized political entities contingent on a Patriot victory in the Revolution, Fort Sackville stood on the site — more or less. It was around the area somewhere, and occupied by a British garrison.

Above the memorial’s 16 Doric columns, the inscription says: The Conquest of the West – George Rogers Clark and The Frontiersmen of the American Revolution.
George Rogers Clark MemorialIn a tour de force, days-long maneuver in the dead of a Midwestern winter, George Rogers Clark led the forces that assaulted Fort Sackville and took it from the British. But that was just the climax of his efforts.

“Clark began his campaign of attempting to weaken the British position by influencing the French settlers in the area to support the American cause,” the NPS says. “Through these efforts, Clark was able to capture the Illinois Country posts of Kaskaskia, Prairie du Rocher, and Cahokia. Soon after, this French influence was extended over 150 miles to the settlers in Vincennes, and they also declared themselves allies to the Americans.

“… George Rogers Clark in the late summer of 1778 [was] in Cahokia, at a council he called with local Indian tribes in an effort to negotiate peace. By convincing [British Lt. Gov. Henry] Hamilton’s Indian allies to switch sides, Clark could further diminish the resources available to the British.

“Although Clark’s forces at this council were far outnumbered by the Indians in attendance, he impressed the warriors with his bold manner. Many of the leaders of these tribes were convinced to accept the white belt of peace rather than the red belt of war. While this council certainly strengthened Clark’s efforts, there were still many tribes who chose to continue their alliances with the British.”

In older histories, at least, Clark is thus credited with allowing the United States to acquire the Northwest Territory under the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Of course, more recent historians disagree about how important Clark’s campaign was in influencing that outcome, as historians do.

Probably the Crown considered that part of North America lost anyway, since newly independent Americans would surely pour into the territory. On the other hand, who knows? Had there been a British garrison in Indiana, and more British-aligned Indians, they might have tried to hang on to the area, as they did Canada.

Also, just in passing, Clark established a settlement in Kentucky that would become Louisville. Finally, he’s William Clark’s elder brother; he of Lewis & Clark fame, whom everyone has heard of. So why is George Rogers Clark so obscure? (Well, not completely to Hoosiers.)

Such is the ebb and flow of historic reputation. Still, Clark got himself a spiffy monument eventually, at the insistence of the people of Vincennes and probably a fair number of Indiana politicians in Washington, around the time of the 150th anniversary of the battle.

New York architect Frederic Charles Hirons designed the memorial, and it was considered important enough for President Roosevelt himself to come dedicate it in 1936 (though the Coolidge administration got the process started).

Inside — air conditioned in our time, a good thing — is a bronze of Clark. On the floor is Clark’s statement to the Virginia Council in 1775, requesting aid for Kentucky: If a country is not worth protecting, it is not worth claiming.

George Rogers Clark statue, Vincennes

Hermon Atkins MacNeil did the sculpture. I’d heard of him already — he also designed the aesthetic Standing Liberty Quarter, which I’d argue we should go back to, once Washington’s been on the quarter 100 years (coming up in 2032).

The murals depicting the campaign are by Ezra Winter. Some details:

George Rogers Clark Memorial

George Rogers Clark Memorial - muralAfter I wrote about Geo. Rogers Clark and his NHP, I mulled over how many National Historical Parks there are, and how many I’ve been to. Fifty-one all together — not the same as National Historical Sites, of which there are 78. I remember visiting 13 such NHPs, two of which were only this year, though I might have forgotten a few. As for sites, only 11. I need to get out more.

Grouseland

Grouseland is the inelegant name of a more elegant-that-expected house, supposedly named after the plentiful birds in the area, and thought to be the first brick building in Indiana — the Indiana Territory in those days. It was the home of territorial Gov. William Henry Harrison and his family in the early years of the 19th century. Long before Tippecanoe and Tyler too.

Even longer before “We Are the Mediocre Presidents,” though I’d argue that Wm. Henry Harrison was one of the great U.S. presidents. And one of the worst. He didn’t have time to be anything else.

Last Sunday we arrived in Vincennes, Indiana, hard by the Wabash River, and Grouseland was our first stop. Guess I need to add it to my vanity list of presidential sites, which I haven’t updated in more than three years. Maybe next Presidents Day.

Grouseland, Vincennes, Indiana

Patterned after the Harrison manse in Virginia, Grouseland probably would have been no great shakes in the early 19th-century Old Dominion, but out in the wilderness of Indiana, it must have been impressive. It’s still impressive in small-town Vincennes. The exterior walls were built sturdy enough to endure for more than two centuries, but most of the interior is a faithful re-creation, considering that after the Harrisons left, the property was given over the other uses, including a period as a barn.

Grouseland, Vincennes, Indiana“As governor, Harrison saw his principal task as opening lands belonging to the local Indian tribes to white settlement,” the NPS says of Grouseland’s heyday. “He negotiated a series of treaties that provided for the cession of millions of acres of land, but his success generated strong resistance.

“Tecumseh, the famous Shawnee leader, who was trying to recruit other tribes to join him in armed resistance, met with Harrison at Grouseland in 1810 and warned that his people would fight to prevent further white encroachment. Located to the left of the center hall, the ‘Council Chamber,’ is where Harrison held many meetings with Indian leaders and conducted much of his business as governor.”

We got to the house just in time for a guided tour, given by a fetching Vincennes University history major undergrad volunteering for the gig. The campus extends off in the distance from Grouseland. Until I looked it up, I knew nothing about the school except as a spot on the map. (Pretty much the same could be said for Vincennes.)

From its web site: “VU is Indiana’s first college. William Henry Harrison, the ninth U.S. President, founded VU in 1801 while serving as governor of the Indiana Territory. VU was incorporated as Vincennes University on November 29, 1806.”

So that’s another Harrison legacy. Attaboy, William Henry.

Thursday Whatnots

Yesterday I picked up my copy of the Federalist Papers and read No. 1 (Hamilton). It’s a beat-up paperback, a somewhat yellowing Mentor Book, published in 1961. Somehow fitting in its republican simplicity. Seems like I got it used in the summer of ’81 at the University Coop in Austin, probably for the Government class I took that summer at UT.

I read some of them at the time, and a scattering more later in the ’80s, but little since. Time to take it up again. Its 18th-century educated dialect — call it Enlightenmentese — was a little hard to unpack as a callow lad. Not as much now, though now and then I need to re-read a sentence to make sure I understand it.

Each paper is conveniently short: pamphlet sized, you might say. So I’m reading one a day. I ought to have time enough for that. Today was No. 2 (Jay).

Hamilton’s wisdom shines through from the get-go. From Federalist No. 1: “So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society.”

And a notion that foretold Internet comment sections, among many other things: “To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts, by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives.”

I also recently acquired The Shipping News and The Dharma Bums, and plan to read them soon. Reading should involve variety.

Besides this vanity map of the states, a while ago I made a map color coded according to my visits to the state and provincial capitols. It’s a minor hobby of mine.

CapitolsGreen represents the state capitols and provincial parliament buildings that I’ve seen inside and out. The orange-pink means that I’ve seen the capitol, but for one reason or another I didn’t go inside. White is for capitols I’ve never seen at all.

As for the two gold-orange states, Hawaii and Utah, I can’t remember whether I’ve seen or been in the capitols. You’d think I’d remember something like that, but the visits in question were in 1979 and ’80, respectively, years that are otherwise known as a long damn time ago. I was in Honolulu and Salt Lake City. I could have gone. A few years later, I would have made a point of going. But I’m not sure I did then.

Ice Cream Truck, August 2017

How did “Turkey in the Straw” become the universal song for American ice cream trucks? This article suggests a lineage for the association. This YouTube video plays another song to the same tune, one I wasn’t familiar with.

Covenant Presbyterian Church, Bucktown

In Bucktown on Sunday I visited two churches during my late-morning walk. The first was Covenant Presbyterian Church.

Covenant Presbyterian Church, ChicagoThis is no ordinary large church. It has quite a back story, because the church building used to be the Cathedral of All Saints of the Polish National Catholic Church in Chicago. I’ve visited that organization’s cemetery, out near O’Hare.

So not precisely Catholic, but pretty close. I am informed that the Polish National Catholic Church is not in full communion with Rome, and hasn’t been since it was formed in the late 19th century. Neither is the separate but similar-sounding Polish Catholic Church, but that church is a member of the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht. The Polish National Catholic Church used to be communion with Utrecht, but isn’t any more — that happened only in the last 10 years or so. Rather, it’s with the Union of Scranton, which also counts the Nordic Catholic Church as a member. Need a scorecard to keep up with the schisms.

Now that that’s cleared up, the following is about what’s now Covenant Presbyterian Church, located at 2012 W. Dickens Ave. The text  is from an interesting blog, which I’ll take as solid enough information. The story starts in 1890s Polish Chicago.

“Overwhelmed by the numbers of new immigrants pouring into Bucktown, the Polish-American pastor of St. Hedwig’s brought in Fr. Anthony Kozlowski, a fiery, European-educated young Polish priest to help minister to the parishioners, few of whom spoke English. St. Hedwig’s was under the administration of the Resurrectionists, an order of priests of mostly Polish extraction. …

“Many of the younger immigrants were suspicious of the order, thinking that it was being pressured by the Irish hierarchy that otherwise ran the American church, and the Chicago church in particular.

“Details are thin, but in early 1895, Kozlowski led a revolt against the Resurrectionist pastor, Thaddeus Barzynski, and his brother Joseph Barzynski, that eventually resulted in two-thirds of the St. Hedwig’s congregation quitting the church and following Kozlowski away from governance by the Pope. [They objected to much of Vatican I, it seems.]

“The revolt went critical on February 7, 1895. Kozlowski’s hotheads broke into the St. Hedwig’s rectory, where the Barzynskis had barricaded themselves, and assaulted the priests. The police were called, and found a crowd of 3,000 immigrants milling around the church. When the officers attempted to disperse the crowd, several protesters threw powdered red pepper in their faces. Dozens were injured in the ensuing brawl, and Chicago’s (Irish) Roman Catholic archbishop shut down St. Hedwig’s for several months.

“By that time, the 1,000 or so immigrants who objected to Papal rule had bought land a few blocks away and began built their own church, All Saints Cathedral.”

It took quite a while. Eventually, the congregation tapped John G. Steinbach to design the church. Its cornerstone was laid in 1931, and the church served the breakaway parish for the next 62 years, until the building became too expensive to maintain and was sold to Covenant Presbyterian Church.

“Covenant Presbyterian’s white imitation cement stone and neo-Gothic features distinguish it from other Polish Cathedral-style churches designed by Steinbach and his partner, Henry Worthmann,” writes Amy Korte in Chicago Architecture.

“A carving above the main entrance depicts a book, the sun, a cross, and a palm. Together, these images comprise the emblem of the Polish National Catholic Church, the denomination with which All Saints had affiliated itself. Below these symbols lies the Polish inscription ‘Prawda, Praca, Walka,’ an abbreviation of the denomination’s motto, ‘With truth, work and struggle, we will succeed.’ ”

I noticed that feature, but eager to get out of the sun, I didn’t take any pictures. The inscriptions are here.

Covenant Presbyterian Church, Bucktown

I sat at the back of the church for a short spell, taking my seat just as a pair of baptisms were taking place — two baby girls. A delightful thing to chance across, even if you don’t know the families.

Ironwood Public Art, Except For the World’s Tallest Indian

Yesterday, the Space Weather Prediction Center, a branch of NOAA, had this to say: “A watch has been issued for likely G2 (Moderate) geomagnetic storm conditions on 16 Jul and early on 17 Jul.” Thus the Aurora Borealis might thus just be visible at my latitude, according to the map. So at about 11:45 pm on July 16, I went outside and looked north. No dice.

But I’m glad the Space Weather Prediction Center is a real thing. It’s something we (humankind) should have in the 21st century.

Ironwood, pop. somewhat less than 6,000, is Michigan’s westernmost town, on the east bank of the Montreal River, which flows into Lake Superior not far away and is the border with Wisconsin. On the morning of Sunday, July 2, we stopped there to look for coffee for Yuriko.

We were unsuccessful in that, but we had a few moments to look around. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the World’s Tallest Indian. That’s what I get for not looking up what’s to see in a town before I go.

I did see the Ironwood Area Historical Society and the Historic Depot Museum. Being Sunday morning, it was closed, but it looked like a fine old depot, dating from the 1890s.
Ironwood, Michigan DepotThe Ironwood Area Historical Society says, “Its architecture is true to its Richardson Romaneque origins. The exterior is baked-red brick above and a heavy base of Lake Superior sandstone from the brownstone quarries located on the mainland and Apostle Islands near Bayfield in Northern Wisconsin. The Ironwood depot is a stunning structure with three tapering roof lines, including an unusual hipped, cross dormer and a signature finial cupola reflecting flanged rail wheels crowning the pinnacle.”

On the grounds is a statue — a carving, really, made from a tree trunk — of what appear to be three workingmen from the Ironwood past, one a miner, another a lumberman. Not sure about the third, but certainly some kind of hard 19th-century job.

Ironwood Depot Park tree carving

Ironwood Depot Park tree carvingI didn’t see any information about who carved the thing, or whether it has a title. It wasn’t created from an old tree that grew on the site, even though it looks like that. I know because if you check Google StreetView for that short stretch of S. Suffolk St., there’s no tree at all there, nor a carving. Google came by in September 2008. Guess even information behemoths can’t be everywhere on a regular basis.

At the intersection of S. Suffolk and E. McLeod Ave., a few blocks from the depot and the wooden workers, there’s a small building. According to Google’s nine-year-old information, its wall facing McLeod is long and painted white.

Not any more.
Miners Mural, Ironwood, MichiganA remarkable mural. I was thoughtless not to take a longer look at it. A mural of Ironwood miners, back when Ironwood miners dug into the earth looking for iron. A detail:
Miners Mural, Ironwood, MichiganRoadside America says: “Artists Kelly Meredith and Sue Martinsen spent over four years researching and painting the mural, which depicts over 100 real miners. It was unveiled on June 16, 2012, and proved so popular as a photo-op that in 2013 the city created a car-free zone in front of the mural. A booklet available in Ironwood provides biographies of each of the miners.”

Sixth St., Calumet, Michigan

From Houghton-Hancock and the Quincy Mine, the town of Calumet isn’t far north on the Keweenaw Peninsula. I was half-expecting something like Houghton, mainly because I didn’t do much research beforehand. None, really. But I’ve owned a postcard depicting the Calumet Theater for a long time, and I knew I wanted to see that.

So we did. It’s a fine old building. Wish it had been open for a look-see inside.

Calumet Theater, Michigan

Copper fortunes built the Calumet. A local architect named Charles K. Shand designed it. The historical marker next to it says, in part: “One of the first municipal theaters in America, the Calumet opened on March 20, 1900, ‘the greatest social event ever known in copperdom’s metropolis.’ The theater contained a magnificent stage and elegant interior decorations, including an electrified copper chandelier.”

The theater’s web site says: “The Theatre opened… with a touring Broadway production of Reginald DeKoven’s The Highwaymen. In the ensuing years, the Theatre’s marquee read like a Who’s Who of American Theatre: Madame Helena Modjeska, Lillian Russell, John Phillip Sousa, Sarah Bernhardt, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Lon Chaney, Sr., Jason Robards, Sr., James O’Neill, William S. Hart, Frank Morgan, Wallace and Noah Beery.

“With the decline of copper mining and the local economy, and the advent of motion pictures, stage productions became less common in the late 1920s. From the depression through the late 1950s, it was almost exclusively a movie theatre…

“The auditorium was renovated for the village’s centennial in 1975, and the exterior was restored in 1988-89. The technical and code improvements and backstage reconstruction have just been completed.” These days, the theater holds 50 to 60 events a year, including plays, movies and concerts.

The theater is on Sixth St. in Calumet. The street hasn’t evolved into a day-trippers shopping district, but it does have some other interesting buildings, dating from copper times, from the looks of them.

Calumet, MichiganCalumet, Michigan Sixth StreetCalumet, Michigan Sixth Street

The buildings of Sixth St. also sport a few ghost signs.Ghost Sign, Calumet MichiganVertin’s Department Store (since 1885, headquarters for Lee overalls, union made). The store turns out to have been located in the building pictured above, between the Sixth St. streetscape and the Michigan House Cafe & Red Jacket Brewing Co. This is an example of the kind of thing I learn from a trip after I’ve gotten home. I didn’t know what I was looking at when I stood across the street from the former Vertin’s on the afternoon of July 1. Now I do.

The Vertins were Slovenian immigrants to copper country in the 1870s, and rather than mine themselves, they enterprisingly sold goods to miners and their families. Remarkably, the store endured until the 1980s. More about them is in this article in Copper Country Explorer.

This ghost sign has advertised, through many UP summers and hard winters, for a widely available product: Pillsbury Best flour.

Calumet, Michigan Ghost Sign Pillsbury

Slute’s Saloon has been a saloon, though not under that name, and as the sign says, since 1890. Curiously enough, a descendant of the Vertins is one of the partners in the business, at least according to this 2010 article. A look inside is here.

After I got home, I learned that George Gipp was from nearby Larium, Mich. — where you can find the George Gipp Recreation Area & Ice Arena — and is buried in Calumet. Dang. That would have been something to know beforehand, but you can never really prepare for going somewhere new. Still, I’d have looked for the Gipper’s grave had I known. It isn’t everyone who can inspire motivational speeches down the decades.

Houghton & The Quincy Mine, Keweenaw

Who could look at a map of the Upper Peninsula, taking a solid gaze at the UP’s UP, namely the Keweenaw Peninsula, and not think I want to go there. Probably a lot of people would not think that. But I do.

So on July 1, unfortunately a bit late in the afternoon, we approached Keweenaw via M-26 (a part of the Lake Superior Circle Tour). Aside from a gas station in South Range, first stop was Houghton, a town with a pleasant main street — Shelden Street — that tries to capture the tourist trade, but isn’t a full-blown, Gatlinburg-class tourist trap. Yet it is an old street formerly given over to ordinary commerce, then repurposed over time to feature restaurants, gift shops, boutiques and so on.

Shelden Street isn’t the most frenetic example of that kind of street that I’ve seen — that might be in Banff Ave. in Banff in July — but it was busy enough. Red brick and red sandstone structures line the street, including the handsome Douglass House Hotel, which is an apartment building these days.

Across the street and down a block or so, tucked away in a pedestrian passage leading to parking off Shelden Street, was a wonderful mural map of the Keweenaw Peninsula. I can’t find an image of it online, but whoever did it was a first-rate map muralist. The artist managed to straddle the line between creating an actuate map with too much detail and a map illustrated by small images (like in a tourist brochure), which often doesn’t have enough detail.

Houghton is separated from the town of Hancock by Portage Lake, which is part of the canal cutting through the peninsula. The Portage Lift Bridge, with its unusual look, connects the towns. It’s the fourth bridge on the site.

“This… bridge would have double decks with the upper deck carrying four lanes of traffic while its lower deck supported rail traffic,” Keweenaw Free Guide says. “Its lift section – the largest and heaviest in the world – could be raised 32 feet to allow the passage of modern ore carriers below it. Construction on the new bridge began in 1959 and was finished by the following summer. The old steel bridge was demolished.”

We crossed the bridge — driving, though walking across would have been an excellent thing to do — and went into Hancock, whose traffic was bollixed by road construction. As we drove slowly along, however, I was able to see the campus of Finlandia University.

Founded in 1896 as Suomi College, “Finlandia is one of 26 U.S. colleges and universities affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the only private institution of higher learning in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,” the school’s web site says. “It is the only remaining university in North America founded by Finnish immigrants.”

Note also that the web site is honest enough to depict students in the snow. The University of Hawaii, it’s not.

Just north of Hancock is the Quincy Mine. Driving by on US 41, you can’t really miss it.
Quincy Mine, MichiganThat’s only the largest of the complex’s surface structures. There are other buildings.
Quincy Mine, MichiganAs well as picturesque ruins.

Quincy Mine, MichiganQuincy Mine, MichiganQuincy Mine, MichiganEngines, probably for ore-hauling trains. Or maybe they brought coal to power the mine. Or both.
These days, the relics are part of the Keweenaw National Historical Park. Once upon a time, Quincy Mine was the most successful copper mine on the peninsula, which is saying something, since Keweenaw was the site of a copper rush beginning in the 1840s and had a lot of active mines for a while (unsurprisingly, Indians dug for copper there for centuries before that).

The National Park Service says: “1840. Douglass Houghton, state geologist of Michigan, publishes a report on the geology of the Upper Peninsula and describes the Keweenaw’s copper deposits. Despite his appeal for caution, a land rush would soon start as investors, miners and entrepreneurs attempt to acquire copper-rich real estate.

“1856. The Quincy Mining Company begins work on the profitable Pewabic lode. Quincy soon becomes an important copper mine, and earns the nickname ‘Old Reliable’ for its nearly constant profits.

“1861: Demand for brass buttons, copper canteens and munitions increases. Despite the need, copper production at many older and profitable mines in the region actually decreases as new, speculative mines open, causing labor shortages.”

Later, telephones and electric wiring spurred more demand for copper, and the Quincy Mine remained in production until the Depression, despite competition from mines in Montana and elsewhere. Quincy’s last gasp as a mining concern was World War II. Remember, copper was in such short supply then that pennies were made of steel in 1943.

Now Quincy is a tourist attraction. You can take a tour down in the mine, at least at the levels that aren’t flooded. We didn’t get there in time to do that, but we were able to look around the ruins and the small museum inside one of the intact buildings. If I come this way again, I’ll time things to see the depths of the Quincy Mine.