Food – Restaurants and Rubber Duckies -Lowell Michigan

A fun trip this week to Lowell, Michigan.   Founded as a trading post in 1831 by Daniel Marsac on the Grand River, in 1851 when a post office was established it was named Lowell after the township.  Located about 20 miles from Grand Rapids, this small town has a six-block downtown with antique stores, art galleries, restaurants and boutiques lining Main Street.

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In 1999 this downtown area was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

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Since my husband began painting again in his retirement, the first places we headed were the art galleries.   We found beautiful paintings – and some what I can only call “different” paintings.

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I love the picture of this old man!

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The colors here are so vibrant!

The Flat River meets the Grand River here at Lowell.   Duck boats are available to take a ride on the Flat River.

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We also saw plenty of ducks while we were there.

Real ducks.

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And rubber duckies.

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This weekend was the Riverwalk Festival and the folks from the local Art Council had a float playing on the “duck” theme.  We were walking along the street right beside this float as they played the rubber ducky song – and by the time it ended my husband had removed his hearing aids – and was ready to scream “enough!”

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It was neat to walk along the Flat River and enjoy all the arts and crafts and local food on display all along the riverwalk.

And lunch was delicious at the Flat River Grill.

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After exploring this unique and interesting small town, we headed north to the covered bridge at Fallassburgh.

You can read about this bridge and the village time forgot in my blog:

A Village Time Forgot

If you are ever in the Grand Rapids Michigan area, it would be worth your time to take a side trip to Lowell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Village Time Forgot

In our road trip today we visited one of only two covered bridges open to traffic in Michigan.

The bridge leads to a village that time has forgotten.  John Wesley Fallas and his brother, Silas, came to the area in 1837.  Built alongside the Flat River they used the power from the river to construct a sawmill and a chair factory.  In 1839 they built the first bridge across Flat River at this site.  Today, this is the fourth bridge built here and was completed in 1871.

 

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I loved the sign that indicated there was a fine of $5.00 if you drove across the bridge at a speed greater than walking.

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Today all that is left standing of the village is a school house, a cemetery, the Fallas and Misner House museums and the Orlin Douglass/Tower Farm.   The old school house was built in 1867 and was actually used as a school until 1961.

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School house was built in 1867 and actually used as a school until 1961.

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The Fallas home – for its time it was quite an elegant house. 

At one time the state road from Detroit to Grand Rapids passed through Fallasburgh and the village was a thriving area.  The village had a stone-mason, blacksmiths, general stores, mills, a post office and even a hotel and tavern.

Then the railroad came.  In 1858 the D&M Railroad came to a nearby town, Lowell.  Slowly, the village declined.  Most of the area’s hardwoods which supported the mills and the chair factory were depleted by late 1800’s.  The founder died in 1896 and by 1905 the post office had closed.

The village continued as a sleepy summer community until today it is only a reminder of the past.

A historical society has been founded and events are held throughout the year to keep the memory of the community alive.

The village is surrounded by a beautiful park.   Close to 300 acres of picnic areas, beautiful trees and  the Flat River.

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We drove along the road near the Flat River on our way home.  A beautiful drive.  Lots of curves and hills.  A perfect end to our visit to Fallasburgh.

 

 

Chasing Lighthouses

When my husband and I moved to Michigan last fall we were anxious for spring to come so we could explore all the lighthouses in Michigan.

That story is told in:

Michigan’s Lighthouses

However, when spring came so did the rainy, cloudy days most of the Midwest has been experiencing.  We did have one beautiful weekend in May and we made a visit to Big Red Lighthouse in Holland, Mi.

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Big Red – Most Photographed Lighthouse in Michigan

While there we enjoyed the tulips that were everywhere in the town.  (If you ever get a chance to come to Holland for the Tulip Festival, take it.  You will not regret it.)

Welkom to Tulip Time

Sitting in our new home wishing, praying for some sunny days, finally we woke up Saturday to a perfect summer day.  Grabbing our camera, our Michigan travel book, we headed west to Lake Michigan.

When we take road trips we do not follow the beaten path.  For the most part we stay off the interstates and take all the side roads.  It takes longer but the trip is much more interesting.  Taking the back roads, we never know what we will see that will catch our eyes.  Many times we have found many interesting places that those who only travel the interstate never know exist.

We do take our GPS in case we get completely lost or if we get tired and want to find the quickest way to our destination.  But our own GPS is to just head in the direction of our journey’s end and “follow our nose” until we reach our target.

Our first stop on Saturday’s trip was the beach at Muskegon.  After the rainy, damp spring, what a sight to see the white sand the beautiful lake with the bright blue sky.

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Walking along the sand, we headed to the lighthouse there.  Muskegon’s first lighthouse was built in 1851.  In 1870 a house was built for the light keeper.  This replaced the 1851 lighthouse and was topped with a cast-iron lantern room for a light.  In time a fog horn structure was built with an elevated walk to connect the lighthouse with the fog horn.

In 1903 the existing wooden building was replaced with a conical steel tower, the Muskegon South Pierhead Light.  In 1929 the Muskegon South Breakwater Light was built.

Like many of these historic lighthouses over time they have deteriorated.  The Federal Government awarded both the Muskegon South Pierhead and the South Breakwater lighthouses to the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy in June.  They have both been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The US Coast Guard still is in charge of the lights at the top and the fog signal.

Tours are granted but since my knees are old and arthritic, we chose to just view from the beach, but I can imagine what a view it would be to climb to the top.

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Muskegon South Pierhead Light

 

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Muskegon South Breakwater Light

We drove on south to Grand Haven to the see the two lights there.  The two lighthouses are connected by a lighted catwalk and we were looking forward to taking a walk along the pier.  However, when we arrived at the beach, the traffic was terrible.  We drove and drove but could find no parking space.  Again, because of my knees, we could not park too far away and walk down to the lighthouses.

So, disappointed, we tried to take some pictures from a distance.

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I wish we could have been closer because the outer light from a distance looks a lot like Big Red Lighthouse.

We thought we would go back during the week when maybe the crowds were be smaller but my Michigan friends tell me it is a popular spot.  So – we will just settle for a look from a distance and move on to our next adventure chasing lighthouses.

 

 

Big Red – Most Photographed Lighthouse in Michigan

When my husband and I moved to Michigan last fall I was fascinated by the many lighthouses that are in the state.  In a blog I wrote then I said I was looking forward to spring/summer when we could begin exploring these lighthouses.

Michigan’s Lighthouses

Well – that time has come.

This past weekend we visited the most photographed lighthouse in the state – Big Red.   Located at the entrance of a channel that connects Lake Michigan with Lake Macatawa.   I was surprised at how small it actually was.  Thinking of lighthouses as being very tall, this one looked more like a big barn with a tower for the light.

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The lighthouse has a great history.   The area was settled by the Dutch in 1847 on the shore of Lake Macatawa.  Led by Rev. Albertus C Van Raalte a band of Hollanders founded the city of Holland.

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When they settled here they realized they needed access to Lake Michigan from Black Lake (now called Macatawa) to help their community grow and flourish.  The entrance to the lake from Lake Michigan was blocked with sandbars and silt.

After petitioning the government for help but getting none, the citizens took matters into their own hands and cut a channel that was deep enough for barges to use.  Finally, in 1866, Congress made an appropriation for work on the harbor taking over improvement of the harbor in 1867.

The government gave funds of $4,000 in 1870 to build the first lighthouse.  A small, square structure on top was a lantern deck with a ten-window lantern room.  The lighthouse keeper lived on the shore near the lighthouse and would carry his lighted oil lamp along a catwalk where he would place the lamp under a lens or magnifying device.  He would use a 18 inch fish horn to warn incoming boats when the fog hide

 

When fog lay on the lake, as it so often did, a light signal was useless. It was obvious that a fog signal, stronger than a fish horn, must be incorporated. In 1907, a steam operated fog signal was installed. A building was made for the fog signal.  This building and the lighthouse stood next to each other until 1936 when the Coast Guard combined the two structures by placing a light tower on top of the building for the fog signal.

The two buildings were painted pale yellow with a deep maroon base.  In 1956, to satisfy a Coast Guard requirement that a structure or light on the right side of any harbor entrance must be red, it was sandlasted and planted the bright red that gives it the title now of Big Red.

Marking the end for the need of lighthouse keepers, the light was electrifid in 1934 and in 1936 air powered horns using electricity were installed.

Since the lighthouse no longer was needed the Coast Guard declared it to be surplus.  A petition and letter writing campaign to save the lighthouse began.  The Holland Harbor Lighthouse Historical Commission was organized and this group gave it the name of “Big Red” to create more awareness in its effort to save the lighthouse.

 

 

 

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View of Big Red from the adjoining beach

 

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View of Lake Michigan from the beach by Big Red

I Got My German Food Fix!

After moving to Michigan in October we have tried to do some sightseeing.  However, cold weather is limiting that right now.  Last weekend we had a beautiful sunshiny day so we took off on another adventure.  We had no definite destination – just heading east and seeing what the day brought.

Our first stop was in Flint, Michigan.  While living in Illinois we had watched the news report of the water tragedy in that city.  The city water was full of lead which was poisoning the residents and there were legal battles over who was at fault.  Watching the news of that city and trying to imagine how you would function when you could not use the water in your own home, I never dreamt that I would some day visit the city.

But  I discovered there is a lot of interesting history in both the city of Flint and its county of Genesee.

The county’s name comes from Genesee County in the state of New York.  It means “beautiful valley.”  The county’s first white settler, Jacob Smith, opened a trading post on the Flint River in 1819.  In 1829 the federal government began building a military road connecting Detroit to Saginaw Bay.  Saginaw Bay is located in Lake Huron forming the space between Michigan’s Thumb region and the rest of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.  The construction site where the wooden bridge was built over the Flint River became the city of Flint.

I have always associated the automobile industry with Detroit, but was surprised to find much of the history took place in Flint.  One of Flint’s citizens, Willam Durant, began building carriages.  His company, Durant-Dort, manufactured 50,000 vehicles annually.  As carriages began to give way to cars, he invested in the Buick Motor Company.  He had the vision of creating holding companies that would manufacture different lines of cars.  He joined with Louis Chevrolet and formed General Motors with a car designed by Chevrolet.  The city of Flint began rapidly growing with the automobile boom and was known as “Vehicle City.”

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Sadly, the automotive industry in Flint has taken a big blow and the city does not have  the booming economy it once had.  Work continues on the water situation and the city just recently reported that:

Overall, to date, service lines to 7,831 homes have been identified as lead and/or galvanized and have been replaced, including 1,603 homes found this year. The efforts are a part of Mayor Karen Weaver’s plan to determine if water service lines are made of copper, and replace service lines made of lead and galvanized steel. Mayor Weaver is determined to restore safe, clean drinking water to Flint residents.

The goal is to have all of Flint’s lead-tainted service lines replaced by the end of 2019. More information about the FAST Start initiative can be found on the City of Flint website – http://www.cityofflint.com

Still, there are several areas of interest we want to check out.  One fast trip through did not give us much time.  We will have to come back to see:

Longway Planetarium – Michigan’s largest planetarium

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The Buick Gallery and Research Center

 

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Oh you are wondering about my German Food Fix.  Well, after Flint we ventured on to Frankenmuth, Michigan a little town known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” where I enjoyed a delicious German meal.

But that will wait for my next post.

 

 

 

Getting Off the Beaten Path

My husband and I love to travel without any agenda other than heading in one direction.  As we travel we often get off the main highway and just follow a road wondering where it leads.  Or, we will pull off the interstate into what looks like just a “spot in the road” kind of place.

As new residents in the state of Michigan we are excited about the chance to follow new roads and see where they lead us.

Last week traveling west on one of the state routes that leads from our town, we took a side trip through the small village of Muir.  Driving through the downtown area it appeared time had passed this village by.  Most of the stores were empty and in need of paint and/or repair.  Thinking there was nothing here of interest, we turned a corner and found a hidden treasure.

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The Mother Church for the Disciples of Christ in the Grand River Valley.

Organized in 1856 in nearby Lyons, Michigan, the small congregation soon moved to the schoolhouse in Muir.  The small congregation grew quickly and in 1861 constructed a church building.

Considered the mother church for the Disciples of Christ denomination in the Grand River Valley, this is one of Michigan’s oldest Disciples of Christ congregations.

This single-story, rectangular wood-frame church is an excellent example of the Gothic  Revival Church.  Measuring 70 feet by 30 feet, each side has five Gothic windows.  They are so beautiful.

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One of the windows was dedicated in 1906 on the 50th anniversary of the church in memory of the founding pastor, Isaac Errett.

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The window on the left has an inscription dedicating the window in memory of their first pastor.

For these history lovers this was quite a find.  We love American history and have a large collection of biographies of American presidents.  We knew that President Garfield had been a minister before entering politics.  What a pleasant surprise to find that he had visited and ministered in this very church.  He apparently visited the area often and there are other spots in Michigan claiming a Garfield connection including the Garfield Inn in Port Austin.  This home has been made into a bed and breakfast and boasts that Garfield often visited here when it was owned by the Learned family.

He has been quoted as saying before giving his inauguration speech:

“I resign the highest office in the land to become President of the United States.”

Just six months later he died by an assassin’s bullet in September of 1881.

I found this copy of an article in the Detroit News published in 1930 telling the story of Garfield’s visit to the church in Muir.

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This church building is on both the state and national historic registers.  If we had not followed our spirit of adventure and turned off the main road we would have missed this period of history.

By not following the beaten path we have found many historical treasures like this as well as some beautiful parks, small lakes and other beauties of nature hidden from the main road.

So, when you travel, don’t be in too big a hurry to reach your destination.  Take some time and get off the beaten path.  You will be surprised at what you will find.

 

Kentucky Folk Art

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When my husband and I take a trip we love to sometimes get in the car and head out with no particular destination.  We just drive until something catches our eye; often we  say “I wonder where that road goes” and off we go to find out where it will lead us.

Even when we go on a vacation and have a definite place in mind, we still often take a detour when we see something that looks interesting.

On one trip home from visiting family in North Carolina, we saw a sign by the road that said “Kentucky Folk Art.”  So, forgetting our time schedule for the day, we took the next exit and discovered one of Kentucky’s special places.

The Kentucky Folk Art Center (KFAC) is a part of Morehead State University.  Housing a permanent collection of nearly 1,400 pieces of self-taught art, we found the pieces to be playful, mischievous and fantastic.  These pieces were excellent examples of original folk art.

 

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Two of my favorite pieces were this couple dancing and the guitar player.

If you are ever in the area of Morehead, Kentucky you must check out the KFAC.  And while you are on the road, take time to get off the beaten trail.

Who knows what treasures you will discover.