Exploring Southern Michigan

Almost two years ago my husband and I moved to Michigan.  Situated close to the middle of the “mitten” we have spent the last two years exploring this beautiful state.  We have fallen in love with the many small towns around the state that are full of arts and crafts, charming down towns that have preserved the older buildings and, of course, the many towns built by Lake Michigan with their beautiful beaches and historical lighthouses.  While it would be hard to pick one town over the other, I must confess I especially loved Holland during the tulip festival and Frankfort was probably my favorite.

Some of our trips started out with a particular town in mind but most of the trips we just got in the car and headed north – east – west.  Getting off the interstates and taking side roads led us to discover many lovely towns and beautiful scenes that we would have missed if we had stayed with the main road.

Yesterday we decided to head in a direction we had not taken – south.  Heading south we discovered the area looked more like our home in Illinois.  More corn fields, more open areas with fewer trees.  The majority of trees were – like back home – deciduous.  While there were evergreen trees they were in the minority.

It was nice to get the sense of being back home, but I must confess in my opinion the southern part of Michigan does not begin to compare with the beauty up north.

However, we did discover two interesting towns.

  • Jackson Michigan

The town of Jackson claims to be the birthplace of the Republican party.  (I have found other towns making that claim.)  There is a plaque commemorating a meeting held in 1854 that Jackson claims was the start of the party led by anti-slavery men.  oaks

 

 

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Jackson also lays claim to having the first prison in Michigan.  Today the old prison area has been turned into the Armory Art’s Village.  Situated behind a 25-foot stone wall, these apartments are home to emerging artists and musicians.

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They give tours of the old prison site, but due to the virus restrictions we were not able to take the tour.  Something to put on our bucket list for later.

Jackson also has several buildings/areas that were part of the underground railroad – but again because of the virus we were not able to visit them.  Add that to the bucket list.

  • From Jackson we headed west to Hillsdale.

Hillsdale College sits in the heart of the city.  The school was established by Free Will Baptists as Central Michigan College at Spring Arbor in 1844.  In 1853 it moved to Hillsdale and changed its name.  It was the first American college whose charter prohibited discrimination based on race, religion or sex.  Hillsdale was the second college in the nation to grant four-year liberal arts degrees to women.

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The college was very active in the fight to end slavery with more students enlisting to fight for the Union than any other western college.  More than 400 students fought for the Union and sixty gave their lives.  Four students earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, three became generals and many served as regimental commanders.  In honor of that heritage the college had a statute of an Union soldier on its campus as well as Frederick Douglas.

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We also saw statues of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.

Leaving Hillsdale we headed back home.  While I must confess my trip south was not as beautiful as the trips we have taken north, still it was good to have discovered more about our adopted state, Michigan.

I vote that our next road trip takes us back north!

 

 

 

 

 

The Chautauqua Movement is Alive and Well Today

After a quick drive through Bay View Michigan where we discovered beautiful Victorian houses, we learned this community was part of the Chautauqua movement from the late 1800’s.  Although the movement slowly died out in the 1920’s this community has remained active from its founding in 1875.

Always interested in our country’s history I have done some research since coming home on the Chautauqua movement.

I found the word is an Iroquois word and means ““a bag tied in the middle” or “two moccasins tied together.”   This name apparently was given to the movement because the first such meeting took place near Chautauqua Lake in New York where the word described the shape of the lake.

Started by John Heyl Vincent and Lewis Miller in a Methodist camp meeting site, it was used as a summer school for Sunday School teachers.  Although it started in this religious setting, it was more than just religious teaching.

It quickly spread throughout the country and attracted families to enjoy educators, preachers, musicians, orchestras while also enjoying camping and other outdoor summer activities.

Politicians also enjoyed speaking at these gatherings.  The large crowds that attended these summer programs gave them a way to get their message out (before the days of television, Facebook and cable news).  One of the most famous of those politicians was William Jennings Bryan.  A Democrat who ran for president three times, Bryan was very adamant about the importance of making education available to all.  He found the Chautauqua Movement an excellent way to make educational, religious and cultural programs open to all.

Theodore Roosevelt called it “the most American thing in America.”

The movement began to die out as television and other modern entertainment venues grew in popularity.  However, today it is experiencing a come back.  The idea of lifelong learning has gained importance again and the desire for cultural experiences is returning.  There are existing Chautauqua communities throughout the USA.

The original Chautauqua is now a 750-acre education center in New York State.  During the nine-week summer season at the Chautauqua Institution, over 7,500 persons enjoy the all the programs which include the four pillars of the movement:  religion, recreation, arts and education.  Courses are offered in art, dance, theater, writing among many other psecial interests.

The one we found in Bay View is definitely one I want to visit next summer.  In addition to the beautiful homes and the programs they are offering, I look forward to enjoying the  sunsets on beautiful Little Traverse Bay just across the street.

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If you do not live near Michigan, check the map to find one of the many Chautauqua facilities and check it out.

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Southern Victorian Houses in Michigan!

On our last road trip of 2019 we headed to the top of the lower peninsula of Michigan to see the beautiful fall trees.

Just outside Traverse City we came across a beautiful little community with huge Victorian houses.  They were so picturesque we had to take time to drive through the community.  From the look of the houses I thought I was back in Charleston, South Carolina.  All the homes have large porches – and not just one porch.  These two-and three stories houses had porches on the second and third level.  I am a lover of porches and could not stop taking pictures of all the homes with these porches just inviting me to stop and sit awhile.

 

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Driving through the streets and snapping pictures it appeared a lot of the homes were closed for the season.  The porches on many of the homes had heavy plastic covering the front.  Since the community sits directly across from the Little Traverse Bay I can only imagine the cold and snow they must get in the winter.

Fascinated by the community I did some research on my return home and discovered this community’s history goes back to the late 1800’s when it was founded by Michigan Methodists “for scientific and intellectual culture, and for the promotion of the Christian religion and morality.”

It began in 1875 as a camp-meeting where families would gather in the summer, pitch tents and enjoy revival services.  The first building erected on the grounds was the preaching stand.  Today it serves as the Bay View Historical Museum.  We saw the museum but it was closed for the season.  Slowly the area was developed with streets, parks and public area and simple cottages were built.  As time passed, the simple cottages became these beautiful Victorian homes.  At the same time the members of the Association organized a summer university, a home study program enrolling men and women across the nation, and became part of the Chautauqua movement.

In 1987 the National Park Service designated the Bay View area as an National Historic Landmark.

Associated with the Methodist Church it claims to be open to anyone and today has speakers from different denominations during its summer program.  The summer programs look very interesting and along with the speakers and musical events the Little Traverse Bay is just across the road with its beaches and beautiful sunsets.

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Disappointed that the area was basically closed for the season, we will definitely check it out come summer.  They have a beautiful inn, The Terrace Inn, built in 1910 that is now a Michigan Historical Landmark.   Their summer program runs from May through November.

This winter when we are hibernating from the snow and cold, we will make plans for a visit to this beautiful community where just maybe someone will invite me to sit on their porch.

 

Bier Art Gallery

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On our recent trip north to the tip of the mitten to see the beautiful fall trees, we also found some great art galleries.  Just south of Charlevoix is the Bier Art Gallery housed in a beautifully restored school house.  The gallery is owned by Ray and Tami Bier.  The Biers were both artists when they met and after marriage they began selling their stoneware pottery.  As time passed and they met many other artists they decided to purchase a place to showcase not only their art, but that of the many friends they had made through the years.

They purchased an old school house and turned it into the beautiful gallery it is today.

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Among the many different galleries in the school house is the pottery gallery which features the Bier’s art.  So many beautiful artifacts.  Since we have downsized this past year I had to just look but not buy.  It was so tempting though to purchase something.

The sculpture gallery was such a fun place.  So many different characters and ideas!

 

Beautiful pieces in the glass gallery – but I was afraid to even touch them lest I break one.

Many of the works in the metal gallery were actually displayed outside.  We thought of our youngest granddaughter, Zoe, and how she would love some of the displays.

Being a jewelry nut – a woman can never have too much jewelry – it was hard to walk through the jewelry gallery without buying something.  But I am proud of myself!  I resisted these beautiful pieces of art.

What a nice addition this gallery was to our trip.  Seeing the beauty God created in nature with all the fall colors and then seeing the beauty God also created through the talents He has given to men and women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wait Was Worth It!

Home again after taking a trip to the top of the mitten to see the Tunnel of Trees.  Since moving to Michigan last year I have heard a lot about this short section of highway (approximately 27 miles) that follows the shore of Lake Michigan and the Little Traverse Bay.

Told by many how beautiful it is in the fall when the trees all turn beautiful shades of red, yellow and orange, I have waited all year to make the trip.

Was it worth it?

Yes – and no

Basically I was told three main things about the tunnel.  Two of which I found to be true.

The road was said to be very narrow.  Boy was it!  There is no center line painted on the road.  Many places were so narrow when we met another car one of us had to pull over on the tiny shoulder so the other car could go by.

I was told it was very windy.  Boy was it!  We would just get through one stretch of curves when we would find another one waiting.

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But there were no colors!  No oranges, reds or yellows!  The website for the Tunnel of Trees indicated that this time was the peak for the colors.

Disappointed!!!

I am guessing if we returned in a week we would find the colors and the beauty they talked about.

However, the trip was not in vain.  While there were no colors in the tunnel driving across the middle of the mitten getting to and from the tunnel there were colors everywhere.  We discovered that the trees near the lake turn colors slower than inland.

So – now we know.

While the tunnel was a disappointment – the trip was not.

 

Acres and acres of trees – as far as the eye could see – brilliant colors!

What an artist God is!  And what variety!  He could have made one tree – but look at all the different trees we have.

The wait was truly worth it!

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Off to the Tunnel of Trees

Last year we moved to Michigan in October – just in time to enjoy the beautiful fall colors!  The street we moved to had big trees up and down the block and every time we went somewhere I loved driving down our street.

 

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We were told about a place on the northern part of the lower peninsula called the Tunnel of Trees.  It sounded like it would be gorgeous and I wanted to make the trip up north.  But, just moving in and trying to get settled that was not feasible  We did not have the time or the energy to make the trip.

All through the winter (which was not all that bad considering our home back in Illinois got clobbered with lots of snow), the dreary spring (where I came to understand the warning I had been given about Michigan cloudy days), and the magnificent summer with all the road trips spent exploring the state I waited for fall to come.

Today we head north and I am excited about seeing all the oranges, reds, yellows in the trees up north.

We made some trips up north this summer so I know there are lots of trees to see.  On one trip we stopped to get pictures of all the trees when we saw this sign.

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Seeing that warning we decided to just keep driving for awhile before stopping to take pictures.

While I do not want to run into any bears, I am so ready for this trip.  Like all things I have heard pros and cons about this stretch of road.  Most reports have been very positive telling me it will be beautiful and I will love the small towns along the way.  A few have said it was not that great and not really worth the trip.

Well – I will soon find out.  Knowing how I have always had a love affair with trees – and how I have so enjoyed my new state of Michigan because of all the trees, I think I will enjoy it.

Stay tuned for pictures – and you can decide if you think it was worth the wait!

 

 

 

 

In My Own Backyard

Being a new resident of Michigan my husband and I have spent the summer exploring many of the small towns on the western side of the lower peninsula.  We have discovered some beautiful art galleries, unique antique stores and loved the beaches and lighthouses all along Michigan Lake.

It has been interesting to me to discover that many of my new friends who have lived in Michigan for years have never visited many of these places.

Funny how we will spend time and money to visit far away places while often ignoring what is in our own back yard.

Yesterday was a beautiful fall day and we wanted to get out and enjoy the day.  We wondered “Is there anything near our new home town that we have not bothered to check out?”

Yes – In a town just 20 miles from us we found a castle and some interesting history.

On the outside it looks like a castle from a fairy tale.  On closer inspection we discovered it was built in 1922 by writer James Oliver Curwood as a writing studio.  Overlooking the Shiawassee River Curwood composed many of his novels here.  The castle was not meant to be a home.  This was  Curwood’s “man-cave.”

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It was easy to see why Curwood built his castle here by the river.  It is a beautiful, peaceful place.  After visiting the castle, we enjoyed the walk by the river and shared the view with some friendly ducks.

This writer who was ranked among the top-ten best sellers in the United States during the early 1920’s was born in Oswosso Michigan.  His novels and short stories and the movie scripts based on his writings made him a millionaire.

Curwood loved the wilds of Canada and was an enthusiastic hunter for many years collecting trophies which he hung in his castle.   Spared by a bear he had shot and wounded, but not killed, he became an advocate of environmental conservation and education.  Shortly before his death in 1927 he was appointed to the Michigan Conservation Commission.

His books were based on his experiences in Canada.  Hundreds of movies have been based on or inspired by Curwood’s stories, including the 1934 movie “The Trail Beyond,” which starred John Wayne.

Only four years after he finished building his castle, he died of blood poisoning.  At the time of his death, he was the highest paid writer in the world according to the Curwood Castle’s curator.

The City of Owosso celebrates Curwood’s birth each year with a festival.  The event is a weekend long celebration centered around Curwood Castle.   They also hold a writing contest for young authors.

All summer we have traveled 50 to 200 miles to see the sights of western Michigan while totally ignoring this beautiful spot and this bit of history right in our own back yard.

I wonder, do you also travel far from home to visit historical and/or beautiful places while driving right by treasures in your own back yard?

 

 

First Commercial Sawmill in Minnesota

While visiting the St Croix River Valley we found the site of the first commercial sawmill in what became the state of Minnesota.  Two lumbermen from Marine Illinois, David Hone and Lewis Judd, finding the area’s abundant white pine, decided to build a sawmill here.  They named the spot Marine after their hometown in Illinois.  On August 24, 1839, they established the first commercial sawmill, The Marine Lumber Company.

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By 1877 the mill was supplying work for an average of fourteen men and the town of Marine Minnesota had grown around the mill.  Operating for Marine Mill for almost sixty years, the mill produced much of the lumber that was used for construction of many of the towns and cities of Minnesota as well as St. Louis and Chicago.

Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 today you can see portions of the stone engine house and the large wheel dating from 1873 and the stream that powered the mill.

 

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If you look closely you can see parts of the foundation of the old mill

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The steam that powered the sawmill

Driving into the town of Marine the views of St Criox River in the fall were spectacular and worth the trip!

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A Very Unique Sculpture Park

Getting ready for a fall road trip, I recently opened some pictures from a fall road trip taken three years ago.  While driving through the scenic St. Croix River Valley in Minnesota we found an amazing outdoor sculpture park.

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Founded in 1996 Franconia has an active artist residency program.  Each year the park has over 150,000 visitors.  They offer yearly fellowships and internships for up to 40 visual artists.

The park is free and open 365 days a year although I am not sure I would want to visit in the winter – Minnesota winters are brutally cold – at least for those of us who live further south.

The park covers 43 acres and shares over 120 sculptures created by artists-in-residence.  Since the sculptures change over time the ones we saw may no longer be there but they were definitely unique.

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I must confess I am not sure I would call some of these sculptures “art” but they were interesting and the walk was nice with all the beautiful fall trees.

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Looking at these beautiful trees, I am so ready for our road trip next week.  Heading to the northern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan for the “Tunnel of Trees.”

Fall is my favorite time of the year!

What season do you like the best?

Are you planning any trips to see the beautiful fall foliage?

 

 

A Busy Summer is Over – But 2020 is Coming

Hard to believe it has been one year already.  Exactly one year ago today my husband and I left our home in northern Illinois and traveled to the middle of Michigan to a new home.

The metropolitan area we lived in known as the Quad Cities has a population of over 400,000.  It includes five larger cities:  Moline, East Moline and Rock Island on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River and Davenport and Bettendorf on the Iowa side.  Interspersed between and around those five larger cities are many smaller town so that you can drive from one town right into the next.

Moving from that highly populated area to a small town of less than 8,000 is quite a change.

But it has been a fun year as we have spent the summer exploring our new state of Michigan.

Our first road trip was to Flint Michigan – a city we heard so much about in the news for the water crisis.  Visiting the city we found there is a lot of history beyond the news reports.

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From Flint we headed to Frankenmuth a place where you can enjoy all things Bavarian and it is Christmas there all year long.  Frankenmuth – Michigan’s Little Bavaria

Come spring, we headed out again.  The first trip was a short one – just a few miles down Route 21 to Ionia.   On the way there we turned off to look at a small town on the way.  Muir.

There was really nothing there to recommend the town except we came across this historic church.

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You can read more about this historic church in my post Getting Off the Beaten Path

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, this church is considered to be the mother church for the Disciples of Christ denomination in the Grand River Valley and is one of Michigan’s oldest Disciples of Christ congregations.

On to Ionia where we discovered a beautiful courthouse that boasts black and white marble floors, fourteen marble fireplaces and a beautiful walnut and butternut staircase.

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The town has some beautiful old Victorian homes and I loved the brick streets still in use on Main Street.

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Next stop was the Fort Custer National Cemetery.  All the flags along the main entrance to the cemetery was very impressive.

In early spring we headed to Holland the Tulip Festival.

Beautiful does not begin to describe this visit!  This town is on our list to revisit next spring.  We only spent one day there but next year we want to take two to three days to take in all the beauty.

Check out all the beautiful pictures and story of Holland in my post:  Welkom to Tulip Time

My husband has began painting again and one of his goals this summer was to photograph and then paint some of the many lighthouses in Michigan.

We captured Big Red at Holland.

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Big Red Lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses in Michigan.

Beginning American history nuts, a visit to the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids followed.  I was never a fan of President Ford but after visiting the museum and reading more about him, I came away with a much different opinion of him and his time in office.

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Read more about the museum at Gerald Ford Presidential Museum

Lowell Michigan was our stop in July.  The day we were there they were celebrating their annual Riverwalk.  What fun we had watching the parade and all the ducks.

We enjoyed the views of the Flat River and our delicious meal at the Flat River Grille.

Getting off the beaten track we discovered a village almost lost to the world just a few miles north of Lowell.

The village of Fallassburgh is like stepping back in time.  Way off the beaten path, few visitors find their way here, but it was a beautiful, peaceful place.  A Village Time Forgot

As we enjoyed the lakes and beaches and neat little towns we found a desert in Michigan.  Well, not really a desert but some great sand dunes.  A Desert in Michigan?

As summer came to a close we visited two more towns and they both rate, along with Holland, as ones I want to visit and spend more time in next summer.

First one was Manistee.   Not one but two beautiful beaches and another interesting lighthouse made this a favorite.  Which Town is My Favorite?

Our last town of the year was Frankfort.

It has been a busy summer!  One more trip to make before winter sets in.

Next week we head out for the tunnel of trees.  Voted by USA as the Best Scenic Autumn Drive in America I’m looking forward to that trip.

Hibernating then for the cold Michigan winter, we will be drinking hot tea as we watch some of our favorite movies by the fireplace while studying maps and making plans for another summer of adventures, God willing, in 2020.