Michigan Historic Homes: Loren Andrus House


“Loren Andrus Octagon House by Larry the Biker

Made with bricks that Loren Andrus himself made with local clay, the Andrus house is Michigan’s most elaborate remaining example of the Octagon form, considered by many to be the first pure American housing style. The leading authority and promoter of these eight-sided wonders was Orson Squire Fowler who garnered a new interest in architecture when he wrote the book, “Home For All”. The book highlighted the benefits of living in an octagonal home which Fowler believed were less expensive to build and that they permitted additional living space and received more natural light through their large windows and were easier to heat in the winter and keep cool in the summer because of the spiral staircase that encompassed the center of the house leading to the other floors.

In 1986 a non-profit organized to save the house. The Friends of the Octagon continue to restore and maintain the property and you can learn more about it at that link and also at The Octagon House on Michigan in Pictures. There’s also an entry for The Octagon House on the Absolute Michigan map of Michigan.

Another home that follows Fowler’s Octagon form is the Currier home which is on the Historic Register but is private.

Many more Michigan Historic Homes on Absolute Michigan.

Michigan Neighborhoods: Kalamazoo’s Historic District


Henderson Castle, Effets de Neige
by John Clement Howe

The homes in the neighborhoods of Stuart, West Main Hill and South Street in Kalamazoo reflect both the individuality and also the economic status of their original owners. There are a variety of architectural styles examples here from the the turn of the century. The most popular of these are Queen Anne and Renaissance style, but there are Italian, Gothic and Greek influences as well.

The Henderson Park neighborhood was platted by Frank Henderson, who took advantage of Kalamazoo’s topography by rejecting a typical grid pattern in favor of curving, tree-lined streets and deep setbacks. The Kalamazoo Public Library’s excellent Kalamazoo Local History section features articles and photos of many of the homes. The Henderson Castle feature says in part:

The Queen Anne style house–always called “The Castle” by local residents because of its ornate style and imposing hilltop location–was designed by C. A. Gombert of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and cost $72,000 to build. With seven baths, a thirteen-head shower, an elevator, a third-floor ballroom, and a hot tub on the roof (added later) the 25-room castle exemplifies high society and expensive tastes. The castle’s exterior is made of Lake Superior sandstone and brick, and the interior wood includes mahogany, bird’s eye maple, quartered oak, birch, and sycamore.

John Clement Howe has a great set of photos of the historic district in Kalamazoo (slideshow). The city has many sites on the national, state and local historic registers and you can get a walking tour map from the Kalamazoo County Convention & Visitors Bureau – call (269) 381-4003.

If you’re looking for a rental, check out the Kalamazoo Area Rental Housing Association. If a home purchase is in your plans, try the Greater Kalamazoo Association of REALTORS ®.

Check out more Michigan Neighborhoods from Absolute Michigan

Michigan Historic Homes: Kaleva Bottle House Museum


Bottle House by agilitynut

This home was built by John J. Makinen, Sr. using over 60,000 bottles laid on their sides with the bottoms toward the exterior. Most of the bottles were from his own company, The Northwestern Bottling Works. The house was completed in 1941 but sadly Mr. Makinen passed away before he could move in. The house was purchased by the Kaleva Historical Museum in 1981 and is listed on the National and Michigan Register of Historical Sites. The museum includes items relating to lumbering, farming, homemaking, office machines, railroad, local area schools and so much more. Please call the Kaleva Historical Society at 231-362-3519 for tour information.

You can see more photos of the Kaleva Bottle House on Flickr and in Julie Quinn’s Kaleva Bottle House Gallery. Read more at Roadside America’s Kaleva, Michigan Bottle House entry and other bottle houses from agilitynut.com!

The Manistee Chamber of Commerce has a complete list of historic homes and buildings to see in the Manistee area.

More Michigan Historic Homes on Absolute Michigan.

Michigan Neighborhoods: Heritage Hills in Grand Rapids


Tower of Power by docksidepress

Heritage Hill has 1,300 homes that date from 1848 and representing over 60 architectural styles. To understand just how diverse these styles can be, visit the Voight House Museum, a beautiful example of Queen Anne architecture and then walk a few blocks over to the Meyer May house which was Frank Lloyd Wright’s first commission in Michigan. Heritage Hill is adjacent to downtown and was the first “neighborhood” in Grand Rapids. The original owners of these homes were everything from lumber barons and judges to teachers. Today the people that occupy this neighborhood still come from all types of backgrounds, ethnic groups and incomes.

The Heritage Hill Neighborhood Association has information about walking tours of Heritage Hill and the very cool Heritage Hill mapping project. They host an annual home tour the first weekend in October.

Matt (docksidepress) has over 300 photos from Heritage Hill, you can view more photos of Heritage Hill in the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr and see even more photos and information about Heritage Hill from Rapid Growth. There’s also a book titled Almost Lost: Building and Preserving Heritage Hill by Thomas Logan that explores how close Grand Rapids came to losing the neighborhood in the 60s and 70s.

We’ll be featuring more Michigan Neighborhoods all month on Absolute Michigan!

Michigan Historic Homes: The Pickle Barrel House


Pickle Barrel House by agilitynut

Here’s a fun one!

Two huge barrels make up this unique and much-loved landmark that has been restored and opened back up as a museum. The house was built for William Donahey creator of the Teenie Weenie comic cartoon feature by a grocery distributor grateful for the attention that the Teenie Weenies brought to its advertisements and products.

Originally this unusual structure was located in the woods outside of the small town of Grand Marias, functioning as a summer cottage for the Donaheys. The smaller barrel at the back was the kitchen, and the main “barrel” had two stories for living area and bedroom. It was eventually moved into Grand Marias to its current location on the corner of main street and H-58.

The photographer has a bunch of great historical shots of this. You can view a few shots of the interior at The Pickle Barrel House restoration (also see Then & Now) and learn more about the Teenie Weenies from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

More Michigan Historic Homes on Absolute Michigan.

Michigan Restaurants: Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant in Ann Arbor and Ferndale

Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant in Ann Arbor Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant in Ann Arbor (and Ferndale) offers a unique dining experience. Central to Ethiopian dining is eating from the same plate and sharing the same bread (called injera). The injera, a flat, tangy, crepe-like bread, made with self-rising wheat flour or teff and water. By pinching a bite-sized piece of injera, you can use it to scoop up chunks of food, placing it into your mouth or that of your partner — which is considered a gesture of affection (called gursha). Traditional American utensils are available on request!

Ethiopian food is naturally low fat due to preservation issues and their menu includes poultry, lamb, beef and a wide range of vegetarian dishes. They also feature a full bar, the spicy teas of the country and (of course) Ethiopian Coffee!

Note that Quality is guaranteed by Seifu Lessanwork, personal butler to His Majesty, the Emperor of Ethiopia!

Michigan Restaurants: Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth


Sign says it all. by ezz eddie

Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth is the second largest independent restaurant in the United States and America’s largest family restaurant. With ten dining rooms that seat more than 1500 guests, Zehnder’s serves about a million diners a year. Their history page has a cool old photo and explains that just a decade after German missionaries founded the settlement of Frankenmuth, the Exchange Hotel began serving meals to local people and travelers in 1856. In 1927:

William Zehnder, Sr. acquired the Hotel, which had been vacant for four years, by trading a farm he owned, plus $4000 he borrowed. Both the exterior and the interior were extensively remodeled. The front of the exterior was made to look like Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. The place, renamed Zehnder’s Hotel, opened on Mother’s Day, 1928, with a seating capacity of 60. On that day, 312 diners were served family style chicken dinners for $1 per person.

While the $1 chicken dinner isn’t offered today, their menu features all-you-can-eat family style chicken dinners, Old World classics like Black Forest pork chops, Barvarian sausage and Pan Fried Pork Schnitzel with Wild Forest Mushrooms and a variety of seafood, steaks, fresh baked goods and European desserts.

Every January, they hold a Snowfest and you can view a vide report from Snowfest 2008 featuring John Zehnder from mLive on YouTube. Also check out Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth on the Absolute Michigan Map of Michigan.

Michigan Authors: Gloria Whelan

Michigan Author Gloria WhelanGloria Whelan was born November 23, 1923 in Detroit, Michigan. She graduated from the University of Michigan and became a social worker. In 1972, the Whelans tired of the hectic pace of the city and moved to Oxbow Lake near Mancelona in northern Michigan. After an oil company that owned the mineral rights to her land drilled for oil and tore up her property, she was inspired to write a children’s novel about a young boy who worked on an oil rig titled A Clearing in the Forest.

Since that first publication, she has written poetry, two novels, a short story collection and over 30 works of historical and contemporary fiction for children and young adults. Her book Homeless Bird received the National Book Award for Best Book for Young Adults. On her web site, GloriaWhelan.com she writes:

I began making up stories before I could write. I would tell a story to my baby sitter and she would type it out. When I got to elementary school I began writing poetry. In high school I edited the school paper. I never stopped writing. I think all the books I read when I was young had a lot to do with my writing.

For more, check out her site, the Gloria Whelan Papers at the University of Southern Mississippi and (for a complete list of her work) the Wikipedia entry for Gloria Wheland. You can read Homeless Bird online from Google Books and, because I’ve never seen one, here’s the book trailer for Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan.

Michigan Authors: Bruce Catton

Michigan Author Bruce CattonBruce Catton (Oct 9, 1899 – Aug 28, 1978) was a journalist and a notable historian of the American Civil War. He won a Pulitzer Prize for history in 1954 for A Stillness at Appomattox, his study of the final campaign of the war in Virginia. He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 from Gerald R. Ford

Catton was born in Petoskey, Michigan and raised in Benzonia. His experiences in this Northern Michigan village formed the basis for his book Waiting for the Morning Train (read online from Google Books). The back side of the Michigan Historical Marker to Bruce Catton in Benzonia begins:

Bruce Catton’s fascination with the Civil War began in Benzonia, where he grew up with Civil War veterans, who “gave a color and a tone, not merely to our village life, but to the concept of life with which we grew up.” He was impressed by their certainty, their values and their faith in bravery, patriotism, freedom and the progress of the human race. He wrote, “I think I was always subconsciously driven by an attempt to restate that faith and to show where it was properly grounded, how it grew out of what a great many young men on both sides felt and believed and were brave enough to do.”

He attended Oberlin College but didn’t finish his degree due to the outbreak of World War I, he served briefly in the Navy before becoming a reporter for various newspapers. In 1954, Catton was one of four founders of American Heritage magazine and in 1959 he was named senior editor, a post which he held for the rest of his life. You can read about Catton’s time at American Heritage from a co-worker, and also read this feature on Bruce Catton from TRAVERSE Magazine.

Catton died at his summer home in Frankfort, Michigan in 1978.

Photo credit: National Park Service from Bruce Catton on Emancipation at the Antietam National Battlefield.

As with our other Michigan Author features, we are very much hoping that you will add observations, links and other comments to help build a better picture of this notable Michiganian.

Michigan Authors: Ernest Hemingway

Ernest HemingwayErnest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899- July 2, 1961) an American novelist, short-story writer and journalist. Born in Oak Park, Illinois. Hemingway adopted his father’s outdoorsman hobbies of hunting, fishing and camping in the woods and lakes of Northern Michigan. The family owned a house called Windemere on Michigan’s Walloon Lake often spending summers vacationing there. These early experiences in close contact with nature instilled in Hemingway a lifelong passion for outdoor adventure and for living in remote or isolated areas.

Hemingway received the Pulitzer prize in 1953 for The Old Man and the Sea and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. During his later life, Hemingway suffered from increasing physical and mental problems and ultimately took his own life.

You can get all the facts at Wikipedia’s entry on Ernest Hemingway and through the Ernest Hemingway Foundation, but we’re hoping that you’ll help us build a better picture on Hemingway – especially his time in and writing about Michigan – by posting links and thoughts in the comments below.

We’re going to feature videos about Hemingway, and the first video explains The Great Michigan Read, a statewide program that seeks to get people in Michigan reading the same story – Hemingway’s posthumous collection The Nick Adams Stories – at the same time. Find out more at the link!